A banner from a march in favour of tackling climate change in Melbourne. In the climate change performance index, released at the UN climate talks in Marrakech, Australia was ranked fifth-worst for emissions and policies among developed countries.
Australia has been singled out again as a climate laggard, being ranked fifth-worst for emissions and policies among developed countries and among the six worst countries in the G20 when it comes to climate action.
In the climate change performance index, released overnight at the UN climate talks in Marrakech, Australia comes ahead of only Kazakhstan, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
The 58 countries assessed by Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch are responsible for 90% of global energy-related carbon pollution. They are then ranked according to their emissions level, the trend in emissions, the deployment of renewable energy, the energy intensity of the economy and climate policies.
Australia is near the bottom of the countries, labelled as having “very poor performance”.
Australia’s hostile relationship between federal and state climate policies was noted in the report, which said: “While the former were rather unambitious and uninspired, the latter managed to some extent to take independent action.”
The finding came following comments from the prime minister and federal ministers, criticising state-based renewable energy and emissions targets.
Since previous rankings, Australia improved slightly with its emissions trend but dropped in energy efficiency.
The Australian Conservation Foundation’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said: “The government spruiks its climate credentials but Australia remains a laggard on cutting climate pollution.
“The world is watching as our pollution rises and governments support new mega-polluting coalmines.”
O’Shanassy said Australia must not proceed with Adani’s Carmichael coalmine.
Meanwhile, the federal minister for energy and the environment, Josh Frydenberg, used his time in Marrakech to lobby the US in favour of Adani’s Carmichael coalmine, complaining about US activists funding a campaign to stop the huge project from proceeding.
In a separate study from the London School of Economics, researchers examined the consistency of actions of G20 countries, compared with the goals of the Paris agreement.
It found Australia – as well as Argentina, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US – were “falling behind with their national climate mitigation action”.
“These countries lack overall framework legislation or regulation on climate change, need to move from sectoral to economy-wide targets and extend the timeframe of their targets to 2030,” the report said.
Australia falling behind rest of world on emissions cuts, says report
Sturt Daley, site manager, stands atop a wind turbine nacelle at Capital Wind Farm in Bungendore. A new report says Australia is lagging behind on its professed goals to cut emissions.
Australia is lagging behind other countries on tackling climate change after signing the historic Paris Agreement last year, a new report shows.
The Climate Council’s new report, “Towards Morocco: tracking global climate progress since Paris,” questions Australia’s ability to meet its 2030 emissions reduction target.
It says Australia is likely to face serious pressure next week when world leaders meet in Marrakesh, Morocco, for the first time since the landmark Paris agreement was signed.
Eighty-seven countries have ratified the Paris agreement, including 10 of the largest polluters. These countries cover more than 55% of global emissions. The Paris agreement will come into force on 4 November.
The world’s top three emitters of carbon dioxide – China (27%), the US (15%) and India (7%) – have ratified the agreement.
Australia has not yet ratified the agreement.
Prof Will Steffen, a climate change expert and researcher at the Australian National University, told Guardian Australia it was “virtually certain” that 2016 would be the hottest year on record.
“I think Australia will face quite a bit of pressure at the meeting, because when you look at the targets we made in Paris, they’re weak compared to other countries in the G20,” he said.
“And even with those weak targets, we’re not on track to meet them. So I think there’s going to be some very direct questioning of Australia about its effort, about what its plans are and what policy instruments it plans to use in coming years to significantly reduce emissions.”
The Climate Council report says Australia’s emissions reduction target of 26% to 28% by 2030 (on 2005 levels) relies on the introduction of energy productivity and vehicle efficiency measures, which the federal government has yet to bring into force.
“The most recent update of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions shows our emissions are rising,” the report says.
“Countries including China and the United States have put more than 30 questions to the federal government, asking for detail about how Australia will meet its 2030 emissions reduction target and raising concerns about a lack of transparency over how the government calculates and reports emissions.”
A year ago in Paris, at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), world leaders agreed to limit global temperature rise to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels.
The agreement was signed by 197 countries, including Australia.
But the Climate Council says if Australia is to fairly contribute to staying below the 2C target, a “more rapid downward trend in emissions from all sectors of the economy is required, with much stronger action to reduce our emissions.”
There has been widespread expert criticism of the government’s Direct Action climate policy. Experts argue the framework is not sufficient to deliver the emissions reductions Australia signed on to in Paris.
There has also been a change of political emphasis in the Turnbull government over renewable energy.
