What you will find on this page: Australia: Per capita: how much CO2 does the average person emit? (interactive); your greenwashing guide; Aust drops plans to use Kyoto credits; Oz govt dodgy accountingAust rising emissionsAustralia needs to stop pretending we’re tackling climate change; numbers are outnew energy target – drop the “clean & ignore climateStates leading the way (report) release of Oz emissions 2016unpacking Finkel report; Oz emissions riseFed budget climate policy silenceState renewables bashing continues; Australian climate politics in 2017: a guide for the perplexed; what did Malcolm have to say in 2012latest example where political interest out weigh commonsense and foresightcarbon budget blowout or the continuance of creative accountingbeyond the limits report & Paris temperature checkglobal energy efficiency report; Great Barrier Reef sagaNational Greenhouse & Energy information; emissions reality check; Paris policy brief; Australia’s global pledge; KYOTO commitment; Safeguard MechanismEmissions Reduction Fund; first auction results; second auction results; Direct ActionRenewable Energy Target. Also refer to “Global Action/Inaction” and “Fairyland of 2 degrees” pages as issues are related

Where does Australia stand? When it’s way of life depends on fossil fuel exports

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Australia: Per capita: how much CO2 does the average person emit?

This interactive chart shows how much carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced in a given year.

A few points to keep in mind when considering this data:

  • These figures are based on ‘production’ or ‘territorial’ emissions (i.e. emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, or cement production within a country’s borders). It does not consider the emissions of traded goods (consumption-based emissions). You find consumption-based emissions later in this country profile.
  • These figures look specifically at CO2 emissions – not total greenhouse gas emissions. You find total, and other greenhouse gas emissions, later in this country profile.
  • Annual emissions can be largely influenced by population size – we present the per capita figures above.

First steps of a new government – let’s see what they can do

3 November 2022, The Conversation: Australia relies on controversial offsets to meet climate change targets. We might not get away with it in Egypt. It’s small wonder a major fossil fuel producer like Australia has relied so heavily on carbon offsets. Plant new forests – or say you will avoid clearing old ones – and you can keep approving new gas and coal developments. This year, whistleblower Professor Andrew McIntosh claimed up to 80% of these offsets weren’t real. They didn’t actually offset emissions. In Australia, renewables are the only real source of emission reduction. The rest of the economy is set to slowly increase emissions. But what matters is actually reducing how many tonnes of heat-trapping greenhouse gases go up into the sky and add to the 2.5 trillion tonnes of CO2 humans have already emitted – of which more than a trillion tonnes remain in the atmosphere. Last year, carbon dioxide and methane levels hit new highs. Offsets measure how much carbon is soaked up by, say, a reforestation project. As the saplings grow, they store carbon. Offsets are a way to theoretically package up this stored carbon – or emissions claimed to have been avoided by not deforesting an area of land – and sell it to companies who would like to keep pumping out emissions equal to the amount stored in new forests. You can quickly see the problem. Who’s checking to see if these forests were planted – or if they were going to be planted anyway? Are emission reductions or storage real – and additional to what would otherwise have happened? Read more here

24 May 2022, Renew Economy: Albanese commits Australia to stronger 2030 target, starts climate reset. Prime minister Anthony Albanese has commenced a reset of Australia’s international climate action commitments, formalising its commitment to a stronger 2030 reduction target in his first address to a major international forum. Just a day after being sworn in, Albanese is in Tokyo for the ‘Quad’ meeting with the leaders of Japan, India and the United States to discuss collaboration between the four regional powers and how they can rebuild relationships across the Pacific region. Albanese used his opening address to formally commit Australia to the stronger 2030 emissions reduction target that Labor had taken to the election, saying that delivering climate action was a key diplomatic challenge in the Indo-Pacific region. “The region is looking to us to work with them and to lead by example. That’s why my government will take ambitious action on climate change and increase our support to partners in the region as they work to address it, including with new finance,” Albanese told the meeting. “We will act in recognition that climate change is the main economic and security challenge for the island countries of the Pacific. Under my government, Australia will set a new target to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, putting us on track for net zero by 2050.” It represents the first time since the Abbott government in 2015 that Australia has committed to increasing its 2030 emissions reduction target. The outgoing Morrison government had held firm to Abbott’s 26 to 28 per cent reduction target – a goal long seen as inadequate both domestically and among Australia’s international peers. Read more here

Your G7 greenwashing guide: How Australia will feign climate ambition

9 June 2021, Renew Economy: This week, prime minister Scott Morrison will be reconnecting with a topic he has been struggling to disconnect from entirely: the problem of climate change. This happens mostly through a single frame: presenting Australia’s current inaction on climate change as if it is true ambition. The story, of course, is pretty ugly. Australia’s emissions have been rising for some time, tempered partially by the growth of renewable energy, but accelerated by a bloated and emissions intensive gas industry and by highly-polluting transport. Buildings, industry, agriculture and other mining remain heavily reliant on fossil fuels. The overall picture: the government is relying on vestigial policies from a previous government and the impacts of a deadly pandemic to do all the work on climate.

Today, Scott Morrison will reportedly say in a speech ahead of the G7 that Australia is deploying renewables “three times faster than the USA, China and the EU”. It’s a vague claim that is impossible to verify, but it is also a classic example of the greenwashing of Australia’s fossil fuel problem. This year, the primary mission of saving face has been trying to twist Australia’s climate and energy data in incredibly silly ways, such that is resembles climate ambition. I have tracked it closely, because it certainly seems like one of the most important stories on climate in Australia this year. The first instance was the election campaign of Australia’s former finance minister and now successful new Secretary-General of the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Mathias Cormann. He carried around a colour coded spreadsheet that has never been publicly shared, but that we can comfortably assume was not a fair representation of climate action, given it showed that “Australia’s performance stood up well against some other [OECD] members”. Read more here  NOTE: Tactics remain the same no matter what conference/summit, is attended. 

Australia drops plan to use Kyoto credits to meet Paris climate target – do they mean it??

5 December 2020, SMH: Prime Minister Scott Morrison will tell world leaders that Australia has abandoned a longstanding plan to use Kyoto carryover credits to achieve its emissions reduction targets, in a pledge that paves the way for a reset of his government’s climate change policies. The decision to drop the controversial Kyoto credits will be announced at a December 12 summit convened by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has asked leaders for “ambitious” new commitments as a condition of speaking at the gathering. (ED: but he wasn’t invited? Does it still count?)

Mr Morrison’s promise to reach Australia’s 2030 target without using carryover credits is likely to be welcomed by other countries that have long criticised the accounting method, building goodwill for the Australian position going into the Glasgow summit. The Prime Minister hinted on Thursday the government might not need to use the credits, telling Parliament he had “kept commitments and beaten commitments” in the past and would outline this in his speech to the British gathering. Read more here

Still they will not let go!

4 March 2020, Climate Home News, Australia’s carbon accounting plan for Paris goals criticised as ‘legally baseless’. Legal experts wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison warning the use of old carbon credits to meet the country’s 2030 goals would set a ‘dangerous precedent’. Australia’s plan to use Kyoto-era carbon credits to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement is inconsistent with international law, legal experts have warned. In a letter to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, nine international and climate law professors said Australia’s method would set “a dangerous precedent” for other countries to “exploit loopholes or reserve their right not to comply with the Paris Agreement”. “Our considered view is that the proposed use of these ‘Kyoto credits’ to meet targets under the Paris Agreement is legally baseless at international law,” the letter read. Australia is one of the only countries in the world to have explicitly said it would carry over Kyoto-era carbon credits as a means to meet its 2030 climate target. The credits were initially issued for Australia’s overachievement in meeting its 1997 Kyoto pledge to curb emissions by 2012. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Australia has pledged to cut emissions by at least 26% from 2005 levels by 2030. Morrison told the UN in September 2019 that “Australia will meet our Paris commitments”, and called the goals “a credible, fair, responsible and achievable contribution to global climate change action.” But a 2019 UN Environment report listed Australia among a group of 20 nations requiring “further action” to meet its Paris target, along with Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and the United States. Read more here

AND STILL IT CONTINUES! Oz Govt playing with dodgy accounting to achieve its target, can they be stopped?

17 December 2019, Renew Economy, Why the battle over ‘Kyoto carryover’ is such a big deal for the climate? As delegates from the COP25 UN climate talks make their way home, many will be considering how it could be possible to resolve one of the core sticking Kyoto Credits: as Australia cooks, the Coalition cooks the bookspoints for negotiators could be resolved in time for the next round of talks in Glasgow. Much of the battles between negotiators in Madrid focused on the issue of surplus emissions permits leftover from the Kyoto protocol. As the global climate governance is set to transition from the constrained Kyoto Protocol into the all encompassing Paris Agreement, a small group of countries, including Australia, China, India the United States and Brazil, fought to protect their favourable position, created under the Kyoto Protocol through soft targets and convenient accounting loopholes. Australia neither succeeded in securing agreement at the UN talks to allow for surplus Kyoto-era units to be carried over into the Paris Agreement nor was Australia prevented from doing so. In failing to reach an agreement in Madrid, negotiators will reconsider the issue at the next round of talks to be held in Glasgow in late 2020. The level of attention given to the issue, and the resulting frustration expressed by negotiators on both sides, reflects the scale of emissions reductions that could be put as risk if countries conceded to the demands that surplus Kyoto units be carried over into the Paris Agreement. Read more here

For more background as to how all this came about read on… Kyoto Credits: as Australia cooks, the Coalition cooks the books

Australia is counting on cooking the books to meet its climate targets

31 January 2019, Conversation, A new OECD report has warned that Australia risks falling short of its 2030 emissions target unless it implements “a major effort to move to a low-carbon model”. This view is consistent both with official government projections released late last year, and independent analysis of Australia’s emissions trajectory. Yet the government still insists we are on track, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison claiming as recently as November that the 2030 target will be reached “in a canter”. What’s really going on? Does the government have any data or modelling to serve as a basis for Morrison’s confidence? And if so, why doesn’t it tell us? …. To reach our Paris target, the government estimates that we will need to reduce emissions by the equivalent of 697 million tonnes of carbon dioxide before 2030. It also calculates that the overdelivery on previous climate targets already represents a saving of 367Mt, and that low economic demand would save a further 571Mt. That adds up to 938Mt of emissions reductions, outperforming the target by 35% – a canter that would barely work up a sweat. Read more here

Australia on track to miss Paris climate targets as emissions hit record highs

14 September 2018, The Guardian, NDEVR Environmental data suggests Australia will miss targets by 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide under current trajectory. Australia remains on track to miss its Paris climate targets as carbon emissions continue to soar, according to new data. The figures from NDEVR Environmental for the year up to the end of June 2018 show the country’s emissions were again the highest on record when unreliable data from the land use and forestry sectors was excluded. It is the third consecutive year for record-breaking emissions. Read more here

Image result for Australia's emissions: how we are tracking

Gas boom fuels Australia’s third straight year of rising emissions

14 May 2018, The Guardian, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar, increasing for the third consecutive year according to new data published by the Department of Environment and Energy. The Turnbull government published new quarterly emissions data late on Friday which reveals Australia’s climate pollution increased by 1.5% in the year to December 2017. The expansion in LNG exports and production is identified as the major contributor to the increase, but the data shows a jump in emissions across all sectors – including waste, agriculture and transport – except for electricity, the one area that recorded a decrease in emissions. In particular, the department’s data shows a 10.5% increase in fugitive emissions from the production, processing, transport, storage, transmission and distribution of fossil fuels such as coal, crude oil and natural gas, driven by an increase of 17.6% in natural gas production. It comes at a time when the government has been pressuring states and territories to lift bans on fracking for new unconventional gas development and just weeks after the Northern Territory announced it would end its ban on fracking. Publication of the data also comes after Australia recorded its hottest and driest April in 21 years. Between 2007 and 2013, under the previous federal government, carbon pollution declined by more than 11%. The Australian Conservation Foundation said on Monday it was embarrassing that a developed country such as Australia was recording rising climate pollution, and the Turnbull government was failing on climate policy. “This data confirms pollution is rising from transport, industry and gas production because there is no plan from Canberra to replace burning polluting coal, oil and gas with clean energy,” the ACF’s Gavan McFadzean said. “The federal budget contained no new money to incentivise industry and landowners to clean-up their act. The Climate Change Authority will be worse off to the tune of $550,000. Yet there is money for miners: the diesel fuel rebate remains in place.”The organisation also questioned why the government was years behind markets such as the United States and Canada in the introduction of tougher pollution standards for vehicles. Read more here

Forget Paris: Australia needs to stop pretending we’re tackling climate change

Image result for australia paris agreement cartoon

11 January 2018, ABC News – Science:  As the Bureau of Meteorology confirms another record-breaking year for temperatures in Australia, we should expect a sense of urgency to be creeping into Australia’s climate policy. Instead, we’re seeing the opposite. While 2015-17 were all within the hottest six years on record, our carbon emissions also continued to increase during the same period, including an all-time peak in 2017, when unreliable land-use data was excluded from the analysis. This is despite signing up to the Paris Agreement in 2015, which outlined a plan to reduce our carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030. Government data pushed out under the cloak of Christmas indicates that we will be about 140 million tonnes — or about 30 per cent — above that target based on current growth. And this is under the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull, who in 2010 warned that “the consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic.” At the time, he argued that effective action on climate change required moving to “zero, or very near zero emissions [energy] sources. “The science tells us that we have already exceeded the safe upper limit for atmospheric carbon dioxide.” The aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep global temperature increase to “well below” 2 degrees, and to attempt to achieve a limit of 1.5 degrees warming above pre-industrial levels. Last year averaged 0.95 of a degree above Australia’s long-term average….

