Climate change

Australia will fail to meet 2030 emissions target by two-thirds, new forecast reveals

  • Government forecasts published just days before Christmas show how the country is tracking towards climate pacts
  • While the 2020 target looks on track, critics say the prime minister won’t acknowledge how far off the country is from meeting the 2030 goal
PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 10:56am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 9:29pm

Australia will miss its 2030 emissions reduction targets, despite Scott Morrison’s claim the country is on track to meet its obligations “in a canter”, new government projections show.

The government published its 2018 emissions projections report on Friday, just before Christmas, in its now customary routine of releasing greenhouse data just before a public holiday.

The report details how Australia is tracking towards its 2020 and 2030 emissions reduction obligations under the Paris and Kyoto agreements.

It projects total emissions in 2030 will be 563 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is an emissions reduction of 7 per cent on 2005 levels.

Australia’s targets under the Paris agreement are for a 26 per cent to 28 per cent emissions reduction on 2005 levels.

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The report says emissions in 2030 are projected to climb 4 per cent above 2020 levels driven by higher levels of liquefied natural gas production, growth in agriculture, increased transport activity and a drop in the amount of carbon reduction from activities such as reforestation in the land use sector.

The report projects emissions from all sectors, except for electricity, waste and land use, will grow by 2030.

It forecasts electricity emissions will fall to 2023 before starting to increase again.

The government’s emissions calculations for 2030 also appear to suggest it intends to use carry-over from the overachievement of previous Kyoto targets to try to meet its Paris obligations, unless this is opposed through UN negotiations.

Climate scientist and the chief executive of Climate Analytics, Bill Hare, said use of carry-over would effectively mean the target Australia was aiming for was “more like 12 per cent to 14 per cent” on 2005 levels by 2030.

“They’re as far away as ever from meeting the 2030 target,” he said. “The underlying projections show a substantial deterioration because the key sectors including direct combustion of fuel, transport and industry have larger increases than last year and the power sector begins increasing again from 2023 significantly.”

The report says Australia will beat its 2020 emissions reduction target of 5 per cent on 2005 levels.

It says Australia will “overachieve” on the target by 367 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, if carry-over from beating the first Kyoto target in 2012 – which allowed Australia to increase its emissions from 1990 levels – is included.

If carry-over is not included, Australia would beat the target by 240 million tonnes.

In a statement released with the report on Friday, the environment minister, Melissa Price, focused on Australia’s progress towards the 2020 target, describing it as “a great result for the environment”.

She said “we have also made significant progress to our 2030 target”.

The prime minister is not the only one having trouble accepting that Australia isn’t on track to meet our Paris target
Matt Rose

“We have overachieved on our 2020 target and are well on our way to meeting our commitment to the Paris agreement 2030 target, all while maintaining a strong economy,” she said.

Scientists and environment groups said it was clearly not the case that Australia was making progress towards 2030.

The Australian Conservation Foundation said the government had no policy to address Australia’s climate pollution problem.

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly said Australia will meet its Paris agreement targets in a canter, but the government’s own emissions projections tell a very different story,” the ACF’s economics programme manager, Matt Rose, said.

“The prime minister is not the only one having trouble accepting that Australia isn’t on track to meet our Paris target.

“Energy minister Angus Taylor released a misleading statement this week titled, ‘National Electricity Market emissions to hit Paris target eight years early’, and on Radio National Breakfast tried to pretend Australia’s Paris target would be met by reductions in the electricity sector alone.”

Emma Herd, the chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change, said Australia “remains off track to achieve our currently inadequate 2030 target and, critically, achieving net zero emissions by 2050”.

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She said the longer the country delayed taking credible action, the harder the economic adjustment would be and Australia risked losing the benefits of investment in clean energy and other low carbon opportunities.

Herd said the suggestion in the report Australia might try to use carry-over was concerning and “undermines the investment needed to transform the economy to net zero emissions”.

“Australia’s targets should be strengthened, not weakened, by 2020,” she said. “To secure the long-term prosperity of Australia, targets need to be in line with the objectives of the Paris agreement – limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and well below 2 degrees Celsius.”