Australia

Australia

Geopolitical Informations

Capital
Canberra
Population
24,1 million (2016)
Total area
7,617,930 km²

Latest News

G20 meeting in Brisbane addresses climate change despite reluctant Australian stance

On 15-16 November 2014, the Group of Twenty (G20) met in Brisbane, Australia to discuss ways to strengthen the global economy. The meeting was set to focus on how to increase the resilience of the global economy and drive economic growth. As the conference drew nearer, the blatant exclusion of the impact of climate change read more…

Australian carbon emissions rise since carbon tax repeal

On 4 September 2014, consultancy Pitt & Sherry – who track electricity use and emissions in Australia’s National Electricity Market – announced that Australian carbon emissions and electricity demand have risen in the two months since the government repealed its emissions tax. The emissions growth of the past two months amounts to a 0.8% annual read more…

Australia’s Liberal government succeeds in getting rid of the carbon tax

Australia’s Senate on Thursday (July, 17) voted 39-32 to repeal the country’s carbon tax introduced by Labor government in 2011, planned to pass into a cap-and-trade system linked to the EU ETS from 2015. The vote marked a victory for Libera Prime Minister Tony Abbott who made abolition of the carbon pricing mechanism a major read more…

Climate Policy Facts

Emissions

Year Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF ( MtCO2e) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per Capita ( tCO2e Per Capita) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per GDP ( tCO2e / Million $ GDP)
1990 426.06 24.97 881.12
1991 424.57 24.56 881.12
1992 425.39 24.31 879.06
1993 427.03 24.17 847.62
1994 431.08 24.14 822.35
1995 438.97 24.29 805.29
1996 454.23 24.81 801.27
1997 466.83 25.21 792.58
1998 491.68 26.28 798.65
1999 506.61 26.77 784.05
2000 517.66 27.03 771.48
2001 526.43 27.12 769.92
2002 530.16 26.98 746.19
2003 529.53 26.62 722.53
2004 540.54 26.86 708.18
2005 541.03 26.53 686.93
2006 546.55 26.41 673.45
2007 557.37 26.76 661.72
2008 560.67 26.39 641.46
2009 568.57 26.21 639.94
2010 560.64 25.45 618.11
2011 563.45 25.22 606.46

The line chart shows the country’s carbon emissions by year, expressed in million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) for emission totals, and in tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) for per capita and per dollar of GDP values. It is based on data from CAIT platform provided by the World Resource Insititute, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

By selecting or deselecting each item, you can compare or give prominence to particular emission trends.

Energy

Energy Source Production (ktoe) TPES (ktoe)
Coal 264651,731 46344,803
Oil 20092,614 45275,995
Natural gas 52108,458 29718,242
Nuclear 0 0
Hydro 1556,17 1556,17
Geothermal 0,43 0,43
Solar thermal 299,909 299,909
Solar photovoltaics 327,574 327,574
Tide, wave, ocean 0 0
Wind 630,122 630,122
Biomass 4347,211 4347,211
Biofuels 718,911 718,911
Waste 93,896 93,896

The double-doughnut chart shows the country’s energy production and TPES (Total Primary Energy Supply), expressed in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). It is built on data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Energy Agency libraries, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

The INNER RING represents the country’s energy production from each energy source, corresponding to the quantities of fuels extracted or produced.

The OUTER RING shows the country’s total primary energy supply of each fuel. It represents the net quantities of fuels made available on the domestic market, after foreign transfers and trading. According to IEA’s definition, TPES equals production plus imports minus exports minus international bunkers plus or minus stock changes.

Differences between production and TPES are significant as they highlight the actual country’s behaviour in the matter of a given energy source. Production values and TPES values of the same energy source may vary widely, especially in case of the much-traded fossil fuels.

Energy data refers to year 2013.

National Policy

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Australia has a federal system of governance with six states and two territories, which have considerable autonomy. The Australian parliamentary system resembles the one of the United Kingdom. It is bicameral with the House of Representatives and the Senate. Bills can be introduced in either of the both chambers with the exception of expenditure and tax issues, which are considered by the House of Representatives first. Both chambers need to pass a bill for it to become a law. The current Prime Minister of Australia is Malcolm Turnbull from the Liberal Party.

CLIMATE CHANGE

In 2015, Australia submitted its INDC to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance to the COP21 in Paris (see section on ‘International Policy’).

Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Act and the Direct Action Plan 2014
The law establishes the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), which is the centrepiece of the Direct Action Plan. It constitutes the main instrument of the Australian climate policy and for reaching the climate policy targets for 2020 and 2030. Until 2020, Australia aims to reduce GHG emissions by 5 percent below 2000 levels, which is a bipartisan target, i.e. it is both supported by the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. The goal translates into a 19 percent reduction against the business-as-usual scenario. The ERF provides for reverse auctions, which shall enable the government to purchase low-cost abatement measures. This means that the fund allows businesses, community organisations, local councils and other members of the community to undertake emission reduction activities and sell the resulting emissions reductions to the government. The respective emission reductions proposed in the auctions need to be credited by the Clean Energy Regulator and certain safeguards apply in order to prevent leakage. The first auctions under the ERF were held in April 2015. The safeguards installed have been assessed to be ineffective.
The Direct Action Plan replaced the Clean Energy Act (see below in section “Energy”), when the new government of the Liberal Party under the Abott administration came into power. The Direct Action Plan was specifically “designed to efficiently and effectively source low cost emissions reductions”. For this purpose, the already existing Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act of 2011 (see below in section on “Carbon Pricing”) was amended.
Full document available here.

Climate Change Authority Act 2011
The law establishes the Climate Change Authority for reviewing other acts and to conduct research on climate change matters. A bill to abolish the Climate Change Authority was rejected in 2014. However, The Guardian reports that the government has since then ignored statements and recommendations of the Authority and replaced independent members of the body from the scientific community with former conservative politicians and lobbyists. Since then, reports would be drafted in a way palatable for the government, such as the Finkel Review of the national electricity market.
Full document available here.

National Greenhouse Energy and Reporting (NGER) Act 2007
The law was introduced to establish a single national reporting framework for GHG emissions and energy use and production. The NGER Act defines also several targets for the three issue areas. Corporations have to meet an annual NGER threshold. For this purpose, they have to register and annually report to the Clean Energy Regulator, which is generally responsible for implementing climate change mitigation laws. The NGER law was initially intended to provide the necessary information for a future emission trading scheme (ETS).

Australia Greenhouse Office (AGO) and National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS) 1998
In 1998, the Australian government established the Australia Greenhouse Office (AGO), the first governmental agency tasked with reducing GHG emissions in the world, and the National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS).

Ozone and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Amendment Act 2010
In 2010, the law from 1989 was amended by the Australian Parliament to improve the operations of the existing Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989.
Full document available here.

ENERGY

Current developments
The federal government repeatedly questions the efficacy and reliability of renewable energies and advocates even for funding new coal-fired power plants. Moreover, the government for instance called the state of South Australia to reopen its last coal-fired power station.

Clean Energy Act 2011 and the Clean Energy Legislation Act 2014
In 2011, the Australian Labor Party and the Greens passed the Clean Energy Act, which included a package of 18 laws. The Clean Energy Act was repealed by the Clean Energy Legislation Act 2014. However, the Clean Energy Legislation Act also introduced various new provisions into the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which gave the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission new enforcement and monitoring powers. In place of the Clean Energy Act, the new government released the Direct Action Plan in April 2014.

Renewable Energy Amendment Act 2015 and the Renewable Energy Act 2000
Since 2000, Australia has legislation in place in order to incentivise renewable energy generation and to reduce GHG emissions. In 2001, the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) was introduced based on the Renewable Energy Act of 2000. In 2009, the MRET was extended to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) Scheme, when the target to reach 20 percent electricity generation from renewable energies by 2020 was announced. Only one year later in 2010, the RET was split into a Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) and a Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). The SRES was supposed to provide greater certainty for households, large-scale renewable energy projects and installers of small-scale renewable energy systems. Moreover, wholesale purchasers of electricity are required to purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) to provide a financial incentive for renewable energy investments. In 2015, the government reduced the target to be achieved by the LRET through the Renewable Energy Amendment Law. However, the target to be reached for electricity generation from renewable energies was increased to 23 percent.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Act 2012
The law establishes the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to increase the supply of renewable energy. However, in 2016, the funding for ARENA was cut by A-$ 500 million.
Full document available here.

Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012
The law aims to facilitate increased finance flows into clean energy.
Full document available here.

Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006
The law provides a regulatory framework for petroleum exploration and production as well as for the exploration for potential GHG storage formations in offshore areas. A Joint Authority is created for each offshore area, which are responsible for implementing the act.
Full document available here.

National Energy Productivity Plan 2015-2030
The National Energy Productivity Plan 2015-2030 aims to improve energy productivity by 40 percent in the mentioned period. Thereby, energy productivity is defined as how much value is created per investment in energy (i.e. economic output/energy used). It represents both a framework and a work plan. The main measures included in the plan are to increase energy efficiency in the building and in the industrial sector, to improve vehicle fuel efficiency, to reform the electricity and gas market to better support clean technologies, to support technological and business innovation in the energy sector, to support renewable energies, to promote low-carbon urban development and to build international collaboration on these issues.
Full document available here.

Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012
The Act aims to promote the development and adoption of energy-efficient and low-GHG products. It includes mandatory minimum energy performance standards and energy rating labels for appliances and equipment.
Full document available here.

Building Energy Efficiency Act 2010
The law requires energy efficiency information in the form of a Building Energy Efficiency Certificate for large commercial buildings. Moreover, it is the legal basis of the Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) programme, which was created for the implementation of the law and updated in 2016 to include a larger amount of commercial buildings. Heavy financial penalties have to be paid in case of non-compliance.
Full document available here.

Energy Efficiency Opportunities Program
The programme was launched to encourage large energy-using businesses to improve their energy efficiency. However, the programme was ceased in 2014.
More information available here.

CARBON PRICING

Clean Energy Act 2011
Part of the Clean Energy Act of 2011, which has already been described above, was a carbon pricing mechanism. The mechanism started in 2012 and eventually turned into an ETS, including assistance for emissions-intensive and trade-exposed industries and income tax cuts for low-income earners and pension increases. Household transportation fuel consumption and emissions from agriculture and other land-based activities were exempted from the carbon price. In 2012, the intention to link the Australian ETS to the European ETS was announced and formalised with a respective amendment of the Clean Energy Act and six other related bills.
As it was described above, following the victory of the Liberal-National Party coalition in the general election of September 2013, the new government abolished the carbon pricing mechanism by the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Pricing Repeal) Act. As a result, the carbon price was removed in 2014. This has led to a reversal of the trend in CO2 emissions: Before 2014, emissions were declining because of the carbon price. Since then, emissions from electricity production are again on the rise.

Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011
The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) allows farmers and land managers to earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land. These credits can then be sold to people and businesses wishing to offset their emissions. The CFI also helps the environment by encouraging sustainable farming and providing a source of funding for landscape restoration projects. Participation in the CFI is voluntary; farmers and landholders can choose whether or not to be involved.
The law was amended by the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Act 2014 (see above).
Full document available here.

TRANSPORT

General
In 2008, the Australian Transport Committee (ATC) agreed that a National Transport Policy would be guided by the agreed national vision, objectives and principles. To achieve this vision, Australia’s Transport Ministers commit to the following policy objectives:

  • Economic – To promote the efficient movement of people and goods in order to support sustainable economic development and prosperity.
  • Safety – To provide a safe transport system, social and economic objectives with maximum safety for its user.
  • Social – To promote social inclusion by connecting remote and disadvantaged communities and increasing accessibility to the transport network for all Australians.
  • Environmental – Protect the environment and improve health by building and investing transport systems that minimise emissions and consumption of resources and energy.
  • Integration – Promote effective and efficient integration and linkage of Australia’s transport system with urban and regional planning at every level of government and with international transport systems.
  • Transparency – Transparency in funding and charging to provide equitable access to the transport system.

Green Vehicle Guide
The Green Vehicle Guide of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development provides ratings on new vehicles based on GHG and air pollution emissions.

National Environment Protection (Diesel Vehicle Emissions) Measure 2001
The National Environment Protection (Diesel Vehicle Emissions) Measure (also known as the Diesel NEPM) was created by the National Environment Protection Council. The goal of the measure was to reduce exhaust emissions from diesel vehicles by facilitating compliance with in-service emissions standards for diesel vehicles.

WASTE

Waste Policy: Less waste, more resources
In November 2009, Australian government through the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) agreed to a new national policy on waste and resource recovery. The National Waste Policy: Less waste, more resources sets the direction for Australia for the next 10 years ‘towards producing less waste for disposal and managing waste as a resource to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits’. The policy has been designed to ensure that all wastes, including hazardous wastes, will be managed consistent with Australia’s international obligations and lists six key directions for the period to 2020 to ensure that Australia manages its waste in ‘an environmentally safe, scientific and sound manner and reduce the amount per capita of waste disposed’. Sixteen priority strategies that would benefit from a national or coordinated approach were developed to meet these key directions.
In July 2010, the EPHC endorsed the National Waste Policy Implementation Plan (the implementation plan) which presents the aims, key directions and strategies of the National Waste Policy and prioritises when they will be implemented. The implementation plan also sets out governance and resourcing arrangements and sets key milestones for the first five years of the policy and arrangements for monitoring progress and performance.

