Australia, world failing on CO2 cuts, energy policy

Australian and the world’s progress on cutting CO2 emissions and advancing energy policies is stalling according to two new reports released this week.
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Max Pichon

Both reports which ranked countries on greenhouse emissions and energy policies argue that while Australia has progressed on the energy policy front it is failing when it comes to curbing greenhouse emissions.

The first was the World Energy Council's latest global ranking of country energy sustainability performance that revealed that most of the 94 countries assessed – including Australia - are still far from achieving fully sustainable energy systems.

Australia ranked 20th out of 94 countries, improving on its result from last year, which was 24th. For its energy performance dimensions Australia improved in energy security coming in at 25th up from 42nd, stayed in third place in terms of social equity and dropped one place in environmental impact mitigation from 72nd in 2011 to 73rd this year.

The 2013 World Energy Trilemma report titled, Time to get real – the case for sustainable energy policy focused on what policymakers need from the energy industry and finds that most countries still have not managed to balance the energy trilemma.

The top 10 performing countries in the World Energy Council (WEC) index are Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Japan, France and Austria.

The WEC argues that countries must balance the trade-offs between the three challenges of the trilemma: energy security, social equity, and environmental impact mitigation, if they are to provide sustainable energy systems. The Index reveals that:

Environmental impact mitigation remains a universal problem;

Providing high-quality and affordable energy access remains a significant challenge for developing and emerging economies; and

Countries at various stages of development struggle with energy security.

Pierre Gadonneix, chairman of the WEC says, the message of the Energy Sustainability Index is clear; “all countries are facing challenges in their transition towards more secure, environmentally friendly, and equitable energy systems.”

“What makes the difference is how they set their final goals, how they balance market economics and public policies, and how they design the smartest policies in order to promote efficiency and to optimise costs, resources and investments for the long term. If we are to have any chance of delivering sustainable energy for all and meeting the +2°C goal, we need to get real.”

Mark Robson, Partner of Oliver Wyman, the global consulting firm Oliver Wyman which compiled the Index with the WEC added, “as governments weigh up their countries’ priorities, businesses must be assured that the economics of their investments won’t be destroyed by changes in energy policy. This policy risk is a key factor holding back energy investments today.”

The 2012 report is the start of a two-part series of reports which will inform the WEC’s policy dialogue activities. It is based on interviews with more than 40 industry CEOs and senior executives from across the global energy sector.

Global CO2 output at all time high

The second report shows that Australia rates among the world's highest per capita CO2 emitters. In 2011, Australia recorded 17.3 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person, on par with the US, a team of specialist climate change researchers at the University of East Anglia – of Climategate fame - has reported.

The figure is up from 16.3 tonnes per person in 2010 and takes Australia's total output to 392 million tonnes of CO2, representing 1.2% of the world's 2011 total.

"The US, Canada and Australia are really the three countries that have much bigger emissions per person than any other," the director of the university's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Corinne Le Quere, said.

"There are a range of oil-producing countries, like Qatar, which are much higher in terms of tonnes per person, but in terms of population size, they cannot be considered in the same category."

The research team forecasts a record high of 35.6 billion tonnes of global CO2 emissions in 2012, but Le Quere said it was too early to determine Australia's contribution as a part of that projection.

Australia's overall and per capita carbon emissions were not at their highest in 2011 – greater amounts were recorded in 2008 (393 million tonnes) and 2009 (400 million tonnes) – but Le Quere called for aggressive policies to combat future fossil fuel-related output.

"Some countries – Belgium, Denmark, France, Sweden, and the UK – have succeeded to reduce their energy usage by up to 5% and it's that sort of aggressive policy that's needed in other rich countries," Le Quere added.

The team's report, published on Monday in the online journal Nature Climate Change, named China (28%), the US (16%), the EU (11%), and India (7%) as the biggest contributors to global CO2 emissions.

The projected 2.6% rise in global emissions for 2012 takes output from burning fossil fuels to 58% above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol.

Last week, the Federal Government announced it was ready to commit to limiting annual emissions to an average 99.5% of 1990 levels (287 million tonnes) from 2013 to 2020 as part of its commitment to the second Kyoto period.

The commitment has been criticised by Greens leader Christine Milne who said setting a target so close to keeping emissions at 1990 levels was an 'obvious insult' to the international community.

"The government has just done the least it thought it could possibly get away with," Milne said.

This article courtesy of BEN Global

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