The Coalition Climate Policy Credibility Assessment | Election 2016

The Coalition



Recent actions undertaken by the Coalition government

The Coalition government repealed the carbon pricing mechanism in 2014 after two years in which it helped reduce emissions, while the economy grew. Since the repeal of the carbon laws,  emissions have climbed by 5.6 per cent in the national electricity market alone. Carbon farming and similar initiatives previously funded by emitters were then funded by the taxpayer backed Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). Three professionally run reverse auctions have purchased 143 million tonnes of reductions over the next 10 years, but more than two thirds of the $2.55 billion ERF are now spent. Renewable energy investment stalled under almost two years of Coalition government reviews. The  Coalition then moved to almost halve the legislated 2020 renewable energy target, but it compromised with Labor on what was still a significant reduction. The Coalition unsuccessfully sought to dismantle the Clean Energy Fund Corporation (CEFC), Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Climate Change Authority (CCA). In the 2013 pre-election debates,Tony Abbott repeated the Coalition’s support for the bipartisan 2020 emissions reduction range of 5-25 per cent below 2000 levels dependent on comparable international action. Despite extensive evidence to the contrary, the Abbott government adopted the minimal 5 per cent target which was based on no global action and subsequently proposed an inadequate 2030 target of 26-28 per cent reduction below 2005 levels ahead of the Paris climate negotiations. A safeguard mechanism with inbuilt emissions trading was created to start on July 1, 2016, but current rules allow emissions to increase.

While still maintaining Prime Minister Abbott’s inadequate 2030 emissions reduction target, the Turnbull government played a mostly constructive role in the Paris climate negotiations and very constructive role in Montreal Protocol negotiations on HFCs. In 2014 cuts to CSIRO science funding led to significantly reduced core climate risk monitoring capacity. The Coalition provided funding for the National Climate Adaptation Research Facility, which Labor was to close, but the facility’s  funding is uncertain beyond 2016-17.  Infrastructure Australia reports and the Defence White Paper did make some references to climate risks. The Intergenerational Report, on the other hand, did not deliver on the political agreement with the Greens to incorporate climate assessments. The government opposed the senate committee inquiry into carbon risk disclosure.

Global warming implied by the Coalition’s target

3-4°C – The Coalition has committed to reduce emissions by 5 per cent (from 2000 levels) by 2020 and 26-28 per cent (from 2005 levels) by 2030. If other countries were to match the Coalition’s emission reduction target , the planet would warm by 3-4°C.

Per person emissions implied by the Coalition’s target

15 tonnes in 2030 – The Coalition’s current 2030 target would place Australia 18th amongst G20 nations in 2030 ahead of just Saudi Arabia and Russia. 

Key features of the Coalition’s policy and other relevant commitments include  (TCI analysis in italics):

Objective 1: Limit emissions for warming of 1.5-2°C

  1. Signed the Paris Agreement which includes the objectives of keeping global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep warming to 1.5°C and reducing emissions to net zero in the second half of the century. The Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers have said that Australia will need to be a net zero emissions economy. But the Coalition has not specified a timeframe for for Australia to achieve this. The Coalition has committed to a review of its climate policies in 2017, which will include consideration of Australia’s long-term target.

  2. Says it will “seek to ratify” the Paris Agreement in 2016. Firm proposals to commence the ratification processes as soon as possible after the election would strengthen this commitment.
  3. Reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. The Coalition has recognised the need for a stronger policy framework to achieve this target. The Coalition has not linked its 2017 policy review to the Paris goals, climate science or carbon budget approach.

  4. Direct $200 million per annum to climate finance for vulnerable developing countries out of existing aid funding. No increase in future funding or plans to mobilise private sector finance. This falls far short of the estimated $1.5 billion per year that Australia should be providing by 2020.

  5. Dismantle the Climate Change Authority. This would remove an independent and expert agency with experience in delivering thorough and impartial analysis of climate policy, including analysis of Australia’s carbon budget and long-term emission targets and trajectories.

Objective 2. Grow a net zero emissions economy and modernise energy

  1. Maintain the Direct Action approach with a $2.55 billion investment in the current Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). Over two-thirds of the ERF funding has been contracted to purchase 143 million tonnes of emission reductions over the coming decade (in total this would offset roughly 25 per cent of a single year of Australia’s emissions). No further funding has been budgeted or committed. Using government estimates of the emissions reduction task, which is much lower than that implied by government 2030 projections, the extra 2020-2030 funding required would be $6 billion should no significant other policies apply.

