The Morrison government has been warned that its plan to be carbon neutral by 2050 would fail if it depended solely on investing in new technology.
The Grattan Institute’s Towards Net Zero report, released on Monday, suggested that the Australian government should pull many other policy levers to achieve net zero, including vehicle emissions standards, fuel efficiency obligations and rules on the use of carbon credits.
Lead author of the report, Tony Wood, suggested that the Morrison government’s net zero plan, announced on Tuesday, did not show how emissions reductions would be achieved outside of the power sector.
Scott Morrison will attend the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow from Monday without an increased emissions reduction target by 2030, despite international pressure from the UK, EU, US and Pacific island countries to dramatically increase their ambitions.
The Association of Pacific Islander Non-Governmental Organizations urged “rich” countries to “act much faster to reduce global emissions by 2030” to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. They warned that heating beyond would be “devastating for our region and some of our Pacific countries would be under the ocean.”
He urged developed countries to phase out fossil fuel production, which Australia opposed in the G20, leading to Cop26.
The Grattan Report noted that while Australia is on track to surpass its target of cutting emissions by 26-28% by 2030, there is still a long way to go today to meet the 2050 target.
He proposed expanding the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and the limits on large emitters in the safeguard mechanism, power grid investments and carbon credit rules to help create a market for them. .
As part of the Morrison government’s plan, $ 20 billion will be spent over the next decade to invest in technology, including an additional $ 2 billion in emission reductions purchased through the ERF.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor suggested future governments would need similar investments in the decades to come, but declined to name a total cost.
But the Grattan report warned that in the medium to long term “such government funding will be unsustainable and regulation should have a limited but valuable role.”
“More ambitious emission reduction targets are likely to be needed. “
Wood told Guardian Australia that the Morrison government’s plan “does not take you to net zero by 2050”.
“The assumption in Morrison’s thought… is that all you have to do is spend the money on the technology to make it cheap enough to adopt. In some cases it is, but in many cases it is not.
Wood cited carbon capture and storage and the use of green hydrogen with renewables as processes that “cost more”, a “green premium” that should be paid for through a carbon price, which he said. either direct or indirect, like Australia’s current subsidies.
The Grattan Report noted that over the next decade, electricity emissions are expected to decline significantly, but the next four biggest sources of emissions in Australia will either increase or stabilize at best.
Wood said that with an estimated cost of $ 20 per tonne to cut emissions, there was “no way to know” the government could increase subsidies to cut 500 million tonnes per year to zero. net, it is “beyond comprehension”.
“The best way is to ask the industry to do it, because they will find cheaper ways to do it than the government… I don’t have a problem with ERF but, like the technology side, it does. is not enough. “
The report argued that the first step should be to stop subsidizing developments that will increase future emissions, citing the Beetaloo Basin and the Carmichael Coal Mine as two sources that should not be funded by taxpayer funds. In addition to investing in technology, the government will also need to actively discourage high-emission technologies and, if necessary, ban them.
Wood said helping these projects is like putting “your foot on the accelerator and your other foot on the brake”, arguing that there is “no justification” for subsidizing a “simple business project” such as the gas development of the Beetaloo basin.
The Grattan report called for reviving the Climate Change Authority with a formal mandate to advise on emissions budgets and monitor progress towards net zero.
Ahead of the United Nations-led climate summit in Glasgow, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the rally, urged leaders to make serious commitments.
The UK government’s climate change adviser on Saturday launched a scathing attack on Australia’s net zero commitment.
The chairman of the climate change committee, Lord Deben, told the BBC there was “no indication” that Morrison had a plan to fulfill the net zero pledge that had been “kicked out” to him.
Australia’s net zero plan has also been criticized by experts who warn it is based on “gross manipulation” of data suggesting that trees and soil can absorb much more carbon dioxide than it is. really possible.