The Climate Action Tracker performed its first assessment of policies impacting the greenhouse gas emission profile for Australia.
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Australia’s new climate legislation is a historic breakthrough and a substantial step in the right direction, but is still not stringent enough to help the world keep global warming to below 2 degrees C.
Australia has now set in place a legislative system that, if applied well and increased in stringency over time, can get it on the right track to a low carbon future:
The new policies are not yet sufficient to meet its unconditional pledge through domestic action only.
It is also unclear how Australia would meet its conditional pledges of 15% and 25% by 2020 through domestic action.
Assessing the pledge
Australia's unconditional commitment of a 5% reduction relative to 2000 emission levels by 2020 is rated Inadequate.
In contrast to the majority of Annex I countries, Australia’s targets are not set according to Kyoto architecture. The Kyoto architecture sets allowed emissions as a percentage of 1990 GHG emissions excluding LULUCF plus deforestation emissions in 1990 for countries with a net LULUCF source in 1990, which is the case of Australia.
In April 2011, new information made clear that Australia’s targets of -5%, -15% and -25% (the latter two being conditional) are to be calculated with respect to its 2000 GHG emissions (excluding LULUCF) plus afforestation, reforestation and deforestation (ARD) emissions in that year. The ARD emissions appear to be based on those reported under Kyoto Article 3.3.
Australia has provided absolute allowed emission level in 2020 of 530 MtCO2eq, 474 MtCO2eq, and 419 MtCO2eq for the -5%, -15% and -25% targets respectively. These can be converted to 1990 levels: the -5% goal would be -3% from 1990 (the Australian target in the first commitment period is +8%).
Taking into account projected ARD emissions 2020 and the benefits gained from Article 3.7 by Australia, this Kyoto equivalent target for the -5% pledge would permit an increase in GHG emissions excluding LULUCF of +17 to 26% above 1990 levels in 2020. The range is due to different estimates that can be made for likely future ARD emissions for 2020.
For the -15% goal the Kyoto equivalent target range is +3% to +13% from 1990 levels; and for the -25% goal the range is -1% to -10% from 1990 levels (GHG emissions excluding LULUCF).
Australia is the only country to quantitatively define its conditions for moving to higher levels of ambition with specific values for the joint efforts by developed countries group and developing countries group. This provides more detail than before Bangkok 2011, but is still open to interpretation and appears to move away from the commitment to hold warming to below 2°C by referencing only concentration levels of 450 ppm of CO2eq, which has a 60% chance of exceeding 2°C in the long term.
Australia's Kyoto Protocol target (2008-2012) is +8% relative to 1990 emission levels.
For 2020, Australia has proposed three targets with different conditionality, -5%, -15%, and -25% relative to 2000.
The -5% target stands as their unconditional pledge.
The -15% target is conditional on a global agreement which falls short of securing atmospheric stabilisation at 450 ppm CO2eq and under which major developing economies commit to substantially restrain emissions and advanced economies take on commitments comparable to Australia's (see Source).
Adoption of the most ambitious target of -25% is conditional on an ambitious global deal capable of stabilising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450 ppm CO2eq or lower.
In April 2011, Australia provided an illustration which showed that the targets should be applied to emissions excluding LULUCF plus afforestation, reforestation and deforestation emissions. These targets are not set according to Kyoto architecture (see above), hence in contrast to the other analyzed countries, we depict Australia’s unconditional pledge of -5% by a dashed line.
Latest legislation passed has increased Australia’s 2050 target to reduce emissions to 60% below 2050 from 2000 levels.
Australia (2010) Australia to 2050: Future Challenges
Australia’s Projections 2010 (includes a quantification of the target)
Submission by Australia (2009) Strengthening Australia's National Ambition for 2020 Submission to the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP May 2009
Australia (2009) Text to be included in the Draft conclusions proposed by the Chair. (FCCC/KP/AWG/2009/L.3) 24 April 2009, FCCC/KP/AWG/2009/MISC.11
References for the Climate Action Tracker Australia report: see full list
Targets for 2020 were calculated from the most recent national inventory submissions (2012).
We have applied LULUCF accounting to Australia’s pledge, following special criteria in line with the definition of their pledges. As of COP 17 in Durban, it has been decided that forest management is a mandatory activity under article 3.4 and shall be accounted by all Annex I parties. We have therefore interpreted Australia’s pledge as a target including ARD and forest management.
Party-provided ARD projections have not been used, instead 2020 ARD value was obtained by linear trend over 1990-2010 period. We calculated LULUCF accounting quantities for forest management using a net-net approach with a projected reference level for 2013-2020. While Australia provided a range of possible outcomes on the force majeure (natural disturbances) provision, the reference level calculated here is without this provision and would change if this provision is included.
To keep consistency with the first commitment period, for post 2012 we assumed Australia will continue to use Article 3.7. Art. 3.7 allows deforestation emissions to be included in the base year for those Parties with a net source of emissions from the land use change and forestry sector and applies to the target in the first KP commitment period. Some Parties have proposed amending Article 3.7 to remove this provision. Australia wishes to retain it.