OECD warns Aust to step up emission cuts

Australia Business

Australia has been warned to lift its game on emissions, with a new report finding it is still one of the most carbon-intensive countries among developed economies.

The OECD assessment of Australia’s environmental performance says the country must stabilise and strengthen its policies to deal with climate change.

“The country will fall short of its 2030 emissions target without a major effort to move to a low-carbon model,” says the report, released on Wednesday.

“Australia has adopted a piecemeal approach to emission reduction … The government needs to streamline its approach and clarify how existing and new instruments can be scaled up to reach the Paris Agreement goals.”

Australia has pledged to cut emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2007 levels by 2030 but government projections show that target will be missed by a significant amount on existing policy settings.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists Australia will meet those targets.

The report says Australia is one of the few OECD countries where emissions have risen over the past decade.

It laments lost opportunities to provide stability to the electricity sector with repeated failures over recent years by the federal government to settle energy and climate policy.

“Adopting an integrated energy and climate policy framework for 2030 with an emission reduction goal for the power sector would avoid the projected rise in (greenhouse gas) emissions,” OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria says.

The OECD also recommends the government clarify the role of the Emissions Reduction Fund and safeguard mechanism in meeting climate targets.

It notes Australia has warmed by 0.9C over the past 60 years – the Paris Agreement aims to limit warming to at most 2C or ideally 1.5C – and changes in rainfall patterns, more frequent hot days and heat waves are already affecting people’s well-being.

“Australia is home to a tenth of global species and is seen by many as synonymous with pristine coastal areas and an outback brimming with nature,” OECD deputy environment director Anthony Cox said.

“However the country is increasingly exposed to rising sea levels, floods, heat waves, bushfires and drought.

“This makes it all the more important that Australia take a more proactive role in fighting climate change and addressing biodiversity loss.”

The 50 recommendations also include that energy taxes better reflect the climate cost of using fuels, extending road pricing including congestion charges, and speeding up and strengthening regulation of industrial chemicals, with about three in five chemicals available in Australia yet to have risk assessments.

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