What you will find on this page: fossil fuels, subsidies and MP blockers; climate policy credibility assessment; fact checkers: emission reduction target, global demand for coal, Paris Agreement, emission levels up, solar report card; Infographic: the size of Australia’s government; Climate Change Authority: reviews and publications 

Seeing through the continuing fog of spin


listen-and-learn MICKThis page provides some fact checking of the Federal Government’s actions and policies relating to mitigation and adaptation to our changing climate

Australia as G20 member – share of world energy use

30 August 2016, Carbon Brief: Nine charts to show why the G20 matters for energy and climate. The leaders of the world’s largest economies are about to gather in China for the annual G20 meeting. These countries are richer than average and they emit the vast majority of the world’s CO2 emissions. That’s because they use the most coal, oil and gas – even though they host larger capacities of low-carbon electricity generation than the rest of the world combined. Outsized influence The G20 is made up of the Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US. The EU is also a member. Even though it includes China and India, the world’s two most populous nations, the G20’s combined population of 4.6bn makes up just 63% of the global total of 7.3bn. Access the nine charts here

Fossil Fuels, Subsidies and the MP’s blockers

A good place to start is 350.org Australia siteGo Fossil Free. (Cartoon c/- Mick)  Why is it so hard to get a Politicians Blocking Action on Climate Change – listing 30 MP climate blockers

Crunching the numbers on fossil fuel subsidies and donations – Over the past 3 years, fossil fuel companies have donated almost $3.7 million to the major parties. In return, our Government will provide $7.7 billion in subsidies to the big polluters in 2016–17. That equates to a return on investment for the fossil fuel industry of $2000 in 2016–17 for every $1 donated to the major parties over the past 3 years. Pollution Free Politics – ending fossil fuel donations and subsidies – check out where your MP stands      Why it matters to disconnect donations and subsidies – 350.org Australia’s response

June 2016 Climate Institute, Policy Brief: Climate Policy Credibility Assessment: Federal Election 2016 (Report)

Concern about climate change among Australians has surged since the lows of 2012 and the last Federal election. Support for climate leadership is returning to 2008 levels, with an overwhelming majority seeing the economic opportunities in taking action. Mainstream business and investor groups are also increasingly frustrated by ongoing policy disputes and calling for the integration of climate and energy policies. The Coalition, Labor, Greens and Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) now support emissions trading and renewable energy, albeit to varying degrees. But a gap is opening between them and community and business views. The significant policy reviews both major parties have committed to conducting after the election will be crucial to avoid the social and economic instability of this gap – and to take credible climate action. As this assessment by The Climate Institute shows, the policies of all parties need work to become credible, scalable and durable. Policies are “Credible” if they explicitly link to shared, meaningful, climate outcomes with transparent review processes. “Scalable” means they address large parts of the economy and can be ramped up, or down, as needed. “Durable” means they are informed by principles that maintain Australia’s economic competitiveness and enhance equity – that is, they are capable of maintaining political support and investor confidence over coming decades. Access full report here

 Fact Checkers

ABC Fact Check determines the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate. They do not check the work of journalists, from the ABC or elsewhere. All verdicts fall into three colour-based categories: In The Red, In The Green or In Between – red being a negative ruling, and green being a positive. The following Fact Check’s are in relation to climate change issues.

Details here

Access full analysis here

9 May 2016, Climate Institute: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the Paris Agreement during his press conference with Luke Howarth.

Point 1: “All of the nations in the world agreed to emissions targets for 2030.”
No, they did not. 
In Paris, countries agreed to limit warming to 1.5-2°C and to achieve net zero emissions. A framework was also established to ratchet up national targets through time towards these goals. Before Paris, countries put forward a range of initial targets for 2025 or 2030. Counties only formalise their targets when they ratify the agreement. The Abbott government submitted its initial, and inadequate 2030 target, well after most other advanced economies. A process to update these targets starts in 2018. Updated 2030 targets are to be submitted in 2019-20. These targets will be judged against their compatibility with the objectives of the Paris Agreement – limiting warming to 1.5-2°C.

Point 2: Setting credible targets limits a countries leverage
Countries do not negotiate their targets. They are nationally determined. This is a key reason why the Paris meeting succeeded. 
History shows that when countries advance credible targets it drags up the targets of other nations, not the opposite. Australia is actually limiting its leverage by advancing an inadequate 2030 target. This is demonstrated by not being invited to a “High Ambition Coalition” meeting with the US, EU, small island states and other vulnerable nations on how we should accelerate towards the 1.5-2°C goal.

