Australia’s 2030 climate target: Coalition spin

The federal coalition government has set the target for Australian emissions in 2030 as a reduction of between 26% and 28% from 2005 levels.  This is the target that Australia will take to the Paris meeting in November.  The Coalition spin on these targets is considered below.

Compare this with other emission targets:

  • Australia’s earlier formal bipartisan target submitted to the UN at Kyoto for 2020 was between 5 and 25% below 2000 levels.
  • The Australian Capital Territory target is 90 % renewable electricity by 2020 and 100 % by 2025.
  • The South Australian target is 50 % renewable electricity by 2025
  • The Queensland target is 50 % renewable electricity by 2030
  • The federal Labor opposition target is 50 % renewable electricity by 2030.
  • The German target for 2050 is an 85 % reduction from 1990 levels

Also, Announced and extrapolated emissions targets for 2030 as a percent change from 2005 levels.
Source: Climate Change Authority.

  • UK:  -61%
  • Switzerland: -51%
  • Germany: -45%
  • Norway: -44.5%
  • USA: -35 to 39%
  • European Union: -34%
  • Canada: -30%
  • New Zealand: -30%
  • ** Australia: -26 to 28%
  • Japan: -25%
  • China: + 72 – 96%
  • Republic of Korea: + 1 to -5%

Sydney Morning Herald: Adam Morton:
A guide to separating fact and fiction on climate change and greenhouse gas targets.

The coalition is making dubious claims about this target.

**** Claim: Tony Abbott: “This target is fairly and squarely in the middle of comparable economies”

The target emissions of various countries (New Matilda: 12 August 2015) indicate that this is not true:

  • Australia: 1.6 % per year till 2030.
  • United States 2.3 % per year
  • European Union 2.6 % per year
  • United Kingdom 5.1 % per year.
  • Average of a range of countries: 2.5 % per year

Our target puts Australia at the back of the pack.

Tony Abbott described Australia’s target as “a little below Europe”.  However, the Australian 1.6% is only 61% of the European 2.6%.

Tony Abbott described Australia’s target as “about the same as the United States”.  However, the Australian 1.6% is only 70% of the American 2.6%.

**** Claim: Mr Abbott told Parliament that Australia was “quite rare” among countries because we are on track to “meet and beat” our targets under the Kyoto protocol.

However,  the Climate Institute (The Age: 11 August 2015) questions whether Australia will meet its Kyoto goal without the purchase of international permits.

Alsp, the Climate Institute also says all countries will meet their first targets under the Kyoto agreement, except for:

  • Canada which withdrew from Kyoto,
  • USA: which never ratified Kyoto, but is now changing domestic policy, trying achieve its 2020 goal, and
  • Perhaps Australia.

**** Claim: Tony Abbott: “When it comes to emissions per capita our reduction, of at least 50 per cent, will be the highest in at least the developed world…”

This may be true, however, Australia is the highest per capita emitter in the developed world and would remain the highest emitter with this target:
Economist Frank Jotzo:
Australian National University: Crawford School of Public Policy
(The Age: 11 August 2015)

**** Claim: Greg Hunt: “[Labor’s carbon tax] came in at well over a thousand dollars per ton of abatement, whereas the Coalition has produced the emissions reduction at $13.95 per ton”

This is an old claim – and false.  Hunt is “comparing apples and fridges”.  The Abbott government’s scheme pays polluting companies for reducing their emissions whereas the carbon tax brought in revenue by taxing pollution.  And the coalition is pretending the total revenue raised by the carbon pricing is the net effect on the economy.  (New Matilda: 12 August 2015)

** The revenue raised by Labor’s carbon pricing

The price of one ton of carbon production under Labor’s ill-fated ‘tax’ was initially fixed at $23 dollars. By now it would have dropped to about $10.

The emissions reductions directly attributable to the carbon price, in the electricity sector alone, were between 11 and 17 million ton over its two year life, while raising around $6 billion in revenue. (Professor Jotzo: Australian National University study: New Matilda: 12 August 2015)

So a high estimate of the revenue per ton of abatement was between $545 and $353
(6,000,000,000 / 11,000,000 = $545 / ton)
(6,000,000,000 / 17,000,000 = $353 / ton)

** The cost of Coalition emission reduction

At the first Emission Reduction Fund auction, in April 2015, the Coalition bought 47.3 million tons of carbon emission reduction for about $660 million, an average of $13.95 per ton of CO2.

Now, as agreed under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia needs to cut its CO2 emissions by 236 million tons to meet its official target of cutting emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.

Unfortunately, the contracts for emissions reduction do not guarantee that the reductions will be achieved before the Kyoto 2020 deadline. Many of the contracts extend for seven years until 2022 or 10 years until 2025.

Also, the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) budget will not be enough to meet the Kyoto target.  PM Abbott has set the budget at $2,550 million.  Even assuming that the cost of carbon emissions remains at $13.95 per ton, the Coalition will only be able to buy 2,550 / 13.95 = 183 million tons.  This is only 78% of the 236 million Kyoto target, 53 million tons short. And now the targets have been lifted.

Also, none of Australia’s top 20 emitting facilities are currently expected to incur any liability under the ERF, despite almost all being forecast to increase their emissions over the next ten years.”

Also, the cost per ton of emissions abatement at future reverse auctions is likely to be substantially higher, so it’s hard to see how Hunt’s policy can avoid blowing its budget.

When Hunt said that “we have a mechanism which produces reductions at a fraction of the cost of the carbon tax,” that was just spin.

(New Matilda: 12 August 2015)

**** References

Sort the facts from government climate claims
The Age: 11 August 2015

New Matilda: Thom Mitchell: 12 August 2015 (now a broken link)

New Matilda: Thom Mitchell: 25 April 2015 (now a broken link)

The Conversation: Peter Christoff: 27 April 2015

The Conversation: August 2015

The Sustainable Hour

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