Is Australia on track to reach net zero by 2050?

Last year, the Australian Government legislated to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.
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Last year, the Australian Government legislated to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

‘Net zero emissions’ refers to balancing greenhouse gas emissions produced and taken out of the atmosphere.

Last week, the Government acknowledged achieving this target will require a significant overhaul of key industries.

Here’s how Australia is tracking in the race to net zero.

Net zero roadmap

Last year, the Albanese Government laid out its path to net zero, including targets for 2030 and 2050:

By 2030, it’s legislated 43% emissions below 2005 levels, and it renewables generating 82% of energy.

By 2050, it has legislated net-zero emissions.

Challenges for net zero

Last week, Treasurer Jim Chalmers called for a shake-up of Australian industries to cut emissions.

During a conference speech in Melbourne, Chalmers said the transition to net zero requires a “uniquely Australian” approach, through harnessing resources and renewables.

“We will need to do even more to secure sufficient renewable energy generation, transmission and
storage to meet our ambitions.”

Progress so far to net zero

Clean energy advisory group NEXA has found it’s “extremely unlikely” that Australia will achieve its 2030 target of 82% renewables.

Government data shows renewables, such as wind, solar, and hydro (water) currently make up about a third of Australia’s energy generation.

A report from Rystad Energy projected Australia will hit 64% renewable generation by 2030, falling short of the 82% target.

Head of research at the Climate Council Simon Bradshaw said “Australia is a wealthy developed country with an enormous renewable energy potential”.

Despite this, he told TDA Australia is “not on track” to reach net zero by 2050.

Dr Bradshaw said the Government needs to make a “quantum leap” when it comes to how quickly it’s rolling out renewable energy solutions in order to meet targets.

Global ranking

According to the latest Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), Australia ranked in the bottom ten for emissions.

The index ranked Australia as having higher emissions than places like India, UK, and China. It was critical of Australia’s continued coal and gas mining, and subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

Australia was also called out as part of the G20 countries responsible for three-quarters of global emissions.

Global efforts

Three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from energy.

UN scientists want a “complete transformation” of industries to reach net zero.

The UN predicted the world won’t reach net zero by 2050 because it said most governments haven’t made commitments that are significant enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Government response

Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen conceded reaching the “ambitious” 2030 targets will be difficult, and said it was “crunch time” for transitioning to renewable energy.

Last month, Shadow Climate Minister Ted O’Brien said the Opposition is considering nuclear as an alternative for reaching net zero, calling for Australia to dump its “blanket ban” on nuclear power.

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