Australia releases ‘technology-driven’ plan for net zero

Article by Amanda Doyle

THE Australian Government has announced a target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 via “technology not taxes”. However, the long-awaited plan does not include any legislation or targets for reducing fossil fuel use, and partially relies on future technologies.

The Government said that it will “act in a practical, responsible way to deliver net zero emissions by 2050 while preserving Australian jobs and generating new opportunities for industries and regional Australia.”

Along with the announcement of a net zero target, it released its Long Term Emissions Reductions Plan which it says is based on existing policies. The plan will be guided by five principles: technology not taxes; expand choices not mandates; drive down the cost of a range of new technologies; keep energy prices down with affordable and reliable power; and be accountable for progress.

It claims that it will reach net zero through a “technology-driven” plan that will preserve existing industries. By investing A$20bn (US$15bn) over the next decade in low-emissions technologies, it expects to unlock A$80bn in private and public investment. The technologies include clean hydrogen, CCUS, energy storage, ultra-low-cost solar, and low emissions steel and aluminium.

It claims that its priority technologies will result in 85% of emission reductions to reach net zero by 2050. The remaining 15% will be covered by new and emerging technologies.

The plan doesn’t include taxes or doesn’t enshrine the target into law, which it calls “regressive approaches”. It doesn’t include anything about winding down the fossil fuel sectors, despite the warning from the International Energy Agency that no new oil and gas development can occur for the world to have any chance of meeting net zero goals. The plan will be reviewed every five years to evaluate any progress that has been made.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the net zero target would be achieved the “Australian way” and that the country would not be lectured by other countries who don’t understand Australia. “Australia now has a target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and we have a clear plan for achieving it. The Plan outlines responsible, practical action to achieve net zero that is in our national interest.

“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 secures reliable power. It will ensure Australia continues to serve traditional markets, while taking advantage of new economic opportunities.”

Angus Taylor, Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, added: “[The plan] will not shut down coal or gas production, or require displacement of productive agricultural land.”

Emissions cuts are needed this decade

The announcement has been met with strong criticism, particularly as it lacks any detail or modelling on how net zero will be reached. According to The Australian, Morrison said that the modelling would be released in “due course”.

Australia has still refused to update its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – which is required every five years by the Paris Agreement – and has maintained its target to reduce emissions by 26-28% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese was extremely critical of the plan: “Scott Morrison left to the last possible minute to outline a scam that leaves everything to the last possible minute. But in their own words, there is nothing new in this plan. The word plan doesn’t constitute a plan, no matter how often he said [it].”        

Amanda McKenzie, CEO of the Climate Council, said: “Net zero by 2050 is a joke without strong emissions cuts this decade. Australia desperately needs to dramatically scale up renewable energy, phase out coal and gas, and electrify our transport systems. Otherwise we miss out on the economic opportunities of the global transition and expose ourselves to the fire, flood and heat risks of climate change.”

David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said: “Scott Morrison’s Government has repackaged its current weak climate approach and slapped a ‘net-zero’ sticker on it without making any substantive changes.

“The COP26 President, Boris Johnson, and the UN have been unequivocal in the urgent need for strong climate action this decade. By ignoring their calls, Scott Morrison has again proven that he is willing to roll the dice with our climate future. Morrison’s irresponsible approach should be condemned by world leaders at COP26.”

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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