Greg Hunt, the then federal environment minister, at the Paris conference, gave state governments clear encouragement to develop their own renewable energy schemes. “I have encouraged the states that if they want to do something extra, [they should] apply reverse auctions to the renewable energy target (RET) in the way the Australian Capital Territory has done,” Hunt said last December in Paris.
But since the election, the Turnbull government has been sharply critical of state-based renewable energy targets that will help Australia meet its Paris commitments.
State governments argue the commonwealth will not be able to meet the emissions reduction targets agreed in Paris without the state-based RET schemes.
Correspondence from a senior federal official to the energy regulators after an energy council meeting in August seen by Guardian Australia underscores that point, suggesting the state-based schemes will deliver just under 40% of renewables in the national electricity market by 2030.
The Coalition has agreed to review the Direct Action climate policy in 2017, but the government has played down expectations that review will lead to a significant strengthening of the current policy framework, despite the widespread criticism of the current regime.
The South Australian government has signalled it wants to build broad support across the states for a form of carbon trading to apply to the electricity sector.
How Australia can cut waste and grow responsibly
Responsible batteries, “cleaner” clean energy, mobile recycling centres and better-designed buildings that accommodate rubbish trucks—these were some of the ideas suggested by waste management experts at the Australian Waste and Recycling Expo (AWRE) at the Sydney Showground last Wednesday.
Speaking at a seminar on the sidelines of the expo, Damien Giurco, director of research outcomes at the University of Technology Sydney Institute for Sustainable Future, argued that the Australian economy can grow in a more responsible fashion by adopting circular economy approaches across various industries.
The circular economy is an umbrella term for business models and industrial processes which do not generate waste but rather, reuse natural resources repeatedly.
According to the World Economic Forum, the circular economy globally could be worth US$1 trillion per year by 2025. Research co-authored by Giurco last year shows that Australia’s share of the benefits could be A$26 billion annually.
Giurco told the audience about 80 that right now, Australia needs to be more rigorous about applying circular processes. For example, as renewable energy adoption gains popularity in Australia, many buildings and products are designed to be compatible with renewable energy. But ironically, less thought is given to conserving the natural resources used in making solar panels and batteries.
He expanded on how batteries can be more responsibly processed. Recycling loops can be improved so batteries can be recovered at the end of their life cycle, and companies should also source minerals used to make batteries from countries which adopt responsible environmental and labour practices.
Other production methods which will help Australia shift towards a circular economy include additive manufacturing - which is more commonly known as 3D printing and makes it easier to recycle materials such as plastic and concrete into new products - and data analytics to maximise resource efficiency, he added.
Looking ahead, he said that recycling technology has advanced to a point where machines are compact enough to be easily transported from one point to another.
Companies could foreseeably bring recycling infrastructure to firms rather than the other way around.
“We need to be testing, exploring, failing, and trying again to develop new modes of collaboration,” he said. “This would involve the research, industry and government sectors working together.”
On its part, the New South Wales (NSW) state government said it is firmly committed to reducing waste and increasing recycling rates.
Barry Buffier, chair and chief executive officer of the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), shared state targets during a separate panel discussion at the conference.
They include: 80 per cent recycling rate for construction and demolition waste (up from 57 per cent in 2011) and 70 per cent recycling rate for municipal solid waste, compared with about 52 per cent in 2011.
To raise funds, the state government applies a levy on some waste facilities in the state. For every tonne of waste received, these facilities must pay between A$78.20 and A$135.70.
This levy has raised some A$465.7 million for the NSW government to spend on its Waste Less, Recycle More initiative. The five-year public programme includes litter prevention initiatives and holding events to collect difficult waste types such as household chemicals.
The government also wants to reduce the amount of waste generated per capita and the total amount of waste going into NSW landfills, said Buffier.
Other panellists at the conference said that one challenge facing waste management and reduction is high-density apartment living in city areas.
David Clancy, general manager of NSW Cleanaway, a waste management services provider, said that apartment blocks generate a lot of waste that are not properly separated by residents. Most building basements are also narrow and cramped, and bin trucks find it hard to get in.
The result is piles of waste on the street and lower recycling and resource recovery rates across the state, he added.
Ideally, architects and developers should design buildings that accommodate rubbish trucks, he noted. This involves paying attention to details such as basement clearance heights, turning circles for vehicles in carparks, and the location of bin rooms.
Jenny Campbell, director of Encycle Consulting, suggested coming up with a set of clear, consistent construction guidelines for engineers and architects on waste management needs, which is currently lacking in the industry.
Construction professionals should also factor in waste management needs into the early stages of design, she said, adding that this would require city councils, waste companies, and property developers to work much more closely with one another.
“Everyone needs to collaborate better and learn from each other,” she added.