Australia’s climate policy is further deteriorating, as it focusses on propping up the coal industry and ditches efforts to reduce emissions, ignoring the record uptake of solar PV and storage, and other climate action at state level.
The Australian government has turned its back on global climate action by dismissing the findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and announcing it would no longer provide funds to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).It will also continue to subsidise fossil fuel extraction and export, against the need to phase out fossil fuels, in particular coal, globally. There are no signs from the recently re-elected government that they intend to scale up climate action.
Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels and industry continue to rise, and are now 7% above 2005 levels. These emissions have increased by around 1% per year on average since 2014, the year in which Australia’s national carbon pricing scheme was repealed. Under current polices, these emissions are headed for an increase of 8% above 2005 levels by 2030, rather than the 14-17% decrease in these emissions required to meet Australia’s Paris Agreement target (excluding LULUCF). This means Australia’s emissions are set to far outpace its “Insufficient” 2030 target.
The Government has stated it intends to “carry over” surplus emission units from the Kyoto Protocol towards its Paris Agreement target. This would significantly lower the actual emission reductions.
The so-called “Climate Solutions Package” announced in February 2019 confirms that the Government is not intending to implement any serious policy efforts. Instead, it wants to rely on carry over units, and the inadequate instrument, the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) now re-named the “Climate Solutions Fund”.
The government continues to plan to underwrite a new coal power plant - completely inconsistent with the need to phase out coal globally by 2050 and in OECD countries by 2030. If all other countries were to follow Australia’s current policy trajectory that we rate “Highly Insufficient”, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C.
While the federal government continues to repeatedly state that Australia is on track to meet its 2030 target “in a canter”, the Climate Action Tracker is not aware of any scientific basis, published by any analyst or government agency, to support this. The OECD has warned the Australian Government that it will not achieve its target without intensified mitigation efforts. It describes current climate policy as a “piecemeal approach”.
The Government intends to achieve its target mainly through use of Kyoto carry over - a move that a number of other countries with such carry overs have explicitly rejected. These carry over units make up more than half of the abatement task based on current government projections. Australia’s emissions have been increasing since 2014, when the federal government repealed the carbon pricing system, and the latest quarterly emissions data inventory to December 2018 (published in June 2019) shows continuing increases. Emissions are projected to grow through 2030, instead of reducing in line with the 2030 target.
The federal government continues to promote coal as a solution to an energy security issue it claims exists, but which has not been identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator. It proposes to underwrite new coal-fired power generation by guaranteeing to pay any future carbon price-related costs, create barriers to renewable energy and obfuscate its climate policies.
The reality on the ground at the state level, in public opinion and across the business sector in Australia, is very different. All states and territories - except Western Australia - now have strong renewable energy targets and/or zero emissions targets in place.
The state of South Australia is widely seen as a global leader: it has one of the highest shares of variable renewable energy, with 51% share of wind and solar total generation in 2018, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery, and innovative projects for renewable hydrogen and virtual power plants.
Households across Australia are massively deploying small-scale solar and increasingly combining this with battery storage: about 32% of dwellings in South Australia, 33% in Queensland and 27% of Western Australia had solar PV by 2018, with substantial shares in several other states and territories as well, a trend that is showing no sign of slowing down.
In a recent poll, published just before the recent elections in May this year, more than 80% of Australians want the government to enhance their climate action, and more than 90% want to see more renewable energy. Three quarters want to see the Government do more to increase the number of electric cars.
In another recent survey, capturing the views of Australian business and industry, 92% of respondents say Australia’s current climate and energy policy is insufficient to meet the required targets. A further sign of escalating and widespread public disquiet and concern at their government’s lack of action on climate change were the unprecedented, nation-wide strikes by school children in late November 2018 and March 2019.