  2. Implement the ERF’s safeguard mechanism on 1 July 2016, to “ensure that emissions reductions purchased by the government are not offset by significant increases in emissions above business-as-usual levels elsewhere in the economy”. The current baselines for liable entities are set at generous levels and the rules provide several options for baselines to be further inflated. Some companies may be able to increase their emissions by around 20 per cent. Companies that do breach their baselines can purchase emissions offsets in the form of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs).

  3. Reach a Renewable Energy Target of 33,000GWH by 2020. There is no significant mechanism for supporting, or de-risking, clean energy investment beyond 2020 and no transition mechanism to manage energy sector disruption and ensure steady replacement of existing coal burning power with clean energy.

  4. Invest $1 billion in the Clean Energy Innovation Fund to be jointly managed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), providing both debt and equity for clean energy projects. This Fund is drawn from $10 billion previously allocated to the CEFC. The $1.3 billion grant-making capacity of ARENA is to be drastically curtailed. ARENA grant funding has been an important enabler of all Australia’s large-scale solar projects to date.

  5. Implement with state governments a National Energy Productivity Plan to boost energy productivity by 40 per cent off 2015 levels by 2030. Elements of the NEPP such as vehicle standards are in development. The targeted improvement in energy productivity is weaker than that endorsed by the Alliance to Save Energy, which is calling for a doubling of energy productivity by 2030 (from 2010 levels).

  6. Working towards reducing the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used in refrigerants and air conditioners, by 85 per cent by 2036. The government has been reviewing standards but yet to make announcement on policy design.

Objective 3. Mainstream climate risk and opportunity assessments

  1. Released a “National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy” in December. The strategy has vague goals and there is no attempt to integrate assessment of climate or carbon policy risks into key national planning, approval or assessments or plans to encourage more in financial sector. No initiatives for greater climate resilience among vulnerable communities, key ecosystems, critical infrastructure and in the financial system. Major cuts to CSIRO funding have led to significant reduction in climate risk mapping and modelling.

Policy positives

  • Signing Paris Agreement and declaring support for its global warming goal of 1.5-2°C and net zero emissions objective, will seek to ratify in 2016.

  • ERF safeguard mechanism has potential to reduce emissions if emitting companies’ baselines are significantly strengthened.

  • Recognition that policies will need to be strengthened and inclusion of long-term target in 2017 policy review.

Policy negatives

  • Inadequate 2030 target and no timeline for net zero emissions (should be before 2050).

  • Dismantling Climate Change Authority leaves no agency responsible for independent reviews or analysis.

  • No plan for electricity decarbonisation beyond the 2020 RET, prolonging uncertainty in the sector.

  • Safeguard mechanism rules allow emissions to increase.

  • No attempt to integrate assessment of climate or carbon policy risks into decision-making.

Summary of the Coalition’s climate policy position

The Coalition has inadequate targets and processes to help limit dangerous global warming to just 1.5-2°C.The Coalition will “seek to ratify” the Paris Agreement. Its plan for the national economy is silent on the modernisation and decarbonisation task required, with no significant emission reduction or clean energy policy beyond 2020. While still planning to dismantle the CCA, the Coalition has recently shifted to support ARENA drastically reducing its grant making role. The CEFC is also now being supported but with attempts to align its $10 billion loan fund to reef protection, steelmaking and cities agendas risking its original mandate. The ERF is 67 per cent spent, with no re-funding budgeted or committed. The Coalition has no detailed plan to integrate climate and carbon risk assessment beyond a commitment to develop a national adaptation policy

Much depends on the 2017 review and its consideration of policies for its 2030 target and of long term targets. This will be a crucial test of its ability to develop credible, scalable and durable climate policy. For these reasons the LNP’s current policy approach is assessed as: currently inadequate, major strengthening required.
The Climate Institute detailed assessment of Labor's policies.
Where will Australia’s 2030 per capita pollution stack up with each of the parties policies?
All of our election content, including our Climate Policy Credibility Assessment, polling and infographics.
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