Australian Action

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Climate Action Reversal in Australia

***  Background

The Australian government agencies and programs in place in 2011 could be a useful model for any nation.  Unfortunately these initiatives are now being reversed by the current government.

After the 2010 Federal election, Prime Minister Gillard formed a minority government with the support of The Australian Greens and three independent members. This government passed legislation to put a price on carbon pollution.  There were other programs and government bodies too.

The Coalition governments under Prime Ministers Abbott and  even Turnbull seem intent on reversing these climate initiatives.  The coalition has been limited in implementing its climate policies as it does not control the upper house of parliament.

A Chronology of Australian Climate Change Policy Action: The Parliamentary Library (***** broken link)

*** Sections of this page
  • Carbon Pricing
  • Climate Change Authority
  • Emission Reduction Target
  • Renewable Energy Targets (RET)
  • Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
  • Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC)
  • Climate Commission & Climate Council
  • Funding climate science
  • Direct government funding for emission reduction

*** Carbon Pricing

Climate Action:  Put a price on carbon emissions

Australia’s carbon pricing scheme began in July 2012. It was initially a carbon tax with plans for it to become an emissions trading scheme.  The Coalition government abolished Australia’s carbon pricing scheme on 17 July 2014.
Obituary for Australia’s Carbon Price: The Conversation

The Australian government claims the abolishing the carbon tax will lower costs for Australian businesses and ease cost of living pressures for households.  Full details of the repeal:  (now a broken link)

** Carbon Pricing was working

“The National Greenhouse Accounts (April 2014) … Every one of these quarterly reports has seen emissions drop in areas covered by the carbon price, since the carbon price kicked in on July 1, 2012.  In this latest report, energy emissions are down 5 per cent.”
Greenhouse Accounts Support Keeping Carbon Price: The Greens: April 2014

Australian Greenhouse Gas Accounts: Dept of Environment

*** Climate Change Authority

Climate action: Create an agency to conduct independent research, reviews and prepare recommendations to government, for example, recommendations for a carbon emissions target.

The Australian Climate Change Authority was set up to do this in July 2012.  (now a broken link)

In February 2014, the Australian Climate Change Authority released its recommendation for the Australian “Emissions Reduction Target”. They say that the global conditions have clearly been met for Australia increasing emissions reduction from 5 per cent on 2000 levels to 19 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020.”
Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 19%: March 2014

Reducing Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Targets and Progress Review—Final Report: Climate Change Authority

The Coalition has put bills before parliament to abolish the Climate Change Authority.

*** Emission Reduction Target

Climate action: Set targets for the reduction of carbon emissions.

Both the Australian Labor and Liberal Parties went to the last election saying they were committed to a reduction in carbon emissions of 5% of the 2000 levels by 2020.

“The Coalition Government says it will not be changing emissions targets based on the Climate Change Authority report [quoted above]. Environment Minister Greg Hunt says the Abbott Government is committed to 5 per cent, and any additional targets will be reviewed in 2015 ahead of global climate talks in Paris.
Australia must triple carbon emissions reduction target: Climate Change Authority: ABC:  27 Feb 2014

Renewable Energy Target

Climate Action: Set a target for the production of electricity from renewable sources

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme was designed to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity would come from renewable sources by 2020. The RET scheme is helping to transform our electricity generation mix to cleaner and more diverse sources and supporting growth and employment in the renewable energy sector. Since January 2011 the RET scheme has operated in two parts—the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.

The Large scale RET creates a financial incentive for the establishment or expansion of renewable energy power stations, such as wind and solar farms or hydro-electric power stations. It does this by legislating demand for Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs). One LGC can be created for each megawatt-hour of eligible renewable electricity produced by an accredited renewable power station … The large-scale targets ramp up until 2020 when the target will be 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable electricity generation.

The Small scale RES creates a financial incentive for households, small businesses and community groups to install eligible small-scale renewable energy systems such as solar water heaters, heat pumps, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, small-scale wind systems, or small-scale hydro systems. It does this by legislating demand for Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs). STCs are created for these systems at the time of installation, according to the amount of electricity they are expected to produce or displace in the future.

