Whats so tough about a target?

Whats so tough about a target?
Written by Tom Hunt, CCL Board Member from the Federal electorate of Whitlam NSW

Official figures show our emissions are going down – but can you tell where we are heading?

Graph c/o Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: June 2020



Late last month, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources released its quarterly National Greenhouse Gas Inventory for June 2020, announced by our Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor.

“We’re 16.6 per cent down on our 2005 baseline. Our target is 26 per cent, we’ve got 10 years to get there. We’re making extremely good progress,” Mr Taylor said at the press conference.

Listening to Angus you could be excused for thinking that Australia’s emissions reduction efforts were doing well, leading world efforts, ahead of target, and in good hands.

But I like to look at the facts in the report itself and thought I would see how the figures stack up against what world leaders are currently asking our PM to consider.

It’s pretty clear to us all now that to solve climate change we need to stop greenhouse emissions. Australia as well as all other nations. We all need to pull our weight.

We’ve discovered that 1 degree of warming is not to our liking already.

The worlds best experts agree we have to aim for zero by mid century or risk going well beyond 2 degrees of warming and a vastly different world. And now “The United Kingdom, Japan and the Republic of Korea, together with more than 110 other countries, have pledged carbon neutrality by 2050, and China has pledged to get there before 2060”

Angus still apparently sticks by his claim you can’t have a target if you haven’t got a plan to get there. Any project manager will tell you that is nonsense. How can you plan a journey without knowing where you want to go? Sadly our Coalition Government still appears to have neither target nor plan. The “Roadmap” discussion paper presented by Taylor earlier in the year is merely a list of options for solution technologies, which led to some support to encourage a selected few of those. There is no forecast of what they will achieve, nor how soon.

Australia had started to act on emissions reductions before the Paris talks. Policies introduced as early as 2007 had a marked effect on reducing our emissions, but one of these, arguably the most important, was highly controversial. The political folly of promising not to introduce a “carbon tax” before the election to appease the doubters, then introducing it anyway (albeit with ample compensation to those who could not afford it) only opened the door to an attack dog opposition driven by political motives with no regard for the science or economic realities.

As they say the rest is history. You can see the results in this graph.

The period 2007 to 2013 (up until the “carbon tax” was repealed) showed a marked reduction in Australia’s emissions. Much of this was from land use, but towards the end efficiencies inspired by the carbon price were showing real promise.

The trend in emissions reduction in that period, if maintained could have achieved zero emissions before 2050!

The last 7 years show a very different story!

The policies we have had in Australia since 2013 when numerous climate related programs and policies were cut, made a marked difference to our emissions reduction rate.

Now that the Coalition has started to feel the rising public pressure for more climate action they are paying a little more attention, assigning an emissions reduction portfolio to our energy minister.

Angus Taylor, coming from a background of renouncing wind power, has to his credit become far more cognisant of the need for renewables to solve our energy transition. He is still shackled however by the reluctance of doubters in his party to commit to any serious policy shift to accelerate the electricity transition or at this stage seriously address the other 2/3rds of our emissions.

Current policies 2013-2020 show an emissions reduction trend, which if continued would have us achieve net zero emissions in 250 to 500 years time. More than two centuries after the UN’s ambition.

The sad fact is, our federal government has many ties to the fossil fuel business and is shackled by doubters seeding fear of economic disaster. Australia does ride a little on the miners back these days (But history shows, the economy was not impacted by the “carbon tax” of 2011-2013. Indeed the UK’s economy has grown significantly while it’s emissions have been greatly reduced)

Yet I was still shocked yesterday when our Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor announced $83.5million in incentive payments to oil companies to refine more oil in Australia.

With that sort of ambition, is it any wonder that leaders from the United Nations shunned Prime Minister Morrison’s speech at the UN Climate Ambition Summit last weekend.

We need our federal government to take a look at what the world is doing, and to realise the true consequences of inaction.

While the UK has reduced its emissions by 38% since 1990, Australia kept increasing from 1990 to 2007 and even now has only reduced its emissions by 6% on 1990 levels. We managed to make good progress from 2007 to 2013, but the trend since then has us getting to zero emissions more than 200 years after everyone else.

The changes to federal government policies in 2007 and in 2013 have had marked effects on our emissions reduction rate.  Our policies should be putting an extra price on carbon pollution, not subsidising it. History shows that the “dreaded carbon tax” didn’t impact our economy. And the UK’s economy is doing just fine with all that they are doing.

If Taylor wants to improve our fuel security he should put our money into switching the nations transport fleets to electric so we can use locally produced energy to power our society and reduce our expensive and insecure imports of climate impacting oil.

Australia has plenty of sunshine and wind. We should be using our local clean products and helping the world.

The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.

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