Net zero plan will only hit 85 per cent reduction without tech breakthroughs: modelling

The federal government's net zero plan has been dismissed as "not zero" after its modelling showed it will fall short by 15 per cent without major technological breakthroughs.

The much-anticipated modelling underpinning the Coalition's net zero plan was finally released on Friday, but questions remained on how it intended to reach the target.

The modelling - undertaken by McKinsey and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources - did not assess the costs or impacts of climate change "or the benefits of avoided warming" and was heavily reliant on future technological breakthrough.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a copy of the government's emissions plan. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a copy of the government's emissions plan. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

And despite torturous negotiations producing only lukewarm support from the Nationals, the document predicted clean energy will be a boon for regional industries, but tipped the value of coal mining to plunge by more than half by 2050.

"In this scenario net emissions in Australia are reduced by 85 per cent compared to 2005 levels, with the remaining gap to be met by further technological improvements," the report read.

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But the modelling also assumed businesses could voluntarily pay up to $25 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions to cut their environmental impact.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor claimed Australians would be $2000 better off by 2050 than if no action were taken.

"We've set out a credible pathway to net zero by 2050 while preserving our existing industries, establishing Australia as a leader in low emissions technologies and positioning our regions to prosper," he said.

The modelling estimated more than 100,000 "new direct" jobs could be created in clean energy industries, along with indirect jobs in manufacturing.

Angus Taylor claims the average Australian will be $2000 better off by 2050 under the plan. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Angus Taylor claims the average Australian will be $2000 better off by 2050 under the plan. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

It predicted clean energy industries would result in a net gain in regional industries, despite the "unavoidable negative impacts" of global action.

"Net regional employment in mining and heavy industry alone could grow by 62,000 - or around 76,000 when renewables for hydrogen production is included," it said.

Growth in agriculture (30 per cent), mining (5 per cent) and heavy industry (110 per cent) was expected by 2050, but coal was tipped to plunge by 51 per cent.

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It also claimed the country's national income would be 8 per cent higher than if no action were taken.

And with the developed world adopting increasingly ambitious emissions reductions targets, Treasury warned a 1 per cent borrowing premium would be slapped on Australia if it did not sign-on to net zero. Average investment into Australia would also fall by 5.5 per cent over the period to 2050.

The modelling predicted electric vehicles' share of the Australian market would rise from less than 1 per cent to more than 90 per cent by 2050. It said carbon abatement incentives would be needed to encourage the switch clean energy, and low emissions technologies would need to be supported by an emissions reduction fund.

'Written in crayon'

Labor climate spokesman Chris Bowen said he would "take the necessary time" to consider the detail. But with the modelling released just minutes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Taylor had exited a press conference, Mr Bowen accused the government of avoiding scrutiny.

"It took the Coalition almost a decade to release a scamphlet on net zero, and weeks more to release this detail," he said.

"The fact they chose to do so late on a Friday afternoon, without an opportunity for questions from journalists, doesn't bode well."

Greens leader Adam Bandt described the modelling as a "piece of fiction trying to cover up inaction".

"This is a plan for not zero. The Prime Minister's promise not to lie lasted less than 24 hours," he said.

The Climate Council said the modelling was "riddled with errors" and accused the government of failing to meet its own targets.

Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said the document "may as well have been written in crayon".

"This is pure spin. A document that has the singular purpose of attempting to legitimise the federal government's do-nothing approach," he said.

"It assumes a heroic performance from the federal government's pet technologies, without interrogating a single one of these wild assumptions. It downplays the potential of all other alternatives at every opportunity."

Lukewarm support

The government finally adopted a net zero 2050 target last month, after laboured discussions among the Nationals resulted in lukewarm support from the junior Coalition partner.

Its plan was a collation of previously-announced policies and relied heavily on future technology advancements.

Mr Morrison faced criticism for travelling to this month's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow without releasing the modelling that underpinned the target.

"We have a very practical plan. And today, modeling will be released on our plan to get Australia to net zero by 2050, a plan that is about technology not taxes," he said.

"It's about choices not mandates, it's about having a portfolio of technologies that we can have brought to scale and at the right cost."

Chris Bowen has accused the government of attempting to avoid scrutiny. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Chris Bowen has accused the government of attempting to avoid scrutiny. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Mr Morrison, who has declined to raise the government's 26 to 28 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030, said Labor had "no plan" to reach its 2050 target.

Labor pledged to legislate a net zero by 2050 two years ago, but will wait until after COP26 wraps up to announce its mid-term target.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Mr Morrison had been dragged "kicking and screaming" to his latest position.

"We need to see the government modelling. You need to see a government's budget before you have a budget reply," he told the ABC on Friday.

'Absence of leadership'

It came as state ministers blasted the Commonwealth for an "absence of leadership" over climate change, claiming they were working together without a proper federal framework for vehicle emissions standards.

Mr Morrison has refused to impose emission standards on imported vehicles, leaving Australia as one of just two OECD countries, alongside Russia, not to impose benchmarks.

And at a panel hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, state leaders took aim at their federal colleagues.

Matt kean has again taken aim at his federal colleagues. Picture: Marina Neil

Matt kean has again taken aim at his federal colleagues. Picture: Marina Neil

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean, who this week urged his Commonwealth colleagues to "do a lot more" on climate change, said the states and territories were on a "unity ticket" despite a federal stoush over net zero in Canberra.

"The Commonwealth's leadership in this space is vitally important if we want to secure a more prosperous future for our entire nation," he said.

"But in the absence of that leadership, the states and territories are going to continue to work together."

Mr Kean said the states and territories were eager to win the race for investment offered by a shift to renewable energies.

Victorian Climate Change and Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said that while states were working together, emissions standards could only be set at the federal level.

"No one should ever let any Commonwealth government off the hook here. Leadership at initial level makes it easier for all of us to move," she said.

This story 'Not zero': Modelling did not consider cost of climate change first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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