Australia is still on track to meet the emissions cuts targets, according to Environment Minister Greg Hunt. “We will hit our targets and we’ll do it easily,” he declared. However, recent changes in government policies and independent analyses do not fully support this assessment.
Repealing the Carbon Tax – How will it affect Emissions Cuts?
This statement regarding meeting reduction targets was issued despite the current government’s efforts to repeal the carbon tax. According to Mr. Hunt, the reason for this was that the tax was not working in actually enacting greenhouse gas emissions cuts. This was presumably the reason for the call of Australian voters to dismantle the tax.
The tax gas and electricity brought in $7.5 billion, but it hardly made a dent in emissions cuts. In the first year of the tax, there was a paltry 0.1% in emissions cuts.
During the visit to the White House of Prime Minister Tony Abbot, climate change mitigation was a crucial topic of discussion. President Obama reportedly stated their acceptance that the Australian government had a mandate to dismantle the carbon tax.
However, Obama reiterated their stand that Australia and other countries must adopt strong domestic climate policies as part of an international cooperative effort to mitigate climate change.
Uncertainty with the Solar Rebate Program
Minister Hunt has lauded the solar rebate program as “shining beacon” of the direct action climate police implemented by the Australian government.
However, Prime Minister Abbott has not yet reaffirmed this policy. In addition, reports have surfaced that Minister Hunt has reneged on a promise to the Clean Energy Council. Last November, the coalition made assurances that it was still firmly committed to the $500 million “1 million solar roofs” program. This was a policy left over from the 2010 election.
In response to this report, Hunt emphasized that the government has already added $1 billion to the emissions reduction fund to contribute to emissions cuts. But now, Hunt said, the government must make “difficult choices.”
The uncertainty about the solar rebate program is merely the most recent disaster in a long list of unfulfilled government promises regarding climate change policy, according to opposition climate change spokesman Mark Butler.
Butler told Sky News that “When Greg Hunt talked about this the Australian people [and] the solar industry were of the view that the renewable energy target was a bipartisan position.” Now these recent government changes in renewable energy policy indicate that the coalition may not be fully in accord with the opposition.
While Minister Hunt made assurances about meeting emission reduction targets, others disagree.
Reputex, an energy advisory company, has released new modeling which indicate that Australia will fail in its efforts to meet the targets. The aim is to reduce carbon emissions by 5% by 2020, and Australia is no longer on track to meet this target of emissions cuts.
According to the analysis, the emissions reduction fund will get somewhere between 30 million and 120 million Australian carbon credit units. This falls short of the mark by more than 300 million tons in emissions cuts.