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Australia’s Environmental Performance Review: OECD

Yesterday the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released an Environmental Performance Review of Australia. 

This is the third performance review of Australia from the OECD. So, how did we do? As it turns out, not so well.

Australia’s 2030 Emission Goals Won’t Be Met

According to the OECD, unless Australia moves to a low-carbon model, there’s no chance we’ll meet our 2030 emission goals.

The goal is to reduce greenhouse emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Yet, we are still reliant on coal for two thirds of our electricity.

OECD encironmental performance highlights
Source: OECD Australia Highlights

The OECD points out a number of problems Australia must face to meet emission goals:

  • Fossil fuel use is still supported by government. This needs to stop.
  • Coal, oil and gas make up 93% of the overall energy mix (the OECD average is 80%). This needs to be reduced.
  • Renewables in electricity generation has only risen to 16% (the OECD average is 25%). This needs to be increased.
  • Australia’s power sector is not subject to emission reduction constraints. Energy taxes must be put in place.
  • Infrastructure growth along coasts is a danger to the biodiversity of the country. More attention needs to be paid to long-term ecological conservation and restoration strategies.
  • Water resources are at risk due to poor management. Better water management is needed to stop government mismanagement.

In short, we have a lot of work to do.

Australia has made some progress replacing coal with natural gas and renewables in electricity generation yet remains one of the most carbon-intensive OECD countries and one of the few where greenhouse gas emissions (excluding land use change and forestry) have risen in the past decade. The country will fall short of its 2030 emissions target without a major effort to move to a low-carbon model…

Recommendations from the OECD – How to Meet Our 2030 Emission Goals

The OECD states a number of recommendations for Australia in their report. These recommendations are copied below. Read the recommendations here:

  • Implement a national integrated energy and climate policy framework for 2030 based on a low-emission development strategy for 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement.
  • Bring energy taxes in line with environmental impacts of fuel use. This implies taxing fuels that are currently exempt and increasing rates that are too low.
  • Extend road use pricing through distance-based and congestion charges.
  • Fill gaps in data on the status and trends of species and ecosystems, and establish national biodiversity indicators to measure progress and identify priorities for action.
  • Increase investment in biodiversity conservation ecological restoration in line with the scale of the challenge.
  • Improve monitoring of water resources, abstraction and quality across river basins. Do more to address water pollution from agriculture.

Highlights from the Report – Where Australia is Developing

The report highlights the need for change to Australia’s energy policies and a shift in focus to conservation. While it’s important to remember how much we need to improve, the OECD also released highlights of the report. Here are some of those highlights:

  • Becoming a solar leader – Australia is a world leader in solar photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity per inhabitant.
  • Conservation in the private sector – Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre is bringing back some of Australia’s most threatened species such as the eastern barred bandicoot, brush-tailed rock wallaby and eastern quoll.
  • Improving coal closing impact – The closure of coal power plants conveyed to the Australian and Victorian governments the need to mitigate closure’s social impact through measures such as scaling up skills in the region, attracting new investment and providing financial support.
  • Victoria and ACT taking steps away from coal – Victoria adopted the Climate Change Act in 2017. The act includes a long-term target of net zero emissions by 2050 and creates a framework for developing five-yearly interim targets starting with 2021-25. The ACT is taking the same approach.
  • Increasing rail capacity to get cars off the road – Sydney Metro Northwest (2019) and Sydney Metro City and Southwest (2024) will increase Sydney’s rail capacity in morning peak time by up to 60%.

For more information we recommend you read the OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Australia 2019.

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