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:
Climate Safety at Work Summit:
In September 2021 the ACTU held a Climate Safety at Work summit to explore all the ways that climate change is already impacting Australian workers, and what unions are doing about it in the lead up to global climate talks.
Watch the Summit here:
Clean Exports research
In October 2021 the ACTU partnered with the Australian Conservation Foundation, BCA and WWF to explore the clean export opportunities Australia could pursue. Our detailed research found that Australia could create 395,000 clean energy export jobs in emerging industries such as green hydrogen, green metals, critical minerals, manufacturing batteries and clean energy education and services. But we'll need Federal leadership and investment to get the industries off the ground and ensure Australia stakes a claim in these massive emergingh industries.
ACTU Climate change media releases and opinion
14 October 2021: Clean exports could deliver 395,000 new jobs
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)
22 September 2020: Morrison provides a technology roadmap without a destination
20 July 2020: Unions launch plan for jobs led reconstruction