Australia

Australia will meet Paris climate targets despite Coalition 'obstacles': expert

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One expert is optimistic about Australia meeting its Paris Agreement targets.

Australia will meet and perhaps exceed its Paris climate commitments despite ongoing "obstacles" put in place by the federal government, according to an expert.

Professor Andrew Blakers of the Australian National University told SBS News on Wednesday there have been recent game-changing investments in renewables, largely driven by the private sector.

"The federal government is pushing back strongly against renewables at a political level but under the surface, Australia is building five gigawatts per year of wind and solar PV," he said, pointing to data from the Clean Energy Regulator.

Investment in solar PV is on the rise in Australia.
Investment in solar PV is on the rise in Australia.
AAP

"It's remarkably fast. Far faster per capita than almost any other country. Four-to-five times faster per capita than Europe or China or the US."

The engineering expert said if this continues, Australia will "certainly" meet its target of a 26-28 per cent reduction on 2005 carbon emissions levels by 2030.

"The federal government has not been helpful. The federal government has put obstacles in the way. It's been quite disappointing but the private sector has just gone ahead and built, and built, and built wind and solar."

"This is pushing the amount of coal power produced down. It will start to be very noticeable from next year."

He said the private sector is doing this because "solar and wind are now so cheap that it's simply the most economical".

"If you want cheap power, you go and build solar and wind. If you want expensive power, you rely on coal and gas."

But the current and future governments have a "critical" role in how much we exceed the Paris targets, according to Professor Blakers.

"The question is, will [renewables] grow even faster? And that revolves primarily around how effective the government is in facilitating the extra transmission and extra storage required to handle variable solar and wind.

"If it handles the extra transmission and storage well, then Australia can make extremely rapid greenhouse gas reductions."

Professor Blakers' comments come as the UN Emissions Gap Report for 2018 said Australia's emissions are projected to be "well above" its target of a 26-28 per cent reduction on 2005 carbon emissions levels by 2030.

The forecast puts Australia among about half of G20 countries who are falling short of their Paris commitments, including Canada, the US and South Africa.

As a result, the G20 group is collectively not on track to hit its targets, with the report suggesting members needing to implement additional emissions-reduction policies to do.

However, Professor Blakers said the report did not capture the very recent developments on the renewables front.

"The report has not picked up on the remarkable recent increase in the build rate of solar PV and wind."

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