Renewable Energy Target Scheme: Dept of Environment

As all [Australian] current fossil fuel power generators will have reached the end of their useful lives before 2050, they will have to be steadily replaced over the coming 35 years. Installation of solar and wind will allow this to be done with minimal additional cost and with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions. … Moving to 100% renewables by mid-century might sound like a tall order. But the current RET actually puts us on track to do it – all it would require would be to carry on at the same [current] rate of investment beyond 2020. Installing around 1200 MW each of new solar and wind power every year, as required by the RET, would be enough to replace the entire existing fossil fuel electricity sector by 2050.
Renewable Energy Target can go to 100%: The Conversation: May 2014

** The coalition review of the Renewable Energy Target

In February 2014, the Coalition appointed a self-confessed climate sceptic to head the review of our Renewable Energy Target
Climate Sceptic to Lead Review:  Guardian: 17 Feb 2014

In August 2014, the review of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target was released and, as widely predicted, recommended winding back or even scrapping the various parts of the scheme. It means cuts to investment in renewable power stations, and the scrapping of incentives for solar panels.
Review Calls for RET Cut: The Conversation

Australian Renewable Energy Agency ARENA

Climate action: Set up an agency to make renewable energy solutions more affordable and increase the amount of renewable energy used in Australia, including a budget to fund renewable energy projects.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was established by the Australian Government with a budget of approximately $2.5 billion to fund renewable energy projects.

Coalition government has put bills before parliament to abolish the Australian Renewable Energy Agency

Clean Energy Finance Corporation

Climate action: Set up an agency to organise finance for renewable energy projects.

The Australian Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) was set up and operates like a traditional financier. It works collaboratively with co-financiers and project proponents to seek ways to secure financing solutions for the clean energy sector.
Clean Energy Finance Corporation

The corporation funded projects such as:
. Upgrading lighting in a Melbourne school
. Installing LED lighting in residential streets in Warnambool
. a large scale solar plant in Moree, NSW (Clean Energy Finance Corp broken link)

The CEFC has committed $700 million to financing projects. Its co-finance partners have contributed $1.8 billion, bringing the tally of investments in clean energy projects to $2.5 billion.  … The CEFC is earning an average return of 7%, which is above the government’s cost of funds at 3.5%. Its abolition would result in at least $200 million of lost annual revenue to the government
Australian Financial Review: Apr 2014 

Scrapping the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will cost the federal budget $439.2 million over four years, according to the mid-year economic update, but the federal government will push ahead with plans to scrap it.
CEFR will be scrapped: Australian Financial Review

The Abbott government has … a second attempt to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. … The CEFC has so far committed just short of $600 million – out of its annual resources of $2 billion – to dozens of projects ranging from wave energy to solar thermal to wind energy, and to energy efficiency and waste-to-energy investments  The CEFC says that it has levered four times that amount in private investment, and such a program could deliver up to half of the emissions reduction targeted by the Abbott government in its Direct Action policy – and at a net benefit (rather than cost) per tonne of CO2.
Abbott Launches new assault on clean energy: Renew Economy: March 2014

 “Climate Commission” and “Climate Council”

Climate action: Set up an agency to provide information to the public.

The Gillard government established the independent Climate Commission, to provide authoritative, independent information to the public. They appointed Professor Tim Flannery as Chief Commissioner in Feb 2011.
Launch Climate Commission: Dept of Environment

The coalition government was sworn in on 18/9/2014.  They scrapped the Climate Commission on 19 Sep 2013.
Coalition Scraps Climate Commission: Guardian:  19 Sep 2013

After the abolition the climate commissioners decided to volunteer their time to reform the Climate Commission into a non-profit organization funded by public donations, the Climate Council to provide science based information about climate change to Australians.

