Is Australia doing enough

to meet its climate targets?

There’s still "an appropriate level of cynicism" towards Australia and its climate efforts, experts say. Its new 2030 target is not enough to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5C. And surprisingly, Treasurer Jim Chalmers last week conceded Australia is behind in efforts to meet climate targets, signalling a need for more public and private investment to catch up.

8 November 2023



ALTHOUGH the Albanese Government has enshrined in law an emissions cut target of 43% by 2030, up from 26-28% - a difference is equivalent to eliminating emissions from Australia's entire transport or agriculture sectors – Chalmers has pointed to a need to address skills shortages and cut back complex regulation currently stalling critical renewable projects across the country.


Australia is behind in efforts to meet climate targets, signalling a need for more public and private investment to catch up.


Yet while the Government has adopted a net zero emissions target by 2050 critics are concerned that it  has refused to outlaw new coal, oil and gas projects, casting doubt on the country’s pathway to 82% renewable sustainability by 2030.


The Albanese Government has recently approved a new coal mine for the first time since it was elected, despite running its election campaign on a climate action platform last year.


The IPCC says new fossil fuel projects are not compatible with the aims of the Paris Agreement, and in fact, existing infrastructure must be urgently phased out.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has come out swinging and says new fossil fuel projects are not compatible with the aims of the Paris Agreement, and in fact, existing infrastructure must be urgently phased out.


New projects will not just be a hurdle for domestic emissions targets. It is the global implication that is most grim - Australia is one of the world's biggest fossil fuel exporters. And despite the Australian Government being bound by national environment laws when considering new coal mines, only one proposal has been blocked under those laws.


Scientists have repeatedly warned that any new fossil fuel projects are not compatible with global climate goals, yet their warnings seem to repeatedly fall on deaf ears. Despite this, the Albanese Government still has high ambitions of becoming a “renewable energy superpower” because of massive capacity for wind and solar generation and backup battery storage. But the light at the end of the tunnel is still too dim for their ambitious dreams to become a reality.


Solar generation and battery storage, and small-scale wind turbines, are great for domestic use and can be used effectively to provide sustainability in energy for home users – but not everyone can afford the initial outlay for 24 / 7 home power generation.


In my personal situation, my home is cooled and warmed by the action of the sun moving across the sky and it generates and stores all of its own electrical power, even sufficient electrical power to charge the electric car. I have not had a power Bill to pay since October 2005. But not everyone can afford to do what I have done but the country needs 24 / 7 reliable baseload power that does not produce greenhouse emissions – windfarms, solar farms and massive battery storage just won’t achieve that goal.


Windfarms have a 10 percent breakdown rate after the first three years and approximately a twenty-five year life cycle and only generate power when the wind is blowing. The wind to generate the power has to be in the ‘goldilocks’ zone – not a strong enough wind and there is insufficient generation and if the wind is blowing too hard the turbine vanes have to be feathered to prevent damage.


Solar farms also have their limitations – they only generate power when the sun is shining to charge up commercial battery storage banks, which have limited power availability to the grid.


Both of these options may provide a short ‘band-aid-fix' for renewable energy but will not provide a permanent solution to long-term energy goals. They’re both still dependent of fossil fuel to fill the energy gap.


So, what is the answer?


Jim Chalmers was correct in what he said in an address to the The Australian and The Melbourne Institute that it was increasingly clear more work would be needed to meet the targets.


Chalmers also said it was “increasingly obvious that renewables simply weren't being built fast enough”.


"It's important for me to acknowledge that without more decisive action, across all levels of government, working with investors, industry and communities, the energy transition could fall short of what the country needs," he said.


"Put simply, to meet our potential, to maximise our advantages in renewable energy and the economic and industrial opportunities that will come from them, we need to get more projects off the ground, faster."


There isn’t an argument from most Australians that we have to stop burning coal and that gas generation produces even more deadly greenhouse gas emissions – ripping an even larger hole in the ozone layer. There isn’t an argument against moving more quickly to renewable energy and enticing private sector investment but the political thinking, and that of many of the bureaucratic boffins, simply can’t see that ‘sustainable energy light’ at the end of the tunnel. Just like the needle on an old scratched vinyl record, they keep bouncing up and down in the same groove – a gentle tap is needed to get them playing the song, the right song.


What is the right song?


Jim Chalmers said "I think the area we should focus most on — as treasurer, I focus a lot on how we attract capital, but we've got to make sure we can absorb and deploy that capital.


"The dollars are important but they're not the whole story — we need to have the technological base…”.


The irony of the ‘sustainable energy debate’ is that we already have the technology for 24 / 7 ‘greenhouse-emission-free’ electricity production, and many countries are already using it to produce baseload power into the grid – Concentrated Solar Thermal Power plants (CSTP). They’re cheaper to build than conventional coal or gas-fire power plants and they have about the same life expectancy – fifty years, which is twice as long as wind turbines and solar panels and three-and-half times longer than massive storage batteries.


As reported previously by the Grapevine, the CSIRO have a pilot CSTP plant in Newcastle and the Federal Government is funding the research of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (a division of the CSIRO), yet clever bureaucratic thinking about the way forward to reach net zero energy emissions hasn’t changed – politicians are still pandering to the mining industry by ‘greenlighting’ new coal mine projects and promoting the carbon capture furphy.


Jim Chalmers  said “the government is now consulting on a Sustainable Finance Strategy, aimed at attracting and better utilising investment in clean energy projects”  but is it not time the government threw away the old vinyl record and played the new technology tune - Concentrated Solar Thermal Power.

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