Victoria could meet its legislated target of net-zero emissions by 2050 nearly five years ahead of schedule, according to new modelling, if it continued to deliver the sort of record cuts seen in the state’s latest greenhouse gas performance data.
The new Victoria data, released on Thursday but accounting for up to 2018 only, shows a record 17 per cent reduction of emissions in the electricity sector between 2017-18, a result underpinned by the state’s ambitious renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030, but no doubt bolstered by the March 2017 closure of the Hazelwood coal plant.
The data shows that between 2005 and 2018, the emissions intensity of the Victorian economy declined 41% from 0.40 to 0.24 kilograms CO2-e per dollar of Gross State Product. Per capita emissions decreased 36% from 24.8 to 15.8 tonnes CO2-e per person.
Friends of the Earth, which has been campaigning to have the Andrews government set ambitious “science-based” interim emissions reduction targets for 2025 and 2030, said this put the state on track to beat its voluntary target of a 15-20 per cent cut (below 2005 levels) by 2020.
Further to that, if the state remained on this trajectory, FoE argues that Victoria could achieve a 37 per cent emissions reduction by 2025, 52 per cent by 2030, and net-zero emissions would be achieved in mid 2045 – four-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.
The bottom line, the NGO argues, is that the state’s improved rate of emissions reduction, combined with increased global ambition, should set the bar much higher for Victoria as it works towards its 2050 net-zero goal.
“These emissions reductions represent a new baseline,” the Friends of the Earth wrote in a report published on Thursday, based on an initial analysis of the 2018 greenhouse gas performance data.
“Given that Victoria is on a trajectory to achieve a 37 per cent reduction by 2025 and 52 percent reduction by 2030, the lower end of Greg Combet’s recommendations should be off the table,” said campaigns coordinator, Leigh Ewbank, referring to the 2018/19 recommendation from the former federal climate minister that Victoria set targets of between 32-39% below 2005 levels in 2025 and 45-60% levels in 2030.
Rather, FoE are calling for a “heavier lift” that targets a 57% reduction by 2025 and 75% by 2030. “This would provide a longer tail for Victoria to deliver zero-net emissions by 2050 within a 1.5ºC carbon budget with the knowledge that earlier emissions reductions will be easier to achieve,” its analysis said.
As well as continuing on its legislated path to 50% renewables by 2030 – on which it passed the half-way mark just this week – FoE argues the state should be targeting the transport sector as the second largest and fastest growing source of emissions in the state.
Indeed, the Victorian performance data shows that emissions increased in transport (3.2 Mt CO2-e), fugitive emissions from fuels (1.4 Mt CO2-e) and industrial processes and product use (0.7 Mt CO2-e).
“While projects such as the Suburban Rail Loop will deliver deep emissions cuts in the long term, greater attention is needed on short-term initiatives such as increasing the frequency of services and electrifying the bus fleet,” it said.
Certainly, the Andrews government’s approach to decarbonising transport has room for improvement, after its recent baffling decision to put a tax on electric vehicles, even as they struggle to get a foothold in the Australian car market.
FoE also called on the state government to “act decisively to protect native forests,” after noting that Victoria’s forests were once again acting as a significant carbon sink, sequestering 11.4 Mt of CO2-e.
“Premier Dan Andrews can show political leadership by setting science-based Emissions Reduction Targets that drive the rapid transformation of our energy sector and modernise our economy,” Ewbank said.
Certainly, Australia could use all the help it can get, with the latest national emissions projections revealing an abatement task of between 56 and 123 million tonnes for the federal government to achieve its stated 2030 target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent.
As Michael Mazengarb writes here, the federal projections point to Australia’s future greenhouse gas emissions falling due to increased uptake of renewable energy, while also predicting a collapse in investment in the large-scale renewables market.