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Labor Climate Policy for 2022 Federal Election, and science based climate targets


The Australian Labor Party  announced on 3 December 2021 they would be taking to the next election (sometime in the next 6 months) an interim emissions target of 43 percent reduction by 2030 on 2005 levels. This is 2% lower than the target they had for the previous election in 2019.

The Coalition Government are taking their current interim emissions target of 26-28 percent reduction in emissions reduction by 2030 on 2005 levels to the next election. This target was set in 2015 before COP21. They have now committed to Net zero by 2050. But Resources policy shows the Coalition Government expanding coal and gas production. See the deconstruction of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s statement to COP26.

Here is the Labor primary climate policy, Powering Australia. It is a  pragmatic policy document trying to incorporate enough ambition while being a small target and avoid some of the expected attacks from the Coalition. It includes an economic costing of the policy. The Labor Interim emissions target for 2030 is 43%, which is below the 45% the ALP took to the election in 2019.

Powering Australia Policy underpinned by Economic Modelling

Labor’s Powering Australia policy was released in conjunction with economic impact modelling (PDF) from Reputex to deflect some of expected Coalition attacks.

Some of the content and detail:

* The policy puts forward that 604,000 jobs will be created and 5 out of 6 of those jobs will be in regional areas. 

* It will aim for 82% renewables by 2030, and will cut power bills by an average of $275 pa for residents and businesses by 2025. Investment in ‘Rewiring the nation’ in grid transmission to reconfigure for renewables based grid. Solar Banks for apartment dwellers and renters to access the advantage of Solar PV.

* Offer discounts on Electric Vehicles. Assumes 89% of new car sales in 2030 will be EVs, National Electric vehicle Strategy. (nothing else on tackling transport emissions)

* Net Zero Australian public service by 2030

* Use the Safeguard mechanism as recommended by the Business Council of Australia, in current regulations for the top 200 polluting companies to reduce emissions.

* Invest in research for feedstock additives to reduce livestock methane emissions. Continue to support Carbon Farming.

* Powering the Regions Fund 

* $15bn National Reconstruction Fund, which will support wide range of programs including decarbonising manufacturing, steel, aluminium, hydrogen electrolysers

* Restore role of Climate Change Authority in advising and informing Government on targets and decarbonisation pathways.

If elected, to update these actions as part of Australia’s National Determined Conributions to the UNFCCC and ask to host a future UN Climate Conference in Australia, probably COP29 in 2024.

Is the policy consistent with Deep Decarbonisation Pathway?

Is this policy enough to avoid climate catastrophe? Clearly not. 

It is not even the minimum for a deep decarbonisation pathway consistent with 1.5C. 

Climateworks Australia indicates in a post in October 2021 that a minimum deep decarbonisation pathway 2030 climate target consistent with the science to limit temperatures to 1.5C  in Australia would be:

* Total annual emissions are 48-74 per cent lower than 2005 levels

* Renewables generate 70-79 per cent of electricity

* Electric vehicles represent 50-76 per cent of new car sales.

Labor is there on renewables electricity and on EVs, but they are currently failing on total emissions reduction target.

One of the big things missing from the Powering Australia policy is the silence on Fossil Fuel expansion for the export market. Current Labor National Policy Platform supports gas expansion and fracking. This is inconsistent with IPCC and IEA advice that we cannot afford ANY new fossil fuel projects.

Science based targets for Paris Agreement 1.5C Temperature target

The Climate Science target for 2030 for a 1.5C temperature goal is 75% emissions reduction (Climate Council, ClimateWorks Australia). UNFCCC says globally we need to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030, and as Australia is a developed country we should be doing far more than this. So there is still a substantial discrepancy. 

The Greens are the only major party which has adopted a science based target, although several minor parties including Animal Justice Party, The New Liberals, Victorian Socialists, Socialist Alliance have general climate policies that indicate they may be consistent with science based Paris Agreement 1.5C climate targets. 

The ALP policy is aimed at winning the election, and not pissing off too many people in regional and marginal electorates. Change, but not too much change. Change is coming anyway through more extreme climate impacts from bushfires, heatwaves, floods, cyclones, sea level rise. 

The record Bushfires we saw over the Black Summer of 2019/2020 and the extreme floods in SE Queensland and NE NSW, including two back to back Lismore flood events in February March 2022 demonstrate the trend of increasing climate impacts which Australia is woefully prepared for.

The Grattan Institute modelling in 2021 shows that to meet the Paris Agreement 2C target would require emissions reduction by 62 per cent by 2030. To acvhieve the 1.5C Paris Agreement temperature target would require more than 70 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035 (similar to the Climate Council).

