A 1.5°C compatible pathway would require domestic 2030 emissions level in the range of 229-286 MtCO₂e/yr excluding LULUCF or 46-56% below 2005 levels by 2030 excluding LULUCF.
Australiaʼs total GHG emissions
excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr
- 1.5°C compatible pathways
- Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
- Current policy projections
- 1.5°C emissions range
- Historical emissions
In June 2022, the Australian government updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), setting an emissions reduction target of 43% below 2005 levels by 2030, including contributions from the LULUCF sector.1 The updated NDC target aims at emissions reductions of 28% below 2005 levels excluding LULUCF which would lead to emissions levels of 380 MtCO₂e/yr excluding LULUCF in 2030.47 While the updated NDC target is a significant improvement upon the government’s previous target, it is still not compatible with a 1.5°C pathway (and neither is the current policy trajectory).2
1 Australian Government. Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution Communication 2022. 2022.
2 Australian Government. Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution Communication 2021. 2021.
3 Australian Government. Australian Energy Update 2022. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. 2022.
4 Reputex. The Economic Impact of the ALP’s Powering Australia Plan. 2021.
5 IEA. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy 2021 Edition. 2021.
6 Australian Government. National construction code (NCC) updates mean energy efficiency ratings expansion for new residences. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. 2022.
7 Australian Government. Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings. Department of Climate Change, the Environment, Energy and Water. 2019.
8 Australian Government. Safeguard Mechanism reform: consultation paper. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. 2022.
9 Australian Government. Australia’s Long-term Emissions Reduction Plan. 2021.
10 Parliament of Australia. Climate Change Bill 2022. 2022.
11 Climate Action Tracker. Australia. CAT August 2022 Update. 2022.
12 Australian Government. Australia’s emissions projections 2021. 2021.
13 AEMO. 2022 Integrated System Plan For the National Electricity Market. 2022.
14 Hurst, D. Australia could send extra gas to Europe as Russia cuts supplies due to Ukraine tensions. The Guardian. 2022.
15 Woodside. AGM Address by Chairman Richard Goyder and CEO Meg O’Neill. 2022.
16 AEMO. Gas Statement of Opportunities. 2022.
17 Australian Government. Legacy of ongoing Morrison Government fossil fuel handouts. 2022.
18 Morton, A. & Touma, R. Labor urged to axe $1.9bn in ‘zombie’ fossil fuel subsidies promised by the Coalition. The Guardian. 2022.
19 King, M. New offshore greenhouse gas storage acreage to help lower emissions. The Hon Madeleine King MP Media Releases. 2022.
20 King, M. Speech at the Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference, Adelaide. The Hon Madeleine King MP Media Releases. 2022.
21 Australian Government. Emissions Reduction Fund White Paper. 2014.
22 COAG Energy Council. National Energy Productivity Plan 2015-2030. 2015.
23 Australian Government. Renewable Energy Target. Clean Energy Regulator. 2022.
24 Parkinson, G. Australia officially met renewable target in January, despite big project delays. Renew Economy. 2021.
25 Climate Analytics. Submission to the Australian Government’s review of the Safeguard Mechanism. 2022.
26 Parra, P. Y., Hare, B., Hutfilter, U. F. & Roming, N. Evaluating the significance of Australia’s global fossil fuel carbon footprint. 2019.
27 Department of Industry Science Energy and Resources. Australian Energy Update 2020, Australian Energy Statistics. 2020.
28 Australian Government. Trade and Investment at a Glance. 2020.
29 Readfearn, G. Australian coal burnt overseas creates nearly twice the nation’s domestic emissions. The Gaurdian. 2021.
30 Wood, T., Dundas, G. & Ha., J. Start with steel. 2020.
31 Marshall, L. Building a clean hydrogen industry for Australia. CSIRO. 2021.
32 Climate Action Tracker. Scaling up Climate Action: Australia. CAT Scaling Up Climate Action series. 2020.
33 Climate Analytics. FACTSHEET 4: Australia’s Industry Inefficient and standing still. 2018.
34 Reputex. The Economic Impact of the ALP’s Powering Australia Plan. 2021.
35 Macintosh, A. et al. The ERF’s Human-induced Regeneration (HIR): What the Beare and Chambers Report Really Found and a Critique of its Method. 2022.
36 Randall, T. Clean Energy Has a Tipping Point, and 87 Countries Have Reached It. Bloomberg Green. 2022.
37 Australian Government. Australia reaches the 3 million solar milestone. Clean Energy Regulator. 2021.
38 Clean Energy Council. Clean Energy Australia Report. 2022.
39 Lewis, J. Chevron’s flagship Gorgon CCS project still failing to live up to expectations. Upstream. 2022.
40 Readfearn, G. Gas giant Chevron falls further behind on carbon capture targets for Gorgon gasfield. The Guardian. 2022.
41 Smit, R., Dia, H. & Surawski, N. The road to new fuel efficiency rules is filled with potholes. Here’s how Australia can avoid them. The Conversation. 2022.
42 The Centre for International Economics. What existing economic studies say about Australia’s cost of abatement. 2019.
43 Climate Change Authority. Light Vehicle Emissions Standards for Australia. 2014.
44 The Centre for International Economics. What existing economic studies say about Australia’s cost of abatement. 2019.
45 Australian Government. Budget October 2022-23: Budget Measures Budget Paper No . 2. (2022).
46 Australian Government. National Electric Vehicle Strategy: consultation paper. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. 2022.
