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Labor’s 2030 climate target betters the Morrison government, but Australia must go much further, much faster
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Labor’s 2030 climate target betters the Morrison government, but Australia must go much further, much faster

industrial port scene


The Labor opposition has pledged to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 43% this decade based on 2005 levels, claiming the plan will create jobs, cut power bills, boost renewables and provide business certainty.

Labor says the policy would create 604,000 jobs – mostly in regional areas – unlock A$52 billion in private sector investment in Australian industry, and cause electricity prices to fall by $275 per household by 2025.

Anthony Albanese, Labor leader said Friday that the plan was backed up by extensive modeling. He said Labor has produced a policy Australia can be proud of, while the Morrison government was “frozen in time while the world warms around it”.

Labor’s emissions-reduction goal is a significant step up on what the Morrison government has offered – 26-28% over the same time frame. And it’s a firm step to build on in coming years.

But it falls short of what experts say is needed for Australia to do its share on emissions reduction under the Paris Agreement, and is less ambitious than the targets adopted by Australia’s international peers.

Science tells us what is required

While Labor’s 2030 target is higher than the Coalition’s, and provides a solid foundation on which to build, it still falls well below what the science says is necessary.

An independent Climate Targets Panel, made up of prominent Australian climate scientists and experts, was established earlier this year. examined the action required by Australia if it’s to act consistently with the Paris Agreement goals.

To do its share in limiting global warming to below 1.5℃ this century, Australia must cut emissions by 75% below 2005 levelsThis decade. Limiting warming to well below 2℃ this century would require a 50% emissions reduction in the same time frame.

The last official government review of Australia’s climate targets was conductedClimate Change Authority, updated in 2015. It found that to act in line with the 2℃ goal, Australia should aim for 45–65% emissions reduction by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

Notably, the Coalition government ignored this recommendation when it set Australia’s 2030 target of 26-28%. This recommendation is also much more ambitious that the Labor target.

industrial port scene
Australia should aim for 45–65% emissions reduction by 2030 to act in line with Paris.

The global picture

The Glasgow Climate Pact, which was signed at COP26 last year, called on nationsto present a stronger 2030 goal to the United Nations conference in Nov 2022. It said limiting global warming to 1.5℃ would require global emissions reduction of at least 45% below 2010 levels by 2030.

Rich nations must cut their emissions by at least 45% in this decade if they are to play their role. This particularly applies to Australia – a skilled, wealthy, developed nation blessed with sunshine and wind.

While the Glasgow pact uses a baseline year of 2010 rather than Australia’s 2005, our national emissions were similar in both years. So Labor’s new 43% commitment approaches, but still falls short of, the Glasgow pact.

There are many Pacific island countries. called onAustralia must reduce its emissions by at most 50% by 2030. So again, Labor’s target comes close but does not actually fulfil what island states want to see from Australia to help ensure their survival.

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Labor’s 43% target also brings us closer to, but not into line with, our major allies. The United States targets a reduction of 50-52%, Japan 46%, and New Zealand 50% in the same timeframe. The United Kingdom intends to reduce its emissions by 68%, while the European Union will reduce them by 55%.

And special treatment afforded Australia under the Kyoto protocol – the precursor to the Paris Agreement – means the country is uniquely advantaged. We are allowed to count emissions from land use change in the base year from which emissions reduction is measured – something most countries don’t do.

An Australian commitment to 43% below 2005 levels was made in response. This year, land use emissions were at their lowest level. high– This involves far less real world emissions reduction than our international peers.

man sits at desk and looks at two TV monitors
Both the Morrison government’s target, and that of Labor, is below that of our international peers.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Learning from the work of others

Australia could achieve emissions reductions that are far greater than what Labor set for with a modest federal effort, thanks to the heads-start given by the territories and the states.

The Morrison government may claim Australia’s woeful 2030 target is “fixed”, but state and territory commitments made it redundant long ago.

The two most populous states – New South Wales and Victoria – both plan to halve their emissions over the same period. South Australia and ACT are expected to outperform, and Tasmania is already at net neutral emissions.

Even in Western Australian – where energy sector emissions have grown by two-thirds since 2005 as a result of unrestrained gas expansion – the state government announced yesterday it will establish a processTo set emissions reductions targets in accordance with its net-zero goal.

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Assuming state targets are only met and not exceeded, Australia’s emissions would fall by 34% from 2005 levels by 2030Without any effort whatsoever from the federal government

The Business Council of Australia will be launching in 2019 loudly opposed Labor’s 2030 target of 45% below 2005 levels in 2030. It is now possible to do so in the context a greater state and territorial ambition. adopted this target as its own. Far from being “economy-wrecking” or other such hyperbole, such a target is in fact a humble but important additional effort that builds on existing state and territory action.

As has been shown time and again – most recently just yesterday in research the Climate Council commissioned from Deloitte Access Economics – good climate policy is good economic policy, and will drive job creation in regional areas.

It is important to set a stronger 2030 target in order to drive investment in the clean energy economy. Australia is well-positioned for the world’s shift toward net zero emissions. It makes no sense to delay that inevitable transition. This is especially true given Australia’s vulnerability to climate impacts.

wind farm on hill
Australia is well-positioned to benefit from a world moving towards net-zero emissions.

You can go further and faster

Albanese, who announced the policy on Friday, said that the planned emission reductions were consistent with Canada’s.

If Labor wins government at next year’s election, Australia could “go to international climate conferences and not be in the naughty corner”, Albanese said. “I wanted to make sure we have a policy that doesn’t leave people behind, that supports industry, supports jobs and gets the balance right.”

There’s no question that Labor’s target is inadequate. It does provide a solid foundation for further action over the next decade.

Any federal government that implements meaningful policy to reduce emissions will quickly realise it’s in Australia’s interests to go further, faster. This will improve the lives of Australian households, create jobs in regional Australia and help us to play a part in the global effort against climate catastrophe.

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