The Climate Change Authority has called for an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity sector in its third and final Special Review report, which details how Australia can meet its Paris obligations, including through buildings and transport. The findings, however, have caused a split in the organisation, with two members to publish a “dissenting report” arguing for stronger action.
The report calls for a “climate policy toolkit” to target different sectors, the most notable an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity generation sector that would start from 2018. This would set an emissions intensity baseline that would decline over time to reach zero before 2050.
It also calls for the Emission Reduction Fund safeguard mechanism to be strengthened, as well as energy efficiency standards for transport, industrial facilities, and buildings and appliances.
The Renewable Energy Target would remain at its current level “in the interests of policy stability and certainty”.
A CCA statement said it was a “durable solution”, alluding to the difficulty in reaching bipartisan agreement on climate policy.
However, the report has been criticised for including political considerations, rather than being based on science.
The Climate Institute’s chief executive John Connor said the report was required to consider the objectives of the Paris Agreement, though it had failed to analyse whether the government’s commitment of a 26-28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030 would put Australia in good stead to meet the agreement to limit global warming to 2°C.
A previous CCA report had suggested the government target 40-60 per cent cuts on 2000 levels by 2030.
“The recommendations in the report neglect a key fundamental of climate science,” Mr Connor said.
“If we emit more now, we have to emit much less later in order to keep within the overall temperature limits of 1.5-2°C that the government agreed to in Paris.
“If implemented, these policies would mean, after 2030, that to meet Paris objectives, carbon prices would need to skyrocket, coal plants would have to be close within a matter of years, and clean energy investments would need to be scaled to well beyond practical levels.”
Mr Connor told Fairfax Media that the Productivity Commission was not expected to take into account political considerations and neither should the CCA.
There had previously been concern over the board of the CCA, after the Turnbull government confirmed five new board appointments late last year that had been approved by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, including National Farmers Federation head Dr Wendy Craik as chair.
This led to the Greens saying the board had been “stacked” with Coalition-leaning members.
Dr Craik said the final report had not sought to re-assess Australia’s 2030 Intended Nationally Determined Contribution because they had been set already.
“As the Authority indicated in the first report of this review, the third and final report of the Special Review is focused on the policy actions that Australia should take to meet its Paris obligations,” a statement said.
The report includes a number of worthwhile proposals, including a chapter on improvements that can be made to energy efficiency, including in transport, industry, and buildings and appliances.
Buildings and appliance efficiency had the largest potential impact, with 21 megatonnes of CO2 able to be cut by 2030.
The suggestions, though, aren’t particularly strong, and include a conclusion that energy efficiency disclosure programs are both environmentally effective and cost-effective, and a recommendation that scheduled updates to the National Construction Code continue (was anyone suggesting they shouldn’t?).
On low-income households, the report suggests governments investigate domestic and international best practice approaches to improve energy efficiency, including through models for financing up-front retrofit costs.
It said establishing a mandatory energy efficiency disclosure scheme for residential property would help low-income households, but went no further than saying it “supports the current COAG process to examine these issues”.
The report recommended that states that had not set energy efficiency targets and white certificate schemes do so.
“The Authority recommends that credits from eligible energy efficiency projects (including ERF crediting and state white certificate schemes) should be eligible for surrender in the proposed electricity sector emissions intensity scheme,” the report said.
The energy efficiency provisions were welcomed by the Energy Efficiency Council.
“”Let’s call a spade a spade: transitioning our energy system to low carbon forms of generation without also pursuing ambitious energy efficiency measures would be crazy,” EEC chief executive Luke Menzel said.
A dissenting report from climate scientist David Karoly and public ethics professor Clive Hamilton is expected to be published with the Climate Council.