47 We have derived the excl. LULUCF target from 2005 emissions level in the government’s Paris Agreement inventory and 2030 LULUCF projections in the Government projections published in 2022 of -33 MtCO₂e. Both these sources use global warming potentials (GWP) from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). As the 1.5°C national pathway explorer uses GWPs from the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), we have converted the government’s emissions data to AR4 using an average conversion factor of 0.98 (AR4=0.98*AR5). For reference, the AR5 GWP weighted 2030 emissions based on for reference, the AR5 GWP numbers based on the most recent inventory the most recent inventory is 388 MtCO₂e/yr excluding LULUCF in 2030.
48 Based on Government LULUCF projections which use AR5 GWP (-16 MtCO₂e/yr in 2030). Here we have applied the government LULUCF projections growth rates to the latest LULUCF historical data in the Paris Agreement Inventory, and estimate a LULUCF sink of -26 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030 using AR4 GWP. Historic LULUCF emissions for 2005 have also been converted to AR4.
49 The 2022 projections including LULUCF for 2030 are for about a 32% reduction, 11% short of the Governments 43% target.
50 For a critique of the effectiveness of this mechanism, see Climate Action Tracker’s analysis of Australia’s current policies. For discussion of the associated Safeguard Mechanism, see Submission on Safeguard Mechanism reform.
51 This is consistent with the Climate Targets Panel in Australia “fair share” reductions for Australia in 2030 of 74% from 2005 emission levels including LULUCF based on earlier Climate Change Authority work. The overall fair share contribution includes domestic emissions reductions and substantial support for emission reductions in developing countries on top of its domestic reductions.
When including LULUCF, the 1.5°C compatible pathway would require domestic 2030 emissions level in the range of 203-260 MtCO₂e/yr, or about 57-67% reduction from 2005 levels, which is substantially higher than the current target.48
The overall fair share contribution to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions compatible with the 1.5°C temperature limit would require Australia to reduce emissions by 60% by 2030 below 2005 levels, excluding LULUCF. These emissions reductions include Australia’s domestic emissions reductions and substantial support (e.g., financial) for emission reductions in developing countries.
Net zero target
The Australian Government has a target for net zero emissions by 2050, which was submitted to the UNFCCC in October 2021, and enshrined into law in September 2022.9,10 To reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050 at the latest, Australia would need to balance these residual emissions with carbon dioxide removals.11
To be 1.5°C compatible, Australia would need a GHG emissions reduction of 84-94% by 2050 below 2005 levels, excluding LULUCF, which is consistent with the Climate Action Tracker’s comprehensive assessment of a Paris Agreement compatible pathway for Australia, which showed a reduction of around 90% by 2050.
- Coal and gas made up around 54% and 20%, respectively, of the power generation mix in 2020.3 Australia would need to move away from fossil fuel power generation in order to realise a 1.5°C compatible pathway. This would necessitate that the country phase out coal by around 2029 and gas by around 2035.
- 1.5°C pathways see Australia’s gas rapidly decline from 2025 or before. Thus, any new gas-fired power plant built in Australia today would be a stranded asset in a 1.5°C world.
- The 1.5°C pathways show an 81-88% renewables share in power by 2030. An earlier bottom-up model developed by the Climate Action Tracker for Australia shows that a 97% renewable share could be achievable by 2030.
- The Labor government’s Powering Australia plan is estimated to result in an 82% renewable power share in the National Electricity Market (NEM) by 2030, but only covers the main grid on the east coast which accounted for about 82% of national generation in 2021/22.4
- Direct CO₂ emissions in the Australian buildings sector have been rising steadily since 1990, with 2019 showing a rare small year-on-year decline.5
- Australia has a high, and increasingly rapid, uptake of rooftop solar. It is a global leader in terms of residential solar share of total power capacity.
- The Australian government has recently updated the National Construction Code to increase the energy efficiency of new residential buildings. This is in line with an earlier plan to set a trajectory for net zero energy buildings.6,7
- A 1.5°C compatible pathway would see electricity’s share of the buildings sector’s energy mix increase to 78-81% by 2030 and 92-94% by 2050. This would be in conjunction with an increasing share of renewables in power generation.
- Between 2015 and 2019, Australia’s carbon emissions from industrial energy use grew by around 19%.5 This rise in emissions was due to a dirtier fuel mix, with coal use increasing by 27% over the period.
- Industrial emissions covered under Australia’s Safeguard Mechanism have grown despite its implementation in 2016. The Mechanism is now undergoing consultation and reform, including declining emissions baselines.8
- The LNG export industry, which accounts for about a quarter of the emissions covered by the Safeguard Mechanism, is particularly concerning both domestically and in terms of the contribution to global emissions reductions.
- The 1.5°C compatible pathways assessed here see carbon emissions from industrial energy use fall by 66-76% from 2019 levels by 2030 and reach zero between 2047-2053.
- Australia’s transport sector makes up the largest share of the total final energy consumption, 41% as of 2019, and this has been growing. Oil accounts for 97% of transport energy use.
- Australia’s vehicles are relatively inefficient compared with global averages. Today, Australia remains the only country in the OECD without mandatory fuel efficiency standards.
- The Labor government has made several transport policy announcements in 2022 including developing a National Electric Vehicle Strategy and a new Driving the Nation Fund.
- The 1.5°C compatible pathways assessed here give a range of carbon emissions reduction for the transport sector of 29-69% from 2019 levels by 2030, reflecting the uncertainty around future energy demand and the rollout of hydrogen and biofuels in the sector.