Australia's low targets high on COP26 agenda

1 November 2021

Australia's 26-28 per cent reduction target has been weak from the start

The world will expect Australia to "ratchet up" its emissions reduction target during the United Nation's climate change summit, say two experts from The Australian National University (ANU).

Professor Mark Howden, Director of the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, and Professor Frank Jotzo, the Institute's Head of Energy, will be closely watching the two-week COP26 summit in Glasgow.

Professor Jotzo said almost every other developed country had taken on a stronger target for emission reductions by 2030 - except Australia.

"At Glasgow, a lot of the focus will be on stronger emissions targets for 2030," Professor Jotzo said. 

"The Paris Agreement, from 2015, was set up as a ratchet mechanism. But Australia will be just about alone among developed countries, not having updated the ambition put forward in 2015.

"Australia's 26-28 per cent reduction target has been weak from the start. Now, it is simply no longer in the ballpark of what is acceptable internationally or necessary domestically.

"We have ready opportunities to do far better than that. There has been a policy vacuum, plenty of low hanging fruit have not been harvested.

"A sensible suite of policies can help position Australia for success in a low carbon world economy."

Professor Howden said Australia will be expected to join other developed countries in setting out a credible national agenda for meeting its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

"Australia will likely be asked to explain how its continued high level reliance on fossil fuels is consistent with its net zero pledge and for substantive details of the plan to reduce emissions" Professor Howden said.

"This scrutiny will be applied to other countries' plans as well. There will undoubtedly be many conversations on the suitability of the Australian emission-reduction commitment given the nation's clear vulnerability to climate change impacts.

"And there will be serious questions as to why it has not been raised to align better with the net zero by 2050 target and with our commitment to achieve the Paris agreement temperature goals - which are to keep global temperatures to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and if possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"The announcement yesterday that NZ aims to halve its emissions by 2030 will only add to the pressure."