Hot air ahead of COP24


Erland Howden

Australians calling for action at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009.

With the Katowice COP24 Climate Change Conference just over two weeks away, the progress of Australia’s commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) and The Paris Agreement are under the lens.

The Paris Agreement aims to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius before the end of the century. Each nation party to the agreement is required to develope and communicate to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) outlining what they are doing to meet that goal.


For Australia, this means bringing emissions down by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030, something PM Scott Morrison believes we will have no problem achieving

Since ratifying the Paris Agreement – a climate change policy created by UNFCCC – in November 2016, the Federal Government has held strong that Australia will meet its emission reduction targets, with PM Morrison recently claiming that Australia will do so “in a canter” based on strong improvements in our emissions per capita.



The March National Greenhouse Gas Inventory released by the Department of Environment and Energy supports the PM’s claims. Since 1993 emissions per capita have dropped by 24%, putting us on track for our per capita emission reduction target of 52% by 2030.

To environmental and climate advocates, this argument is misleading. The Australia Institute (TAI), an independent think-tank, pointed out in a recent report that Australia’s target under the Paris Agreement is not set in terms of GDP – rather being a target set in terms of absolute emissions.



The authors of the TAI report, former Australian representative to the UN climate change conference Richie Merzian and Matt Grundoff, an Economist who previously worked at the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, were scathing in their assessment.

“Australia’s Paris commitment is not to reduce emissions per person or per dollar of real GDP but rather to reduce emissions in absolute terms.” The report claims that “If the current trend continues… Australia’s total emissions will continue to rise and it will not meet its Paris target.”

The Climate Action Tracker, an international organisation that assesses emissions by country, are even more scathing of Australia’s current trend. In their recent report on Australian emissions they say: “While the Federal Government continues to maintain… that Australia is on track to meet the 2030 target, the Climate Action Tracker is not aware of any factual basis, published by any analyst or government agency, to support this. To the contrary, Australia’s emissions are increasing.”

While the Government remains fixated on the vote winning issue of stabilising power prices, Australia seems to be moving further away from its Paris promise.