Relaunch of Climate Commission: ABC: 24 Sep 2013

*** Example Report: The Critical Decade

*** Example Report:  “Angry Summer 2013/2014”

Funding for climate science

Climate Action: Fund research into climate change

The coalition government is cutting funds for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

“Science funding cuts are vandalism … the CSIRO is bracing itself for a cut in its funding of up to $150 million, one-fifth of its total government allocation, when the government brings in its May budget. This month it was also reported 300 positions were to go next year, on top of 400 jobs that went last year.”
Science Funding Cuts Are Vandalism: The Age Editorial: 19 April 2014

Hundreds more job cuts are looming at Australia’s peak science organisation the CSIRO as it pushes through its biggest restructure in decades.
CSIRO Support Staff Face Job Cuts: The Age: 14 Mar 2014

Coalition Direct Action Plan: Emissions Reduction Fund

Climate action: Government funding for industry projects to reduce emissions. There will be no penalties for projects that do not meet targets.

** Liberal Party web site states

“Cleaning up our own environment: We will take direct action to reduce carbon emissions – and establish a 15,000-strong Green Army charged with the clean-up and conservation of our environment – so that we can all enjoy a cleaner environment and a more sustainable future … without the impost of the carbon tax which is causing real economic damage to our economy and affecting the living standards of Australian families.  … We remain committed to a five per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. … We will establish an Emissions Reduction Fund of $3 billion to allocate money in response to emission reduction tenders to projects designed to reduce carbon emissions”

** What if funded projects do not cut emissions

A key challenge facing … the government’s Direct Action policy is how to deal with winning bidders failing to deliver promised amounts of abatement.  … The government in its first two years, of 2014 and 2015, may think everything is all in hand, contracting for plenty of abatement projects all at bargain-basement prices. Then, by 2016 and 2017, it could find they are like sand, seeping through their fingers as bidders find their cost estimates too optimistic, or it taking longer than they thought, or that they have problems with customers, or suppliers, or the exchange rate changes, or the price of vital input or output changes, and so on.”
Non Delivery Problem: Business Spectator: 22 Oct 2013


** Doubts over coalition plan to cut emissions (May 2013)

The Coalition claims up to 85 million tonnes per year of carbon dioxide cuts could come from soil carbon projects alone by the end of the decade. Climate change department officials told a Senate estimates hearing … that soil carbon and revegetation projects are currently expected to deliver just 3.7 million tonnes a year of emissions cuts by 2020. [So] storing carbon dioxide in soil and plants will deliver less than five per cent of the emissions cuts assumed under the Coalition’s direct action climate change policy.

Australia will need to reduce its emissions by 160 million tonnes from 2000 levels to meet an unconditional, bipartisan target of a five per cent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020.

[Instead of getting 85 million tonnes per year of cuts, the policy will deliver 3.7 million. This is about 81 million tonnes less than claimed.  This shortfall is 51% of the target of 160 million tonnes.]

Doubts over coalition plan to cut emissions: The Age: 28 May 2013
(Now a broken link)

** Funding in doubt for coalition climate action

Australia’s climate change action has effectively ground to a halt with the budget revealing big cuts to research and renewable energy, moves that critics say sets policy back to the 1990s. Budget papers show funds for climate change-related programs will shrink from $5.75 billion in the current fiscal year to $1.25 billion by 2014-15 and to $500 million by 2017-18. The government will spend more on its national blood program than climate change on all but the first of those four years. Graeme Pearman, a scientist who led CSIRO’s atmospheric research team for a decade until his retirement in 2002, said the government had adopted an “extreme” ideological approach in all but rejecting global warming as an issue despite ever-mounting evidence of the threat posed by more frequent extreme weather.  … Even the future [funding] of the government’s lynch-pin policy aimed at replacing the carbon price – the Emissions Reduction Fund to pay polluters to cut emissions – appears in doubt. The budget committed only $1.14 billion over the coming four years, well shy of the $2.55 billion pledged by Environment Minister Greg Hunt three weeks ago
Abbott sets back policy decades: The Age: 14 May 2014


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