Economic Costs of climate in-action and Disasters

There are substantial economic costs, and costs in lives and health of not taking action. The Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities released a report in 2021 by Deloitte Access Economics: Special report: Update to the economic costs of natural disasters.  

The report revealed that today, natural disasters cost the Australian Economy $38 billion per year on average, representing 2% of Gross Domestic product in 2020. 

Under a low emissions scenario  costs will rise to at least $73 billion per naanum by 2060, or 4% of GDP. 

A High emissions scenario (which Australia is currently on), would see costs reach $94 billion by 2060, a 29% increase relative to the low emissions scenario. 

Australia presently has no national climate risk assessment or national climate adaptation plan highlights Richie Merzian, head of Climate and Energy at the Australia Institute.

Estimate by Deloitte Economics on future disaster costs for low emissions scenario

Methane emissions

While the policy looks to tackle methane emissions from agriculture/livestock, there is nothing about reigning in rising methane emissions from coal and gas extraction, or signing Australia up to the Global Methane pledge. The IEA argues that up to 75% of coal and gas fugitive emissions has the potential to be captured, used and up to 50-80% of fossil fuel fugitive emissions collected and sold at no net cost.

Australia is still increasing gas production, conversion to LNG, which is essentially methane, and involves substantial fugitive emissions at every stage of production, processing and transportation.

The recent IPCC AR6 Working Group III climate report on climate mitigation solutions highlights at Chapter C2 that “Deep GHG emissions reductions by 2030 and 2040, particularly reductions of methane emissions, lower peak warming, reduce the likelihood of overshooting warming limits and lead to less reliance on net negative CO 2 emissions that reverse warming in the latter half of the century.”

C.4.5 Global methane emissions from energy supply, primarily fugitive emissions from production and transport of fossil fuels, accounted for about 18% [13%-23%] of global GHG emissions from energy supply, 32% [22%-42%] of global methane emissions, and 6% [4%-8%] of global GHG emissions in 2019 (high confidence). About 50–80% of CH 4 emissions from these fossil fuels could be avoided with currently available technologies at less than USD50 tCO 2 -eq -1 (medium confidence). –  IPCC AR6 WGIII Summary for Policymakers

Transport Emissions

Transport is one area where more than just encouraging transition to EVs will need to happen, including tackling niche areas of shipping and aviation, encouraging behaviour change in urban areas for public transport, walking and cycling, and upgrading the service and speed on regional and intercity train services.

Labor’s policy on offering discounts on Electric Vehicles. Assumes 89% of new car sales in 2030 will be EVs, developing a National Electric vehicle Strategy is also vital. But there is far more that can be done.

Labor has also committed to establish a High Speed Rail Authority to plan an east cost High Speed Rail Network. Anthony Albanese has also committed to Fast rail between Sydney and the Hunter Region as an initial high priority for High Speed Rail.

Discussion

This policy has some credibility, especially in terms of enhancing renewables share in the Australian power grids, and in EV adoption.  But there is so much more that needs to be done. Powering Australia is only half the equation on climate action.

We need to also phase out coal and gas, and as fast as possible. Powering Australia does not mention fossil fuels, coal or gas once. 

While embedded within Labor’s policy are $15 billion to support regional communities, we need prepared transition plans specifically in place for reducing coal and gas. 

The ALP National Policy Platform (2021) instead supports gas expansion.

Excerpt from Labor National Policy Platform (2021) on Gas

 

Labor won’t commit to signing the Global Methane Pledge to reduce fugitive methane emissions 30% by 2030, yet such a reduction is a key way for substantial short term climate action, with action stressed in the IPCC Worling Group III climate report on climate mitigation solutions. Over 100 countries joined this pledge at Glasgow COP26 in 2021. 

Federal Labor hasn’t committed to a Climate Disaster Levy: a levy of $1 per tonne on exported coal or gas could raise $1.5 billion per year to go to addressing climate adaptation such as helping people after bushfires and floods. In Moreland Labor Councillors put forward a motion which was passed unanimously by Council for a Federal Climate Disaster levy.

Neither has Labor committed to winding back the $11.6 billion conservatively estimated fossil fuel subsidies per year. We don’t even have a level playing field for energy in Australia. 

So really I give Labor 50% for doing half of what is needed. There is some good policy details, but its not nearly enough. Unfortunately climate change doesn’t care about half arsed measures. Let us hope if Labor achieve either majority or minority government they are able to further ramp up climate commitments further.

As Energy and Climate analyst Ketan Joshi summed up in a post on 4th December 2021, Labor has produced a brilliant renewables plan wrapped up in a terrible climate plan (Renew Economy).

References:

Labor’s climate policies referred to:
Other References:

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