National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Strategy (1992)
In 2008 the committee’s predecessor undertook a wide ranging review of national waste policy. At that time the committee observed the absence of a national waste policy, stating that over the past two decades the only national waste minimisation strategy that has been established was the National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Strategy of 1992.

SCIENCE

Australian Climate Change Science Programme and the National Environmental Science Programme (NESP)
The Australian Climate Change Science Programme has been operating from 1989. It identified national climate change science priorities and set out ways to harness the full science capacity to address them. It built on the achievements of Australia’s climate change science community and enhanced efforts by focusing Australia’s climate science expertise on an agreed set of national priorities.  It was supposed to ensure that the science delivers what decision makers need. It eventually merged with the National Environmental Research Programme into the new National Environmental Science Programme (NESP).

Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries (CCRSPI) and other programmes
The Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries (CCRSPI) is tasked with the collaboration, coordination and communication of climate change research and development. In addition, there are the Climate Change Research Programme, Carbon Farming Future (CFF) programme of the Department of Agriculture and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

ADAPTATION

National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy 2015
The strategy lays out how the Australian government intends to manage the risks arising of climate change. It identifies a set of guiding principles for adaptation measures. Moreover, the strategy includes a multitude of initiatives and activities in different sectors (coasts; cities and built environment; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; water resources; natural ecosystems; health and wellbeing; and disaster risk management). Four main priorities represent the foundation of the Australian adaptation approach: understand & communicate (improve awareness and drive innovation), plan & act (coordinated responses to climate risks), check & reassess (evaluate progress and review actions) and collaborate & learn (share learning and successes).
Full document available here.

Reef Plan 2050
In 2015, Australia launched the Reef Plan 2050 for protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef from 2015 until 2050.
Full document available here.

National Coastal Risk Assessment 2009/2011
A National Coastal Risk Assessment was published in 2009 and 2011.
Full document of 2009 available here.

Position Paper ‘Adaptation to Climate Change in Australia’ 2010
In 2010, the Australian Government’s Department of Climate Change released the position paper ‘Adapting to Climate Change in Australia’, outlining the government’s vision for adapting to climate change impacts and proposing steps to realise that vision. National priority areas for action include: water, coasts, infrastructure, natural ecosystems, natural disaster management, and agriculture.
As of 2013, climate change adaptation is covered by the Department of the Environment.
Full document available here.

National Climate Change Adaptation Program 2007-2013
The National Climate Change Adaptation Program was created to help Australians better understand risks and take advantage of opportunities linked to carbon pollution in the atmosphere. The Australian Government invested $129 million in the programme between 2007 and 2013. These funds have been used to support projects to improve knowledge of climate change impacts, to strengthen the capacity of decision-makers to respond and to address major areas of national vulnerability.

National Climate Change Adaptation Framework 2007
The National Climate Change Adaptation Framework, approved in 2007 by the Council of Australian Governments, aims to address the needs of the community in terms of targeted information on climate change impacts and adaptation options by supporting research, developing information and tools, and implementing programs for climate change science to feed into the decision-making processes for developing climate change policy. The Framework sets the agenda for the national approach for long-term adaptation to climate change. Initiatives towards the implementation of the framework include: CSIRO Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship, Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Australia’s Farming Future, Caring for our Coasts, National Coastal Vulnerability Assessment, Forest Industries Climate Change Research Fund, Local Adaptation Pathways Program, Climate Change Adaptation Skills for Professionals Program, and Water for the Future. For example, the government invested $12.9 billion to secure Australia’s water supply as part of the Water for the Future Initiative, which included projects to provide alternative water supplies to major cities and to improve irrigation efficiency. The government also supported Australia’s Farming Futures program, which helped primary producers respond to climate change and manage emissions. However, the framework does not have any legislative or executive force.
Full document available here.

Progress on Adaptation
The Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education developed the Climate Adaptation Outlook: A Proposed National Adaptation Assessment Framework, which presents a national assessment framework to evaluate progress in adapting to climate change impacts. Once the assessment framework and indicators are set following a stakeholder consultation process, the Department will release a full assessment of progress in managing climate change impacts in Australia.

SUBNATIONAL ACTION

Several states have climate legislation and emission reduction targets. However, state emission reduction targets that are more ambitious than the federal target will be repealed by the state legislation.

 

Main sources (if not otherwise stated in the text):

Section on climate change on the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment website

Website of the Climate Change Authority (CCA), independent expert advisor on Australian Government climate change mitigation initiatives, established under the Climate Change Authority Act 2011.

Country profile of Australia on the website of the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

Assessment of Australia on the website of the Climate Action Tracker.

