In 2016, 196 countries signed the climate change agreement aka ‘Paris Agreement’ agreeing to take action to limit global warming to below 2 degrees celsius by 2030.
On ratifying the Paris Agreement on November 9, 2016, the Australian government, led by leader of the Coalition Party (Liberal and National Party combine when in federal government) Malcolm Turnbull, announced its target to reduce emissions:
Australia will reduce emissions to 26-28 percent on 2005 levels by 2030. This target represents a 50-52 percent reduction in emissions per capita and a 64-65 percent reduction in the emissions intensity of the economy between 2005 and 2030.
With an increasing number of Australians actively reducing their environmental impact, growing herbs, switching to reusable shopping bags and coffee cups and buying hybrid vehicles, it’s only fair to review and compare what both sides of politics are committed to doing in the name of climate change.
After all, signing an agreement is easy. It’s doing the actual work that’s the hard bit.
So here’s how the two major Australian political parties differ in their climate change policies.
Emissions Reduction Targets
The Liberal (Coalition) Party (who currently controls the Australian federal government) has committed to an emissions reduction target of 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. However greenhouse gas emissions have increased for three consecutive years and there are calls for the government to revise their ‘weak’ target and do more to reduce carbon pollution. Despite the criticism over the emissions increase, Energy Minister Mr Frydenberg said in a statement that “Australia was, “[continuing] to close the gap on the 2030 target”.
Key Climate Actions
The Coalition scrapped the Clean Energy Target (CET) last year and introduced their new National Energy Guarantee (NEG) requiring energy retailers to source a percentage of electricity from sources such as coal, batteries and hydro to ensure reliable supply. The NEG also requires retailers to buy enough efficient energy to ensure Australia meet its Paris Agreement obligations. There are no subsidies provided to retailers under this plan. If retailers pass on costs, the consumer is essentially the one who pays. Australia is responsible for just 1.3 percent of global carbon emissions. Because of this low contribution to global warming and a fear that energy prices will increase, some within the community feel that the Australian government should follow the United States and leave the Paris Agreement.
Labor’s clean energy plan is completely different. The party wants to introduce an emissions trading scheme (ETS), a carbon pricing scheme that ensures ‘big polluters’ pay for their greenhouse gas emissions. This market-based scheme allows businesses to work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate and gives big polluters the opportunity to buy permits from low polluters (hence the term ‘trade’ in emissions trading scheme). Tax payers are left out of the equation according to the Labor party. However, Labor has had a hard time selling the ETS policy for two reasons:
- corporations do not want to pay additional costs, and
- there is community fear that if the ETS legislation is implemented big polluters will just pass on these costs to consumers by way of price increases.
It should be noted that Australia remains one of the few OECD high-income countries not to pass some form of carbon pricing law. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany all have a mechanism for carbon pricing.
Renewable Energy Target (RET)
Labor wants to see 50 percent of Australia’s energy generated from renewable sources by 2030 in line with the Climate Change Authority’s independent recommendations. While some in the community think this policy is too ambitious, some forward-thinking governments around the world have already embraced similar policies. California is committing to the same 50% clean energy target and Germany are committing to 55-60 percent non-nuclear energy by 2035.
The Liberals (Coalition) have committed to a Renewable Energy Target of 20 percent by 2020. It was amended and passed into law under the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2015 and has remained unchanged since. They are currently working on a new policy but have yet to announce it.
While Australia’s contribution to global carbon emissions seems small, the nation uses more than it’s fair share of the earth’s resources. If every person in the world lived the way an average Australian lives, 5.2 Earths for every year of life would be needed.
To learn more about the Coalition’s climate change action plan click here.
To learn more about Labor’s climate change action plan, visit this website.
Title image of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from shutterstock.com.