Australia Subsidies

Australia—$11 billion per annum from tax-based subsidies

There are a number of national tax-based subsidies that encourage fossil fuel production and consumption, adding up to a huge total of almost $11 billion each year. Using estimates from the federal government’s Tax Expenditure Statement and Treasury papers, the table below lists a range of measures within the Australian federal tax system that encourage the production and use of fossil fuels. This is Australian taxpayers’ money subsidizing fossil fuels. These figures do not include state-level subsidies, direct government handouts to coal, oil and gas projects, or public financing of international projects through export credit agencies or international financial institutions.

By far the largest contributor to the tax-based subsidies total is the Fuel Tax Credit Scheme, which provides around $6 billion worth of credits and grants to cover the tax paid on fuel to reduce its overall costs to heavy users. It is estimated that some 20% of these fuel tax credits go directly to fossil fuel producers.

Australia also pays out significant subsidies through statutory effective life caps, which allow for accelerated depreciation and a shorter write-off period for many vehicles. These tax deductions cost almost $2 billion worth of tax-payers’ money each year.

There are also a range of tax incentives for fossil fuel exploration and production, as well as measures encouraging aviation, shipping and motor vehicle use.

Learn More

“How Your Taxes Subsidize Fossil Fuels,” http://www.marketforces.org.au

Australia Survey

The number of Australians who believe in human caused climate change is almost equal to those who believe a changing climate is a natural occurrence. This brings into question how many people would support measures to address climate change that assume a human influence.

In a study conducted over the span of five years, CSIRO- an Australian research organization, examined Australian’s attitudes toward climate change. The survey reached 17,500 people between 2010 and 2014 and aimed to expand understanding of Australian’s views and beliefs relating to climate change.

The survey showed that an overwhelming majority—78%—of Australians believe climate change is happening when asked as a yes or no question.

The same survey shows that while significant portions of Australians believe in human caused climate change, overall Australians under estimate how many others hold this belief. The charts below show predicted versus actual belief in climate change and various climate change causes. However, when looking at the actual data, the number of Australians who believe in human caused climate change is almost equal to those who believe a changing climate is a natural occurrence. This brings into question how many people would support measures to address climate change that assume a human influence.

In order for Australia to take action to address its emissions and contribution to climate change, people must support the idea that these actions will be beneficial to the overall effort to combat climate change. It remains to be seen if measures to reduce Australia’s GHG emissions will have enough public and political support to meet their Paris commitments.

Learn More

https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP158008&dsid=DS2

Australia Strategies

Australia: (1) Strengthen country’s Paris Agreement pledge; (2) Fast track phase-out of HFCs

If using the ultimate goal of keeping global temperature increase from remaining below 2°C, then Australia needs to strengthen its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Australia’s INDC aims to achieve a 26-28% reduction below a 2005 baseline by 2030. There is conflicting information available about the progress towards this goal. In July of 2017, the organization Climate Action Tracker reported that Australia’s “emissions will far exceed its Paris Agreement NDC for 2030, meaning that the country’s pledged goals will not be met”

Many Australian cities have already created their own emission reduction goals that exceed the nationwide NDC pledge. If these goals can be exceeded by Australia’s largest cities, then it is realistic to think that the nation as a whole can exceed it Paris Agreement pledge. One approach to improving upon current goals would be to support a progressive decrease over time in greenhouse gas emissions with the ultimate goal being net zero emissions.

In addition, as recommended by Australia’s Climate Change Authority, an accelerated phase-down of HFC emissions should begin immediately in order to limit the extreme global warming potential of these gases. Eliminating HFC emissions is easier than the phase out of CO2, which permeates many more areas of the economy than HFCs and would show more immediate results.

Australia Renewable Energy

Australia—No 100% 2050 Commitment
Benchmark: 20% by 2020

Australia has released a Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme to encourage the growth of renewables, but the goal of 100% renewables by 2050 is out of the scope of the current plan. The nation has a goal of 100% Net-Zero carbon emissions by the 2050 benchmark, but the current benchmark for renewable production is focused on 20% by 2020.

The RET outlines goals for increased renewable production on both a small and large scale. This is the most comprehensive plan for renewable energy expansion and has put the nation on course to beat its 2020 renewable energy target. This projection also predicts 51% renewable by 2050. However, while it is encouraging that Australia is meeting its stated goals, these goals are far below the renewable energy targets of other developed nations.

There are several projects underway to increase Australia’s renewable energy production and an increasing push for further development in this sector from oil and coal workers.