Image result for Emissions Gap Report 2017 AustraliaFor Australia’s part, getting anywhere near our Paris targets means tackling our key emissions sources — electricity, transport, industry and agriculture, and reversing alarming deforestation trends. Forests act as invaluable carbon sinks, yet in Queensland alone in 2015-16, 395,000 hectares of forest were cleared following the relaxation of land clearing laws under the Newman LNP government. That number is feared to hit around a million hectares based on estimates from Queensland’s self-assessment data, putting that state on par with Brazil. And unreliable data on land clearing emissions mean we may actually be underestimating our carbon footprint.

Government optimism at odds with UN: Despite last financial year’s continued emissions growth, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg remains upbeat about Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement. “If you look on a yearly basis that is true [that emissions went up]. But if you look on the last quarter, they went down. If you look at the trend, it is improving. And when you talk about the 2030 target, which is our Paris commitment, the numbers that were most recently shown, indicate that they were 30 per cent better than when Labor were last in office,” the Minister told RN Breakfast. But his optimism is at odds with a number of experts, and is contrary to what was reported in the United Nations Emissions Gap Report (see below), 2017. “Government projections indicate that emissions are expected to reach 592 [million tonnes] in 2030, in contrast to the targeted range of 429-440 [million tonnes],” the report states.

The Emissions Gap Report 2017 A UN Environment Synthesis Report – November 2017 (extracts)

PAGE 8: In accordance with the Kyoto Protocol accounting rules, Australia uses a carbon budget approach that accounts for cumulative emissions over the 2013–2020 period in order to assess progress towards its pledge. Australia’s latest official projections find that for the budget period (2013–2020), Australia is now on track to overachieve its 2020 pledge by 97 MtCO2 e (cumulative), excluding a 128 MtCO2 e carry-over from its first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol (Government of Australia, 2016). Independent studies consider the year 2020 in isolation, and find a difference of about 63 MtCO2 e between Australia’s projected 2020 emissions and its pledge level for that year (Kuramochi et al., 2016b; PBL, 2017; Reputex, 2016), which is higher than the 37 MtCO2 e difference of Australia’s latest official projections (Government of Australia, 2016). The former do not factor in the most recent official projections.

PAGE  23: Australia committed to a 26–28 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 below 2005 levels, including LULUCF. Government projections indicate that emissions are expected to reach 592 MtCO2 e/year in 2030 (Government of Australia, 2016), in contrast to the targeted range of 429-440 MtCO2 e/year. Independent analyses (Kuramochi et al., 2016; Reputex, 2016) confirm that the emissions are set to far exceed its Paris Agreement NDC target for 2030. The Emissions Reduction Fund, which the Government of Australia considers to be a key policy measure to reduce emissions alongside other measures such as the National Energy Productivity Plan and targets for the reduction of hydrofluorocarbons (85 percent by 2036), does not set Australia on a path to meeting its targets.

PAGE 44: 5.3.1. Australia: coal exports and policy challenges In Australia, which has relied heavily on its abundant coal reserves for domestic electricity production, transitioning away from coal is likely to pose significant policy challenges. It is widely anticipated that the number of coal-fired power plants will continue to decline, as plants come towards the end of their planned lifetimes. A number of older coal-fired power plants have been shut down, and new coal-fired capacity is now widely seen as ‘uninvestable’ by the private sector, due to carbon risks and because renewable energy is rapidly gaining a cost advantage (Morgan 2017). Being the world’s second largest coal exporter, the even bigger question is the future of coal exports. Thermal coal exports, which are directly dependent on other countries’ climate change policies, currently stand at around 200 million tonnes per year (Australian Government 2017), almost double the volume from a decade ago. Large-scale expansion of coal mining for export from inland areas of north-eastern Australia is under discussion. There is currently no policy to accelerate the phase-out of coal in domestic use, and no systematic framework to ease the transition away from coal in regions where large coal-based infrastructure exists, or where coal is mined. Australia’s experience with climate policy has been a difficult one, with the issue heavily politicized, and emission reduction policy instruments the subject of political contest. Australia is the only country that introduced a full-scale carbon pricing scheme (in 2012) and then abolished it (in 2014). Policy uncertainty is deep-seated in the energy sector, stifling investment (Jotzo, Jordan, and Fabian 2012).

The numbers are out! 

19 December 2017, Renew Economy, Turnbull’s big climate fail, and no positive change in policy. The Turnbull government has declared its climate policies a success, in a self-generated review released alongside data revealing yet another rise in the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions – and no plans to do anything to reverse the “shameful and embarrassing” trend. In a statement on Tuesday accompanying the federal government’s 2017 Review of Climate Change Policies, environment minister Josh Frydenberg said the report showed the Coalition’s “economically responsible” approach to meeting its international climate commitments was working as planned. “The climate review found that …Australia is playing its part on the world stage through bilateral and multi‑lateral initiatives and the ratification of the Paris Agreement to reduce our emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030,” he said. And indeed it does; declaring on page 6 that “we will meet our 2030 target and we will do so without compromising economic growth or jobs. Our current policy suite can deliver this outcome.” Read More here

Australia & Turkey only developed nations breaking emissions records

28 September 2017, Australian Institute, Climate outliers: Australia and Turkey the only developed nations breaking emissions records. The Australia Institute’s new Climate & Energy Program has released the National Energy Emissions Audit. The Audit, compiled by renowned energy specialist Dr Hugh Saddler, provides a comprehensive, up-to-date indication of key greenhouse gas and energy trends in Australia. “The report finds, disturbingly, that Australia’s annual emissions from energy use have increased to their highest ever level, higher than the previous peak seen eight years ago, in 2009,” Dr Saddler said. “Australia’s failure to invest in efficient transport infrastructure, such as rail, has led to emissions from transport fuels continuing to grow, again, unlike the rest of the developed world. “The continued rise in fuel emissions demonstrates why requiring a reduction for the electricity sector that is only equal to the Paris target would likely see Australia fail to meet its international commitment,” Dr Saddler said. Key findings:

  • Australia’s energy emissions continue to increase, breaking all-time record
  • Among developed nations, only Australia and Turkey are breaking emissions records
  • Petroleum, in particular diesel consumption is the main driver of emission increases
  • There is no indication of when or if growth in petroleum emissions will stop          Read More here


Turnbull’s new energy target: Drop the “clean” and ignore climate

31 August 2017, Renew Economy, Turnbull’s new energy target: Drop the “clean” and ignore climate. The Turnbull government’s draft outline of a clean energy target reportedly attempts to divorce the mechanism from emission reduction trajectories, in the latest sign of the Coalition’s commitment to coal and its attempts to put the brakes on a rapid transition to a renewables-based grid. According to a report in the Guardian on Thursday, a draft document circulated by energy minister Josh Frydenberg’s office to COAG energy ministers last Friday attempts to water down the already weak climate ambitions of the Finkel review, which recommended a CET be adopted. According to the Guardian, the draft removes a key recommendation for an agreed emissions trajectory for the electricity system, and even removes recommendations for subsidised solar and batteries for low-income houses. The Finkel report itself was considered to be a sop to the climate deniers, because it took into account only the target set in place by the Abbott government – a 26-28 per cent reduction by 2030 which is widely considered to be completely inadequate to meet the Paris goals of capping global warming “well below” 2°C. The Finkel Review envisaged that the share of renewable energy in Australia might rise to 42 per cent by 2030, but that coal would still be supplying power as late as 2070 – decades beyond where most climate scientists consider it safe to do so. But while the government has adopted 49 of the 50 Finkel recommendations, the introduction of a CET has caused a blockage, principally because it would provide no financial incentive to build new coal. The revelations from the Guardian came as Turnbull back-tracked on comments earlier in the week about the government’s desire for a new coal-fired generator. After saying on Monday he had no plans to build a new coal plant, Turnbull told media after a meeting with utility CEOs – who all think the idea of a new coal plant is ridiculous – that the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility may still invest in a new facility. Read More here

States leading the way to a renewable future

31 August 2017, Climate Council Report, States and territories are the driving force behind Australia’s transition to clean, affordable and efficient renewable energy and storage technology, our new report has found. The ‘Renewables Ready: States Leading the Charge,’ report shows South AustraliaTasmania and the Australian Capital Territory are all leading the renewables race, while the Federal Government remains stuck at the starting block. KEY FINDINGS:

  • In the absence of national energy and climate policy, all states and territories (except Western Australia) now have strong renewable energy targets and/or net zero emissions targets in place.
  • State and territory targets and announced coal closures are expected to deliver Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target of 26-28% reduction on 2005 levels.
  • TAS, SA and the ACT continue to lead on percentage renewable electricity, and have the most renewable energy capacity per capita (excluding large-hydro).
  • NSW and QLD are set for a dramatic increase in renewable energy with the greatest capacity and number (respectively) of projects under construction in 2017.
  • Households in QLD, SA and WA continue to lead in the proportion of homes with rooftop solar.
  • SA is building the world’s largest lithium ion battery storage facility.

Access full report here


Finally, release of Oz emissions for 2016

11 July 2017, The Guardian, No wonder the government tries to hide its emissions reports. They stink. Last Friday, the Australian government finally released the latest greenhouse gas emissions report, showing emissions have risen in the past year. When excluding emissions from land use, 2016 saw Australia release a record level of CO2 into the atmosphere. It confirms the failure of the government’s environmental policy at a time when electricity prices – despite the absence of a carbon price – continue to rise at levels above inflation. The government has a history of being scared to release the greenhouse gas reports. Last year it released the March 2016 and June 2016 reports on the Thursday before Christmas – not exactly peak viewing time. It also meant the March report was released nine months after the March quarter had actually finished. And once again the government held off releasing the latest report. But in a level of coincidence equal to that of Bill Heslop running into Deirdre Chambers in the Porpoise Split Chinese restaurant, on the day that the Australian Conservation Foundation released FOI documents showing that the government had been sitting on the report for more than a month, the government released the latest report. And in an effort that rather stretches the meaning of “quarterly”, the government “incorporated” the September quarter figures into the December report. It says something about how poorly this government values the issue of climate change that over a month ago we had the figures on the entire production that occurred in Australia during the first three months of this year, and yet here we are in July and we still only know the level of greenhouse gas emissions up to December last year. The figures in the report quickly made it obvious why the government has held off releasing them. They stink. And as every report since June 2014 has shown, the end of the carbon price has led to an increase in emissions. The poor departmental officials try to paint a happy picture. The release leads with the line that “total emissions for Australia for the year to December 2016 (including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) are estimated to be 543.3 Mt CO2-e.” They note that this is 2.0% below emissions in 2000, and 10.2% below emissions in 2005. Oddly, they don’t note that is it 1.0% above the emissions in 2015. The inclusion of land use, land use change and forestry is a fairly dodgy measure. Read More here

Unpacking the Finkel Report

13 June 2017, Climate Council, On Friday, Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, released the findings of a review into the future of the National Electricity Market. The Finkel Review was tasked with developing a “blueprint” for the national electricity market (NEM) that:

  • delivers on Australia’s emissions reduction commitments
  • provides affordable electricity, and
  • ensures a high level of security and reliability.
  • It’s a hefty 212 page document so the Climate Council has put together an explainer to help unpack the content.

