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Australian Labor Government Carbon Price Plan fails to tackle climate change

by: Dr Gideon Polya
Friday August 12, 2011 - 08:52

One must measure success in “tackling climate change” in terms of reduction of GHG pollution rate (Mt CO2-e per year) and reduction in atmospheric CO2-e concentration (currently about 394 ppm CO2, but top scientists and biologists say it must be reduced to about 300 ppm; see “300.org”: https://sites.google.com/site/300or... ).

Below are some carefully documented calculations based on authoritative Treasury, ABARE and US EIA data that demonstrate that the Australian Labor Government’s proposed Carbon Price Plan will not meet Domestic GHG pollution reduction goals of “5% off 2000 by 2020” and “80% off 2000 by 2050”and will increase 2020 Domestic and Exported GHG pollution relative to that in 2000.

Further, Australia has already used up its “share” of the global 2010-2050 600 Gt CO2 pollution budget that cannot be exceeded in order to have a 75% chance of avoiding a 2C temperature rise. The following analysis is offered as an alternative to emotive arguments that “good intentions are better than direct actions” and that “doing something counterproductive is better than doing nothing”.

We are running out of time to tackle the worsening climate emergency and science-informed people are obliged to inform fellow citizens about gross policy failure as instanced by the pro-coal, pro-gas Australian Labor Government’s disastrous Carbon Price proposals that entrench climate change inaction.

1. Australia has already used up its “share” of the global 2010-2050 600 Gt CO2 pollution budget that cannot be exceeded in order to have a 75% chance of avoiding a 2C temperature rise.

In 2009 Australia ’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution (in Mt CO2-e) was 600 (Domestic) + 784 (coal exports) + 31 (LNG exports) = 1,415 Mt CO2-e, this giving Australia an annual per capita Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2009 of 1,415 Mt CO2-e per year/ 22.0 million people = 64.3 tonnes CO2-e per person per year, this being 64.3/0.9 = 71.4 times greater than the annual per capita of Bangladesh (0.9 tonnes CO2-e per person per year).

In 2009 the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU, Wissenshaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen) issued a report entitled “Solving the climate dilemma: the budget approach” in which it stated: “The budget of CO2 emissions still available worldwide could be derived from the 2 degree C guard rail. By the middle of the 21st century a maximum of approximately 750 Gt CO2 (billion metric tons) may be released into the Earth’s atmosphere if the guard rail is to be adhered to with a probability of 67%. If we raise the probability to 75%, the cumulative emissions within this period would even have to remain below 600 Gt CO2. In any case, only a small amount of CO2 may be emitted worldwide after 2050. Thus, the era of an economy driven by fossil fuels will definitely have to come to an end within the first half of this century” (see WBGU, “Solving the climate dilemma: the budget approach”: http://www.wbgu.de/fileadmin/templa... ).

The consequences of this declaration of less than 600 Gt CO2 in emissions for a 75% chance of avoiding 2 degree C temperature rise are profound. Thus, would you board a plane if it had a 25% chance of crashing? Further, the average world population in the period 2010 and 2050 will be 8.321 billion (see UN Population Division, 2010 Revision). Accordingly, the per capita share of this terminal CO2 pollution budget is less than 600 billion tonnes CO2/8.321 people = less than 72.1 tonnes CO2 per person. Based on its 2009 Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution rate, Australia will take 72.1 Mt CO2-e per person/ 64.3 t CO2-e per person per year = 1.1 years in the period 2010-2050 to use up its “fair share” of the terminal 600 Gt CO2-e carbon pollution budget i.e. Australia has ALREADY used up its “share” of the terminal greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution budget.

2. With the Carbon Price Plan, Australia’s annual Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2020 will be 1.8 times that in 2000.