Currently, hydropower in the form of tidal power is a significant source of renewable energy in Australia. A current project underway will map the total tidal potential of the country to aid in the development of infrastructure to capture this energy. If fully implemented, it is likely that this could provide a significant amount of renewable energy for Australia, but exact figures are still being calculated.

Solar also has huge potential in Australia and is being developed at a faster pace than other technologies. The largest solar farm in the country is the Greenough River Solar Farm, which opened in 2012 and generates 10 MegaWatts of power. This, along with other solar farms, will continue to move Australia towards its renewable energy target. Unfortunately a planned 100 MW solar farm—the Mildura Solar Concentrator Power Station—planned for operation in 2017 was cancelled. Aside from this, most smaller projects in development are fairly spread out and collectively contribute to meeting the needs of approximately 20% of the overall power consumption.

Learn More

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/30/australia-2020-renewable-energy-target
https://reneweconomy.com.au/australian-coal-gas-miners-seek-renewable-energy-projects-10913/
https://arena.gov.au/projects/tidal-energy-australia-assessing-resource-feasibility-australias-future-energy-mix/

Australia Success Project

Australia—The City of Melbourne

The city of Melbourne has strived to become one of Australia’s most sustainable cities by creating a comprehensive environmental plan that addresses climate resilience, emissions reduction, livability, and more. The variety of initiatives including community gardens and bike share programs have been well received by residents who cite lifestyle improvements in addition to sustainability as a benefit of the program. This integration and synergy with other aspects of daily life is crucial to the success of any sustainability or climate initiative. With a problem so looming, it can be overwhelming for citizens to integrate addressing climate change into their already busy lives. Melbourne’s success comes in part from recognizing this and providing change that is easy for its citizens to adopt, which in turn will increase their stake and support for other less tangible initiatives.

This human-centric approach allows for more involvement from citizens and creates a more comprehensive plan for reaching Australia’s Paris Agreement emissions reduction pledge. By allowing cities to address the needs of the community in a way that also reduces environmental impact, they are creating a system that can be sustained long term.

Even prior to the signing of the Paris Agreement, Melbourne had been developing an emissions reduction plan for the city. The city has a self-imposed goal to have Net Zero Emissions by 2020 and has written a plan to achieve this goal. Because this plan was designed on the city-scale, it allows for flexibility and customization that is better suited for the needs of the citizens, which can decrease opposition some may feel to an outside plan such as the Paris Agreement. Designing policies with the people they affect at all scales is critical to success, sustainability, and scalability of emissions reductions strategies.

These municipal plans could help Australia meet its INDC pledge of an emissions reduction of (including LULUCF) 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030.Without support from the government at lower levels, the Australian federal government will have a much more difficult time in moving the country forward as a whole.

Learn More

https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/zero-net-emissions-update-2014.pdf

Australia Checkup

Australia—Falling Behind

In 2015, Australia pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28% as part of a United Nation’s agreement presented at COP21 in Paris. In making its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the Paris Agreement, the Government said that, “Australia will continue to play our part in an effective global response to climate change. Australia will implement an economy-wide target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.”

A recent report from Climate Tracker (http://climateactiontracker.org/countries.html)  described Australia’s progress in implementing the Paris Agreement as inadequate. The Citizens Climate Agreement Campaign report also gave Australia’s initial pledge only one of five possible stars. The pledge is clear and unconditional, however it is not as aggressive as needed and calls for reductions at a slower pace than other developed nations.

Australia’s carbon pricing in 2012 initially appeared to signal a bright future for the nation’s environmental initiatives. However, a repeal of that same carbon pricing and political gridlock have slowed efforts to reduce emissions. Political tensions getting in the way of clean energy progress is sharply criticized in a Bloomberg article titled, “How Not to Transform a Power Grid: Lessons From Australia.”

In addition, Australia is redirecting some of its foreign aid budget toward domestic security measures. While the amount is small in relation to its national GDP, these funds could have gone to mitigation strategies for some of Australia’s Pacific Island neighbors who have criticized Australia’s lack of leadership in the region.

Learn More

https://www.bna.com/not-transform-power-n57982086783/ 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-17/marshall-islands-urge-australia-to-support-climate-change/8533434

Australia Emission Reduction Policy

Hydrofluorocarbon Phase-Down Policy

In January 2018, Australia plans to adapt a policy that has it’s origins in the Montreal Protocol. The plan will phase-down the use and import of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).  This agreement calls for an 85% reduction of HFCs in developed nations between 2019 and 2036.  Australia has adapted a phase-down plan to meet the requirements of the protocol. While HFCs are not Australia’s most abundant GHG, they can have an important impact on climate change. Reductions of even a small amount can have drastic and rapid benefits. One ton of HFCs or CFCs can have a global warming impact that is 10,000 or more times stronger than an equal amount of CO2.  Between this and the ease at which HFCs can be decreased from industry use, addressing the use of HFCs makes for a very practical climate change policy.