Access report by clicking on image


June 2017, Australia Institute National Energy Emissions Audit. Providing a comprehensive, up-to-date
indication of key greenhouse gas and energy trends in Australia. Access Report here

 Oz emissions rise in off-season

8 June 2017, The Guardian, Australia’s carbon emissions rise in off-season for first time in a decadeExclusive: On the eve of the long-awaited Finkel review, analysis shows Australia’s emissions rose sharply in the first quarter of 2017. Australia’s carbon emissions jumped at the start of 2017, the first time they have risen in the first few months of a year for more than a decade, according to projections produced exclusively for the Guardian. Emissions in the first three months of the year normally drop compared with the previous quarter, driven by seasonal factors and holidays. But in something not seen in since 2005, emissions rose in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the last quarter of 2016 by 1.54m tonnes of CO2, according to the study by consultants NDEVR Environmental. The rise was driven by increases in emissions from electricity generation. Government data on greenhouse gas emissions is released up to a full nine months after the end of a quarter. So NDEVR Environmental replicate the government data for the Guardian, releasing it about a month after the quarter finishes. The unseasonal rise in emissions continues a trend of rising national emissions which began in 2014 and which the government’s own modelling suggests will continue for decades to come, based on current policies. Read More here

Budget silence on climate policy

11 May 2017, Renew Economy, Budget papers reveal jobs to grow at CEFC, but CCA left without funds. While the Turnbull government’s second budget distinguished itself for its complete lack of provisions for – or even references to – climate changeRenew Economy did notice that the papers flagged an increase in staff numbers at the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, from 80 people to 101. According to the CEFC, the staff increase noted in the budget reflects the green bank’s expectation that it will need more hands on deck to manage its “expanding and diversified” investment portfolio. And that’s because it is doing very well. “The budget papers show that we are forecast to exceed the target $800 million to $1 billion of new contracted investments during 2016/17, which is a considerable step up in the level of investment over prior periods,” a CEFC spokesperson told RE in an email. “As the CEFC’s investment portfolio progressively grows (currently $1.5 billion invested and $3 billion committed of the $10 billion appropriated to CEFC), the Board of the CEFC must ensure it has the requisite resources in place to properly manage those investments and associated business risks, on behalf of the Australian taxpayer, in an efficient and effective manner,” the email said. The extra funds contrasts with the fate of the Climate Change Authority, which has been effectively defenestrated by the Coalition government. Once again, its funding does not extend beyond the coming financial year, as the Coalition repeats its desire to close the authority. The CCA, established by Labor and the Greens to provide independent advice on climate targets and policies, has been embroiled in controversy in recent months, leading to resignations from key board members such as Clive Hamilton and John Quiggin, over what they described as compromised reports. But even these have been ignored by the Coalition. The CEFC has also been on the coalition’s hit list, but is now tolerate given it has chalked up an impressive track record since its inception in 2013. The LNP has shifted from describing the CEFC as a “giant green hedge fund” or “honeypot to every white-shoe salesman imaginable,” to claiming it as a major national success; one that marked its third year of operation with a record $837 million committed to new clean energy investments, contributing to projects with a total value of $2.5 billion, and achieving a 73 per cent year-on-year increase in the value of new investment commitments. Read more here

10 May 2017, Renew Economy, Turnbull abandons fig leaf and stands naked on climate policy. You would think that with all the hoo-ha about the scandalous increases in electricity prices that it would have rated some sort of mention in the budget. You know, one of the biggest cost inputs for business being addressed in the government’s economic centrepiece. But no. The 2nd Morrison/Turnbull fiscal document blithely ignores the issue, despite the fact that their lack of policy direction in the last few years has been the major contributor to the price surges that are scorching household and business budgets. There’s some pointless extra money for coal seam gas, the removal of some funds for carbon capture (finally) and some previously promised funds for solar thermal (about time), and even another thought bubble on Snowy Hydro – this time to buy it out from the state governments. See Matt Rose’s article for more details. But there is nothing on climate change, no grand vision on energy. There are no new funds for the Direct Action policy that Turnbull had once ridiculed as a fig leaf for a climate action, and nothing on what might take Australia along the path to the pledge it signed in the Paris deal – effectively to reach zero net emissions by 2050. As Labor’s Mark Butler noted this morning, the Coalition’s climate change policy has officially gone from that fig-leaf to a non-existent farce. Nearly three years after celebrating the dumping the carbon price (above), slashing the RET and ignoring expert advice (CCA and the Climate Council), the Coalition government has no actual policy, on energy or climate, and its negligence is adding to the stunning rise in electricity prices it is trying to blame on everything and everyone else. “Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister who once said he didn’t want to lead a Liberal Party that didn’t feel as strongly about climate change as he did, is now the Prime Minister who has completely dropped any pretence of attempting to combat climate change,” Butler says in his statement, noting that climate change did not rate a single mention in the Budget speech. “As the central pillar of the Direct Action policy, the Emission Reduction Fund, runs out of funds, this budget delivers ZERO new policies or funding to drive down pollution and combat climate change. This budget allocates more new money to the Department of the House of Representatives than it does to tackling climate change. “Budgets are about choices and priorities, and this budget makes it perfectly clear the Turnbull government isn’t choosing a safe climate because they don’t think it is a priority. This budget finally makes official what we already know; this Liberal government is failing all future generations of Australians.” Read More here

State renewables bashing continues….

WATCH THE VIDEO FIRST: 16 March 2017, The Guardian, Josh Frydenberg escapes with dignity (mostly) intact after Jay Weatherill’s Adelaide ambush. I’ve read somewhere that an unnatural quiet presages an incoming tsunami. And so it was on Thursday, when the South Australian premier, Jay Weatherill, and the federal energy and environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, sat up in dignitaries’ row, straight-backed, avoiding eye contact, at the unveiling of a virtual power plant in a suburban garage in Adelaide. Weatherill’s jaw might have been just that little bit fixed, and Frydenberg’s cheeks just that little bit rosy as he found himself squeezed between a premier and his treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis, but the platitudes were dutifully mouthed. It seemed a bit odd that two politicians who have been going at each other hammer and tongs at a distance of hundred of kilometres for the best part of six months would be suddenly sitting together in a garage in Adelaide, with their energy plans splayed across their chests like shields. It seemed a bit off script. The whole purpose of a whipping boy (and that’s the role the Turnbull government has sought to cast South Australia in, Jay Weatherill, chief occupant of the naughty corner) is to remain at a discrete distance. In the corner. In the corridor outside. Banished. Rather like that virtual power station in the Adelaide garage, the Turnbull government versus Jay Weatherill is supposed to be a virtual boxing match, entirely bloodless. It’s just meant to crackle and hiss, the epitome of Australia’s busted, conflict-addled, half-unhinged politics – just some cheap static on the airwaves and the interwebs.What passes in this country for political discourse mirrors the casual viciousness of contemporary culture, where the hardest smackdowns are reserved for people we don’t need to make eye contact with. We rage most against the people we are highly unlikely to meet.Canberra v Adelaide is the political equivalent of the vitriolic text, or the social media troll. Weatherill wasn’t meant be there, in the room, sitting right there, when you are bagging him – he’s meant to be somewhere else. But there he was, like an Easter Island statue. Present. And not moving. Weatherill in Labor politics is known for his toughness. Frydenberg sets great store on being genial. Oil was about to meet water. Read More here

SA blackout8 March 2017, Renew Economy, Queensland govt slaps down LNP, Murdoch over renewable scares. The Queensland government has attacked the LNP opposition and the Murdoch media for unfounded, baseless and “lazy” criticism of its plans to source 50 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030. The conservative LNP has been getting a big run in the Murdoch press with a new anti-renewables campaign, which has wound up significantly since the start of the year with a host of new solar projects that will add 1GW of solar power to the state’s grid….. That means that the Queensland government will not be in the same position as South Australia, which has had to watch with growing frustration as the private owners of the biggest gas plants in the state decide not to switch on during high demand periods, claiming they can find no economic incentive to help keep the lights on for their customers. On the subject of South Australia, premier Jay Weatherill said the state had no intention of rowing back on its 2025 target of 50 per cent renewables, saying to do so it would have to effectively “physically prevent” developments in their tracks. That much is true, because the build-out of the Hornsdale wind farm and the Tailem Bend solar project will take the state to 50 per cent wind and solar by the end of this year. Weatherill says the biggest threat to power prices in South Australia is the lack of competition among generators, something that can addressed by having more renewable energy and other technologies such as battery storage. Read More here

11 February 2017 The Guardian: Watching politics builds a high tolerance for hypocrisy and humbug, but even I am aghast at the Coalition’s antics this week – fondling a lump of coal in parliament while accusing the opposition of an “ideological approach to energy” and negligence in policy planning. Seriously. There’s a long list of blame and shame for Australia’s threadbare climate and energy policy, and the failure to plan for an energy market crisis that experts have warned about for years. But Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition takes out first place. Arguably all sides of politics have made mistakes or miscalculations to get us to this point of omni-failure – high prices, blackouts and an inability to reduce electricity sector emissions – and yes, ideology has played a part: mostly the climate-change denying, renewables-are-a-socialist-plot ideology espoused by sections of the Liberal and National parties that once upon a time, a long time ago, Turnbull also railed against. Before we untether from reality entirely and drift off into a Trump-like universe where truth belongs to whoever delivers the best poll-driven lines or brings the dumbest prop to question time, let’s hammer down a few facts. Because we aren’t reviewing bad theatre here and when some commentators opine about whether Turnbull’s lines will “work”, or how funny the whole thing was, what they are really assessing is whether the prime minister can successfully, and in broad daylight, shift the blame for a monumental stuff-up, while apparently proposing solutions that will make it substantially worse in every regard. Since it’s our job to point out things like that, here are a few facts that undermine the “coal comeback” PR strategy that started rolling out sometime last year: 

  • Renewable energy is not “causing” blackouts.
  • Renewables cannot take the blame for the recent rise in prices.
  • New coal-fired power stations are not going to be built.
  • Even if they were built, power from new highly-efficient coal-fired power stations would not be cheaper.
  • Governments could always reduce the strain on the system and help avoid blackouts by reducing energy demand but schemes to reduce demand at times of peak power usage
  • And finally, as business and industry and environmentalists and pretty much everyone who looks at the evidence (including, a while back, Turnbull) have been saying for years, the very best thing governments could do to encourage investment and a sensible low-cost transition to cleaner generation is come up with a bipartisan policy, such as the energy-intensity carbon scheme that had bipartisan political support, the backing of industry and could have reduced power prices while also bringing emissions down.


7 October 2016, Renew Economy, Finkel to lead NEM review, but states hold to renewable targets. Federal and state governments have agreed to an independent inquiry into the rules governing Australia’s energy markets, but the states have resisted attempts by the Coalition to force them to back away from their individual renewable energy targets. The hastily called meeting, held in Melbourne after the Coalition decided to use the South Australia blackout to attack state-based renewable energy initiatives, broke up with no agreement about individual renewable energy targets. But they did agree to an independent review that the federal government says will provide a “blueprint” for Australia’s power security to be led by chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel. There will be two other members, although they have not been named. States expressed hope that the Finkel report would move towards a more integrated response and market framework. Finkel, a keen supporter of nuclear, has also expressed his interest in solar and storage. “My vision is for a country, society, a world where we don’t use any coal, oil, natural gas; because we have zero emissions electricity in huge abundance and we use that for transport, for heating and all the things we ordinarily use electricity for,” he said during a media event relating to his appointment. “With enough storage, we could do it in this country with solar and wind,” Finkel said at the time. The appointment of Finkel was pushed by South Australia. It was supported by other states, but they insisted for other members on the panel who had experience of energy transitions. Read More here

To backtrack on events open here

7 October 2016, Renew Economy, AGL says blackout not fault of wind farms, but Barnaby and media know best. AGL Energy, the bigger coal generator in Australia and the biggest player in the South Australia market, says wind farms are not to blame for the blackout in South Australia, in contradiction to the claims of the federal government and many in mainstream media. In a statement issued late Thursday, AGL said it was clear that wind farms were not the cause of the blackout, nor was the loss of output in the chaotic seconds leading to the blackout of sufficient scale to cause the system to black out. The blackout on September 28 sparked a frenzy of accusations from the Coalition, right wing parties and mainstream media that the state’s high reliance on renewable energy was at fault. This was despite early and clear signals from the market operator and the grid owner that the source of energy was not an issue. AGL CEO Andrew Vesey earlier this week made it clear that it “didn’t matter what was hanging off the wires” when they blew over, the system would still have gone down after such an event had brought down so many transmission lines. Read More here

5 October 2016, The Guardian, SA blackout due to ‘transmission system faults’ in extreme weather, report finds. Energy economist says preliminary report makes clear South Australian event was ‘a transmission failure, not a generation failure’. The Australian Energy Market Operator has pointed to South Australia’s extreme weather last week as the prime cause of “multiple transmission system faults”resulting in a statewide blackout. In a preliminary report the regulator cites severe weather as the factor triggering the transmission system failures “including, in the space of 12 seconds, the loss of three major 275kV transmission lines north of Adelaide.” In addition to the transmission lines, Aemo notes in the late afternoon, after “multiple faults in a short period”, 315mW of wind generation disconnected, which affected the region north of Adelaide. It says that uncontrolled diminution in power generation “increased the flow on the main Victorian interconnector [Heywood] to make up the deficit, and resulted in the interconnector overloading”. The overload of the Heywood interconnector tripped the system, which caused the blackout. Read more here

