Lining up climate change targets

The Conservation Council welcomes the commitment by Federal Parliamentary Labor Leader Bill Shorten for Australia to be zero net emissions by 2050. However while the 45% reduction target by 2030 is a significant improvement on the Coalition Government 2030 targets it still falls well short of what the science tells we need to do.

We call on our national Government to commit to a plan for a climate friendly future. The plan must:

  • End Climate Pollution: by reducing our national emissions by 65-80% by 2030 and being net zero emissions by 2040-2050
  • Clean up the energy system: 100% renewable energy with at least the first 50% before 2030
  • Phase out Fossil Fuels: phase out all coal-fired power plants while ensuring a just transition for communities and workers. A ban on new coal mines and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.

Locally we congratulate ACT leaders on actions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We will be actively participating in the review of the ACT greenhouse gas emissions announced November 2015.

We need tri-partisan — ACT Greens, ACT Labor, ACT Liberals — support for the following ACT greenhouse gas emissions targets:

  • 40% greenhouse gas reductions by 2020 and zero net emissions (100%) by 2040
  • 100% renewable energy for electricity by at least 2025; and
  • complete ACT Government divestment from fossil fuel companies (projects) by 2018

The ACT Climate Council has recommended that ACT greenhouse reduction targets be amended to:

  • 70% on 2005 levels by 2025
  • 75% by 2030
  • 90% by 2040
  • 100 % by 2050

Note: our current ACT targets are:

  • 40% by 2020 on 1990 levels
  • 80% by 2050
  • Zero net emissions by 2060
  • 90% renewable energy by 2020

Weeds funding – looking at the figures

The Conservation Council has prepared a working version of a spreadsheet published by the Government following June 2015 Estimates questions.

There was debate in the Legislative Assembly on 19 November 2015 on environmental weed management.

Weed management in the ACT needs about $2 million a year to stay on top of issues with top-up funds for crises or to break the back of particular issues. Biodiversity Offsets should not be used to inflate weed management funding given that offsets are for ‘additional’ activity.

ACT Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2015

There is good news and bad news in the ACT Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2014‑15 released 29 October 2015. The good news is that the ACT’s overall emissions and emissions-per-person are below the peak of 2010‑11. The bad news is that, compared to 2013‑14, we have more emissions overall – up 4.6% – and more emissions per person – up 3.1%.

There are adjustments to the report methodology which, when applied to previous years, might show that ACT emissions have previously been higher than reported. However, greenhouse emissions have still gone up in the latest report for two main reasons. The first is that the electricity that the ACT used had more emissions than before. When there was a price on carbon the overall “emissions factor” of electricity was lower, mostly because more Snowy Hydro electricity was brought into the system. The second reason our emissions have gone up is that we used more electricity mostly because of a colder than normal winter and a hotter than usual summer. Human responses to weather variations are themselves contributing to climate change through increased emissions!

ACT Minister for the Environment Simon Corbell’s message is that “Renewables Set To Reduce Act’s Emissions Despite Carbon Price Repeal” and the trend of emissions reductions is expected to continue due to more and more of Canberra’s electricity being converted to renewable energy. The Canberra Times described it as “Greenhouse gas emissions on the rise, despite 40 per cent reduction target”.

We need to take a few warnings. Reducing emissions is not a set and forget decision. It requires monitoring and managing and governments across the board need to be working towards an emissions reduction goal. We also need to note that heating and cooling remain major uses of energy and we need to have buildings that require minimal energy inputs.

The Conservation Council welcomes the release of the latest ACT Greenhouse Gas Inventory and commends the government on collecting, sharing and improving emissions data. The faster release is commendable: four months as against two and a half years! At the same time we believe that previous figures should be reassessed using current methodology in order that better comparisons between years can be made.

The Conservation Council notes that as emissions associated with electricity in the ACT are reduced through increased provision of renewable energy there will need to be a greater focus on other emissions sources. Natural gas, in particular, should probably not be networked into new suburbs as we convert to low or zero-emissions electricity. And we need to pay greater attention to transport options, not just zero-emissions light rail. We need to increase the usage of public transport and reduce the emissions of the vehicles through electric-only or hybrid buses. We also need to assist the shift from fossil-fuel private vehicles to non-emitting vehicles and modes of transport.