Australia’s 2030 emissions pledge in line with other OECD nations, but lacks the tools to deliver

Australia’s 2030 climate target is comparable in ambition to the US, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the EU. But additional policy measures will be required to meet Australia’s target.

Sydney, 11 August 2015

The Australian government’s proposed emissions reduction target of 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030 is in line with the pledges made by other OECD nations, including the US, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the EU, analysis by global research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows. However, the commitments made to date are not sufficient to limit global average temperatures to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Australia’s unconditional 26% emissions pledge is:

  • Less ambitious than the EU and US, but more ambitious than Canada, South Korea and Japan when assessed against a common 2010 baseline year.
  • Less ambitious than China, South Korea and Canada, but more ambitious than the EU, US and Japan when assessed on an emissions intensity per unit of GDP basis.
  • Less ambitious than South Korea, Mexico, Canada and the US, but more ambitious than Japan and the EU when assessed relative to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s projection of each economy’s business as usual trajectory.
  • Equivalent to a 19% reduction on 2000 levels, the baseline used to assess the short-term target of a 5% reduction in 2020.

Comparing the ambition of emissions reduction pledges is difficult, as each country has its own historical emissions profiles and current economic components informing its energy mix and intensity. At the same time, countries express emissions reduction targets in different ways, often to maximise the appearance of national effort. Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s assessment of emissions reduction ambition therefore measures national efforts in three dimensions: trajectory, intensity, and abatement required to meet targets.   These three measures are compared in detail below.

Australia’s pledge is comparable to the US, Canada, Japan and South Korea in most dimensions. “This shows that the Australian government has judged the politics and nominated a headline target that is right in the middle of the pack with its trading partners”, said Kobad Bhavnagri, the head of Australia for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “However Australia, like most countries, is still not doing enough to keep the projected rise in global temperature below 2 degrees”.

Meeting Australia’s target of 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030 will require additional policy. “Australia’s pledge requires the country to reduce emissions by 7%, relative to where the economy is likely to head with our current suite of policies”, Bhavnagri said. Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s analysis predicts that Australia’s emissions will fall by 11% by 2030 relative to 2005 levels without any further policy measures. “A stronger, longer-term and more robust set of policies will be required to meet this target”, Bhavnagri said. “At present, Australia’s Renewable Energy Target only supports an increase in clean capacity out to 2020, and it’s doubtful whether the Direct Action policy can get Australia to its 2020 goal, let alone the more challenging 2030 pledge.”

BNEF’s analysis shows that carbon emissions will remain stubbornly high unless generation from coal-fired power stations reduces. “The long life of our existing coal-fired generators means that with current policies, power sector emission fall by only 9% by 2030 compared to 2014”, Bhavnagri said. “We have to face up to the reality that if we want to reduce emissions domestically, Australia has to institute policies that reduce coal-fired power and boost renewables”, Bhavnagri said. “If that doesn’t occur, Australia will have to consider a mechanism to purchase emissions reduction permits from other nations.”

Parties ranked by target emissions trajectory

Party Absolute target emissions trajectory relative to 2010
EU -32% by 2030
US -22% by 2025
Australia -22% by 2030
Canada -21% by 2030
South Korea -21% by 2030
Japan -16% by 2030
Mexico +7% by 2030
China +58% by 2030
Russia +60% by 2030
Global benchmark -21% by 2030 (consistent with 50% reduction in emissions over 2010-50)


Parties ranked by target emissions intensity

Party Required change in emissions intensity consistent with INDC
China -54% by 2030
South Korea -53% by 2030
Canada -51% by 2030
Australia -50% by 2030
EU -48% by 2030
US -43% by 2025
Japan -29% by 2030
Mexico -28% by 2030
Russia +12% by 2030
Global benchmark -49% by 2030 (consistent with 50% reduction in emissions over 2010-50)


Parties ranked by abatement needed to hit target vs BNEF emissions estimate

Party Required change in emissions compared with BAU over 2012-30
South Korea -28% by 2030
Mexico -21% by 2030
Canada -11% by 2030
US -8% by 2025
Australia -7% by 2030
Japan -3% by 2030
EU +5% by 2030
China +9% by 2030
Russia +53% by 2030
Global benchmark Not available



Hugh Bromley


Bloomberg New Energy Finance

+61 9777 1293




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