Australia is not yet on track to meet its emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement but there are many opportunities to still get there, according to new research.
The ClimateWorks Australia report, Tracking Progress to net zero emissions, found Australia needed to double its emissions reduction progress to achieve the federal government’s target of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and triple progress to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The report found Australia’s emissions were 11 per cent below 2005 levels in 2017 but have been steadily increasing since 2013. If Australia sustained the rate of improvement in emissions intensity it had achieved between 2005 and 2013, it could meet the government's 2030 target. But progress has stalled in most sectors and reversed overall.
The report assesses Australia’s progress on reducing emissions at the halfway point from the 2005 base year to 2030, looking across the whole of economy as well as in key sectors – electricity, industry, buildings, transport and land.
ClimateWorks Australia CEO, Anna Skarbek said overall progress was mainly due to one sector – land – achieving strong emissions reductions which masked growth in energy emissions in industry, buildings and transport.
“The data shows national emissions progress since 2005 was driven by reduced land clearing and increased afforestation, some increases in energy efficiency and a slight reduction in power emissions as more renewable energy entered the market,” she said.
“However, emissions are now higher than 2005 levels in the industry, buildings and transport sectors. While there were improvements in each sector at times, none of the sectors improved consistently at a rate required to meet the government’s 2030 target or the Paris Agreement goal of net zero emissions by mid-century.”
Ms Skarbek said the research showed that emissions are not projected to fall any further by 2030 under current and proposed policies, including the National Energy Guarantee with the proposed electricity target of 26 per cent for the National Energy Market.
“Going forward to 2030, there is three times the potential needed to reach the government’s current 2030 target, but projections show this will not be harnessed under current policy settings.
“However, it is still possible to build on areas of recent momentum if Australia implements further policies that guide investment in a cleaner economy. Our research shows Australia has the potential to reach 55 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and this would set our economy on the net zero emissions pathway needed for the Paris Agreement.”
The report shows current and proposed policies would see emissions at 11 per cent below 2005 levels in 2030, which is less than half the progress needed to meet the government’s current 2030 target of 26-28 per cent and one third of the abatement needed to reach the net zero pathway.
ClimateWorks Australia policy manager, Anna Malos said the next two years were critical if Australia was to unlock the potential for further emissions reductions and meet its targets under the Paris Agreement.
“Our analysis of recent progress shows that well-targeted policy can support emissions reduction activity and that macroeconomic factors can affect emissions. Supporting more progress in all sectors can get Australia back on track.
“The electricity, industry, buildings and land sectors each have potential using proven technologies to go further than 26 per cent below 2005 levels in 2030. The transport sector takes longer but could still reverse its projected path of rising emissions, if support exists to accelerate the uptake of lower emissions
Ms Malos said the report shows further opportunities to increase emissions reductions exist in all sectors led by land (revegetation and afforestation), electricity (increasing renewables and phasing out coal), industry (energy efficiency, fuel switching and reducing non-energy emissions), buildings (increased standards for buildings and appliances), and transport (vehicle emissions standards and shift to electricity and low carbon fuels).