Australia will soon release revised emissions forecast data showing the nation has already met its minimum 2020 CO2 emissions target, Environment Minister Greg Hunt told The Australian newspaper, but indicated a deepening of its targets would not be on the table until 2020.
Under the Department of Environment’s previous forecast, Australia needed to cut emissions 236 million tonnes of CO2e over 2013-2020 to meet its 2020 target of keeping GHGs 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.
But revised data due to be released before the UN climate summit in Paris begins on Nov. 30 will show a different picture, Hunt told The Australian.
“The huge expectation is that it will be below zero. We’ll be able to say that we’ve ¬already met our target. And that will still be on actual performance and worst-case projections,” the minister said.
Hunt will add details during a speech at the Press Club in Canberra on Nov. 25, a spokesperson told Carbon Pulse.
The adjustment will not come as a huge surprise to analysts, who have tracked slowing electricity demand growth, a slowdown in industrial activity and poor conditions for agriculture for several years.
“Official government figures are systemically overstated in that they continue to assume strong demand for electricity, coal and agricultural products all the way through to 2030, despite growth slowing in recent years,” Bret Harper with analysts Reputex said in June.
STICKING TO MINIMUM AMBITION
The 5% target is the lower end of the bipartisan target of cutting emissions 5-25% by 2020, depending on action taken in other nations.
But despite a raft of new climate policies launched around the world, including in the nations such as China and the United States, the previous Labor government and the current Coalition administration have both refused to move the target up from 5%.
Hunt said the 2017 climate policy review might lead to deeper Australian targets, but that would only be floated internationally in 2020, if the Paris meeting can agree on a five-yearly review mechanism for national targets.
“If this is true, we don’t need to do anything to meet the minimum target. Why don’t we increase the target up to the 15-25% reductions we have also committed to internationally? Are we going to sit on our hands for years?” said The Climate Institute’s Erwin Jackson.
Kellie Caught, national climate change manager at green group WWF, echoed the call to raise the 2020 target.
“Meeting the 5% pollution reduction target is a start, but it is still well behind what is needed to avoid dangerous levels of global warming,” she said.
In the first two Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) auctions, Australia contracted the purchase of over 92 million tonnes of CO2e cuts.
However, much of that will be delivered after 2020, and with half the fund’s budget already spent, analysts say the ERF is not the reason Australia will likely meet the 2020 target.
Consultants Pitt & Sherry, who track emissions from the National Electricity Market, say annual emissions from the electricity sector have increased around 7 million tonnes since last year’s repeal of the carbon tax, more than offsetting the 5 million tonnes per year bought in the second ERF auction.
“The impact of the government’s decisions on climate policy in recent years, all else bing equal, increased not decreased emissions,” the Climate Institute’s Jackson said.
Emissions growth has been slower in recent years than the government has estimated, but that is primarily down to macro-economic factors.
Reputex said last week it expected Australia’s emissions to grow 15% above current levels by 2030, unless tighter policies are introduced.
There are growing expectations that the 2017 climate policy review will overturn the Coalition’s stance that it will rely solely on domestic efforts to meet targets, and that UN-issued carbon offsets might be available to the government as well as to big emitters seeking to comply with the safeguard mechanism.
A backdoor to the UN market has already helped bridge some of the previous 236-million tonne gap to the 2020 target, as some 20 million CERs, costing around 18-23 Australian cents each, have found their way to the government’s holding account in recent weeks as part of a deal with landfill owners to compensate for carbon tax profits.
“The government has not indicated whether CERs will be used towards meeting Australia’s Kyoto targets. However, their presence in the national holding account will allow an equivalent number of AAUs to be carried over to CP2,” Reputex managing director Hugh Grossman told Carbon Pulse.
A spokesperson for Minister Hunt on Wednesday declined to comment on the use of the CERs.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org