This policy has the potential to bring about a huge reduction of GHG emissions both in Australia and in other nations where it is being implemented. There are low or no cost replacement gases that can be used in place of HFCs that do not require significant equipment changes or increases in consumer cost. Additionally, the atmospheric lifetime of HFCs is far shorter than that of CO2 so the turnaround time to start seeing and feeling the benefits of this reduction are much shorter than policies that address CO2.

The reduction in emissions will be achieved through a gradually declining cap on imports and is estimated to achieve up to 72 billion tonnes in carbon dioxide equivalent emission savings by 2050. Although the national policy will start to be implemented in 2018, states and cities have the opportunity to move more quickly in implementing HFC reduction policies of their own and to begin moving the country towards its 85% HFC reduction goal.

Learn More

Link to full HFC policy: http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/ozone/legislation/opsggm-review/hfc-phase-down-faqs

Australia Extreme Weather Event

Bleaching Event of the Great Barrier Reef

Warmer water temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae zooxanthellae living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s most iconic natural features, and has been a harrowing representation of the effects of climate change on the country’s ecosystems. The Reef is currently undergoing the largest bleaching event ever recorded, with some reports showing damage to the system at upwards of 90%. The full environmental effects of this can’t be fully known, as such a large and complex ecosystem plays an important role in biodiversity and oceanic conditions. Additionally, there is a cultural loss for Australians and the potential for a decrease in tourism if Reef degradation continues.

The government has formulated a plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the Reef 2050 Plan, which outlines measures that can be taken through 2050 to protect the Reef. The government has outlined 151 actions that can be taken to protect the Reef in the first five years of implementing the plan, and has stated that it is on track with 89% of those actions.

Additionally, heatwaves and wildfires have been increasing both in frequency and intensity.  The human impact of these climatic changes has been felt across the country as people endure extended periods of extreme heat that have already characterized 2017.

The government has put out statements on these events, and acknowledged the many extreme and unusual weather events that took place over the course of 2016. The Australia State of the Environment 2016 Overview was recently released and covers trends and changes from 2011-2016. This report outlines where there has been success in management and environmental policies, as well as areas that have seen increased environmental degradation.

The full report can be found here: https://soe.environment.gov.au/

Learn More

http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/gbr/long-term-sustainability-plan
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=89683

Australia Media Organizations

Many major media outlets in Australia are skeptical of climate change and climate science in the majority of their coverage of the topic. Coverage in mainstream media can be presented in a way that leaves the subject open for debate, but rarely does it present information showing the consensus of the vast majority of the scientific community.  Few news sources have an official stance on climate change, but the majority doesn’t seem to make coverage of the topic a priority.

“Articles in Australia’s two biggest newspapers by circulation, News Corp’s Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, were more than 60% skeptical about anthropogenic climate change. In Australia’s largest circulation newspaper, the Herald Sun, 67% of the articles  reporting climate science did not accept the scientific consensus.”

Broadcast Media

Government-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation provides content across all distribution media including radio, television, and online articles. Writer Michael Edwards recently published a piece titled “Humans driving climate change 170 times faster than natural forces, scientists calculate,” which supports anthropogenic causes of climate change. While this information can be found through ABC, the topic of climate change often falls behind other issues in prominence.

Content Sample:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-13/humans-accelerating-global-warming-anthropocene-equation/8265326

Print Media

The Guardian, which has primarily online distribution, has published pieces strongly supporting the idea of human-caused climate change, and has devoted more coverage than most outlets to covering the topic.  However, the audience tends to lean progressive and they are likely delivering information to people who already support the science of human caused climate change.

Content Sample:

Journalist for the Guardian Paul Mason recently published a piece strongly condemning climate-denial of the right and commenting on increasing pressures on mainstream conservatives to limit commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Guardian is owned by British Media group Scott Trust Limited.
Website: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/20/sweltering-aussies-rightwing-climate-of-fear

In October 2013, Professor Wendy Bacon produced a report on Climate Science in Australian newspapers. She can be contacted at wendybacon1@gmail.com. The report found that there was very little prominent coverage of climate science in Australian media, although some of these questioned climate science. At the time of the report, The Sydney Morning Herald was the most likely to publish prominent climate science articles, all of which supported a consensus on climate science.

http://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/Sceptical-Climate-Part-2-Climate-Science-in-Australian-Newspapers.pdf page 66

The Sydney Morning Herald is owned by Fairfax Media, one of the largest Australian media organizations.  While it has traditionally been a conservative outlet, the Sydney Morning Herald has recently been supportive of environmental initiatives and climate science. Several recent stories feature coverage of the recent moves by the new U.S. administration such as the appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA. Coverage of plans to roll back environmental regulations in the U.S. and pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement leans towards being critical of these choices.