5 October 2016, The Conversation, Lessons from South Australia’s blackout: we need to make infrastructure more resilient to climate change. Last week’s storm and subsequent state-wide blackout in South Australia reminds us how important the electricity grid – and other infrastructure – is for our communities. Immediate analysis suggests the blackout was caused by the collapse of transmission infrastructure in South Australia. Australian electricity networks, like most transmission networks worldwide, rely on above-ground conducting wires held aloft by large towers. Some of these towers were blown over in the South Australian event. While the storm hasn’t yet been specifically linked to climate change, it also serves as a reminder of the increasing challenges of delivering essential services in a more variable climate and slowing economy. Power, water, transport, health, defence and communications infrastructure can be exposed to climate variability and change simply because of their long lifetimes. Therefore, many if not most owners and operators of essential infrastructure have commissioned climate vulnerability and adaptation studies. There are many good examples of adaptation. For instance, Queensland Urban Utilities, the major water distributor and retailer in south-east Queensland, is implementing a large program to make the water and wastewater delivery network more resilient to flooding. But there is increasing recognition among climate adaptation researchers that many of the recommendations from climate adaptation studies aren’t being adopted. This is sometimes referred to as the “plan and forget” approach to climate adaptation and it leaves critical infrastructure vulnerable to weather extremes. Read More here

4 October 2016, The Conversation, South Australian blackout: renewables aren’t a threat to energy security, they’re the future. In the wake of South Australia’s wild weather and state-wide blackout, both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg have emphasised the importance of energy security. Turnbull stated that the blackout was a wake-up call, suggesting that reliance on renewables places very different strains and pressures on a grid than traditional coal-fired power. The assumption that these politicians and others are working off is that South Australia’s wind industry has reduced the state’s energy security. But do these politicians really know what energy security means in a modern energy landscape? The baseload question.  Baseload power is an economic term that refers to power sources that consistently generate electrical power, therefore meeting minimum demand. The minimum demand for electrical power from an electrical grid is referred to as the baseload requirement. The underlying assumption is that the only way of supplying baseload electricity demand is by means of power stations, such as those fired by coal, that operate at full power all day and night. This is a widely held belief in Australia. A former Australian industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, claimed at a uranium industry conference that the only serious alternative way that baseload power can be produced is by hydro and nuclear. But this is not entirely true. In 2014 South Australia got 39% of its electricity from renewable energy (33% wind plus 6% solar). Consequently, the state’s coal-fired power stations have become redundant. Read More here

29 September 2016, Climate Home, No, South Australian blackouts were not caused by renewables. Media and political claims that province’s high proportion of wind energy is to blame for power outages are completely unfounded. When the sun is shining and the breeze trims the blades of the turbines, it’s easy to forget that Australia remains a country with a deep native suspicion of renewable energy. How else to explain the extraordinary, unfounded response to a traumatic Wednesday for South Australians when a huge storm ripped through state and all the lights went out? Before residents’ power was even returned politicians and journalists were lining up to suggest, with no evidence, that South Australia’s high concentration of renewable energy was in some way to blame for the crisis. The nation’s papers of note were quick to find cause where there was none. By early evening on Wednesday, while people were still trying to negotiate their way home through the darkened Adelaide streets, The Age ran with a story titled ‘South Australia pays the price for heavy reliance on renewable energy’. That story had the ignominy of being republished by the British Global Warming Policy Foundation, a well-known purveyor of crank science. Later the Age had topped the piece with the apologetic caveat: “This analysis was written in the immediate aftermath of the blackout. For more recent updates, please click here”. The next morning, dangling unexplained within The Australian’s front page story on the blackouts was an oblique reference to the fact that the state has a large proportion of renewable energy. The Daily Mail ran with “Are the GREENS responsible for South Australia’s blackout?” None of these stories produced any evidence that the blackout and the 40% of its electricity South Australia gets from wind were related. Meantime, ElectraNet, the company that runs the state’s distribution network said the disruption had happened because four transmission lines were down and another 23 towers had been damaged. But by then, certain politicians had worked out that this was a golden opportunity to tar by insinuation. Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce told ABC radio: “With the strong reliance on wind power, there is an exceptional draw that’s then put on the network from other sources when that wind power is unable to be generated.” Read More here

29 September 2016, Renew Economy, Coalition launches fierce attack against wind and solar after blackout. The Coalition government launched a ferocious attack against wind and solar energy after the major South Australian blackout, even though energy minister Josh Frydenberg and the grid operators admit that the source of energy had nothing to do with catastrophic outage. Frydenberg, however, lined up with prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, independent Senator Nick Xenophon and a host of conservative commentators, including Andrew Bolt, Alan Moran, the ABC’s Chris Ullmann, and Fairfax’ Brian Robins to exploit the blackout to question the use of renewable energy. Frydenberg used the blackout to continue his persistent campaign against the renewable energy targets of state Labor governments in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland, saying that the blackout was proof that these targets were “unrealistic.” He made clear that he wanted the states – South Australia and Queensland which are pushing for 50 per cent renewable energy, and Victoria 40 per cent – to abandon their schemes and conform to the federal target, which has target of about 23.5 per cent renewables. The federal scheme effectively ends in 2020, while the state based schemes provide longer term investment signals by providing a 2025 and 2030 time frames. “These states are pursuing these unrealistic targets ,” Frydenberg told ABC’s AM program. “My job is to try and get these states to the table … only the Commonwealth, with 23.5%, is a realistic target.” His comments were later repeated by Turnbull, who accused state Labor governments for imposing “ideological” renewable energy targets, describing the South Australian blackout as a “wake-up call” to focus on energy security. (It should be noted that South Australia’s wind fleet was built via the federal target, which is a bipartisan policy between the Coalition and Labor. It has a state target, but it is aspirational only, it has no particular state measures). Turnbull said there was “no doubt” that the “extremely aggressive” shift to renewables had strained the electricity network. Read More here

2017 A Guide for the perplexed

2 January 2017, The Conversation, Australian climate politics in 2017: a guide for the perplexed. If you thought the climate debate has been ugly, you haven’t seen anything yet. In 2017 Australia will review its climate policies, and the process is not off to a good start. To recap: with the release of the climate review’s terms of reference at the end of 2016, the federal environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, appeared to place on the table an emissions intensity scheme (a widely supported form of carbon pricing). He then wisely went to Antarctica. After its day in the sun, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull swiftly backtracked in part due to pressure from conservatives within the Coalition. By allowing a small group of politicians to take the most cost-effective policy off the table at the outset, Turnbull has made the coming year(s) that much harder to manage. In the same week, Chief Scientist Alan Finkel reported his initial findings on the security of the National Electricity Market. He stated that his review “will continue to analyse all the options to ensure future security of power supply and compliance with climate obligations”. And that was only 2016… Reviews galore The Finkel review of the National Electricity Market will be released in 2017. At the same time, the government will begin its climate policy review. Unless the political circumstances change dramatically, the review will conclude by the end of this year. Every step of the way will see protests, media stunts, hostile leaking and lobbying – public and private – by big actors. Climate and energy will consume the national news agenda, which will leave voters and viewers exhausted. Read More here

And what did Malcolm say??

And  what DID Malcolm Turnbull have to say about climate change on 10 March 2012? And why we don’t believe him now…Malcolm Turnbull speaking at the Sydney launch of the Beyond Zero Emissions (www.bze.org.au) Stationary Energy Plan, 12 August 2010. He spoke along with Bob Carr, former NSW Premier and Minister for Foreign Affairs; Scott Ludlam, WA Greens Senator; Allan Jones, former Chief Development Officer Energy and Climate Change, City of Sydney Council and Matthew Wright, Executive Director, BZE.

The latest example where political interest out weigh commonsense and foresight

8 December 2016, The Guardian, Finkel review criticises climate policy chaos and points to need for emissions trading. Exclusive: Report warns investment in electricity has stalled, and existing policies won’t allow Australia to meet its Paris target. Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, has said investment in the electricity sector has stalled because of “policy instability and uncertainty” – and he’s warned that current federal climate policy settings will not allow Australia to meet its emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement. In a 58-page report that has been circulated before Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting between the prime minister and the premiers, Finkel has also given implicit endorsement to an emissions intensity trading scheme for the electricity industry to help manage the transition to lower-emissions energy sources. While there is no concrete recommendation to that effect, the report, obtained by Guardian Australia, references the evidence from energy regulators that such a scheme would integrate best “with the electricity market’s pricing and risk management framework” and “had the lowest economic costs and the lowest impact on electricity prices”. Finkel also notes advice from the Climate Change Authority which says market mechanisms have the lowest average cost of abatement, and of the options modelled, an emissions intensity scheme “had the lowest impact on average residential electricity prices”. Read more here

Access the full Preliminary Report of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market. Dr Alan Finkel AO, Chief Scientist, Chair of the Expert Panel, 2016

8 December 2016, The Guardian, South Australia says states could go it alone after Turnbull rules out carbon tax. States could go it alone on a carbon scheme for the electricity sector after the federal government ruled one out, South Australia’s premier says. A report by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel, to be presented at Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra, is expected to recommend an emissions intensity scheme. Jay Weatherill told ABC radio on Thursday he would be pressing for states to team up on their own scheme “in the absence of national leadership”. Weatherill would be discussing the idea with his counterparts before Friday’s formal meeting with the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull. “Our first instinct is of course to seek a national scheme,” he said, but advice suggests it could be done without federal government support. Turnbull ruled out his government imposing an emissions intensity scheme following a backbench revolt over a review of climate change policy. He also left his environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, to explain why he said on Monday such a scheme would be looked at as part of the inquiry, only to deny mentioning it on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Frydenberg joined the prime minister in insisting one would not be introduced. Weatherill said power prices in his state would go down if an emissions intensity scheme was adopted. “It would clean up our energy system,” he said. Such a scheme would also encourage more base-load gas generation and increase competition. Finkel will brief premiers and Turnbull at the Coag meeting on Friday, after being commissioned to put together a national blueprint on energy security and reliability after blackouts across South Australia. Read More here

7 December 2016, Climate Home, Full circle: 33 hours in Australian climate policy. It took just over a day for the suggestion of a carbon price to be stamped out by right-wing MPs who hold the prime minister in their thrall. If you have ever wondered how Australian climate policy was high jacked by a minority group of government conservatives, Monday and Tuesday are worth a review. For Malcolm Turnbull and his government, this is a very old dance. The name of the jig is carbon pricing, a policy considered politically mundane across much of the world. The World Bank records carbon pricing in 40 national jurisdictions and more than 20 cities, states, and regions. But in Australia the very notion has had party leaders of the left and right prancing and backflipping for years. This week’s rendition was as uptempo and gymnastic as has been performed yet. On Monday, energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg was doing the early morning radio rounds. He was asked to fill in the blanks left by the terms of reference his department had released regarding the government’s scheduled 2017 review of climate policy. Would it include a form of carbon pricing? Not on the whole economy, said Frydenberg: that’s Labor’s thing. But he went on: “The review is explicit about looking at sector-by-sector approaches and given that the electricity sector is about one third of the total emissions across the economy it’s only appropriate to see if we’ve got the best mechanisms in place… A number of organisations have recommended an emissions intensity scheme but again this review still has a long way to go.” Analysis: China prepares for world’s biggest carbon market An emissions intensity scheme would necessitate placing a value on carbon. Frydenberg had opened the door and a whole flock of crazy was about to walk through. Read More here

6 December 2016, The Guardian, Australia’s energy transmission industry calls for carbon trading. Emissions intensity scheme is the least costly way of reducing greenhouse gases, Energy Networks Australia and CSIRO say. Australia’s electricity and gas transmission industry is calling on the Turnbull government to implement a form of carbon trading in the national electricity market by 2022 and review the scope for economy-wide carbon pricing by 2027. Energy Networks Australia warns in a new report examining how to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050 that policy stability and regulatory certainty are the key to delivering lower power prices and reliable electricity supply. While Tony Abbott once characterised carbon pricing as a wrecking ball through the Australian economy, the new report, backed by CSIRO, says adopting an emissions intensity scheme is the least costly way of reducing emissions, and could actually save customers $200 a year by 2030. The forceful intervention by the industry on Tuesday follows the Turnbull government on Monday flagging an emissions intensity trading scheme for the electricity sector as part of its scheduled review of its Direct Action climate policy. Some stakeholders also believe the Finkel review into energy security and Australia’s climate commitments may also float the desirability of an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity sector when it presents its preliminary fundings to Friday’s Coag meeting of the prime minister and premiers. But the difficulties for the government emerged immediately after the baseline and credit scheme was flagged by the energy and environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, on Monday when the chairman of the Coalition’s backbench committee, Craig Kelly, warned carbon trading was not Coalition policy and would not be accepted by the party room. Energy Networks Australia has been working for two years on what it calls a policy roadmap to achieve zero emissions by 2050. A report to be released on Tuesday argues that the goal can be achieved but only with an integrated policy approach.The report recommends that the government adopt an emissions intensity baseline and credit scheme for the electricity sector by 2022, and set a light-vehicle emissions standard policy to provide incentives for electric vehicle uptake. Read More here

