Australia climate plan leaves key ERF questions unanswered

Published 05:05 on March 5, 2015  /  Last updated at 15:36 on May 11, 2016  /  Asia Pacific, Australia  /  No Comments

Australia will meet its 2020 climate targets through its Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), the government said Thursday, but left major questions unanswered on how the programme will operate just weeks ahead of its first auction.

Australia will meet its 2020 climate targets through its Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), the government said Thursday, but left major questions unanswered on how the programme will operate just weeks ahead of its first auction.

The government outlined its climate strategy as part of the intergenerational report, a paper published every five years detailing how Australia plans to deal with future challenges.

“The Government has committed to reducing Australia’s domestic emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 through its $2.55 billion ERF,” the climate plan said.

“The ERF will provide incentives for cleaning up Australia’s environment through activities such as revegetation, investing in soil carbon, increasing industrial and commercial building energy efficiency, cleaning up power stations and capturing gas from the millions of tonnes of waste deposited in our cities’ landfills each year,” it said.

The first ERF auction will be held on Apr. 15.

NO PROJECTIONS

The paper drew criticism because the government has yet to do any modeling to evaluate the ERF’s capabilities, despite the ruling Liberal party planning its introduction since 2010.

A series of independent reports have said the scheme will not achieve sufficient emission cuts to meet the 2020 target unless its budget is increased substantially, but those have been dismissed by the government.

“When it comes to climate change, this Intergenerational Report barely addresses challenges for this generation let alone the next. It contains no projections of policy outcomes, no projections of the costs of climate impacts, and no recognition of the need to achieve a net zero emissions economy by mid-century,” John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute said in a comment.

“The report also fails to mention the fiscal impact of using taxpayer funds under the Emissions Reduction Fund and the loss of the revenue previously generated from the carbon laws- an impact previously estimated at $24 billion to 2020 alone,” he said.

PENALTIES

The report reiterated the government’s intention to develop a so-called safeguard mechanism to “ensure that emissions reductions paid for by the ERF are not displaced by a significant rise in emissions elsewhere in the economy”, but gave no further detail.

The ERF was made law last year, but the inclusion of a safeguard mechanism issue was postponed until July 1, 2015.

Thursday’s plan also gave no details about potential penalties for big emitters.

The ERF lets companies that stay below industry benchmark levels for emission intensity earn money by selling the perceived emission cuts to the government, but has no mechanism to address companies that emit above the benchmark level.

By Stian Reklev – stian@carbon-pulse.com