The minimum Clean Energy Target (CET) design put forward by the Finkel Review would put Australia on a path of pumping out carbon pollution until the end of the century, breaching commitments under the Paris Agreement, new modelling reveals.
The analysis by RepuTex, commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), finds a weak CET would set a trajectory that would see Australia fail to eradicate carbon pollution from its electricity supply until as late as 2101.
Adopting an unambitious target that allows dirty coal and gas power to benefit would also heap a greater burden of meeting Australia’s promised 2030 pollution cuts on other industries at levels above their proportional role in the problem, the modelling finds.
“Any Clean Energy Target must be ambitious, help Australia meet its international commitments and ensure we are making a swift transition from dirty to clean energy so that we can protect and enjoy a safe and liveable planet,” said ACF Chief Executive, Kelly O’Shanassy.
“A weak and dirty target is none of these things. Instead it would continue to see dirty fossil fuel plants polluting for another 80 years.
“Nor would a dirty energy target represent a comprehensive climate change plan. Any target must be part of an overall strategy to tackle pollution from industry, transport and the land so that we reach a pollution-free future as swiftly as possible for the sake of our planet.”
The Finkel review modelled a CET that would reduce electricity emissions by an inadequate 28 percent by 2030. The RepuTex modelling shows that if the target was raised to 45 per cent, electricity pollution would be on a path to be phased out before 2050. If raised to 63 per cent, pollution from the electricity sector would end a full decade earlier — by 2035 — a result more consistent with the rapid action needed to halt runaway global warming.
The modelling also shows adopting a target that is consistent with rapidly halting carbon pollution would produce a significant reduction in wholesale electricity prices as compared to business as usual.
Under the Paris Agreement countries, including Australia, have committed to reach net zero global emissions by the second-half of the century and to keep warming well below 2 degrees, aiming for 1.5 degrees. Developed countries will need pollution-free economies by 2050 to keep global warming to below 2 degrees.
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NOTES TO EDITOR: REPUTEX CLEAN ENERGY TARGET MODELLING
- The Finkel Review modelled a 28% cut in electricity emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels under a Clean Energy Target. Dr Finkel has stated this was not a recommendation, and that it would be up to the Turnbull Government to decide what level of ambition to adopt.
- The Australian Conservation Foundation commissioned consultants RepuTex to model the greenhouse gas reductions and pathways that could be expected from different levels of ambition under a Clean Energy Target.
- RepuTex reports that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased steadily since 2013 and current projections show that if the government maintains ‘business as usual’ then national emissions will continue to grow another 9 per cent from 2016 levels by 2030, reaching around 592 million tonnes.
- RepuTex’s modelling found that if the Clean Energy Target was implemented delivering a 28% reduction for electricity emissions, in line with the minimum design under the Finkel review, it would cut just 44 million tonnes of greenhouse gas by 2030, representing an 8 per cent reduction in Australia’s overall emissions from 2005 levels. This would leave a shortfall of 119 Mt to meet Australia’s current 2030 target.
- On this trajectory, it would take until 2095 to 2101 for Australia’s electricity system to be fully decarbonised.
- Cuts of these levels would represent just 20% of the action needed to meet Australia’s overall 2030 target. Electricity emissions represent about 35% of Australia’s total carbon pollution.
- RepuTex also modelled targets that are more in line with the international goal of keeping warming well below two degrees – 45% and 63% below 2005 levels by 2030.
- Under the 45% target emissions from Australia’s electricity supply would be cut by 424 million tonnes, representing about 40% of what is needed to meet Australia’s 2030 target. On this trajectory electricity emissions would be completely phased out by 2045.
- Under a 63% Clean Energy Target emissions from Australia’s electricity supply would be cut by 619 million tonnes. This represents 60% of the effort required to meet the 2030 target. On this trajectory emissions from electricity would be completely phased out by 2035.
- Instituting a Clean Energy Target results in lower wholesale electricity prices from business as usual scenario, dropping to $60 per megawatt hour in the first year of the scheme’s operation. Scaling up the target to at least 45% results in prices falling to below $40 per megawatt hour by 2023.
- The RepuTex work also details how a 28% Clean Energy Target would place a greater burden on other industries to meet Australia’s promised 2030 emissions cuts. Industries that rely on direct combustion of oil and gas and the transport sectors would be accountable for reductions of up to 52 million tonnes of abatement in 2030. This is equivalent to 32% of the national abatement task, despite these industries making up only 18% of total emissions.
- Australia has committed to reduce its overall emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030, a goal in line with over three degrees of global warming. Under the Paris Agreement countries, including Australia have committed to keeping global warming well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels, aiming for 1.5 degrees.
- The IPCC has stated that to keep warming below two degrees then electricity emissions will need to be cut by 90% by 2040 to 2070, and fall to zero shortly after. Australia’s Climate Change Authority has recommended that the nation’s electricity emissions should reach zero by 2050 “consistent with Australia’s Paris Agreement obligations”. Others have indicated developed countries like Australia will need to move first to reach zero-net emissions under the Paris Agreement and decarbonise their entire economies by 2050.
- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated in the last Federal Election campaign that Australia’s 2030 emissions target will almost certainly have to be improved under the Paris Agreement’s review mechanisms. He said: “Australia will meet its targets and when they are increased and I, everyone I would expect will do that proportionately, when they are increased, I would think not later than 2020 we will meet those as well but what we have to do is choose the mechanisms that meet those reductions that suit us best.”
 Clarke, L., Jiang, K., Akimoto, K., et al., 2014. ‘Assessing Transformation Pathways’, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA; and Höhne, N., den Elzen, M., Escalante, D., 2014, Regional GHG reduction targets based on effort sharing: a comparison of studies, Climate Policy, 14:1, 122-147.