Access summary and full report here: Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap

Carbon budget blowout or the continuance of creative accounting

5 December 2016, The Guardian, Australia is blowing its carbon budget, projections reveal. Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising despite global reduction efforts, according to detailed projections made by the consultants NDEVR Environmental. Australia’s emissions jumped by 2.56m tonnes in the three months to September, putting them 1.55m tonnes off-track compared with commitments made in Paris, and 4.06m tonnes over levels demanded by scientifically based targets set by the government’s Climate Change Authority. Emissions for the year to September are above those for the year to September 2015. The results mean Australia has emitted about twice what is allowed by the CCA’s carbon budget since 2013. In the three years and nine months to September 2016, the country emitted 19.8% of its share of what the world can emit between 2013 and 2050 if it intends to maintain a good chance of keeping warming to below 2C. If Australia continues to emit carbon pollution at the average rate of the past year, it will spend its entire carbon budget by 2031. Projected to the current second, the graphic shows how much of the carbon budget has been spent. Read More here

AND JUST TO ADD TO THE EMBARRASSMENT.3 November 2016, Australia has not disclosed details of its carbon emissions accounting despite repeated requests, the chief scientist of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Thursday. Speaking at the launch of UNEP’s Emissions Gap report in London, Jacqueline McGlade said she had been unable to draw any conclusion about whether Australia is on track to meet its pledges under the Cancun and Paris climate deals. In a repeat of last year, the Australian government continued to claim that it had cancelled licenses for coal power stations but failed to declare the details publicly. That means proposed projects like the Kingston power station in South Australia officially remain part of Australia’s future energy plans. “There’s a process which takes a long time before it comes out into the open that these 15 plants are not going forward. Until we know they aren’t going forward they are in the calculation,” said McGlade. Out of the G20, the only other nations that could not be assessed because of inadequate information were Indonesia and South Africa. McGlade’s travails with the Australians are not new. In fact, she said, there had been some improvement on last year’s impasse. She said that she could now say the government would definitely meet its targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Source: UNEP

The government also claims it will meet the pledge it agreed in Cancun in 2010 to be emitting 5% less than it was in 2000 by 2020. It has previously been highlighted that this will only be achieved through some creative accountingBut McGlade said that the lack of information from the government meant that no conclusion could be drawn. “Right now Australia is neutral as far as if it is making progress or not,” she said. “When we talk about if it’s going to meet the 2020 trajectory… it’s very difficult to evaluate progress.” “It is a very open dialogue and we continue to press the government that insofar as it is possible to publish the retraction of certain licenses, that will help your case. But until we see that, we can’t document it.” Read More here

Access NDEVER ENVIRONMENTAL TRACKING 2 DEGREES Quarterly report Q1 / FY2017 for full report: Under the Paris Agreement the Australian Government has legally committed to reducing Australia’s emissions by 26-28% by 2030. However, in order to ensure that global warming remains under 2 degrees, independent body the Climate Change Authority (CCA), has suggested Australia set a national science based target (SBT), which is an emissions target calculated back from Australia’s share of emissions for 2º warming. Ndevr has used this target to model a quarterly emissions budget for Australia. This report tracks Australia’s performance against the CCA’s carbon budget based on latest available data, trends and industry movements. The Australian Government reports emissions quarterly via the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI), which is typically 6-9 months behind our ‘Tracking 2 degrees Report’ and not compared against a carbon budget.

18 November 2016, ECO, UNFCCC – Fossil of the Day – The first Fossil of the Day award goes to…take a deep breath…Turkey, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, France, Japan and Indonesia for duplicity at the UN climate negotiations. While representatives from climate vulnerable countries, cities, businesses, and civil society organisations are fighting to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground, as well as preventing the expansion of polluting airports (hat-tip to France), these countries still aim to increase their domestic fossil fuel extraction. By doing so, they are quite literally drilling under everyone’s efforts to keep global warming below the critical threshold of 1.5°C. These countries helped forge the Paris Agreement which is now in force, committing them to halt climate change, so they really need to get the left hand and the right hand talking to each other. Put your money where your mouth is, please! Read More here

17 November 2016, Renew Economy, Australia named and shamed for “unambitious, uninspired” climate policies. As Julie Bishop assures UN climate talks in Marrakech that Australia’s private sector increasingly sees it “as their responsibility and their business… to embrace low-emissions technology,” two new new global reports underline just how far behind the climate eight-ball the Turnbull government remains. The first – the latest Climate Change Performance Index, released overnight in Marrakech by Climate Action Network Europe and German NGO, Germanwatch – ranked Australia fifth-last out of a group of 58 countries responsible for more than 90 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions. According to a release accompanying the Index, Australia was ranked in the bottom group of the CCPI 2017 – rated “very poor” – alongside Canada and Japan. Other countries ranked below Australia include Kazakhstan, Korea and Saudi Arabia. The CCPI report said Australia has gone backwards in energy efficiency since the last ranking, and continued to lag in ambition of climate policies. The index also noted a gap between the national and state policies in Australia: the former described as “rather unambitious and uninspired,” the latter managing “to some extent to take independent action.” Read More here

17 November 2016, ECO, UNFCCC – Fossil of the Day goes to Australia! Yesterday’s first place Fossil of the Day award went to Australia for their complaints about dirty baggage. ECO doesn’t mean to gossip, but yesterday Australia was caught complaining to the US about American charities standing in solidarity with Australian communities who are fighting to prevent the construction of the largest ever coal mine down under—Adani’s Carmichael mine. Australia ratified the Paris Agreement last Friday, so lobbying for coal expansion here is an ugly thing to be doing. Read More here and here

And another out of step response

16 November 2016, The Conversation, As the world pushes for a ban on nuclear weapons, Australia votes to stay on the wrong side of history. In early December, the nations of the world are poised to take an historic step forward on nuclear weapons. Yet most Australians still haven’t heard about what’s happening, even though Australia is an important part of this story – which is set to get even bigger in the months ahead. On October 27 2016, I watched as countries from around the world met in New York and resolved through the United Nations’ General Assembly First Committee to negotiate a new legally binding treaty to “prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. It was carried by a majority of 123 to 38, with 16 abstentions. Australia was among the minority to vote “no”. Given that overwhelming majority, it is almost certain that resolution will be formally ratified in early December at a full UN general assembly meeting. After it’s ratified, international negotiating meetings will take place in March and June-July 2017. Those meetings will be open to all states, and will reflect a majority view: crucially, no government or group of governments (including UN Security Council members) will have a veto. International and civil society organisations will also have a seat at the table. This is the best opportunity to kickstart nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War a quarter of a century ago. And it’s crucial that we act now, amid a growing threat of nuclear war (as we discuss in the latest edition of the World Medical Association’s journal). But the resolution was bitterly opposed by most nuclear-armed states, including the United States and Russia. Those claiming “protection” from US nuclear weapons – members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and Japan, South Korea and Australia – also opposed the ban. This is because the treaty to be negotiated will fill the legal gap that has left nuclear weapons as the only weapon of mass destruction not yet explicitly banned by international treaty. Read More here

And another one….

18 November 2016, The Conversation, Why won’t Australia ratify an international deal to cut mercury pollution? While the Australian government congratulates itself on ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change, it is dragging its feet on a less well known, but very important, international treaty on air pollution. Despite signing in 2013, Australia has still not ratified the UN’s Minamata Convention on Mercury. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. In fact, the treaty is named after the city of Minamata in Japan, where mercury release was linked to developmental disorders after pregnant women ate contaminated fish in the 1960s. Currently human activities are releasing around 2,000 tonnes of mercury each year. Scientists predict that this could reach 3,400 tonnes each year in 2050 unless we take action. Australia’s reticence puts us behind 35 nations that have ratified the convention, including developing nations such as Madagascar, Gabon, Guinea, Guyana, Lesotho, Djibouti and Nicaragua. So what’s the holdup? (If you don’t think has anything to do with climate change continue reading the article.) Read More here

5 October 2016, Renew Economy: Australia on the outer again as Paris climate treaty comes into force. Australia will find itself again on the outer in global climate change efforts, excluded from key decision-making processes because it is one of a minority of major polluters that has yet to ratify the Paris climate accord. The European Union on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to ratify the Paris treaty, a day after India announced it would also do the same thing. The ratification is expected to be formally voted by ministers later this week, taking the total well past the trigger point of 55 countries and 55 per cent of total global emissions. The speed of the ratification – less than a year after the Paris treaty was voted to general acclimation last year – compares with the eight years it took to get its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, into force after it was adopted in 1997. The move will impact Australia in two ways. Firstly, only those countries who have ratified the treaty can vote in negotiations for the next step in the treaty’s implementation. That means Australia will be excluded from these processes, although it may have observer status. It also means that Australia will reinforce its status as a climate outlier, a reputation it earned when former prime minister Tony Abbott and former Canadian prime minister Steven Harper were branded “climate villains” because of their opposition to action on climate change. Read More here

Beyond the limits: Australia in a 1.5-2°C world

August 2016, Climate Institute Report: In response to recent developments in both climate science and international climate commitments, The Climate Institute commissioned Climate Analytics to examine the impacts on Australia of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C and 2°C, and to provide estimates of the global carbon budgets associated with achieving these temperature limits. This policy brief outlines some of the implications for Australia. It is based on Climate Analytics’ findings, explained in their report, Implications of the 1.5°C limit in the Paris Agreement for climate policy. Access full report here

Paris temperature check: Australia’s climate plans in focus

26 August 2016, Climate Home: The outsider who came in from the cold: Malcolm Turnbull said tackling climate change “inspires and energises” him, but has he delivered? At the Paris summit in late 2015, Australia’s reputation as a climate obstructionist, built under the leadership of Tony Abbott, seemed to be on the mend. Just a few months into the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, the country had arrived with positive rhetoric and negotiators spoke of a new, constructive attitude the antipodeans had brought to France. But the journey in from the cold is not yet complete. In April, the country was not invited to attend a meeting of the ‘high ambition coalition’; a group that it had asked to join and even said it was a part of. In answer to the developing world’s call for $100bn each year from the rich, Australia has signed over $187m to the Green Climate Fund, which it currently co-chairs. This money was not new, but redirected from the existing foreign aid budget.

However a report released this week by the Climate Institute found that the opposition Labor party’s policy was better, but still not an equitable share of the world’s climate burden. Australia has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints of all countries. Its 2020 emissions reduction target will only be met because it is using about 100 million tonnes of credits it has left over from beating its 2012 target under the Kyoto Protocol. It may be the only country in the world to be using such a bare-faced accounting trick. “Despite what [former environment minister] Greg Hunt says. The fact is that our emissions have increased since the repeal of the carbon pricing mechanism,” says Connor. Read More here

Australia may be home to some of the world’s most liveable cities, but we have a long way to go to meet the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

21 July 2016, The Conversation: Australia ranks 20th on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Australia ranks 20th in the world – well behind Canada and many European countries but ahead of the United States – according to a new index that compares different nations’ performance on the SDGs, which were adopted last September. Launched at this week’s United Nations SDG talks in New York, the index marks each country’s performance towards the 17 goals. These aim to put the world on a more sustainable economic, social and environmental path, and feature 169 targets to be met over the next 15 years in areas such as health, economic growth and climate action. The ranking, called the SDG Index and Dashboard and prepared by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the German think tank Bertelsmann Stiftung, ranks countries’ performance using a set of 77 indicators. Australia: good water, bad energy Australia, with some of the world’s highest carbon emissions per person, rates poorly on the clean energy and climate change goals. It also falls down on the environmental goals, with high levels of solid waste and land clearing as well as loss of biodiversity. Despite the long life expectancy and general good health of Australians, the index highlights that Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world. As shown in the performance chart below, Australia rates relatively highly on lack of poverty, education and water quality. Inequality, while increasing, is not as bad as it is in the United States or the United Kingdom. Access graphs and more data here

Australia in reverse on energy efficiency, says new global report

21 July 2016, Renew Economy, A new report ranking the world’s largest economies on energy efficiency has once again found Australia lacking, moving in reverse from 10th position out of a field of 16 in 2014, to 16th out of 23 in 2016. 

