Australia’s emissions will remain at the same level through to 2030, despite the federal government paying polluters billions to lower greenhouse gas emissions and some states having ambitious renewable energy targets, according to new analysis by the energy advisory firm RepuTex.
Combining the effect of current policy settings with expected growth in liquefied natural gas exports and land clearing, Australia’s emissions were modelled to end up at just 2% below 2005 levels by 2030.
To meet current targets, which are at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2030, a total of about 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide will need to be avoided.
The current emissions reduction target has widely been considered to be too weak. In August, the Climate Institute found it would result in Australia needing to reduce its emissions to zero in just five years, in order to stay within its carbon budget, determined by our commitment to keep global warming at “well below” 2C.
To meet even that weak target using existing mechanisms – like the safeguard mechanism in the Coalition’s Direct Action policy – the cap on pollution from large emitters will need to tighten dramatically from 2020, at rate of about 5% each year, RepuTex found.
And if the government tried to meet the 2030 target without tightening the safeguard mechanism, they would need to take radical action in other areas, said RepuTex’s executive director, Hugh Grossman.
“A lot of the policy measures become extreme if you exclude safeguard sectors,” Grossman told Guardian Australia.
“That could include the tripling of funding for the emissions reduction fund and generation from rooftop photovoltaics, while rates of electricity and vehicle efficiency would need to double from current levels.”
Grossman said that was “theoretically possible” but likely to be impractical, especially if Australia’s targets are scaled up, which is the expectation of all countries after the Paris agreement.
Surprisingly, the analysis found that if emissions reductions were achieved by scaling up the safeguards mechanism, much of the burden would fall on the transport sectors and coal seam gas industries, while large coal-fired generators would avoid the impact of the tightening baselines.
“With emissions baselines declining from high point levels, we anticipate many large coal-fired generators would remain under their baseline due to factors such as falling electricity consumption,” Grossman said.
The results showed that climate and energy policy needed to be properly integrated at a federal level, Grossman said.
RepuTex came to their conclusions using their new energy and climate policy tool, which allows users to measure how much CO2 Australia will need to avoid by 2030, and explore different pathways to achieve that.
The analysis comes just weeks after the Climate Change Authority released itscontroversial report on Australia’s climate policy requirements, recommending a “toolkit” of policies, which two dissenting authority members described as a “dog’s breakfast”.
It was commissioned to report on the policy settings needed to meet our international obligations, which includes a commitment to keeping global temperatures “well below” 2C of warming. But, instead, it made recommendations based on Australia’s current targets, which are widely considered to be inconsistent with our international obligations.
It also made recommendations based on assumptions about what was politically feasible, rather than what was the best policy.
Even then, the details of the exact policy settings to needed to meet the 2030 targets were lacking. In a statement, RepuTex said its analysis attempted to fill that gap.