Australia

Australia among G20 nations 'furthest off track' on climate action progress

Newborn lambs are seen on a drought affected property near Bollon in southwest Queensland, Friday, October 11, 2019. Source: AAP

Australia is among G20 countries "furthest off track" to meet its Paris emission targets, according to a new report.

Australia has been urged to "step up" its response to climate change as a new report finds it is among the G20 countries “furthest off track” to meet emissions targets.

The Brown to Green report, compiled by 14 international thinktanks and research institutes, examined G20 nations' action on climate change and transition to a net-zero emissions economy.

Its findings placed scrutiny Australia's policy responses to climate change, the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and rising emissions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Australia is on track to meet and beat its emission reduction commitments.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Australia is on track to meet and beat its emission reduction commitments.
AAP

Australian report co-author and chief executive of Climate Analytics Bill Hare said the nation's fossil fuel reliant energy sector was the "second most" carbon-intensive in the G20.

“Australia needs to step up its insufficient 2030 target, develop a decarbonisation strategy and implement effective policies in all sectors."

The report calls on G20 nations to do more to limit global temperature from increasing past 1.5C saying this could reduce negative impacts of climate change by 70 per cent – compared to a 3C rise.

Extreme weather events were costing G20 economies US$142 billion every year, according to the report.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously rejected criticism of Australia's action on climate change.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously rejected criticism of Australia's action on climate change.
AAP

The report findings don't provide an overall ranking of the nations but over a series of factors ranked Australia among the lowest performers in the G20.

The Federal government has repeatedly defended its response to climate change saying it is on track to meet its Paris and Kyoto commitments and has taken aim at sceptics of its approach.

But Australia’s progress in meeting emission reduction targets was the third-worst among already “unambitious” Paris commitments, only behind South Korea and Canada, according to the report.

“Australia needs to decarbonise its electricity generation faster – by 2040 – including through phasing out coal by 2030,” Mr Hare said.

It said “current policy projections” showed Australia was failing to achieve its target of a 26–28 per cent reduction below 2005 levels.

Australia’s emissions have been rising since 2015 after carbon pricing was abolished.

“Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are – per capita – well above the G20 average,” the report reads.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seen comforting those evacuated from bushfires in New South Wales.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seen comforting those evacuated from bushfires in New South Wales.
AAP

Other factors examined by the report included Australia’s reliance on fossil fuels, high transport emissions and levels of deforestation.

It determined Australia had the “third highest” transport emissions per capita in the G20 with emissions in the transport and industry sectors “rising” and "nearly no policies in place" to address this.

“Transport are far above G20 average, and energy supply per capita is more than twice than the G20 average,” Mr Hare said.

Australia generates 80 per cent of its electricity from fossil fuels (above the G20 average of 63 per cent), according to the report.

The report notes renewable energy usage in Australia is increasing and makes up almost 20 per cent of the power mix.

But it said this is below the G20 average of 25 per cent.   

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously praised Australia for having the world’s highest per capita investment in renewable energy.

The report called into question future investment in the sector saying the nation had “no intention” to establish a renewable energy target for beyond 2020.

“With the 2020 target already achieved, investments in renewable energy are already starting to fall,” the report reads.

It labelled Australia a “deforestation hotspot” saying this “must be cut” but citing that there are “no policies” to achieve zero deforestation.

The Brown to Green report also questioned the Federal government’s use of carryover units to meet current emissions reduction targets.

The report is funded by the World Bank, US-based ClimateWorks Foundation and Germany’s environment ministry.

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