Energy Efficiency2016-world-scores-Energy efficiency, often described as the “low-hanging fruit” of global climate policy, has been embraced by governments around the world as an easy, cheap and immediate way to cut greenhouse gas emissions, that usually has the added upside of saving business, industry and consumers money. The 2016 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, published this week by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), ranks the world’s 23 largest energy-consuming economies on their energy efficiency policies and programs, awarding a maximum of 100 points across four different categories, including buildings, industry, transportation, and national effort. Leading the pack, again, in 2016 is Germany, followed by Italy and Japan, then France and the UK. The US rose in its ranking from 13th place in 2014 to 8th position – a shift the report attributes, partly, to changes to the scoring methodology, which now allocates more weight to policy actions. Australia, meanwhile, scored just 41 out of 100 for its efforts overall for the past two years, putting it below the average, behind Turkey, and “just slightly” ahead of Russia and Indonesia. Read More here

ACEEE Country profile assessment: AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Australia ranked second from the bottom in the transportation section. It had fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in place, but failed to extend them when they expired in 2010. The country also does not currently have fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks. In addition, Australia’s percentage of public transit use is low (approximately 12%), and it invests only about $0.50 in rail facilities for every dollar spent on road construction and maintenance. Australia scored equally poorly for its industrial energy efficiency efforts. CHP is not a priority for the country, and as of 2014 the government had shut down its Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) program, in an effort to reduce costs for businesses and abide by the current administration’s deregulation agenda. The EEO aimed to improve the identification and evaluation of energy efficiency opportunities by large energy-using corporations, and as a result encourage implementation of cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities. Access full profile here

The Great Barrier Reef Saga!

2 June 2016, YALE Climate Connections, U.N., UCS Point to Risks to World Heritage Sites. Australia concerns lead to holding-back case study on Great Barrier Reef, so Union of Concerned Scientists posts it independently. Climate impacts seen posing risks to sites . . . and to tourism. Sometimes, too often in fact, it’s not what’s included in the text of a report that captures the attention. It’s what’s omitted from that report, often not mistakenly. That’s a lesson learned and re-learned in the public policy field, but apparently not really absorbed in many cases. Those who internalized the lessons from the early-70s Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation know well that it’s the cover-up, more so than the initial offense, that is the real crime. Only slightly more recently, the original “Jaws” in 1975 taught a similar lesson, as the fictional Amity Island town council sought to silence the truth in an effort to protect its tourism financial interests.                                        News Analysis and Commentary

World Heritage report cover

Advance now to a new report, “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate,” released May 26 by two United Nations agencies and the Union of Concerned Scientists, UCS. In a somewhat dual-personality report that at times seems as concerned tourism as with impacts of climate change, the report paints a dire image of 31 natural and cultural World Heritage sites in 29 countries around the world. Around the world, that is, save for Australia and its, ahem, rather important Great Barrier Reef (GBR), by any practical measure a worthy entry among top-ranking heritage and tourism sites. And clearly one with observed and serious impacts from rising ocean temperatures, increased acidification, and continuing carbon dioxide emissions. It ends up that the Australian government prevailed on the U.N. and its United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and United Nations Environment Program to omit any reference to GBR. Those Sydney folks must never have seen “Jaws.” Read More here  Also access missing chapter here

National Greenhouse and Energy information 2014-15

26 February 2016, Australian Govt Clean Energy Regulator: Notes about this publication: Registered corporations are listed alphabetically by their registered business name, which may differ from their trading name. Some facilities or trading corporations will be reported under the business name of their controlling corporation and so may not be readily recognisable. Greenhouse and energy information included in the 2014-15 National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) data publication will be updated, if required, to account for corporations that have resubmitted their reported totals. Access reports and website here

Graph of the Day: Another emissions reality check

18 February 2016, Renew Economy, Graph of the Day: At the start of this month, the latest report from industry analysts Reputex indicated Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions were headed for a record high after 2020, and may not reach a peak before 2030 – despite the government’s claim it has been reducing emissions and its support for the Paris climate deal. This week, a new report released by the federal government – a discussion paper on vehicle emissions, issued as part of a Ministerial Forum into reducing the environmental and health impacts of transport pollution – adds to the gloom. It illustrates, via the graph below, just how tough Australia’s comparatively modest emissions abatement task will be; and how little the Coalition’s Emissions Reduction Fund will contribute to the overall effort.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 1.41.11 PM

On a more positive note, the paper strives to acknowledge the importance introducing tougher vehicle emissions standards in Australia – perhaps even policy support for the roll-out of electric vehicles – and driving a general clean-up of the transport sector as a whole which, as the next graph from Climate Works shows, could be the cheapest and most cost-effective abatement opportunity of all major emitting sectors.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 2.26.22 PM

And cheap, effective emissions abatement is just what the government needs, if it hopes to start bridging what RepuTex executive director Hugh Grossman described as the “substantial disconnect between our national abatement task and the emissions reality.” View Source here

1 February 2016, Renew Economy, Australia emissions surging to record high despite Paris climate deal. Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are posed to surge to a record high after 2020, and may not reach a peak before 2030 – despite the government’s claim it has been reducing emissions and its support for the Paris climate deal. A new analysis from industry analyst Reputex – a division of global ratings agency Standard & Poor’s – confirms what we already know: despite the Coalition’s rhetoric, emissions in Australia actually rose 1.3 per cent in 2014/15, for the first time since the Coalition was last in power a decade earlier.

reputex past

But the Reputex survey also notes that Australia’s emissions growth is now among the highest in the world, with the government’s own forecast showing emissions will grow 6 per cent to 2020, despite its “Direct Action” plan and the billions spent in the Emissions Reduction Fund. Ironically, the emissions growth would have been faster, but for the fact that Australia’s economic growth has been downgraded sharply from the optimistic assumptions of successive Labor and Coalition governments. Read More here

The Climate Institute: POLICY BRIEF

December 2015  – The Paris climate agreement and implications for Australia. The Paris agreement, while not perfect, will continue to drive the momentum to modernise and clean up economies. Clean energy in the power sector, already out stripping fossil fuel investments, is now set to become the dominant source of electricity around the world. The Paris agreement marks a critical point for Australian climate policy. Access Brief here

Australia’s Global Pledge/emissions target


Climate Action Tracker – Rating

Kyoto accounting

 * Emissions level in 2020 resulting from unconditional/conditional pledge. This differs from the Kyoto pathways as it depicts final 2020 levels whereas the Kyoto emissions allowances consider the average level of emissions over the second commitment period (2013-2020).

** Incl. LULUCF credits and debits, incl. LULUCF base year emissions accounting rules and application of historical threshold on emissions allowances in 2020 under the Doha decision.

*** Higher bound: Kyoto emissions allowances calculated with credits from mandatory afforestation, reforestation and deforestation, forest management and optional cropland and grassland management estimates, carry-over surplus from first commitment period but without cancellation through Article 3.7ter. Lower bound: Kyoto emissions allowances calculated with credits from mandatory afforestation, reforestation and deforestation and forest management estimates, carry-over surplus from first commitment period and with cancellation through Article 3.7ter.

**** Excl. LULUCF credits and debits, excl. LULUCF base year emissions accounting rules and without application of historical threshold on emissions allowances in 2020 under the Doha decision.

Climate Action Tracker – Assessment

For full report, click here.

On 11 August 2015, Australia submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). We rate Australia’s INDC 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26–28% from 2005 levels including land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) by 2030 as “inadequate.” After accounting for LULUCF, this target is equivalent to a range of around 5% below to 5% above 1990 levels of GHG emissions excluding LULUCF in the year 2030.

All other industrial countries, except Canada and New Zealand, have proposed 2025 or 2030 goals significantly below 1990 levels. The “inadequate” rating indicates that Australia’s commitment is not in line with most interpretations of a “fair” approach to reach a 2°C pathway: if most other countries followed the Australian approach, global warming would exceed 3–4°C.

Australia is one of five industrialised countries rated “inadequate” by the Climate Action Tracker (the other four are Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia). There is no single metric, such as rate of improvement in emissions per capita or improvement of emissions intensity, that can be used to rank the country unambiguously, given different starting years, base years and history of action (or inaction) on climate policy. Based on a range of metrics, Australia’s INDC is in the bottom half of the range of the industrialised countries.

Australia has a large gap between policies and targets

Australia stands out as having the largest relative gap between current policy projections for 2030 and the INDC target. With currently implemented policy measures, Australia’s emissions are set to increase substantially to more than 27% above 2005 levels by 2030, which is equivalent to an increase of around61% above 1990 levels. Australia’s Direct Action Plan does not put Australia anywhere close to a track that meets its INDC 2030 target. The additional funding announced in August 2015 by the Government for post-2020, should it be re-elected in 2016, would reduce this projected increase by only 2%, to around 25% above 2005 levels (equivalent to 57% above 1990).

Of the nine industrialised countries assessed, Australia ranks eighth on its projected rate of reduction in per capita emissions, exceeded only by Russia, and eighth on projected improvement in emissions intensity for the period from 2012 to 2030, with Canada ranking worst.

In July 2014, against international trends, the Australian Government abolished its nascent Carbon Pricing system by partly repealing its Clean Energy Future Plan, which marked a negative turning point in Australia’s climate policy. Before the repeal, Australia’s climate policy was projected to bring Australia halfway towards the announced INDC 2030 target (5% above 2005 levels).

The repeal of the Clean Energy Future Package creates a large emissions gap

The CAT has assessed recent policy developments in Australia, including the Emissions Reduction Fund, the scaling back of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and, as well the most recent emissions projections published by the Government. Contrary to government assertions (Australian Government, 2015b), the abatement task has increased considerably over the years, reflecting the negative consequences of the repeal and the Australian government’s amendments of key climate policies in recent years.

The CAT estimates that before the repeal of the Clean Energy Future Package, Australia was on track to meet their 2020 target. With the repeal, policies fall short and a cumulative abatement task of at least 153 MtCO2e between 2013–2020 remains. The scaling back of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) from 41,000 GWh to 33,000 GWh by 2020 translates into an extra 97-141 MtCO2e of cumulative abatement required during the period 2012-2030. After accounting for this and the effects of the ERF, we estimate a remaining cumulative abatement challenge between 2013 and 2030 of between 1.5–1.7 GtCO2e (equivalent to roughly three years of Australia’s current national emissions).

It is clear from our present assessment that currently planned policies are inconsistent with the INDC 2030 target and Australia needs substantially more policies to meet that target. To meet its 2030 emissions targets, Australia needs to decrease its emissions by an average annual rate of 2% until 2030; instead, with current policies, emissions are set to increase by an average rate of 1.5% a year.

For the 2020 period Australia has a target under the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (2013–2020) to limit average yearly emissions to 99.5% of 1990 base levels (a 0.5% reduction). After taking into account Kyoto protocol accounting rules (notably a modified ‘gross-net’ accounting approach for LULUCF activities), Australia would be allowed to increase its GHG emissions by 23–48% above 1990 levels by 2020 excluding LULUCF.

With current policies projected to increase emissions to 35 to 40% above 1990 levels by 2020, meeting the second commitment period targets may require very little, if any, action, due to the substantial amount of LULUCF credits or allowances that Australia obtains under this agreement. Put another way, the treatment of LULUCF under Kyoto rules allows Australia to continue increasing its emissions until 2020, yet still meet its 2020 target.

Should Australia fail to ratify the Doha amendments for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period, then its 2020 Copenhagen pledge will be relevant. The CAT estimates Australia’s unconditional Copenhagen pledge— to reduce emissions by 5% below 2000 emissions by 2020— is equivalent to approximately a 26% increase above 1990 levels of GHG emissions excluding LULUCF— after taking into account Australia’s inclusion of afforestation, reforestation and deforestation (ARD) emissions in year 2000 base level emissions and in the 2020 target year.

In its INDC for 2030, Australia specifies that it will apply a ‘net-net’ accounting approach to its target. What this means is that “net” emissions, i.e. all national emissions including removals from LULUCF, are used to define the emissions levels used in both the base year and the commitment period. Even though there is large uncertainty associated with LULUCF data (e.g. in estimating sinks and high variability due to factors such as wildfires, droughts or other weather extremes), this approach allows for comparing like with like, as opposed to the modified gross-net accounting approach applied under the Kyoto Protocol, and which would apply for the period to 2020, should Australia ratify the second commitment period of the protocol, for its 2020 target.

An important aspect of the Australian INDC is that the 2030 target remains provisional on the “rules and other underpinning arrangements of the agreement” and that Australia reserves the right to adjust its target. This adds an unusually high level of uncertainty to Australia’s contribution to the 2015 global agreement at this point. Should the target be adjusted and/or any of the underlying rules altered, this assessment will have to be updated.

