Australia launches climate change plan to tackle emissions

25 February 2019 | Mitigation

Australia plans to pay farmers, land holders and businesses an extra A$2bn ($1.4bn) to curb greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade amid concerns it could fail to meet its Paris climate change targets. 

The pre-election announcement by the Liberal-National coalition on Monday follows four successive years of rising emissions in Australia, which became the first country in the world to repeal a national carbon tax in 2014.

Last month, the OECD, the Paris-based organisation of rich nations, warned that Canberra was unlikely to achieve its Paris target of cutting carbon-dioxide emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 without intensifying its efforts. 

Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said the new climate solutions package would enable the country to meet its commitments without “taking a wrecking ball to the economy”. 

“We have an obligation to preserve the environment for our children. We also have an obligation to hand over a strong economy, where our kids and grandkids can get jobs,” he said. 

But critics said the extra funding to pay for carbon abatement projects, which came on top of an existing A$2.55bn plan, would not be enough.

The existing emissions reduction fund has signed contracts for 193m tonnes in emissions abatement, according to the government, however Australia’s overall emissions have continued to rise since 2014 and last June hit 533.7 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent. 

“This represents more of the same and a business as usual approach,” said Emma Herd, chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change, a group that represents investors with A$2tn under management. 

“It’s hard to see how the government can meet its Paris goal without tackling emissions in the power sector.” 

Emissions reduction funds work by paying farmers or businesses to adopt new practices or technologies to reduce emissions. Critics say it is a more expensive and less efficient method of curbing emissions than alternatives, such as charging polluters through carbon pricing mechanisms.

1m fish killed in Australian river catastrophe Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth and particularly vulnerable to climate change. Over the past year it has suffered a devastating drought, floods and deadly bush fires, which have pushed climate change up the political agenda ahead of an election schedule for May. 

Last week, The Bramble Cay melomys, a rodent native to Australia, was declared the first animal to become extinct as a result of climate change.

Critics say the Liberal-National coalition has prioritised the economy over the environment since winning power in 2013 and failed to agree a coherent energy and climate policy due to climate sceptics in both parties.

Malcolm Turnbull, the former prime minister, was ousted last year when he proposed a climate and energy policy that aimed to provide cheaper, reliable power, as well as reducing CO2 emissions. 

Recommended Climate change First mammal extinction attributed directly to man-made climate change Australia’s power sector remains heavily reliant on coal, the most polluting energy source, which makes up two-thirds of its electricity supply.

The resources industry is a powerful lobby, donating to political parties and funding nationwide advertising campaigns. Mr Morrison is a supporter of the sector and once brandished a lump of coal in parliament, saying: “Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you. It’s coal.” 

Kate Mackenzie, a climate policy expert at Climate-KIC Australia, said the new fund was “manifestly inadequate” as a climate policy but symbolically important as it demonstrated climate change was an election issue. 

“The coalition is having to accept that it’s an electoral liability to not be seen to be acting on climate,” she said. The Liberal-National coalition trails Labor, polling at 47 per cent versus Labor’s 53 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, according to a survey published by Newspoll on Monday.



Source: Financial Times