Australia Rejects IPCC Report’s Anti-Coal Stance
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected a rapid global phase-out of coal-fired power and declared his government will not be bound by a landmark climate study, amid concern its blueprint for curbing temperature rises would see the “lights go out on the east coast of Australia”.
A special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has championed a quick end to coal-fired power across the world and found that unprecedented changes in all aspects of society were needed to meet the lower Paris Agreement target limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
The Morrison government yesterday welcomed the report but stood by coal-fired power generation and defended Australia’s record in meeting its international emissions reduction targets.
“If we take coal out of our energy system, the lights will go out on the east coast of Australia — it’s as simple as that,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
The IPCC special report said rising temperatures were already affecting the weather in some places and there would be a big difference in the impacts on all aspects of the natural world from a 2C increase, compared with a 1.5C rise. Warm-water coral reefs would be more than 99 per cent gone with a rise of 2C, but some might survive at 1.5C.
The special report is set to become a central focus of a campaign to encourage countries to increase their ambition under the Paris Agreement, starting in Poland in December. At present, Paris Agreement pledges would lead to global temperature increases of more than 3C.
The Australian government said the report justified the controversial decision to spend $444 million protecting the Great Barrier Reef.
Environment Minister Melissa Price said the IPCC report was designed to inform policy makers but was not “policy prescriptive”.
The Prime Minister defended Australia remaining a signatory to the Paris Agreement, arguing it would not have any impact on electricity prices. But he said Australia would not be held to any of the IPCC report conclusions.
“We are not held to any of them at all, and nor are we bound to go and tip money into that big climate fund,” Mr Morrison told 2GB radio.
Bill Shorten said there was a need to ensure a greater proportion of renewable energy sources in Australia’s energy mix.
“But we are not saying that there won’t be fossil fuel as part of our energy mix going forward,” the Opposition Leader said.
According to the IPCC report, to meet a target of 1.5C warming compared with the 1851-1900 average, global net human carbon dioxide emissions would need to fall about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050.
Renewables are projected to supply 70 to 85 per cent of electricity in 2050, under the 1.5C target. Nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS) were modelled to increase in most 1.5C pathways. The use of CCS would allow the electricity generation share of gas to be about 8 per cent of global electricity in 2050.
“The use of coal shows a steep reduction in all pathways and would be reduced to close to zero per cent of electricity (in 2050),” the report said.
CSIRO research scientist Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project, said the special report was probably the last reminder that there were no insoluble biophysical or technical impediments to meet the lowest temperature targets in the Paris Agreement.
But Dr Canadell said it would require the “almost immediate establishment of a global carbon market, carbon pricing across all sectors of the economy, massive energy efficiency gains, significant consumer changes in diets, actions to reduce peak global population, and the immediate and growing deployment of options for the direct removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, including the pervasive need for carbon capture and storage in most cases”.
There would be drastic changes in land use, including reforestation and planting crops for energy to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and burying emissions when they were burnt.
A shift in diet towards less meat was described in the summary for policymakers as the need for “healthy consumption patterns”, “responsible consumption” and “sustainable diets”.
The provision of billions of dollars in finance to help developing nations would be crucial.