Australia is not on track to reach 2030 Paris target (but the potential is there)



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Australia’s energy emissions fell slightly due to renewable energy, but it’s not enough.
Jonathan Potts/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Anna Skarbek, Monash University

While Australia is coming to terms with yet another new prime minister, one thing that hasn’t changed is the emissions data: Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are not projected to fall any further without new policies.

Australia, as a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change, has committed to reduce its total emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030, and reach net zero emissions by 2050.




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New analysis by ClimateWorks Australia has found Australia has three times the potential needed to reach the federal government’s current 2030 target, but this will not be achieved under current policy settings.

Energy is not the only sector

Australia’s emissions were actually falling for more than half a decade, but have been steadily increasing again since 2013. If Australia sustained the rate of emissions reduction we achieved between 2005 and 2013, we could meet the government’s 2030 target. But progress has stalled in most sectors, and reversed overall.

Emissions are still above 2005 levels in the industry, buildings and transport sectors, and only 3% below in the electricity sector. It is mainly because of land sector emissions savings that overall Australia’s emissions are on track to meet its 2020 target, and are currently 11% below 2005 levels.

Despite the current focus on the energy market, electricity emissions comprise about one-third of Australia’s total greenhouse emissions. So no matter what policies are proposed for electricity, other policies will be needed for the other major sectors of industry, buildings, transport and land.

Fortunately, Australia is blessed with opportunities for more emissions reductions in all sectors.




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ClimateWorks’ analysis assessed Australia’s progress on reducing emissions at the halfway point from the 2005 base year to 2030, looking across the whole of the economy as well as at key sectors.

We found emissions reductions since 2005 have been led by reduced land clearing and increased forestation, as well as energy efficiency and a slight reduction in power emissions as more renewable energy has entered the market. But while total emissions reduced at an economy-wide level, and in some sectors at certain times, none of the sectors improved consistently at the rate needed to achieve the Paris climate targets.

Interestingly, some sub-sectors were on track for some of the time. Non-energy emissions from industry and the land sector were both improving at a rate consistent with a net zero emissions pathway for around five years. The buildings sector energy efficiency and electricity for some years improved at more than half the rate of a net zero emissions pathway. These rates have all declined since 2014 (electricity resumed its rate of improvement again in 2016).

Looking forward

Looking forward to 2030, we studied what would happen to emissions under current policies and those in development, including the government’s original version of the National Energy Guarantee with a 26% emission target for the National Electricity Market. Our analysis shows emissions reductions would be led by a further shift to cleaner electricity and energy efficiency improvements in buildings and transport, but that this would be offset by population and economic growth.

As a result, emissions reductions are projected to stagnate at just 11% below 2005 levels by 2030. Australia needs to double its emissions reduction progress to achieve the federal government’s 2030 target and triple its progress in order to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

So, while Australia is not currently on track to meet 2030 target, our analysis found it is still possible to get there.




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The gap to the 2030 target could be more than covered by further potential for emissions reductions in the land sector alone, or almost be covered by the further potential in the electricity sector alone, or by the potential in the industry, buildings and transport sectors combined. Harnessing all sectors’ potential would put us back on track for the longer-term Paris Agreement goal of net zero emissions.

Essentially this involves increasing renewables and phasing out coal in the electricity sector; increasing energy efficiency and switching to low carbon fuels in industry; increasing standards in buildings; introducing vehicle emissions standards and shifting to electricity and low carbon fuels in transport; and undertaking more revegetation or forestation in the land sector.

The opportunities identified in each sector are the lowest-cost combination using proven technologies that achieve the Paris Agreement goal, while the economy continues to grow.




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In the next two years, countries around the world, including Australia, will be required to report on the progress of their Paris Agreement targets and present their plans for the goal of net zero emissions. With so much potential for reducing emissions across all sectors of the Australian economy, we can do more to support all sectors to get on track – there is more than enough opportunity, if we act on it in time.The Conversation

Anna Skarbek, CEO at ClimateWorks Australia, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia needs dozens more scientists to monitor climate properly, report says



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Predicting rainfall in the Murray-Darling Basin is a crucial job, the new report’s authors say.
Tim/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Michael Hopkin, The Conversation

Australia is falling short in its ability to monitor the climate, potentially leaving farmers and other groups unable to access crucial information about rainfall, droughts and floods, the Australian Academy of Science has warned.

A review of Australia’s climate science capability, released today, recommends that Australia needs to recruit an extra 77 full-time climate science staff over the next four years, on top of the current 420, to meet the demand for detailed weather and climate information.

Without these resources, Australia risks being unable to provide accurate information to those who need it, said UNSW oceanographer Trevor McDougall, who led the review.

That could include being unable to predict accurately the changes to rainfall patterns in farming regions such as the Murray-Darling Basin – with potentially serious consequences for farmers, Professor McDougall said.

Although the review says Australia is strong in some areas, such as studying extreme weather events, it identified several key shortcomings, particularly in climate modelling.

Australia is not keeping pace with efforts in the United States and Europe, which are developing fine-scale climate models covering their own regions.

“Other countries are not looking in detail at our country – we need to run those models ourselves,” Professor McDougall said.

“These requirements are brought into sharper focus when you consider that our country is potentially more exposed to the impacts of climate change than most developed nations.”

Julie Arblaster, an atmospheric scientist at Monash University and co-author of the review, said Australian climatologists do not have enough access to the supercomputing facilities needed to run advanced climate models. “We need to look at multiple models from all around the world, but at the moment there isn’t the funding available,” she said.

Former CSIRO climatologist Graeme Pearman said the lack of regional climate predictions could have real consequences for Australian communities.

“We are not in a position at this stage to be able to confidently anticipate the water resource issues within the [Murray-Darling] basin. This is an enormous economic issue for Australia; it’s the food basin of the country,” he said.

Coastal communities also need reliable, localised information to predict flooding risk, Dr Pearman said.

“It’s not something that you can use a global model to anticipate – you have to have detailed, high-resolution information about particular areas of the coastline,” he said.

Australia currently has 420 full-time equivalent positions in climate change science and monitoring, spread across CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Institute of Marine Science, Geoscience Australia, and universities.

Last year saw the launch of the CSIRO Climate Science Centre in Hobart, with a staff of 40. But the government has scaled back publicly funded climate research elsewhere, including cutting 75 jobs from CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere division as part of a wide-ranging program of layoffs.

Federal environment minister Josh Frydenberg said the government “continues to make a significant financial investment” in climate research, citing the new CSIRO centre in Hobart, as well as a range of other initiatives.

Frydenberg said the government has invested A$37 million in long-term climate science monitoring capability, A$23.9 million in a climate change hub in the National Environmental Science Program, and committed A$255 million to climate research as part of the Australian Antarctic Strategy.

The review sets out a range of options for implementing the suggested staffing increases, including giving overall responsibility to CSIRO or the Bureau of Meteorology, or creating an entirely new agency.

Professor McDougall said that the proposed four-year phase-in period would allow many of the roles to be filled by Australian researchers, rather than recruiting from overseas.

The Conversation“My guess is that we would be able to recruit more than half from inside Australia – we have quite a good crop of people who are early in their career. There are also Australians working overseas, waiting for their opportunity to come back.”

Michael Hopkin, Environment + Energy Editor, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.