Pledge description: Australia’s 2020 pledge and post-2020 INDC


Post-2020 INDC Target

On 11 August 2015, Australia announced a 26–28% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 below 2005 levels including LULUCF. This translates into a range of 445–458 MtCO2e allowed emissions levels in 2030 incl. LULUCF (equivalent to a reduction of 15–18% below 1990 emissions levels incl. LULUCF). Analysis of the effect of the INDC on likely fossil fuel and industrial[i] GHG emissions is made difficult by the fact that the INDC target includes LULUCF emissions, which are substantial, and fluctuate significantly (Figure 2 under “Data Sources and assumptions” in the Australia report). We have estimated levels of emissions excl. LULUCF resulting from the INDC by subtracting projected emissions for the LULUCF sector in 2030 from the targeted level incl. LULUCF. We estimate that the INDC translates into emissions levels of 395–437 MtCO2e emissions excl. LULUCF (that is, around 5% below to 5% above 1990 emissions levels excl. LULUCF).

Australia’s INDC ranks at the bottom of industrialised countries

A comparison of GHG emissions levels (excl. LULUCF) achieved by INDCs expressed as reductions below 1990 (Table 1Table 1) shows that Australia’s INDC is at the bottom of the ranking of industrialised countries together with Canada and New Zealand. This pattern holds with different choices of base year, although it becomes less prominent for more recent base years. For example, the difference in reductions below 2005 achieved by the INDC in Australia and in the EU is less strong than when compared to 1990—this is due to the fact that while emissions were increasing by roughly 26% between 1990 and 2005 in Australia, they were decreasing by 8% in the EU.

The INDC target results in emissions levels that are far above emissions levels resulting from the Climate Change Authority (CCA) recommendations for Australia’s future emissions reduction target (Australian Climate Change Authority, 2015). In July 2015, the CCA recommended an emissions reduction target of 30% below 2000 levels by 2025 (incl. LULUCF). The Authority did not recommend a target for 2030, but has estimated that Australia should be aiming to reduce emissions by 40–60% below 2000 levels (incl. LULUCF) by 2030. These targets would translate into reductions of 11–19% in 2025 and 25–59% in 2030 below 1990 emissions levels excl. LULUCF and would bring Australia much closer to being in line with 2°C and placing it in the “medium” category in 2030.

An important aspect of the Australian INDC is that the 2030 target remains provisional on the “rules and other underpinning arrangements of the agreement” and that Australia reserves the right to adjust it. This adds high uncertainty to Australia’s contribution of Australia to the 2015 global agreement. The conclusions of the present CAT assessment are subject to the same uncertainty and will need to be revised once any adjustments to the target and proposed LULUCF accounting approaches are made.

11 August 2015, Climate Council, What you need to know about today’s emissions reduction target announcement. Today, the Australian Government announced that it will cut emissions by 26%-28% on 2005 levels by 2030, far below the 45-65% target recommended by the Climate Change Authority (or 40 to 60% on 2000 levels).

There are two key tests for an emissions reduction target:

  1. Is it grounded in science? This would mean Australia is playing its role in keeping global temperature rise below 2°C, which is critical to protecting Australia in the long-term from the worsening impacts of climate change, like more frequent and terrible extreme weather.
  2. Are we doing our bit internationally?

Not only are the targets vastly inadequate to protect Australians from the impacts of climate change, they simply don’t represent a fair contribution to the world effort to bring climate change under control.

Over the last 6 months Australia has attracted significant criticism from our trading partners,including China and the U.S., over concerns that we’re free-riding on the backs of other countries’ efforts to tackle climate change. Former UN chief Kofi Annan said we’re not doing our bit, stating that Ethiopia and Rwanda are even doing more than Australia. Today’s announcement will only reinforce this criticism. As the 13th largest emitter in the world, Australia is a crucial global climate change player – larger than 180 other countries. We’re also one of the largest consumers of coal per capita, and one of the most pollution-intensive economies in the world. Even if we reduce our emissions by 26% by 2030, we’ll emit 3 times more per person than the UK and 1.5 times more than the USA.

Tackling climate change is firmly in Australia’s national interest – it’s about protecting the Great Barrier Reef, protecting Australians against worsening heatwaves and bushfire conditions, and protecting our coastal communities from sea-level rise. These targets fall short of the science, they fall short of global action and they fall short of what’s necessary to protect Australians from the impacts of climate change. By every measure, they fail to make the grade. We’ve pulled together a list of key details that will help you cut through the spin, and get straight to the facts.


1. Why do targets matter?

The Government is setting a target for how much pollution Australia will reduce in the next 15 years. Emissions reduction targets demonstrate how serious we are about tackling climate change and how quickly we intend to drive our economy away from polluting energy sources like coal, towards clean power sources like solar and wind. Australians are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Hot days have doubled, heatwaves are becoming hotter and longer. Heatwaves kill more Australians than any other natural hazard, particularly vulnerable people like the very old and very young. Setting pollution reduction targets are crucial to tackling climate change.

2. Are the targets announced by the government adequate?

The targets are out of step with the science. Australia, along with 193 other countries, has agreed that keeping global temperature rise below 2°C is necessary to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Australia’s leading climate policy advisory body the Climate Change Authority (consisting of top scientists, economists and business leaders) has done the analysis, and found we need to reduce pollution by a bare minimum of 45% on 2005 levels (or 40% on 2000 levels) to give us a reasonable chance of meeting that goal. Unfortunately, the announced targets are about half of what is needed. Australia is already experiencing damaging climate change impacts with just 0.9°C of warming, including longer, hotter and more intense heatwaves; more frequent and intense droughts; and more frequent and severe high fire danger weather. These targets are too weak to put Australia and the world on the path of staying below a 2°C rise in global temperature and won’t protect Australians from worsening extreme weather. Australia is one of the most pollution intensive economies in the developed world, and these targets mean that Australia will remain one of the most pollution intensive economies in the world.

The targets are out of step with the rest of the world. Australia is one of the highest per capita emitters in the world. For example, on a per capita basis Australians emit more than the Europeans or Chinese. Australia is also the 13th largest overall emitter in the world, larger than 180 other nations. The targets announced today mean that Australia will:

  • continue to have one of the highest emissions per capita rates in the world, higher than its major trading allies (such as the USA, China, Japan and the EU).
  • have low annual rates of emissions reduction, meaning most countries would be reducing emission quicker than us.
  • have a lower absolute target than other nations. As ANU economist Professor Frank Jotzo stated today, “Australia’s target for reduction in absolute emissions is significantly weaker than that of the United States and the EU, weaker than Canada’s, and on par with Japan’s.”

The Climate Authority analysis mentioned above found that we need a minimum emissions reduction target of 45% on 2005 levels to be in line with our allies and trading partners. For the full details of how the world is tracking on climate change, check out our latest report, Halfway to Paris.

3. What science is Australia’s emissions reduction target based on?

It’s important that Australia’s climate response be grounded in good science. As we’ve stated above, that would mean a target of a bare minimum of 45% by 2030. The government’s targets are significantly below this, and it’s unclear what scientific basis the government has used to make its assessment.

4. Are other countries on track to meet their 2020 emissions reduction targets?

Many of the world’s economies are on track to meet their 2020 emissions targets. Case in point, the European Union (which comprises 28 countries and some of the world’s largest economies like Germany and the UK) has decreased emissions by 19% below 1990 levels already, and is looking to redouble its efforts post 2020. The European Union has a reduction target of 40% by 2030 relative to 1990 levels. The U.S., once considered a climate laggard, is now on track to meet its 2020 emissions reduction targets, particularly given President Obama’s recent commitments.

5. Is Australia’s target the same as the U.S?

No. The U.S. has an emissions reduction target of 26-28% by 2025 on 2005 levels. They are aiming to achieve this reduction 5 years earlier than Australia.

6. Is Australia on track to meet its 2020 target?

On current trajectories it’s not clear that Australia will achieve its 2020 target of a 5% reduction on 2000 – the 2014 UN Emissions Gap Report has found that Australia is no longer on track to meet its 2020 emissions reduction target, due to a variety of reasons including a lack of strong domestic policies.

7. Will a strong emissions reduction target damage the economy?

ClimateWorks has found that Australia could achieve a 50% emissions reduction target by 2030 with existing technology and while growing the economy. In 2014 global emissions stalled whilst the economy grew and nations took action on climate change. The International Energy Agency found that in 2014, for the first time in 40 years, energy-related global emissions of carbon dioxide stalled, while the world’s economy continued to grow. At the same time nations around the world were moving to lower their emissions. For example in early 2014, 144 countries had renewable energy targets and 138 had renewable energy support policies in place.

It’s important to remember that the cost of inaction is extremely high:

  • Sea level rise will cost billions. For instance, a sea level rise of 1.1m exposes more than $226 billion in commercial, industrial, road, rail and residential assets around Australian coasts toflooding and erosion.
  • Heatwaves cost Australian lives each year. Heatwaves have killed more Australians than any other natural disaster and deaths from heatwaves are projected to double over the next 40 years in Australian cities.
  • The cost of the impact of coal on health is measured in millions. The Hunter Valley Coal’s annual health bill is $600 million per year according to the latest Climate and Health Alliance report.
  • The cost of bushfires in Australia is measured in billions. In the decade up to 30 June 2013 the insured losses due to bushfires in Australia totalled $1.6 billion. This translates to an average loss of approximately $160 million per year over the period.
  • Drought will affect Australia’s GDP. From 2020 onwards, the predicted increase in drought frequency is estimated to cost $7.3 billion annually, reducing GDP by 1% per annum.

The world’s economies are moving and Australia risks being left behind. The world is moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, with more clean energy capacity being added per year than fossil fuels. In fact, by 2030, more than four times as much renewable capacity will be added in comparison to fossil fuels. And all the while, Australia is missing out on the global renewable energy boom. Source: Climate Council

16 July 2015, The Conversation, FactCheck: has Australia met its climate goals, while other nations make ‘airy-fairypromises’? Has Australia kept its emissions reduction commitments? International negotiations on climate change have been underway since the 1990s. The first set of emissions-reduction commitments were made for the 2008-12 period under an agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol. Developed countries agreed to restrict their greenhouse gas emissions by predetermined amounts over the period. An entire set of rules, procedures and methodologies was established to account for and monitor greenhouse gas emissions over that period. And of course, each country set its own target and negotiated special conditions along with it. Under the 2008-12 agreement, Australia’s target was to keep the increase in its emissions to within 8% of 1990 levels. Australia effectively met that target. Read More here

Need some background to what Australia’s KYOTO commitment ACTUALLY was? Read this – a bit like “give me what I want or I won’t play”. Sounds more like the spoilt kid on the block rather than an international game changer! Has anyone told them the story about Pinocchio?

16 July 2015, The Conversation, Australia hit its Kyoto target, but it was more a three-inch putt than a hole in one: In the saga of mendacity that is the climate policy debate, no claim has been more audacious than the one now being told by the federal government about Australia’s “success” in meeting its Kyoto emissions target. Environment minister Greg Hunt now routinely makes statements like this: “We are one of the few countries in the world to have met and beaten our first round of Kyoto targets and to be on track to meet and beat our second round of Kyoto targets.” Anyone who remembers how the Kyoto targets were set will understand how hollow this boast is…. Compared to the base year of 1990, Europe promised to reduce its emissions by 8% in the five-year “commitment period”, 2008-12. The United States agreed to cut emissions by 7%, and Japan and Canada by 6%. Australia dug its heels in and got its way; its Kyoto target would be 8% above 1990 levels. But that was only half of it. As the final gavel was about to be brought down to seal the agreement, Robert Hill stood to say that Australia would not sign up unless a special clause were inserted into the protocol. The Australia clause: The article, which became known as “the Australia clause”, would allow the inclusion of carbon emissions from land clearing. Hill knew that land clearing in Australia had declined sharply between 1990 and 1997 because there had been a spike in 1990, mainly in Queensland. So an 8% increase would be on top of an extraordinarily high and artificial 1990 base. Read More here and be amazed at the duplicity of our leading darks!
Safeguard Mechanism

1 July 2016, Clean Energy Regulator: Today marks the start of the third and final component of the Emissions Reduction Fund – the safeguard mechanism. The safeguard mechanism will apply to facilities that are required to report under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting scheme and emit more than 100 000 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent of covered emissions in a financial year.

It is expected around 370 facilities across a broad range of sectors, including electricity generation, mining, oil and gas, manufacturing, transport and waste, will receive a baseline determination under the safeguard mechanism. The fact that a facility has a baseline determination does not mean it will be covered under the safeguard mechanism in 2016-17. Coverage will depend on whether the facility’s covered emissions for 2016-17 exceed the 100 000 tonne CO2-e safeguard threshold.

