The Victoria state Labor government on Sunday unveiled its long awaited climate change strategy, which now includes a ramped up target of slashing emissions by 45 to 50 per cent by 2030 – far more ambitious than the federal government’s mediocre target.
The new strategy also includes an interim target of 28-33 per cent cut in emissions by 2025, and includes the $100 million package that features Australia’s first direct electric vehicle subsidy revealed on Saturday – $3,000 for all new zero emission vehicles that cost less than $69,000.
The Victoria government says the strategy will create new jobs and industries of the future, and keep the state on track to meet its target of zero emission by 2050. It has already cut its emissions by 24.8 per cent below 2005 levels, thanks mostly to its strong investment in renewables.
All of Australia’s states and territories already have a net zero target by 2050, despite the federal government’s refusal to embrace the same, and the push by Victoria to come into line with Australia’s major trading partners and allies will put more pressure on prime minister Scott Morrison, particularly as it comes from the country’s most emissions intensive economy.
Victoria now has three “50 per cent targets” for 2030 – a 45-50 per cent cut in emissions, a 50 per cent share of new car sales for electric vehicles, and a 50 per cent renewable energy share in its grid.
“With strong action on climate change, we can position Victoria as a global leader – advancing new technology, ground-breaking innovation and driving the creation of new jobs for Victorians,” acting premier James Merlino said in a statement.
But the new target drew a mixed reaction.
The target is at the lower end of the 45 and 60 per cent range suggested by an independent expert panel chaired by former federal Labor minister for energy and climate change Greg Combet.
Read Ketan Joshi’s excellent analysis here: Running the numbers on Victoria’s climate plan – the leader in state climate action
Environmental groups say it falls well short of the science, and what is required of the Paris stretch target of capping average global warming at 1.5°C. The manufacturing industry, which had lobbied hard against anything too ambitious, says the new target is “ambitious” but achievable.
“Based on the latest science, Victoria needed to set emissions reduction targets of 75% by 2030,” said Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze. “That’s what was required for Victoria to do our fair share to meet the objectives of the international Paris Agreement on climate change and limit warming to 1.5 degrees.”
But he said the fact that the country’s most emissions-intensive economy had set new climate targets meant there would be even more pressure on the Morrison government to increase its ‘pathetic target”of only 26-28 per cent emissions cuts by 2030.
“The Victorian government must be aiming to smash these targets out of the park. Technology is constantly improving and momentum is constantly building. We can’t look back in 10 years and wish we’d done more. By then, it is too late. ”
Friends of the Earth agreed. “We must acknowledge the gap that still exists between the targets that have been announced and what the best-available science tells us is necessary to avoid dangerous climate impacts,” said FoE campaigner Leigh Ewbank.
“It’s clear that the Federal government’s refusal to tackle the climate crisis has held back Victoria from adopting a stronger target.”
The Investor Group on Climate Change, which represents large investors and fund managers, said the new target was consistent with Australia’s developed nation counterparts and trading partners in the G20, including the US, Japan, Canada and the European Union, and should be adopted by the federal government.
“Climate targets … are a powerful signal to global markets, and the trillions of dollars in private capital hunting for clean industry and infrastructure investment opportunities, about an economy’s competitiveness in a net zero emissions world,” IGCC’s Erwin Jackson said.
“Analysis by the Investor Group on Climate Change shows Australia’s national emissions reduction goal for 2030 is now one of the weakest among developed G20 nations. Australia is at risk of being one of the only developed nations in the G20 not to strengthen its 2030 goal by the end of the year.”
But the employer lobby, Ai Group, said it was satisfied, underlining the yawning gap between environmentalists and investors on one side calling for targets that respect the science, and established industry on the other side trying to slow things down and push the hard targets out to the future.
“Victoria’s medium-term emissions targets are clearly ambitious, but also show a sober regard for the challenges in further accelerating an already rapid rate of change,” said Tim Piper, the Victorian head of Ai, who had argued that a target too ambitious would make Victoria businesses uncompetitive with those in other states.
Piper said “the truly heavy lifting will come as we look beyond the electricity sector and beyond 2030.” Most climate scientists say the heavy lifting must happen in the coming decade.
“Importantly, the numbers and policies announced today don’t appear to come with any sudden shocks for Victoria’s manufacturing sector,” Piper said. Phew!
The initiatives announced by the Labor government on Sunday include almost $20 million to reduce emissions in the agriculture sector, particularly livestock, and a further $15.3 million for the Victorian Carbon Farming Program.
Government operations, from schools and hospitals to police stations and metro trains, will also be powered with 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2025 – which it described as an Australian first.