Point 3: Countries will only strengthen targets if they do so together
It is good that the Prime Minister has reiterated that Australia will need to strengthen its targets. 
The Prime Minister, however, implies that countries have not already agreed to do this. In Paris countries strengthened their targets, and agreed to continue strengthening targets every five years. As the Prime Minister notes key test against which countries will be judged is whether the target is consistent with the 1.5-2°C goal. This will be a collective process. Australia’s current target is consistent with a world heading towards 3-4°C, and the longer it takes to get on a credible path towards the Paris objectives the more costly the transition will be. Source: Climate Institute

25 May 2016, The Conversation. Election FactCheck: is Australia among the only major advanced economies where pollution levels are going up? 

Australia is now pretty much the only major advanced economy where pollution levels are going up, not coming down. – Labor shadow minister for the environment, climate change and water, Mark Butler, speech to the National Press Club, May 18, 2016.

During a debate with environment minister Greg Hunt, Labor’s shadow environment minister Mark Butler said that Australia is “pretty much” the only major advanced economy where pollution levels are rising. Is he right? 

Checking the sources: When asked for data to support his assertion, a spokesperson for Butler referred The Conversation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN agency that oversees international climate negotiations. The spokesperson also referred us to the website of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which suggests that by pollution he meant “greenhouse gas emissions”. However, the spokesperson did not specify what data set the statement was based upon, nor what Butler defined as a “major advanced economy”. The IMF defines a “major advanced economy” as the G7 nations (and Australia is not among its members). In this FactCheck, we aim to compare Australia’s emissions with a range of advanced economies including the G7 member countries, the EU bloc and a selection of others such as Iceland, Korea and New Zealand. The Conversation also asked over what time period pollution levels were “going up” according to Butler, but didn’t hear back before deadline. Nevertheless, there are some obvious data sets against which Butler’s statement can be tested.

How are Australia’s emissions trending? Greenhouse gas emissions inventory data released in May by the Department of Environment show that Australia’s emissions (excluding land use, land use change and forestry or LULUCF) rose by 0.4% between December 2014 and December 2015. Emissions rose 1.1% if land-use and forestry emissions are included. The report included the following graph:

National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (excluding Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry), annual, ‘unadjusted’ emissions, 2005 to 2015. Department of EnvironmentThe graph shows that Australian emissions have essentially stagnated over the past decade. The data shows a slight decrease from 2012 to 2014 and then an increase from 2014 to 2015. So Butler was right to suggest that Australia’s emissions are on the rise, based on the latest 12-month snapshot. But is Australia the only advanced economy where that’s happening?

How are other countries’ emissions trending?

It turns out it’s not so easy to see if other advanced economies had an emissions rise between 2014 and 2015. There simply isn’t enough accurate global data available to do that comparison for such a recent and short time period. To compare the most recent greenhouse gas emissions data (excluding land-use and forestry for which accounting rules vary) between countries, we used the PRIMAPHIST data set produced by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. This composite data set uses widely recognised data sources, including data from the UNFCCC and other UN agencies. It contains greenhouse gas data (aggregated in a standardised way) for all countries. For developed countries, the data is extracted from national reports to the United Nations. For other countries, sources of data vary and more details are available hereAs we said, there’s not enough recent data available to see if Australia is the only country where emissions rose between 2014 and 2015. However, we can compare Australia’s emissions trends with other countries’ emissions trends over a longer time interval – between 2000 and 2014 (the latest credible data available). When we check what the PRIMAPHIST data shows about how Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions compare over that time frame with some of the other advanced economies (with the 28 European Union member states included as a bloc), here’s how it looks:

Don’t be deceived by what may appear to be a low level of Australian emissions (the blue line). It’s an illusion. In fact, Australia is among highest per capita emitters. Read More here

18 May 2016, Renew Economy, Graph of the Day: Tony and Malcolm’s solar report card. As the two main parties prepared to enter a debate about climate change and clean energy policies, the Australian Solar Council, the industry’s principal lobby group, released a report card on the Coalition’s efforts on renewable energy to date.

The Coalition did not fare well, receiving an F in all subjects, apart from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, where it got a D after deciding to keep the institution it had spent three years trying to dismantle, but allocated $1 billion of its funds elsewhere.

report card

“(Tony and Malcolm’s) joint project gets an overall F because it continues to smash renewables jobs, reduce electricity market competition, stop regional investment in large renewables projects, and keep all consumers locked into ever increasing power bills,” the council concluded. The council has launched a Vote Solar campaign to target marginal seats in a push for stronger solar and renewable energy policies. Source Renew Economy

Infographic: the size of Australia’s government

3 May 2016, The Conversation, Ahead of this year’s federal budget the government has consistently spoken of the need for Australia to “live within its means”, but what does this really mean? These eight charts show where Australia’s federal government spends money, and how this compares to other OECD countries. Source: The Conversation

