Australian Government confirms there will be no target update for COP26
The Australian Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, has confirmed in the Parliament that the government will simply recommunicate its current NDC for COP26, and will not enhance its present 2030 target. He noted that a subsequent NDC is planned for 2025 including a target for 2035 or 2040.
The Australian government intends to meet its 2030 target through carryover of Kyoto Protocol units, rather than through climate policy that reduces greenhouse emissions. It intends to use the Kyoto emission allowance surplus arising from it unambitious 2020 Kyoto target to compensate for absence of policies to reduce emissions by 2030. There is a strong argument that this is not legally consistent with the Paris Agreement.
The CAT rates Australia’s NDC as ‘Insufficient’.
Although Minister Taylor suggests that recommunication is “in accordance with the Paris Agreement”, it is clear that maintaining the same level of emissions reductions in a resubmitted NDC contravenes the intent of the Paris Agreement and its enabling decisions, as each successive NDC should present a progression beyond the current one.
Taking all the relevant provisions of the Paris Agreement, and its enabling decisions, there is a legal obligation on countries to increase their level of ambition. The scientific context, since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, has also been reinforced and should materially affect the obligations of parties, including Australia, in relation to their level of ambition in their NDCs. The IPCC Special Report on 1.5° shows that CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, and for CO2 emissions to reach net-zero by around 2050 with total greenhouse gas emissions reaching that level about 20 years after that, to limit warming to levels consistent with the long-term temperature goal of the Paris agreement. Avoiding this and choosing only to "re-communicate" its NDC means that Australia is sidestepping this obligation. The term “re-communicate” does not appear anywhere in the agreement, and instead Australia appears to be relying on an interpretation of Paragraph 24 of the Paris Agreement enabling decisions (Decision 1/CP.21), to give it a leave pass not to submit an updated NDC with higher ambition than previously submitted.
A further issue that arises from Minister Taylor’s statement is a reference to a target being set for either 2035 or 2040 and communicated in 2025. The ratchet up mechanism of the Paris agreement is built around the concept of there being common five-year timeframes for NDC targets – hence the five yearly global stock-take system, and the request that the IPCC align its assessment timetable to the needs of this five-year global stock-take. There is concern that the Australian Government may be signalling a move away from this agreement.