Best Environments

Date of submission: 
Friday, May 1, 2015
Submission number: 
455
What should Australia’s post-2020 target be and how should it be expressed? : 
Best Environments welcomes the opportunity to provide this submission to the Federal Government on Setting Australias post-2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions. As a consulting firm with expertise in government policy and strategy, utility and building construction and ecological design, we recognise the importance and necessity of meaningful, measurable and motivating targets. History has shown that when Australia sincerely sets its mind to something, amazing things happen. Amazing things that are then lauded and celebrated. We see no reason why the challenge of limiting emissions to mitigate climate change is any different. Indeed, Australia is well placed to be a leader in this area considering our abundant resources including in renewable energy sources, proven capacity for technology innovation and implementation, developed energy distribution networks, skilled and educated populace, high GDP per person and relatively small debt. TARGETS Targets must be set to ensure the obligation of maintaining a safe climate is shared equally by current and future generations. With this in mind, targets for the short, medium and long term should be set and committed to. It is also noted that extensive analysis by world leading economists such as Nicholas Stern and Ross Garnaut have demonstrated that the sooner we move to address this most critical issue the lower the cost and the lower the risk. Best Environments supports the fixed target setting recommended by the Climate Change Authority in the Special Review Draft Report of April 2015 of:  2020 target of 19 per cent below 2000 levels;  2025 target of 30 per cent below 2000 levels;  2030 target of 40 to 60 per cent below 2000 levels; with the following additions:  A reiteration of the target to limit the increase in global temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius (a move to 1.5 degrees Celsius would be preferable) should be included in the INDC; and  A long term undertaking to reduce emissions to achieve emissions equity globally on a per capita basis should also be submitted. These will allow emissions targets of all nations to be reviewed, assessed, and altered over time in line with changing circumstances whilst enabling short to medium term targets to be set against clear and common goals aligned with climate change science. Using a metric of emissions per capita for a long term goal should also be considered. Developing nations will then be able to improve GDP to a comparable level with developed nations whilst limiting the increase in global temperatures. For consistency, it would seem appropriate to adopt a base year of 1990. Although this will have little impact on the reduction required, it will improve ability for comparison with other nations. It also simplifies ongoing comparison of relative reductions from the first base year used in the Kyoto Protocol term. These targets are comparable with other nations, in line with opportunities for reduction and spread the reduction challenge across the short, medium and long term.
What would the impact of that target be on Australia?: 
IF WE SINCERELY ACT The opportunities for reducing emissions in Australia are broad and abundant. These have been identified, researched and shown to be both technically feasible and in the long term interest of Australians by numerous organisations and investigations. Families, businesses and local government are acting on these opportunities at a local level. State and more importantly Federal government leadership is now essential for Australia to move to a 21st century, low carbon economy. Due to the nature of current electricity generation in Australia, the opportunity for reduction is considerably greater than in other nations. As noted in the Issues Paper, Coal accounts for nearly 60 per cent of our total primary energy supply, against an average in other developed countries of 20 per cent (Page 4). Replacing coal fired generation with renewable, zero emission alternatives is now considered “low hanging fruit” in emissions reduction due to the advancements in renewable energy technology and reduction in manufacturing costs. With electricity generation accounting for 33% of total emissions in Australia, this remains the greatest opportunity for emissions reduction (Department of Energy, Australias emissions projections 2014–15, March 2015). As noted in the recent report by Australian National University and WWF-Australia, achieving deep cuts to emissions is both achievable, affordable and in our national interest (Centre for Climate Economics and Policy for WWF-Australia, Australia can cut emissions deeply and the cost is low, April 2015). Delivering renewable energy has a positive impact on employment and businesses as has been seen globally with 800,000 new jobs created in 2013 (IRENA, Renewable Energy and Jobs - Annual Review 2014, May 2014). In contrast, the relative inaction and reduction in renewable investment in Australia has seen a drop in renewable energy jobs domestically during that period (ABS, 4631.0 - Employment in Renewable Energy Activities, Australia, 2013-14, April 2015). Stability through consistent government policy over the medium to long term will allow these jobs to be realised. Further, billion of dollars of projects and associated jobs have been put on hold due to policy uncertainty in the renewable energy sector. Meaningful targets will help to achieve this. Decarbonising the electricity supply has the complimentary effect of reducing emissions from transport as electric vehicles continue to gain market share. With stationary energy and transport accounting for 67% of emissions, focussing on these areas will make a considerable contribution to meeting Australias targets. Australian organisations have provided, particularly over the last 5 years, models and recommendations for policy setting and industry actions that put us in a powerful position of having the knowledge and the ability to drive down emissions. Best Environments supports the outcomes of the Beyond Zero Emissions reports related to stationary energy and buildings showing that significant emission reductions are achievable. Further reports by the WWF-Aust, AEMO, the Green Building Council and research centres in Australian Universities also highlight the possibilities. IF WE DON'T SINCERELY ACT The risks of setting inadequate targets and subsequent inaction are also abundant for Australia. The devastating impacts associated with climate change on our environment (modelled to be some of the worst in the world) are well documented. Climate change will also have economy wide financial impacts in Australia likely to be in the form of: • adapting to climate change impacts (e.g. agricultural changes due to more severe droughts); • trade negatively impacted by international actions to reduce emissions (e.g. coal exports); • international relations negatively affected (e.g. Australia being seen to unfairly protect own interests by setting inequitable targets and therefore not a nation to partner with); and • industries becoming unable to compete on the world stage (e.g. industries being technologically redundant after continuing to develop in a high emissions environment). A significant economic impact is already being seen with current and future forecast reductions in fossil fuel exports (particularly coal) as nations decouple their energy supplies from fossil fuels. This is a result of nations around the globe acting on the knowledge that a large majority of known reserves of fossil fuels must remain in the ground to achieve the required emissions reduction.
Which further policies complementary to the direct action approach should be considered to achieve the target and why?: 
Australian organisations have provided, particularly over the last 5 years, models and recommendations for policy setting and industry actions that put us in a powerful position of having the knowledge and the ability to drive down emissions. Best Environments supports the outcomes of the Beyond Zero Emissions reports related to stationary energy and buildings showing that significant emission reductions are achievable. Further reports by the WWF-Aust, AEMO, ClimateWorks, the Green Building Council and research centres in Australian Universities also highlight the possibilities.
Do you wish to contribute any further information or ideas?: 
Australia has an opportunity to set post-2020 targets for greenhouse gas emissions that provide an impetus for action and an improved chance of reducing the impacts of climate change through limiting temperature increase to agreed levels. Such targets have been proposed by the Climate Change Authority in the draft Special Review report (April 2015) for 2020 and 2035. Best Environments recommends the addition of reiterating the commitment to limit the increase in global temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius (a move to 1.5 degrees Celsius would be preferable) and a long term undertaking to reduce emissions to achieve emissions equity globally on a per capita basis. Considering the risks of climate change to Australia and with the abundant resources within Australia (including renewable energy sources, technology innovation and implementation, energy distribution networks, skilled and educated populace, high GDP per person and relatively small debt), setting and meeting such targets are in the best interests of Australia.