The need for national leadership on climate change

Australia is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change being the driest inhabited continent on the planet. The 1.14°C increase in average temperature since 1910 has contributed to more extreme droughts, mass bleachings of the Great Barrier Reef, more extreme bushfires and heatwaves, and a rise in the number of damaging floods and hail-storms. All of these are wreaking significant economic damage. For instance the current drought has seen Australia’s agricultural production drop by $6 billion since 2017 and the loss of many jobs in agriculture and food processing businesses.


Australia has persistently been a drag on international action on climate change apart from during the brief period the nation had a price on carbon when emissions fell significantly.

In August 2015 the then Abbott Government submitted its intended Nationally Determined Contribution as part of the Paris Agreement which was for an economy-wide target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Additionally, the Australian Government committed to translating the 2030 target into “an emissions budget covering the period 2021-2030”. This is yet to happen. 

Emissions continue to rise under the Morrison Government and Australia is highly unlikely to meet its already inadequate 2030 emissions reduction target.

Emissions are rising in the transport, fugitive emissions and stationary energy sectors, and have recently been falling in the electricity sector largely as a result of the national renewable energy target and the retirement of ageing coal power stations. It is important to note that the federal renewable energy target will soon cease to drive new renewable energy investment as it will be fully subscribed. There is no other substantial federal policy mechanism to encourage investment in new power generation and there is no Federal Government plan to manage the transition currently underway in the electricity sector or other sectors.

The Morrison Government claims that it is on track to meet its Paris target but the Australian Government’s own projections show that Australia is not on track to reach our national emissions reduction target of 26-28% by 2030 (below 2005 levels). According to the government’s projections, in order to meet our current emissions target, Australia will need policies to reduce emissions by an extra 695-762 million tonnes (Mt) of greenhouse gas pollution between 2021-2030. The Morrison Government argues that almost half of this target can be met by using ‘carryover credits’ of 328 Mt from the Kyoto Protocol period. This is an approach that only Australia and Brazil are considering and that has been rejected by most experts and governments nationally and globally.


ACTU President Michele O’Neil on the need for Australia to lead at international climate talks: here

Professor Ross Garnaut presenting to union movement leaders on Australia's renewable superpower opportunity here:


ACTU Climate change media releases and opinion

22 July 2021: Australia should seize offshore wind opportunity

19 April 2021: The world is running out of patience with our excuses on climate change (op ed by Michele O'Neil)

26 Jan 2021: Biden shows we don’t have to choose between climate action and jobs

28 Nov 2020: Renewable energy sector can create tens of thousands of secure jobs

9 Nov 2020: Climate Change Bill presents opportunity for Morrison to catch up with the rest of the world

22 September 2020: Morrison provides a technology roadmap without a destination

28 August 2020: Far-reaching climate change impacts to Australia must be reduced and managed

20 July 2020: Unions launch plan for jobs led reconstruction

12 May 2020: Australian unions call for 2 million secure jobs and halving of job insecurity to rebuild economy