In 2000 Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution was 496.1 Mt CO2-e (see Australian National Greenhouse Accounts, “National Inventory Report 2009”, p27: http://www.climatechange.gov.au/ /m... ) + 504.9 Mt CO2-e (coal exports) + 16.8 Mt CO2-e (LNG exports) (see US Energy Information Administration; Australia: http://www.eia.gov/emeu/cabs/Austra... ) = 1017.8 Mt CO2-e.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) has projected that Australia’s black coal exports will increase at an average rate of 2.6% per year over the next 20 years and that liquid natural gas (LNG) exports will increase at 9% per year over the same period (see “Invest in Australia”: http://www.investinaustralia.com/in... ). Further, it is estimated that Australian exports of dried brown coal will reach 20 Mt by 2020, this corresponding to about 59 Mt CO2-e after combustion.

Accordingly, by 2020 and based on Treasury Carbon Price-based projections and ABARE projections (see ABARE, “Australian energy: national and state projections to 2029-30”: http://www.abares.gov.au/ ), Australian Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution will be 621 Mt CO2-e (Domestic) (Australian Government, Treasury, “Strong Growth, Low Pollution. Modelling a Carbon Price”, 2011: http://cache.treasury.gov.au/treasu... ) + 1.326 x 784 =1,039 Mt CO2-e (coal exports) + 2.580 x 31 = 80 Mt CO2-e (LNG exports) + 59 Mt CO2-e (brown coal exports) = 1,799 Mt CO2-e i.e. 127% of that in 2009 and 1,799/1017.8 = 1.8 times, or roughly twice, the 2000 level (see “Analysis: Australian Labor Government Carbon Price-ETS scheme fails & entrenches climate change inaction”, Bellaciao, 16 July 2010: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?ar... ).

3. With the Carbon Price, Australia needs 150 Mt CO2-e “overseas carbon credits” per annum to meet the bipartisan “5% off 2000 by 2020” target.

The Forward to the Treasury Analysis provided by Wayne Swan (Deputy PM and Treasurer) and Greg Combet (Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) commences thus: “The science of climate change is compelling, the threat is real and the economic and environmental benefits are tangible. The need for action to prevent climate change is clear. This Government has put forward a comprehensive plan to introduce a carbon price for Australia”. Unfortunately, as set out in the Treasury Analysis, the Gillard Labor Government Carbon Price scheme fails to reduce either Australia’s Domestic GHG pollution or Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution by 2020, relative to either the 2009 level or to the 2000 level.

Both the Labor Government and the Coalition have a common policy that Australia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution will be “5% off the 2000 value in 2020” coupled with ever-increasing coal and liquid natural gas (LNG) exports. Australia’s Domestic GHG pollution was 496.1 Mt CO2-e in 2000 and 600 Mt CO2-e in 2009 (see Australian National Greenhouse Accounts, “National Inventory Report 2009”, p27: http://www.climatechange.gov.au/~/m... ).

Accordingly, the Australia target for 2020 Domestic GHG pollution is 0.95 x 496.1 Mt CO2-e = 471.3 Mt CO2-e . The Treasury Analysis reveals that under the Core Policy (Carbon Price) Scenario it will actually reach 621 Mt CO2-e in 2020 (Table 5.1, p72) and that to reach the promised 471.3 Mt CO2-e will require a further 621.0 – 471.3 = 149.7 Mt CO2-e which must be sourced from “Internationally-sourced abatement”.

However the Treasury Analysis reveals that The Business As Usual GHG pollution in 2020 will be about 679 Mt CO2-e (Table 5.1, p72) and accordingly the Domestic Carbon Savings in 2020 will be 679-621 = 58 Mt CO2-e. A further 94 Mt CO2-e from “Internationally-sourced abatement”: (e.g. tropical forest-related carbon credits) would bring the 2020 Domestic GHG down to 527 Mt CO2-e (Chart 5.2, p77) – still 527-471 = 56 Mt CO2-e higher than the 471 Mt CO2-e target in 2020.

