Labor lowers 2030 target to 43 per cent, to blunt Morrison scare campaign

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Federal Labor will take a lowered 2030 emissions reduction target to next year’s federal election, adopting a 43 per cent medium-term reduction target and a tempered climate policy platform designed to deny the Morrison government fodder for a scare campaign.

Federal Labor climate and energy spokesperson Chris Bowen briefed the Labor party room on options for its new climate policy platform on Friday, asking colleagues to choose from a range of potential targets that included options as low as a 35 per cent cut.

The party room endorsed a new medium-term emissions reduction target on the higher end of the range presented, of 43 per cent, that falls between the Morrison government’s 26 to 28 per cent target for 2030 and the 45 per cent reduction target that Labor took to the 2019 federal election.

The plan assumes major milestones, including an 82 per cent share of renewables in Australia’s main grid by 2030, supported by its previously announcing $20 billion grid support plan.

It does, however, fall outside the 45 to 65 per cent range for a 2030 target recommended by the Climate Change Authority as a fair contribution by Australia to global climate action, and is less even than the 50 per cent target endorsed by the Business Council of Australia.

It also largely matches an estimate produced by ClimateWorks that suggested State and Territory targets could deliver national greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 42 per cent by 2030 on their existing targets.

Labor also supports a net zero target for 2050, which remains unchanged.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese later admitted it was a “modest policy” that came in behind business proposals, but insisted that it was a “Labor policy” that was fully costed.

Morrison wasted little time attacking the policy while unveiling a boring machine purchased by Snowy Hydro.

“A 43 per cent target isn’t safe for the Hunter. It’s not safe for Gladstone. It’s not safe for Bell Bay. It’s not safe for our manufacturers. It’s not safe for jobs,” Morrison said, apparently unaware of the massive green hydrogen plans unveiled for Gladstone and Bell Bay, and the newly announced renewable zone for the Hunter.

CEO of the Carbon Markets Institute, which represents business involved in carbon abatement and the trading of carbon permits, John Connor urged Labor to consider a stronger 2030 target, saying it should be at least 50 per cent.

Environmental groups said the policy advance was welcome, but the targets should be more ambitious. Greenpeace said the target “missed the mark” and the Australian Conservation Foundation said it needed to “go further if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change”.

The Australian Industry Group said that stronger targets were achievable through sensible policies.

“The more ambitious emissions reductions proposed by the Federal Opposition, and already adopted by most States, can be delivered with sensible policy reforms, greater collaboration, and a close focus on industry competitiveness,” AI Group chief executive Innes Willox said.

Labor says if it wins government, it will seek to host the 2024 round of UN climate talks in Australia, where it would likely come under intense pressure from international peers to increase its own targets.

“An Albanese Labor government will bid to host COP29 in Australia and we will be inviting our Pacific island friends and neighbours to join us in posting it if they wish,” Bowen told a press conference on Friday.

Labor argues that its new target remains a credible contribution to cutting Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as one that remains achievable if Labor wins next year’s election.

Given that the earliest a Labor government may be elected is 2022, and it would be likely that any policies it introduces may not take effect for a few years, Labor’s target will be based on what it thinks can be achieved in a 5-to-7-year window to 2030.

Labor will also adopt a “top-down” approach to its climate change policies, where the party will introduce additional policies that will deliver further reductions, on top of what is expected to be achieved through “business as usual” actions.

It means Labor will shy away from adopting an ‘economy wide’ policy, like a carbon tax, an emissions trading scheme, or a larger renewable energy target, instead opting to adopt discrete policies that will help bridge the gap between Australia’s current emissions projections and its target.

Federal government projections show Australia on track to achieve a 30 per cent “business as usual” emissions cut by 2030, which could potentially be higher thanks to more ambitious policies set by State and Territory governments.

Federal Labor sees its role as setting additional policies to delivering the extra cuts needed to achieve the 43 per cent cut by 2030.

Labor has already announced that it will provide additional financial incentives for the adoption of electric vehicles and that it will fund the rollout of hundreds of new community battery projects to help more households install rooftop solar.

But it has already abandoned a plan to introduce new fuel emissions standards, to blunt a Morrison government attack that accused Labor of pushing fuel prices higher.

Labor has also announced that it would make significant investments in new transmission network infrastructure as part of its “Rewiring the Nation” plan, which would see an Albanese government invest up to $20 billion in new poles and wires to help new large-scale renewable energy projects connect to the grid.

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