The Australian Labor Party is set to announce its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions today.
In the 2016 and 2019 elections, Labor promised net zero emissions by 2050 and 45% reductions from 2005 levels by 2030. The target of 50% renewable energy by 2030 was one of the promises adopted to get it there in 2030.
But she lost in those elections. That’s why Labor has so far declined to say what policies it will adopt in the 2022 election. We should know by the end of the day.
The alliance position is clear – kind of.
The government formally sticks to its long-held position of delivering a cut of 26-28% over 2005 levels (plus a net zero by 2050) over 2005 levels.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison is betting every which way, even saying the government will do better. As he said on November 15th:
We are going to achieve a 35% reduction in emissions by 2030. That’s what we’re going to achieve. That’s what really matters. What matters is what you actually achieve. We are well above our target.
That leaves Labour, which has taken a consistently stronger stance than the Coalition, with three broad options.
Goals, Predictions, Security Measures
Option 1 is to match a 35% reduction, but make it a formal target, not a prediction.
Option 2 is to go a bit higher with a prediction – say 40% – and claim that it is achievable by declaring labor policies like electric vehicles and upgrading the electricity grid (“turning the nation around again”).
Option 3 set a more ambitious target – perhaps 45%, as Labor did in the last election, along with a change to the so-called “safety mechanism” introduced by the Coalition in 2016 to price carbon options. In form of. ,
The safety net requires Australia’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter to keep its net emissions below a certain threshold.
Read more: Government’s net-zero modeling shows winners, we’ve found losers
In the 2019 election, Labor proposed cutting the eligibility limit for the cap of carbon dioxide from 100,000 to 25,000 tons per year and expanding it to more emitters.
The difference between now and 2019 is that the business community is behind the approach this time.
Indeed, that is exactly what the Business Council of Australia’s climate plan, published in October 2021, has to do.
Each of these options has disadvantages. Option 1 looks weak, and gives the government a free pass on the climate. It is difficult for Labor politicians to campaign on the government if they themselves are unwilling to do more.
Option 2 (probably most likely) is a defense: Labor will do more because it cares about the planet, but not much because, you know, politics.
Option 3 is the bravest of the possible targets. That’s a big number that will lead to more meaningful change. It now also has air cover from the Business Council of Australia.
But it is also a choice made in the last election, which Labor lost. Maybe it was for other reasons, such as retirement taxes, but it still seems politically risky.
no idea about the carbon price
One option you can bet Labor won’t take is the cost of carbon.
This is the best way to balance what is good about emissions (economic growth and development) and what is bad about emissions (climate change).
It has been off the table with Labor since losing the government in 2013 – in no small part due to Tony Abbott exploiting the issue with his “great big tax” campaign.
But a funny incident happened on the way to the 2022 elections. A few months ago the Coalition put a price on carbon in its plan.
As Peter Martin of The Conversation put it, the plan considered emissions reductions “the same as could be expected if Australians were to face a carbon price (or tax) that would amount to $24 per carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050.” per ton”.
If Energy Minister Angus Taylor is trying to hide it, he isn’t particularly stealing about it.
Read more: How government modeling got net-zero will leave us in a better position
Page 6 of the government document outlining the modeling and analysis behind the plan acknowledges that it accepts voluntary emissions reductions as “a rebate incentive that is taken across the economy and costs $24 in 2050.” /t rises to CO2-e”.
It says that if treated “as if” the carbon price was $24 a ton, that would lead to an 85% reduction in emissions.
Bringing them further below zero would require an even higher carbon price: about $80 per ton, the model argues.
Labor can take its cue from the coalition
So why doesn’t Labor do what it knows is right – announce a price on carbon? It could say it would start at the government’s own figure of $24 a tonne, and take any needed increases later for future elections.
That won’t happen on Friday. Or any time soon. We should ponder over why.