The Turnbull government has declared its climate policies a success, in a self-generated review released alongside data revealing yet another rise in the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions – and no plans to do anything to reverse the “shameful and embarrassing” trend.
In a statement on Tuesday accompanying the federal government’s 2017 Review of Climate Change Policies, environment minister Josh Frydenberg said the report showed the Coalition’s “economically responsible” approach to meeting its international climate commitments was working as planned.
“The climate review found that …Australia is playing its part on the world stage through bilateral and multi‑lateral initiatives and the ratification of the Paris Agreement to reduce our emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030,” he said.
And indeed it does; declaring on page 6 that “we will meet our 2030 target and we will do so without compromising economic growth or jobs. Our current policy suite can deliver this outcome.”
And it continues to say that the federal government has “a comprehensive set of policies covering every sector of the economy… an approach that remains the best way to meet our 2030 target.”
The report even declares the Coalition’s Emissions Reduction Fund as “the successful centrepiece” of the Turnbull government’s climate policies – despite a separate report just last week conceding it may not deliver as much carbon abatement as hoped, and warning that other policies would need to take up the slack very soon.
Not surprisingly, green and climate groups do not accord with the federal government’s assessment of its own policies; or else they have been distracted by the data – data that, according to Labor and the Greens, actually indicates Australia might not even meet its paltry Paris commitments.
“The (newly released climate) data is devastating and the policy review is a travesty,” said Greens climate spokesperson Adam Bandt in comments on Tuesday.
“Pollution is going up, we won’t meet even our paltry Paris targets and the government’s only plan is to make matters worse by allowing companies to buy dodgy permits from pig farms in China instead of cutting Australia’s emissions.
Indeed, the government has made good on a proposal first made two years ago that rather than reducing emissions at home, it would allow the purchase of international carbon credits. To many, this is a big step backwards when there is so much opportunity in the local economy.
“The data shows (carbon) pollution will be 3.5% higher in 2030 than in 2020 without any detailed plan to bring pollution down, so the policy review propaganda piece gives us no hope of meeting our Paris commitments,” Bandt said.
“The Review is nothing more than a piece of propaganda designed to justify the government’s failed climate policies.”
Labor’s climate spokesperson, Mark Butler, was similarly unconvinced, warning Australia would fail to meet its 2020 Kyoto Target by a full 5 per cent under business as usual.
“The government’s own projections shockingly show emissions in 2030 will only be 5 per cent below 2005 levels, well short of his own inadequate target of 26-28 per cent cut and will continue to increase to 2030,” Butler said.
“These figures are even worse if you ignore the effect of accounting changes to the measurement of emissions in the land sector, which have wiped millions of tonnes of pollution off the government’s books.
“Emissions are up in every sector; Malcolm Turnbull is failing our international obligations under the Paris Accord and failing future generations,” he said. “If Malcolm Turnbull is leading the world on climate change, the world is in a hell of a mess.”
The Climate Council, meanwhile, described the “long awaited six month backlog of climate data” as “shameful” and “embarrassing,” and proof that the federal government was failing to tackle climate change.
“Australia risks cementing its position as the global climate laggard, as the federal government sits back and allows the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution levels to climb further and further,” said Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie.
Head of research, Dr Martin Rice, said the task of cutting Australia’s carbon pollution was now “critical.”
“The critical window of opportunity to act to tackle climate change is rapidly closing. The Federal Government must act now to protect Australia’s from worsening extreme weather like heatwaves and bushfires,” he said.
Environment Victoria said the climate review was a commitment by the Turnbull government to “remain inadequate” on climate – a “a final disappointment for a politician who once professed to care about climate change.”
“Not for the first time, the Turnbull government has kept a significant announcement on climate change until just days before Christmas,” said Environment Victoria campaigns manager Dr Nicholas Aberle.
“It’s the perfect way to sneak coal into the stockings of Australia’s future for yet another year.”
Aberle said that the report confirmed that any emissions reductions from electricity came only through the closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood coal power plant – an outcome the Coalition had fought against, and would continue to resist.
“The closure of Hazelwood … should have prompted the realisation that retiring coal-burning power stations is essential for a just transition to a zero emission economy. Instead, the Coalition … spent 2017 working out how to avoid an energy policy that would boost renewable energy (and) concocted the National Energy Guarantee, a policy designed to keep polluting coal clunkers open for longer,” he said.
The Australian Conservation Foundation described the review as a “damp squib,” set against a background of rising carbon pollution.
“All this review does is put off the real work until 2020. In the meantime the Turnbull Government has looked to scrap, weaken and defund tools proven to be effective in tackling climate change … while persisting with its failed Direct Action policy and leaving the heavy lifting to state governments,” ACF chief Kelly O’Shannassy said.
“In fact, since the Coalition repealed the national carbon price, climate pollution has risen by 3.7 per cent
“A significant upswing in clean energy has been the only real saviour in the otherwise dismal climate pollution picture released today, and the NEG as currently proposed is set to put the brakes on the transition from burning coal and gas to harvesting energy from the sun and wind,” she said.