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A pleasant surprise, for once

Summary:
Labor’s commitment to a 2030 target of reducing emissions by 43 per cent is a pleasant surprise. I expected 35 per cent and was confident it wouldn’t be more than 40. In essence, the 43 per cent target a restatement of the goal taken to the 2019 election. The difference is within the margin of measurement error and appears to reflect the need not to reannounce a policy that had previously been abandoned. The commitment is a surprise because it follows a series of announcements which ruled out most of the obvious policy options to reduce emissions, including a carbon price, a moratorium on new coal, oil and gas projects. Recent reports also said that Labor would reject the idea of a vehicle fuel efficiency target. The announcement of the target reduction gave no indication

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Labor’s commitment to a 2030 target of reducing emissions by 43 per cent is a pleasant surprise. I expected 35 per cent and was confident it wouldn’t be more than 40.

In essence, the 43 per cent target a restatement of the goal taken to the 2019 election. The difference is within the margin of measurement error and appears to reflect the need not to reannounce a policy that had previously been abandoned.

The commitment is a surprise because it follows a series of announcements which ruled out most of the obvious policy options to reduce emissions, including a carbon price, a moratorium on new coal, oil and gas projects. Recent reports also said that Labor would reject the idea of a vehicle fuel efficiency target.

The announcement of the target reduction gave no indication of how Labor plans to reach it. Action already taken by state governments, business and the general public seems likely to achieve a 30-35 per cent reduction, primarily from the decarbonization of electricity generation. Where will the rest of the reductions come from.


There’s room to speed up the electricity transition, for example through a new Renewable Energy Target. Labor has also foreshadowed an expansion of the “safeguards” mechanism for industrial emissions introduced by the current government, covering more firms and lowering the current cap. There may also be some room to move on land use, although that is the kind of politically contentious policy Labor has been at pains to avoid in recent times.


Finally, there’s transport. Unless we move rapidly to an electrification of the vehicle fleet, transport emissions will continue to grow. It’s hard to see how this can be achieved without a vehicle fuel efficiency target. In 2019, Labor promised to consult with industry about such a target, but recent reports have suggested that the coming policy statement will rule this out. This would be big mistake.

John Quiggin
He is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a former member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

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