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On track to achieve 5% national emissions goal: ClimateWorks

Australia has made important cuts in reducing greenhouse emissions in four key sectors of the economy and remains on track to achieve a 5% national emissions target by 2020, according to new research by ClimateWorks.

The ClimateWorks Australia report, Tracking Progress Towards a Low Carbon Economy, found an increase in activity to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse emissions in the last decade across four sectors: Power, Industry, Buildings and, Land and Waste.

The improvements have mainly come from reduced deforestation and increased afforestation, significant increases in industry energy efficiency and more recently reductions in power emissions.

The research shows that if recent trends are sustained Australia would achieve 80 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions reductions by 2020, which is about 40% of the abatement required to reach the minimum 5% national emissions reduction target by 2020 through domestic abatement alone.

Over the next decade Australia’s emissions reductions would be led by reductions in power emissions intensity and continued energy efficiency in industry and buildings. However, overall emissions would grow because of strong economic growth, particularly in mining and resources, and also plantation harvesting.

ClimateWorks CEO Anna Skarbek is one of five new directors appointed to the GBCA board. “Going forward to 2020, on current trends there would be an increase in emissions because of economic growth. However, emission reduction activity would counterbalance this growth by 50%, led by continued industrial and residential energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said ClimateWorks executive director, Anna Skarbek.

"Over the past decade, there has been no growth in greenhouse emissions despite economic growth of 31% over the same period," she said.

“The net result is that Australia is on track to achieve about 40% of the reductions needed to achieve its 5% emissions reduction target through activity in Australia.”

Head of Research, Amandine Denis said the years between now and 2020 provided time to identify increased incentives that could help capture more domestic abatement, and to consider increasing the current minimum 5% target through domestic and international abatement.

“Our research shows that there is the potential for nearly three times more emissions reduction activity than is currently being observed. This potential would enable Australia to achieve at least a 25% target, the minimum recommended by international scientists,” she noted.

“The lessons we have learnt from this research are that price signals are powerful; policy uncertainty is a drag on activity; regulation is reliable; and macroeconomic factors like the manufacturing downturn can affect emissions.”

Key findings include:

Recent progress: Emissions intensity of power generation (the amount of greenhouse gases emitted for each unit of electricity produced) decreased by 8% from 2008-09 to 2012-13 and power emissions have fallen by 1% since their peak in 2008-09.
Outlook 2020: Strong pipeline of renewable energy projects and a slowdown of energy demand growth is expected, which would deliver 32% of the available potential as identified in the Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia.

Recent progress: Industrial process emissions have been substantially reduced and industrial energy efficiency has tripled compared to historic levels leading to an estimated 10% improvement in emissions intensity of industrial production, which has been offset by large increases in production.
Outlook to 2020: Across the board improvements expected. Current trend would deliver 57% of available potential, partly offsetting strong growth in emissions from higher future production.

Recent progress: The energy intensity of Australia’s buildings has decreased by 3 per cent between 2002-03 and 2010-11, led by improvements in the operation of buildings, improved energy efficiency standards, more efficient appliances and distributed energy. However these improvements have been offset by additional buildings and increased use of electricity by electronics in homes.
Outlook to 2020: Reversal of historic growth in electricity use per household, and distributed energy continuing to increase, but activity in commercial buildings is limited. Current trend would deliver 30% of the total available potential.

Land and waste
Recent progress: The annual area deforested has halved since 2003 and the total area of plantations has increased by 21% over the decade. These emissions reductions have completely offset growth in all other sectors since 2002-03.
Outlook to 2020: Emissions from land use are likely to increase substantially as plantation forests are harvested and not replanted and there are no further reductions in deforestation proposed. Emissions reduction activity is expected to be limited to 8% of the total identified potential. Most of the potential for future activity to reduce emissions from land use and waste is dependent on certainty of future revenues from government initiatives.

CEFC CEO Oliver Yates said the ClimateWorks research provided a crucial benchmark for Australia, highlighting areas of the most effective activity to reduce greenhouse emissions and analysing the factors driving that success.

“This is the first time national data across economic sectors has been collected in a comparable way, and as such, it is a foundation for tracking Australia’s progress.”

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