Australia is systematically exaggerating CO2 growth forecasts, making its future climate targets easier to meet despite ineffective policies, a study said Thursday.
The country’s latest projections estimate Australia must cut emissions 236 million tonnes of CO2e by 2020 to meet its 5% reduction target, but that number could be overstated by as much as 200 million tonnes, analysts Reputex said.
The efforts required to meet the target was adjusted down 44% earlier this year, but the study said it expected similar revisions to occur in the years to 2020.
“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,” said Bret Harper, Reputex associate director of research.
Reputex maintained previous predictions that the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) will not be enough for it to meet its 2020 target, but that the expected downward adjustments of CO2 forecasts will.
“Greg Hunt’s optimism that Australia will meet its 2020 target is ultimately not due to confidence in policy, but confidence that official emissions projections have created such a significant buffer,” he said.
If Australia bases its climate target for 2030 on the same projections, meeting that goal would be down to accounting more than efficient policies, according to the report.
Australia is already under international scrutiny for what many consider to be lax climate policies and pressure could grow if the government declines to transform the downward emission trends in key sectors of the economy into greater climate ambition.
“The findings suggest that the international community may be right to question Australia’s emissions ambition, particularly if future write-downs in emissions are brought forward as an accounting benefit, rather than translated into greater post-2020 ambition,” Harper said.
“By pocketing the significant difference between our projections and our real emissions, we risk being perceived as not fairly contributing to the international emissions reduction effort.”
But at the moment there is little indication Australia will raise its climate ambition levels under the current government.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who last year said that coal is good for humanity, on Thursday told conservative radio host Alan Jones he would have liked to reduce Australia’s renewable energy target by even more than the recent adjustment to 33,000 GWh in 2020 from 41,000 GWh originally.
Australia has insisted the RET cut was in fact an increase as the target’s original intention was to ensure 20% of Australia’s electricity in 2020 will come from renewable sources, while it is now on track to generate 23%.
But Abbott gave a different account in his interview with Jones, after describing wind farms as “visually awful”.
“What we did recently in the Senate was to reduce, Alan, capital R-E-D-U-C-E, the number of these things that we are going to get in the future,” Abbott said.
“What we are managing to do through this admittedly imperfect deal with the Senate is to reduce the growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current Senate would allow us to do.”
Australia is set to announce its post-2020 target later this month or in July.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org