In August 2015, Australia submitted its intended nationally determined contribution to the UNFCCC, which included an emission reduction target of 26 to 28 percent (on 2005 levels) by 2030 and a renewable energy target of 23.5 percent by 2020. The cornerstone of Australia’s federal climate change policy, the “Direct Action” reverse-auction plan covered in previous editions of The Climate Report, has survived the leadership challenge in September 2015 that saw Malcolm Turnbull replace Tony Abbott as Australia’s Prime Minister and leader of the conservative party.
However, there has been a significant change in the federal government’s policy with respect to renewable energy investment. Responsibility for Australia’s green investment bank, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (“CEFC”), and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, has been shifted back to the Federal Department of the Environment in a move widely interpreted as signaling a departure from the previous government’s policy favoring the abolition of both entities.
A directive from the Abbott government to the CEFC not to invest in wind or solar energy has also been quietly dropped. In October 2015, the Federal Minister for the Environment announced that the CEFC would finance an AU$30 million program of works aiming to reduce emissions in the city of Melbourne. The program will include rooftop solar power as well as upgrades to commercial buildings and public infrastructure.
There have also been some major developments at a provincial level. In September 2015, South Australia announced that it would increase its renewable energy target to 50 percent by 2025, having met its prior target of 33 percent by 2020. Queensland has pledged to source 50 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030, while the two largest states, New South Wales and Victoria, have each set a renewable energy target of 20 percent by 2020. The Australian Capital Territory, home to the nation’s capital, aims to generate 100 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2025, with wind farms, solar farms, and rooftop solar expected to meet 60 percent of its energy requirements by 2017.
Several of Australia’s major capital cities have likewise adopted ambitious targets. Adelaide and Melbourne are in competition to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2020, while Sydney has an emission reduction target of 70 percent (on 2006 levels) by 2030.
Notwithstanding the above, Australia and New Zealand have rejected a push by smaller Pacific nations for the region to unite in advocating that climate change be limited to an increase of 1.5°C (compared to the United Nations’ current target of 2°C).
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