Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked late last year to address Australia’s rising emissions. He replied confidently, stating that Australia would meet its Paris Agreement goals ‘in a canter’. This statement appears to be contrary to the Government’s own published figures, which indicate that we are not likely to meet our targets. And if we do it will be anything but easy. For Australia to meet our Paris goals, the Department of Environment and Energy estimates Australia needs a 26% reduction of emissions compared to 2005 levels. Projections at the time of Morrison’s comment indicated they would fall well below that goal; 5% below 2005 levels was projected instead.

Australia has had slowly rising emissions levels for years. There is evidence that emissions reports and data are not being addressed directly by some in the current government. In fact, Australia’s emissions report card from September 2018 indicated a 1.3% rise in annual emissions. And, to add insult to injury, it was released six months behind schedule.

The coalition’s confident stance does not match the current research by the Australian Department of Environment and Energy[1]. With our current policies, Australia’s 2021-2030 emissions goals are projected to miss both the 26% and 28% reduction goals required to meet its Paris Agreement commitments.

Figure 1-Australia's Emission Trends. Source: Department of Environment and Energy.

Another of the Federal Government’s disappointing tactics regarding Australia’s emissions goals is the intention to use ‘carry-over’ carbon credits from the Kyoto protocol 1st commitment period (2008-2012) to boost their ability to meet their Paris goal. Australia overshot emissions goals during the Kyoto period by 367 million tons, so carrying over these credits could cut their emissions requirement from roughly 695 million tons to 328 million tons. It has been pointed out that this move is against the spirit of the Paris Agreement. It was one of many major points of contention between Australian and Pacific leadership at the Pacific Islands Forum that convened mid-August to address climate change issues[2].

Projections of Australia's current emissions policies show they not sufficient to meet the goals required to keep global warming under 1.5°C. If other countries were to follow Australia's current policy trajectory, global warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°[3]. The longer the Australian Government leaves this issue, the more radical Australia’s strategies must be to meet our climate responsibilities. Australia can strategically shift into a low-carbon economy over time to meet commitments, or it can attempt a forced and last-minute push to get everything into place before the deadline. This issue requires action soon, so we need to do whatever it takes before it is too late for any kind of action.