Spotlight Activity: Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)
On 6 November 2016 Australia ratified the Paris Agreement and put forth its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to a new Climate Change Agreement. In it, Australia pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to around 402-403 million tonnes annually by 2030. Additional goals included: a target for renewable energy to generate at least 23% of Australia’s electricity by 2020, a pledge to develop a nationwide climate resilience and adaptation strategy, and an energy efficiency target of 40% “improvement” between 2015 and 2030 (this includes efficiency improvements in vehicles).
Australia also reserved the right to adjust its target “should the rules and other underpinning arrangements of the agreement differ in a way that materially impacts the definition of our target” – ambiguous language which has added a high level of uncertainty to Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
Status: Falling Behind
Climate Action Tracker has not found any improvement to Australia’s climate policies and have rated the overall target as insufficient in ambition – if other countries followed Australia’s current policies global warming could reach up to 3-4°C in the future.
Prime Minister Turnbull’s cabinet is currently developing a National Energy Guarantee to create a nation-wide policy on energy. However, this legislation continues to promote coal as a solution for energy security and does not reflect widespread public opinion which tends to favor renewable energy solutions and a phaseout of coal as a primary energy source.
Land-clearing and deforestation continue to undermine Australia’s efforts to cut emissions. The state of Queensland is now considered a global deforestation “hotspot” – here vegetation is cleared at a rate equal to Brazil’s infamous destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
And there are currently no government plans for how Australia will achieve significant emissions cuts in other key sectors: agriculture, transport and manufacturing. If emission cuts in the electricity sector fail to materialise there are no strategies in place to achieve the rapid, deep cuts that will be required in other sectors.
Furthermore, the team developing the legislation has chosen to ignore the recommendations of a 2017 independent review of future energy security led by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Alan Finkel.
Australia’s federal government has instead pursued alternative actions. Domestic offsets – known as “Direct Action” and which generally involve the planting of vegetation – are being cancelled out by increasing rates of land clearing. Changes to efficiency standards in motor vehicles have stalled and a national framework for climate adaptation and resilience is incomplete, suffering from major funding shortfalls. Investments in renewable energy are strong but the continued growth of renewables in Australia is not guaranteed: policy uncertainty could increase the likelihood of adding new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Dear Minister Frydenberg,
It is important that Australia strengthen the pledge our country has made to the Paris Agreement before the Agreement goes into effect in 2020. I want Australia to commit to cleaner and more stable energy sources like solar panels instead of supporting the continued use of coal. Coal mining threatens ecological systems, increases our emissions levels and will not serve Australian people in the future.
A plan for reducing emissions in other key sectors – agriculture, transport and manufacturing – is also a must. A great place to start would be encouraging the uptake of Electric Vehicles (EVs) by investing in charging infrastructure and outlining a timeline for phasing out petrol vehicles.
More ambition is needed in setting renewable energy targets – not less. Attacks from the federal government on “reckless” state-based targets are unhelpful and disguise the fact that strong action from state governments is currently the main driver behind emissions reductions. Australia urgently needs to develop strategies for emissions cuts in agriculture, transport and manufacturing. For example, investment in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and a timeline to phase-out petrol cars and trucks would promote the uptake of EVs and improve their affordability to everyday Australians.
Australia will most likely achieve its federal RET in 2020 because of strong action at a state level. State governments continue to push their investment in renewable energy because it is more cost-effective, more reliable and because it is popular with the public. If Australia has any hope of achieving its 26-28% Paris emissions reduction target more ambition is needed, not less.
Send Action Alert Message to:
Honorable Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for the Environment and Energy
695 Burke Road
Camberwell, VIC, 3124
Telephone: +61 3 9882 3677