 Climate Change Authority

The Climate Change Authority provides independent expert advice on Australian Government climate change mitigation initiatives. The Authority is established under the Climate Change Authority Act 2011

Timing of release for the electricity paper and third report of the Special Review

19 July 2016, In light of the time taken to form government and appoint the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP as the Minister for the Environment and Energy following the Federal election, the Climate Change Authority has decided with regret that there is no longer time for meaningful consultation on its paper on policies that could be used to reduce emissions in the electricity generation sector, and for the outcomes of that consultation to inform its work for the third report of the Special Review.  The Authority has therefore decided that it will release the electricity paper and the third report of the Special Review together, by the end of August 2016.

The Authority has made good progress on the Special Review in the election period. The Authority has drawn on submissions on the second report of the Special Review (which was released in November 2015 for consultation) in developing its thinking on policies that could be put in place for the electricity generation sector as well as the broader economy. The Authority thanks the many individuals and organisations that made submissions on emissions reduction policy during the Special Review. The third report of the Special Review will cover the policies the Authority recommends that Australia should implement to meet the outcomes of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Status of electricity consultation paper

The Authority is very disappointed that a draft of its paper on modelling of policies that could be used to reduce emissions from the electricity generation sector has been leaked to the media.  The Authority took an independent decision not to release the electricity paper, which is not finalised.  The modelling examines seven policies for the period after 2020 but did not examine current climate change policies (the Emissions Reduction Fund and the safeguard mechanism).  Because the report was not finalised, it has not been passed to the Government.

The Authority will finalise the report after the election for consultation.  The outcome of consultations on the electricity paper will inform the Authority’s special review into emissions reduction policies. The final report of the special review will also be released after the election.

REVIEWS:

The Climate Change Authority Act 2011 requires the Authority to review particular climate change policies and initiatives and report to the Minister responsible for climate change and the Australian Parliament.

Special Review

The Minister for the Environment has asked the Climate Change Authority to conduct a Special Review, into Australia’s policies and future targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the context of its international commitments and the action of other countries. The final report of the special review is due by 30 June 2016.

Second draft report of the Special Review: Australia’s climate policy options

The Climate Change Authority is analysing the electricity sector as part of its Special Review. This analysis will include modelling of a range of illustrative policies for reducing electricity sector emissions. The Authority will evaluate the policies by comparing their performance across a range of quantitative and qualitative indicators of effectiveness, efficiency and equity.

Renewable Energy Target Reviews

The Climate Change Authority has released two reviews of the Renewable Energy Target, in 2012 and 2014. The 2014 review focused on a small set of priority questions, including the 2020 Large-scale Renewable Energy Target, the role of the RET after 2020, assistance for solar photovoltaics (PV) under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and the basis of exemptions for emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries.

Carbon Farming Initiative Review

The Climate Change Authority released its statutory review of the Carbon Farming Initiative in December 2014. The Authority evaluated the performance of the CFI to date; considered the extent to which the design of Emissions Reduction Fund (which replaces the CFI) improves on the CFI; and discusses the contribution the ERF could make to Australia’s emissions reduction goals for 2020 and beyond.

Targets and Progress Review

The Climate Change Authority released the final report of its Targets and Progress Review in February 2014. The Authority considered Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and its progress toward meeting them. The Authority adopted a budget approach and recommended a coordinated set of emissions reduction goals for the short, medium and long term.

PUBLICATIONS: 

2015: Draft report on Australia’s climate policy options

The Authority’s draft report considers the full range of climate policy options, including the various types of emissions trading, and how the Authority proposes to evaluate them. This is the second report in the Authority’s Special Review.

Authority observations on Australia’s 2030 target

The Authority has made some observations following the announcement of the government’s 2030 emissions reduction target.

Australia’s future emissions reduction targets (final report)

This report explains why the Climate Change Authority recommends an emissions reduction target of 30 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025. The report completes the first of three phases of the Special Review of Australia’s climate action.

Modelling illustrative electricity sector emissions reduction policies (Consultation paper)

The Climate Change Authority is analysing the electricity sector as part of its Special Review. This analysis will include modelling of a range of illustrative policies for reducing electricity sector emissions. The Authority will evaluate the policies by comparing their performance across a range of quantitative and qualitative indicators of effectiveness, efficiency and equity.

Comparing countries’ emissions targets: A practical guide

This guide explains how to compare country targets, and the pros and cons of different approaches. In making its recommendations on Australia’s emissions reduction targets, the Authority will consider how Australia compares to other countries.