Read the Full Article: http://www.smh.com.au/world/donald-trump-targets-environmental-and-climate-rules-as-scott-pruitt-prepares-to-take-epa-role-20170217-gufuds.html

Australia Subnational Best Practices

Regions/Provinces/States

Canberra/ Australian Capital Territory (ACT)—The region containing the Australian capital of Canberra is one of two Australian signatories of the “Under 2 MOU” agreement, which brings together subnational governments to pledge to reduce GHG emissions in an effort to limit global temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius. The pledge commits its signatories to reduce their overall emissions by 80-90% below 1990 levels by 2050. Participation in this type of project, especially from the capital, not only commits to making real and measurable change in the form of emission reduction, but also sends the message that cities and provinces can and should commit themselves to taking action. The Australian Capital was also the highest ranked Australian city in the Arcadis 2016 Sustainable City Index at number 25.
Three factors are considered when listing a city in the Sustainable Cities Index: People, Environment and Profit. Cities that have proven to be livable and show good economic growth prospects without sacrificing environmental sustainability are ranked and analyzed through a variety of factors.  Canberra came out ahead overall, but in the specific sub-index looking at the planet, Sydney was Australia’s highest ranked city.  Sydney’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 70% by 2030 was a key factor in its score.

Contact Information for the Australian Capital Territory
Mail: Access Canberra, Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate, GPO Box 158, Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: + 13 22 81 or 6207 5111.

Contact Information for the City of Sydney
Mail: City of Sydney, GPO Box 1591, Sydney NSW 2001
Street address: Town Hall House,  Level 2, 456 Kent Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Email: council@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

Cities

Adelaide—Adelaide has announced a goal to be Carbon Neutral by 2050, and has been successful in achieving emissions reductions even with population and economic growth.  The city has also made a point to identify local risks of climate change including an increase in heat waves and reductions in water supply. There is also a recycled water project underway in Adelaide which can offer some relief in an area subject to drought.

Contact information for the City of Adelaide
Mail: Colonel Light Centre, 25 Pirie Street, Adelaide
Telephone: +61 8 8203 7203
Fax: +61 8 8203 7575
Email: city@adelaidecitycouncil.com

Darwin—Voted Australia’s most sustainable city in 2010, Darwin has implemented several noteworthy environmental initiatives. The City of Darwin encourages “creating habitat” anywhere possible to encourage increased biodiversity—a topic rarely addressed in sustainability and climate action plans. The city also aims to be a leader and model for implementing climate policy and reducing emissions, as stated in their plan Evolving Darwin—Strategic Directions Beyond 2020

Contact Information for the City of Darwin
Postal Address: G PO Box 84 Darwin, NT 0801
Street Address: Harry Chan Avenue, Darwin NT 0800
Telephone: 8930 0300
Fax: 8930 0311
Email: darwin@darwin.nt.gov.au

Associations

Resilient East “Resilient East” is an initiative between Adelaide City Council, the Cities of Burnside, Campbelltown, Norwood Payneham & St Peters, Prospect, Tea Tree Gully, Unley and the Town of Walkerville.

“The goal of Resilient East is to improve the resilience of our communities, assets and infrastructure, local economies and natural environment so they can cope with the inevitable impacts and challenges of climate change.”   -From Resilient East website

In addition to working to improve the climate resilience capacity of Australian cities, Resilient East has produced several reports that can be used to guide next steps. These reports include a climate action plan, vulnerability assessment, and climate projections report among others.

Contact: http://www.npsp.sa.gov.au/our_environment/resilient_east

Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (NAGA)
“The Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action formed in 2002 as a network that shares information, coordinates emission reduction and adaptation activities and cooperates on the research and development of innovative projects.

“NAGA’s goal is to substantially contribute to the transition to a low-carbon future by delivering effective programs and leveraging local government, community and business action.”     -From NAGA website

Contact: http://www.naga.org.au/

Climate Action Network (CAN) / Australia
The Climate Action Network works to connect groups across Australia working towards common goals. Their primary goal is to act as a facilitator in cooperation between existing groups and supporting climate protection projects that are already underway.

Contact: http://www.cana.net.au/