The Australia Institute has looked at the penetration of renewables required in the electricity market to meet our Paris commitments, and come to the conclusion that we need from 66 to 75% renewables by 2030, rather than the weak 26-28% currently being assumed in relation to the Finkel review.
The basic issue is simple. If we don’t maximise the reductions in the electricity sector, we’ll have trouble meeting our overall Paris commitment, full stop. It will require a large and expensive effort in other areas such as agriculture. Completely decarbonising electricity was always the low hanging fruit. We appear to be ignoring this strategy completely, and the new report does not help all that much.
Here is a pie chart showing Australia’s emissions in 2015 by sector:
Electricity represents only 35% of the total.
This graph shows the actual emissions to 2015, plus the projections out to 2030:
- Outside of the electricity sector, emissions are expected to increase by 20% over the period 2015-2030, driven mainly by increasing emissions from gas production, coal mining, transport and the beef industry.
Such growth would:
- leave an abatement task of between 842-1202 MtCO2-e to meet the 26-28% 2030 targets. This will require a suite of new policies,
potentially covering all relevant sectors of the economy.
A more appropriate strategy was set out in my 2013 post Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality (for future reference, it’s listed on the Key Posts page on the LHS side-bar), where I outline the approach suggested by John Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne.
Wiseman says we would need a statement of urgency by the prime minister, then:
- we would need an Australian Climate Solutions Act which set up the targets, the structures and the priority actions. Principal amongst these would be an Australian Climate Solutions Taskforce chaired by the Prime Minister and drawing from state and local governments, business, trade unions and community organisations.
Then we would need six key action plans, the first of which would be an Australian Renewable Energy Plan to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy within 10 years, in other words by 2023.
This would be accompanied by plans in the other sectors, plus an Australian Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Plan.
That was to achieve a 50% reduction in overall emissions by 2020, zero net emissions by 2040, then a carbon draw-down phase to get concentrations below 350 CO2e ppm.
I thought then that we should go for zero emissions by 2030 and 350 CO2e ppm 2050.
When we see the Australian government acting in a manner similar to what Wiseman suggested we’ll know our politics on climate change is connecting with reality. Anything short of that is abrogating our responsibility to future generations.
The Australia Institute report has lots of graphs about different ways to go, but I’m afraid it is never seized with the urgency of the situation. Their bottom line is to display the impact of modelling done by Jacobs Group and Reputex:
The problem here is that the modelling used treats 2°C and 3°C temperature gains as acceptable. See my The folly of two degrees from 2014 and Science shows the need for urgent climate action. As I said there, time to get the head out of the sand:
Press commentary includes The Guardian – Australia failing to meet Paris targets and more renewables needed, report says and the SMH – Climate crunch: Australia to fail on Paris commitments without massive renewable switch.
Abbott says the existing target is “unconscionable” and the Paris commitment was aspirational. He wants to essentially walk away from it and has threatened
to cross the floor if the government attempted to legislate a new clean energy target to replace the renewable energy target after 2020, a stance supported by backbenchers Craig Kelly and George Christensen.
Turnbull, to his credit, rejects efforts to ‘dumb down’ energy debate into renewables v coal. We will, we are told, have a new climate change policy by Christmas. It would be astonishing if it took climate change seriously in relation to what the science is telling us.