Climate Change Projections Just Out – A Required Read

The Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy has just delivered a report covering Australia’s emissions projections 2019.

This is a timely contribution to rational, science-based discussion as the public climate debate ensues.

The questions the report grapples with, are whether we, Australians, are in line to meet our carbon emissions targets under the Paris Agreement for 2020 and 2030. These projections no doubt have informed some of the statements made by Minister Angus Taylor at the current United Nations climate talks in Madrid.

As a contribution to the public debate, the Shipping News sets out here the Executive Summary of the report, as well as the very interesting Sensitivity Analyses that affect its baseline projections. The methodology used in making the projections is also identified.

Rather than try to summarise these concise statements, we give them to you verbatim. While a little long, they’re well worth the read.

No doubt, public debate and analyses as to what the projections mean, and their implications for Australia’s Climate policy, will follow – as they should. That is, of course, the purpose of the report – to inform public policy.

The full report, which is itself a mine of information, can be found at https://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/publications/emissions-projections-2019

Here’s the Executive Summary

‘The 2019 projections show that Australia will overachieve on its 2020 and 2030 targets.

Australia’s 2020 target (5 per cent below 2000 levels):

  • Australia will overachieve on its 2020 target by 283 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e).
  • This is an improvement of 43 Mt CO2-e, since the 2018 projections.
  • After including Australia’s overachievement from the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008– 2012) of 128 Mt CO2-e, overachievement increases to 411 Mt CO2-e.
  • Emissions in 2020 are projected to be 534 Mt CO2-e which is 6 Mt CO2-e lower than the previous estimate of 540 Mt CO2-e.
  • Compared to the 2018 projections, there have been downward revisions of projected emissions in 2020 in:
    • the direct combustion sector – due to a decline in fuel combustion in the manufacturing sector;
    • the transport sector – due to a decline in the consumption of petrol;
    • the agriculture sector – due to floods in early 2019 and the ongoing effects of the drought. Some of this revision down is offset by small increases in projected emissions in 2020 for the fugitive emissions, industrial processes and product use, and waste sectors.

Australia’s 2030 target (26–28 per cent below 2005 levels):

  • Emissions in 2030 are projected to be 511 Mt CO2-e, 52 Mt CO2-e lower than the 2018 estimate for 2030 of 563 Mt CO2-e.
  • To achieve Australia’s 2030 target of 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels, emissions reductions of 395 to 462 Mt CO2-e between 2021 and 2030 are required. When overachievement of 411 Mt CO2-e from previous targets is included, Australia will overachieve by 16 Mt CO2-e (26 per cent reduction) and will require 51 Mt CO2-e of cumulative emissions reduction between 2021 and 2030 to meet the 28 per cent reduction target.
  • Compared to the 2018 projections, the downward revision in the 2019 projections reflects:
    • the inclusion of the Climate Solutions Fund which will reduce emissions by 103 Mt CO2-e, particularly in the Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector;
    • the inclusion of other measures in the Climate Solutions Package including energy efficiency measures in the electricity and direct combustion sectors;
    • stronger renewables deployment – due to increased uptake of small and mid-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) projected by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) and Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), and the inclusion of 50 per cent renewable energy targets in Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory; and
    • updated forecasts of electricity demand.’

Angus Taylor is facing challenges to Australia’s plan to use carryover credits to meet emissions target at the UN climate talks in Madrid.

Here’s the Sensitivity Analyses

‘Emissions projections are inherently uncertain, involving expert judgement and assumptions about global and domestic economies, policies and technologies. Sensitivity analyses have been prepared alongside the baseline emissions projections to assess how emissions are impacted by different economic and technology assumptions. The sensitivities do not assume any policy changes.

Three sensitivities have been prepared:

  • low economic growth
  • high economic growth, and
  • strong technology uptake.
  • When considered with the baseline projections, they present a possible range of emissions trajectories to 2030.

Low economic growth sensitivity

The low economic growth sensitivity assumes low economic growth both in Australia and across the globe. Compared to the baseline, these economic conditions are assumed to decrease demand for Australia’s products both domestically and internationally. This reduces energy demand from industry and households. In this sensitivity there is a weak economic case for fuel switching and adoption of energy efficiency.

Emissions in 2030 are projected to be 422 Mt CO2-e, 21 per cent lower than baseline emissions in 2020 and 17 per cent lower than the baseline emissions in 2030. In this sensitivity, Australia overachieves on its 2030 target by 88 to 155 Mt CO2-e, 139 Mt CO2-e more than the overachievement under the baseline.

High economic growth sensitivity

The high economic growth sensitivity assumes high economic growth both in Australia and across the globe. Compared to the baseline, strong economic growth is assumed to increase demand for Australia’s products both domestically and internationally. This sees increased energy demand from industry and households. The economic conditions also create a strong economic case for fuel switching and adoption of energy efficiency.

Emissions in 2030 are projected to be 580 Mt CO2-e, 9 per cent above baseline emissions in 2020 and 13 per cent above the baseline emissions in 2030. In this sensitivity, the 2030 emissions reduction task is 912-979 Mt CO2-e, 928 Mt CO2-e higher than the emissions reduction task under the baseline.

Strong technology uptake sensitivity

This sensitivity assumes a higher rate of technology change in Australia and the globe compared to the baseline. In this sensitivity, the costs of technologies, particularly renewables, batteries and electric vehicles, decline faster than in the baseline, encouraging greater uptake by households, businesses and industry. Globally, energy demand is lower due to efficiency improvements or competition from other countries or for other fuels, including renewables. This in turn lowers demand for Australia’s coal and LNG exports.

Emissions in the strong technology uptake sensitivity are projected to be 466 Mt CO2-e in 2030, 13 per cent below baseline emissions in 2020 and 9 per cent lower than baseline emissions in 2030. In this sensitivity, the 2030 emissions reduction task is 156-224 Mt CO2-e, 173 Mt CO2-e higher than the emissions reduction task under the baseline.’

Here’s the Methodology used

The methodology used to produce the baseline projections are set out at
https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/4aa038fc-b9ee-4694-99d0-c5346afb5bfb/files/methodology-2019-projections.pdf

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