The Federal Government has outlined its long-awaited strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050 ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in late-October to November.
The new Long Term Emissions Reduction Plan relies on advances in technology to cut emissions, rather than taxation or regulation of existing industries.
Strategies focus on driving down technology costs and accelerating their deployment at scale across the economy, unlocking investment in hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and large-scale energy storage.
Objectives in the plan include reducing steel and aluminum industries’ emissions reduction costs, reducing soil carbon measurement costs so that land managers can store carbon in soil, and developing a Future Fuels Strategy to support zero emissions vehicles.
The plan also identifies the potential for ultra low cost solar, and an annual update to the Technology Investment Roadmap has set a stretch goal of solar electricity generation at $15MWh.
Government sticks with technology over taxes
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “The plan will deliver results through technology, not taxes. It respects people’s choice, and will not force mandates on what people can do or buy.
“It guarantees that we keep downward pressure on energy prices and secure reliable power. It will ensure that Australia continues to serve traditional markets, while taking advantage of new economic opportunities.”
Updates to the Technology Investment Roadmap are expected to reduce emissions by around 40 per cent, global technology trends will account for a 15 per cent emissions reduction, and high-integrity offsets are expected to achieve a further ten per cent reduction.
The plan rules out taxes or a legislated mechanism.
Federal Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, said, “Our plan continues the policies and initiatives that we have already put in place and that have proven to be successful, while preserving existing industries and jobs, and supporting regional Australia.
“It will not shut down coal or gas production, or require displacement of productive agricultural land.”
Hailed as a positive step by some
Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Society (APPEA) Chief Executive, Andrew McConville, said the oil and gas industry would be an important part of meeting net zero emissions targets through natural gas.
“Multi-billion dollar technology is already up and running across the country helping to reduce emissions, including carbon capture and storage, offshore batteries on platforms and installation of renewables to help power our sites,” Mr McConville said.
“Investments are also being made as recently as this week that will also see hydrogen produced through steam methane reforming – the lowest cost, most rapid way to commercialise this important new fuel.”
The Australian Energy Council’s (AEC) Chief Executive, Sarah McNamara, welcomed the emissions reduction target as a starting point for further progress.
“We have always argued the first and most critical step to reducing our emissions is agreement on a long-term target, which acts as the starting point for constructive consensus,” Ms McNamara said.
“Electricity generators, as major carbon emitters, have long recognised their pivotal role in assisting Australia to reduce its emissions.
“As a result, we have seen greenhouse gas emissions in the National Electricity Market fall by around 20 per cent by 2030 from the 2005 baseline. Further reductions are expected beyond 2030, which will help get to the 2050 target.
“However, whilst electricity continues to make great progress in emissions reduction, other sectors will need to step up and play their part.
“Australia cannot rely entirely on one sector whilst deferring action elsewhere. Whilst some sectors will need new technology, economic options already exist to electrify heating and light transport. We call for action in these sectors this decade.”
Criticised by others
The Smart Energy Council, the peak independent body for Australia’s solar, energy storage and smart energy industry, has called the plan ‘an extraordinary lost economic opportunity.’
Smart Energy Council Chief Executive, John Grimes, said, “Trillions of dollars of investment is ready to land in Australia, just waiting for clear policy direction.
“Fantasy investments in gas, carbon capture and storage and fossil fuel hydrogen is not a plan.
“The Liberal National Government tried to abolish the Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and just last month gutted ARENA by allowing it to fund fossil fuel projects.
“The Smart Energy Council calls on the Morrison Government to join our major export and security partners in committing to at least 50 per cent reductions in emissions by 2030.”
The Clean Energy Council called for more ambitious targets, and said in a statement that, “A refusal to take on greater ambition over the next decade will likely leave Australia isolated and unable to make the most of the economic benefits that come with rapid decarbonisation.
“Without a stronger 2030 target, there remains a lack of clarity and positive investment signals to accelerate the decarbonisation of Australia and take advantage of the enormous economic opportunity in play.”