Over the past few weeks the Clean Energy Regulator has contacted the majority of these entities to notify them of their proposed reported emissions baseline. This has provided responsible emitters with an opportunity to comment on their proposed reported emissions baseline, prior to a final reported baseline determination being made. During this process, a number of clients have indicated they intend to apply for a calculated baseline. With the safeguard mechanism in effect, calculated baseline applications may now be submitted for assessment. Calculated baseline application guidance material is also now available to assist clients understand their obligations and the application and assurance requirements. Application forms may be obtained from the Clean Energy Regulator by emailing reporting@cleanenergyregulator.com.au.

Details of the Safeguard Mechanism
The safeguard mechanism ensures that emissions reductions purchased through theEmissions Reduction Fund are not offset by significant increases in emissions above business-as-usual levels elsewhere in the economy. It does this by encouraging large businesses not to increase their emissions above historical levels. Facilities whose net emissions exceed the safeguard threshold must keep their emissions at or below a baseline set by the Clean Energy Regulator. The safeguard mechanism applies to facilities with scope 1 covered emissions of more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalence (tCO2-e) per year. See coverage for more information.

Emissions baselines

Emissions baselines represent the reference point against which future emissions performance will be measured under the safeguard mechanism. Baselines are set in different ways depending on whether the facility is new or well-established, how much historical data it has reported under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) scheme and, in some instances, what type of facility it is. A baseline may be adjusted to accommodate economic growth, natural resource variability or other circumstances where historic emissions are not representative of future business-as-usual emissions performance for the facility. See baselines for more information.

Who is responsible?

Safeguard obligations rest with the person with operational control of the facility, the ‘responsible emitter’. This person is required to keep the facility’s net emissions at or below its emissions baseline. The responsible emitter may be an individual, a body corporate, a trust, a corporation sole, a body politic or a local governing body.

Managing emissions

Responsible emitters can keep their emissions down in number of ways. For example, a responsible emitter may purchase Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) and surrender them to offset their emissions, or generate their own ACCUs by carrying out a project under the Emissions Reduction Fund. They may also apply for a calculated baseline or access other management options in certain circumstances where they have, or expect to, exceed their baseline. See managing excess emissions for more information. 

Meeting safeguard requirements

The safeguard mechanism will be administered through the NGER scheme and is designed to minimise additional mandatory reporting requirements. As well as keeping their emissions below their baseline, safeguard facilities must adhere to the reporting and recordkeeping requirementsof the NGER scheme. Responsible emitters for safeguard facilities who are not already registered under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 must apply to register. Applications for registration are due by 31 August following the year in which the person first becomes a responsible emitter. Read More here

Emissions Reduction Fund

Do you want to understand the Emissions Reduction Fund better? 

The Emissions Reduction Fund will help to reduce Australia’s emissions by providing an incentive for businesses, land owners, state and local governments, community organisations and individuals to adopt new practices and technologies which reduce emissions. A number of activities are eligible under the scheme and individuals and organisations taking part can earn Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs). One ACCU is earned for each tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2-e) stored or avoided by a project. ACCUs can be sold to generate income, either to the Government through a carbon abatement contract, or on the secondary market. Read More here

How did the Federal Government’s first carbon auction go?

Here are the numbers:

The excellent summary of the results outlined above comes from The Conversation’s Infographic: emissions reduction auction results at a glance. Extract from  their analysis – “….However, as the final bar graph in this infographic shows, more than half of the purchased abatement is in the form of vegetation sequestration. So what this first auction has failed to do is unlock positive longer-term changes in energy efficiency, especially in the most carbon-intensive industries. In essence, the land sector is offsetting emissions from the rest of the economy and delaying any real change to emissions intensity….”  For the full details of their analysis go to link above.

24 April 2015 Last night on the 7.30 Report and this morning on ABC Radio National the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change the Hon. Greg Hunt made comments directly and indirectly concerning The Climate Institute regarding the Federal Government’s first carbon auction. The Climate Institute clarified their position with this media release. 

How did the Federal Government’s second carbon auction go?

16 November 2015, ABC Rural: Landholders and farmers have again taken the lion’s share of the Federal Government’s funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in the second round of the Emissions Reduction Fund auction. Drought-hit graziers and northern cattle producers coping with wild savannah fires will receive millions of dollars each over the next 10 years. But while farmers have largely welcomed the benefits from the Government’s Direct Action approach to climate change, some remain critical of the secrecy around the carbon price, which they say makes it difficult to budget. Twenty-one graziers in the Cape York region of far north Queensland have secured $36 million, to conduct savannah burning projects, with the money coming just in time to pay down debts and prevent the hottest savannah fires. Money for savannah burning Cheree Callaghan, of Fairlight Station, Cape York, is thrilled with the result. “The news that we’re going to be benefitting for the next ten years, it’s amazing,” Ms Callaghan said. “It will benefit our future generations, it will help our environment on our property, and put money back into the Cape York economy.” Cheree Callaghan, Fairlight Station, Cape York. “It will benefit our future generations, it will help our environment on our property, and put money back into the Cape York economy by increased spending. “While most of us have debt, it will come down, but the benefits will go into the country.” Ms Callaghan said the climate is changing, and they have been fighting some of the worst fires this drought. “The storms are later than they used to be, we always relied on those,” she said. “Now we have the savannah burning project between January and the end of July.” Nicholas Cameron, of Country Carbon, who helped with the successful bids in the Emission Reduction Fund auction, said some pastoralists had taken their first holiday in years thanks to the first payment. “I know a number of them are enjoying a cruise at this moment in the South Pacific. It’s a long time since they’ve been able to do that,” Mr Cameron said.Hot late season fires in the tropics contribute 4 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gases, with methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Mr Cameron says the money will help fund fire control. “They have to manage the very hot fires that we see in the late dry season,” he said. “We’re trying to manage the emissions from those [through methods like] early season burning, managing fire breaks, a lot of vigilance. The landholders are very busy trying to prevent fires or put them out when they do arise.” Read More here

Coalition’s Direct Action – progress?

27 May 2016, Renew Economy, Coalition’s great big climate hoax turns to outright denial. The far right of the Coalition has maintained enormous ideological discipline to insist – in the face of ever mounting evidence to the contrary – that climate science is a giant hoax. That climate denial – still evident in most of the conservative rump of the party, even if Barnaby Joyce now wonders if “climate change might be real” after staring at a dry creek bed on his family property – has now seeped through to everyday government. Two events this week highlight how this ideological intransigence retains its hold over the Turnbull administration. The first came earlier this week when environment minister Greg Hunt was forced to deny the idea that Direct Action – once dismissed as a “fig leaf” for climate action by his boss, Malcolm Turnbull – would evolve into a type of emissions trading scheme. The second event came when it was revealed by The Guardian that Hunt’s environment department had managed to have removed any mention of Australia in a UNESCO report on the environmental impacts of climate change and world heritage sites.Hunt’s department defended itself, suggesting that such reports might be bad for tourism. They might as well have demanded that the Great Barrier Reef be removed from all maps in Australian schools. It’s extraordinary stuff. The ANU’s Will Steffen, one of the scientific reviewers of the axed section on the reef, described it as astounding and said Australia’s move was reminiscent of “the old Soviet Union”. 

Censored-GBR-RenewEconomy copy

Greg Foyster

The climate policy hoax was brought to a head when Alan Kohler wrote a story about the the Coalition’s “secret emissions trading scheme”, noting how Direct Action could evolve, through its “safeguards mechanism” into a baseline and credit emissions trading scheme. None of this is new. That was and remains the case, but Hunt has two problems. First, he needs to attack Labor with an electricity scare tax campaign, at the same time as trying to hide from the public, and his own far right wing, that Coalition policy is designed to follow a similar course if it is ever to achieve anything. Direct Action has already been described as a hopeless waste of money handing out funds to people largely doing things they were intending to do anyway, through the $2.5 billion emissions reduction fund. The safeguards component is supposed to be a cap on emissions, but it is so generous it allows polluters to emit at their highest levels for the last six years without question, or even more if they can provide justification for doing so. It is, as it stands, no restriction at all. But if the safeguards are tightened, then companies will then earn tradable credits and penalties – effectively morphing into a sort of emissions trading scheme originally favoured by the architects of Direct Action. Read More here

16 May 2016, The Conversation, Direct Action not giving us bang for our buck on climate change Direct Action is the centrepiece of Australia’s current greenhouse gas reduction efforts. To date, A$1.7 billion in subsidies has been committed from the government’s Emissions Reduction Fund to projects offering to reduce emissions. The scheme replaced Australia’s two-year-old carbon price in 2014 and is a key part of the government’s plan to reduce emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020, and 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Environment Minister Greg Hunt has called Direct Action a “stunning success” and “one of the most effective systems in the world for significantly reducing emissions”. In a new article in Economic Papers, I look into the economics of Direct Action and how it is working. I conclude that the scheme is exposed to funding projects that would have happened without government funding. This issue has long been known as a threat to schemes of this type, and means that the scheme is likely to be less useful in reducing emissions than the government is claiming. Commonwealth Procurement Rules require value for money in government purchases. It is not clear we are getting that with Direct Action. Information problems; All about that baseline; The experience so far; This problem could be avoided; Better off going back to what was working. Get the details here


16 May 2016, Renew Economy, Malcolm Turnbull was right: Direct Action is a waste of money. As a member of the Opposition not burdened by harsh political realities, Malcolm Turnbull was free to say what he really thought: that Direct Action was reckless, a fig leaf for climate action, and a waste of money. He was right. A new study from the Australian National University has underpinned what Turnbull thought then and what he won’t admit now as prime minister: that Direct Action has serious flaws and is largely spending money on projects that were going ahead anyway, delivering “windfall rents” to project developers. The study by climate economist Dr Paul Burke says that the scheme likely overstates the amount of emissions reduction achieved through Direct Action, and much of the $1.7 billion committed in the auctions to date has been wasted. So much so, that some beneficiaries are referring to it as “cream” and “too good to be true.” The Coalition government, and environment minister Greg Hunt in particular, has sought to make much of the “cheap” abatement price achieved in the auctions, namely $10.70 in the latest, biggest, handout of taxpayer funds and the $12.10 average so far. Burke, however, suggests this is no great achievement. “Unfortunately, projects that would have gone ahead even without a subsidy – ‘anyway projects’  have a cost advantage that makes them well placed to win the auctions,” Burke said. “When projects of this type receive funding, taxpayers’ money is being used ineffectively.” It is not the first study to come to this conclusion, and it surely won’t be the last. But this comes in the midst of an election campaign, and at a time when scientists are becoming increasingly alarmed by dramatic changes in climate data – particularly the breaching of the key 400 parts per million reading on greenhouse gas emissions – and another month of record high temperatures.

foysters cartoon debate

Embarrassing as it should be for the government, climate change is not, however, becoming a mainstream political issue in this election campaign. It was barely mentioned at the first leader’s debate last Friday, which excluded the only party prepared to make climate change and clean energy a frontline issue, the Greens. Read More here



Renewable Energy Target

April 2015, Climate change Authority: First draft report of the Special Review: Australia’s future emissions reduction targets: The Special Review is being conducted at the request of the Minister for the Environment. This first draft report of the Special Review is intended primarily as an input to the Government’s deliberations on emissions reduction targets. The Government has indicated it will announce Australia’s targets by mid-2015, well ahead of the international negotiations for a new climate agreement in Paris in December 2015.

The Authority recommends a 2025 target for Australia of 30 per cent below 2000 levels. The Authority considers this target is comparable to the efforts of other countries.In recommending targets, the Authority attaches most weight to the science of climate change, the efforts of comparable countries to reduce their emissions, and Australia’s own long term interests. In considering targets for the post-2020 period, the Authority has taken account of the uncertainty regarding Australia’s action to 2020, and how quickly Australia might ‘catch up’ with global efforts. The recommended 2025 target of a 30 per cent reduction by 2025 remains reasonable and achievable even if Australia does not strengthen its 2020 target beyond the minimum 5 per cent reduction. If Australia is able to do more than 5 per cent by 2020, this would allow a more gradual acceleration of effort beyond 2020.

The draft report builds on the Authority’s 2014 report, Reducing Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Targets and Progress Review, released in February 2014. The Authority considers the recommendations in that report remain appropriate. These include a 2020 target of 19 per cent below 2000 levels, a 2030 range of 40 to 60 per cent below 2000 levels, and a long-term emissions budget to 2050. These goals would help Australia make a fair contribution to global climate action to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees. Read  the full report here

Targets, trajectories and national emissions budget