In summary the Australian Treasury analysis reveals that the Carbon Price will result in 58 Mt CO2-e savings but a further 94 + 56 = 150 Mt CO2-e of “Internationally-sourced abatement”(i.e. carbon credits from corrupt tropical world generals and politicians) will be needed to get to the “5% off 2000 by 2020” target of 471 Mt CO2-e per annum.

4. With the Carbon Price, in 2050 Australia needs 434 Mt CO2-e “overseas carbon credits” per annum to meet the “80% off 2000 by 2050” target.

The Treasury Analysis states (p77) that “Pricing carbon results in deep cuts in domestic greenhouse gas emissions. In the core policy scenario, the carbon price produces: around 58 Mt CO2-e of domestic abatement and 94 Mt CO2-e of international abatement in 2020; and 463 Mt CO2-e of domestic abatement and 434 Mt CO2-e of international abatement in 2050… To meet the unconditional -5 per cent target, Australia’s emissions need to fall 152 Mt CO2-e in 2020. To achieve the -80 per cent target by 2050, Australia’s emissions need to fall 897 Mt CO2-e. These figures assume that Carbon Farming Initiative credits, worth 7 Mt CO2-e in 2020 and 22 Mt CO2-e in 2050, are sold back into the domestic carbon pricing scheme and help to reduce the abatement task. Pricing carbon results in deep cuts in domestic greenhouse gas emissions. In the core policy scenario, the carbon price produces: around 58 Mt CO2-e of domestic abatement and 94 Mt CO2-e of international abatement in 2020; and 463 Mt CO2-e of domestic abatement and 434 Mt CO2-e of international abatement in 2050. Despite these cuts, Australia’s domestic emission levels continue to rise for some time. In the core policy scenario, Australia’s domestic emissions increase around 10 per cent from 2010 to the late 2020s. They then fall significantly as decarbonisation of the electricity sector accelerates.” (Australian Government, Treasury, “Strong Growth, Low Pollution. Modelling a Carbon Price”, 2011: http://cache.treasury.gov.au/treasu... ).

The 2050 savings (including Internationally-sourced abatement) amount to 897 Mt CO2-e for a net pollution of 990 (BAU) – 897 = 93 Mt CO2-e as compared to the promised 80% reduction on the 2000 level to 0.2 x 496.1 Mt CO2-e = 99.2 Mt CO2-e. However the Domestic savings within Australia amount to a mere 53.2% reduction on the Business As Usual GHG pollution rate in 2050.

Thus the claim of PM Gillard and its policy statement document “Clean Energy Future” that “By 2020 this [Carbon Pricing] will cut carbon pollution by 160 million tonnes [CO2-e] a year” is utterly wrong – in fact, according to the Treasury Analysis Australia’s Domestic GHG pollution will actually increase by 2020 to be 132% of 2000 Domestic GHG pollution (instead of being 95% of the 2000 GHG pollution), and can only be reduced towards the promised target by use of “Internationally-sourced abatement” i.e. “overseas carbon credits”. Similarly, the Treasury Analysis reveals that “80% off 2000 value by 2050” can only be attained by the artifice of about 50% of the reduction coming from “Internationally-sourced abatement” (see “Analysis: Australian Labor Government Carbon Price-ETS scheme fails & entrenches climate change inaction”, Bellaciao, 16 July 2011: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?ar... ).

In summary, Australia, a world leader in annual per capita GHG pollution, coal exports and LNG exports, and which has already used up its “share” of the terminal global GHG pollution budget before zero emissions in 2050, has to urgently and massively reduce GHG pollution to zero ASAP. Instead, the pro-coal, pro-gas Australian Labor Government is committed to a Carbon Price Plan that on Treasury estimates fails to deliver the promised “5% off 2000 by 2020” and “80% off 2000 by 2050”. We are running out of time and the key voter strategy must be to “punish the incompetent incumbent” i.e. vote 1 Green and put Labor last.



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