International Policy

General features

  • Party to the UNFCCC (Annex I):
    • Date of signature: 04 June 1992
    • Date of ratification: 30 December 1992
    • Date of entry into force: 21 March 1994
  • Party to the Kyoto Protocol:
    • Date of signature: 29 April 1998
    • Date of entry into force: 11 March 2008
    • Date of ratification: 12 December 2007
    • Date of approval Doha Amendment: 9 November 2016
    • The Kyoto Protocol target of Australia for the first commitment period was to limit the increase in GHG emissions (excl. LULUCF) to eight percent above 1990 levels. Australia was allowed to add deforestation emissions to its base years for calculating its commitment period emissions allowances, which has substantially reduced the ambition of the target. The target for the second commitment period is to more or less stabilise emissions compared to 1990 (0.5 percent reduction), but surplus allowances from the first commitment period need to be taken into account.
  • Signatory of the Copenhagen Accord
    • Emission target of 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 (unconditional).
    • Emission target of 15 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 (conditional on a global climate deal incapable of securing atmospheric stabilisation at 450 ppm CO2eq but under which major developing economies commit to substantially restrain emissions and advanced economies take on commitments comparable to Australia’s).
    • Emission target of 25 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 (conditional on an ambitious global climate deal capable of stabilising GHG concentration at 450 ppm CO2eq or lower).
    • For official communication see here.
  • Party to the Paris Agreement
    • Date of signature: 22 April 2016
    • Date of ratification: 9 November 2016
    • Date of entry into force: 9 December 2016
  • Post-2020 action:
    • Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted in advance of the COP21 (Paris) in 2015 (for more information on INDCs see here). Following the ratification and entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the INDC has become Australia’s first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.
    • Main actions included in the NDC:
      – Reducing GHG emissions by 26-28% by 2030 below 2005 levels (incl. LULUCF), which represents a significant progress compared to 2020 commitment as the target doubles Australia’s ate of emissions reductions (however, under current policy settings, emissions are set to increase to ore than 21 percent above 2005 levels by 2030, which implies an average rate of yearly increase of 1.2 percent instead of a decrease of 1.9 percent per year)
      – Economy-wide target including the six Kyoto gases and covering the sectors energy, industry, agriculture, LULUCF and waste
      – Improving the productivity of the energy sector by 40% by 2030 (see also ‘National Policy’)
      – Scaling energy production from renewables up to 23% of Australia’s electricity by 2020 (see also ‘National Policy’)
      – The Climate Action Tracker has rated the 2030 NDC target “inadequate”.

BILATERAL COOPERATION

  • Australia participates in the Mission Innovation and has thus pledged to double its expenditures for clean energy R&D until 2020.
  • Australia forms part of the NDC Partnership, which assists countries in achieving their climate commitments and the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
  • Australia was a founding member of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP), which also included Canada, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States.  The APP was supposed to address energy security, climate change and air pollution issues. It consisted of a governing body and eight sectoral forces, which were tasked to elaborate on concrete projects and plans. The APP was abandoned only after five years and had little impact on the emission of the members. The APP was accused to undermine the legitimacy and supremacy of the UNFCCC.
  • On 18 May 2004, Australia and the US signed a Joint Statement on Environmental Cooperation to further strengthen the relationship between our countries on environment issues both bilaterally and multilaterally.
  • Australia has ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biodiversity.
  • In December 2015 at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris, Australia announced that it will establish an International Partnership for Blue Carbon to increase the understanding of, and accelerate action on the important role of coastal blue carbon ecosystems in climate change action.
    Full document available here.

Negotiating position

Australia is part of the Umbrella Group in the multilateral climate negotiations.

Australia recognises the necessity of lowering global greenhouse emissions and that achieving this will require substantive action over the long term. Australia has allocated US-$ 1.8 billion as part of a comprehensive domestic action programme, managed by the Australian Greenhouse Office, to reduce GHG emissions.
At the international level, Australia will continue to work for more effective global action on climate change involving all major emitters of GHGs and which avoids distortions that might lead to the international transfer of economic activity and emissions with no environmental benefits.
Given that the top dozen emitters are responsible for roughly 80 per cent of global emissions, Australia believes that it is important to have all major emitters actively engaged.
Australia’s contribution to the third replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was US-$ 68.2 million, an increase of 58 percent. Since 1991, Australia has committed over $184 million to the GEF. Almost 40 percent of funds contributed have been allocated to the GEF’s climate change activities. Further climate change-related assistance has been channelled through the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), US-$ 4.2 million and US-$ 5.4 million respectively for the period 2003-2005.