The Victorian government has committed to cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, in a long-awaited targets announcement.
- By 2025, all government operations, including schools and hospitals, will be powered by renewables
- The plan also includes money to reduce emissions in the agricultural sector
- Environment Victoria says the targets need to be more ambitious if they are to prevent catastrophic warming
The plan includes $20 million to reduce emissions in the agricultural sector and $15.3m for a carbon farming program.
Government operations, including schools, hospitals, and police stations, will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025, an Australian first.
The state will work towards reductions targets of 28 to 33 per cent by 2025, and 45 to 50 per cent by 2030, to achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
The state had failed to set interim targets by the self-imposed deadline of March 31, 2020, blaming the coronavirus pandemic for the delay.
Climate change minister Lily D’Ambrosio said Victoria needed another 600 megawatts of new power to meet demand, and the next Victoria Renewable Energy Target auction would be integral to delivering that.
Melbourne’s trams already run on renewable energy generated by two solar farms.
In 2019, an expert panel recommended an interim target of 32-39 per cent below 2005 levels in 2025; and then 45-60 per cent below 2005 levels in 2030.
The new targets announced today are on the lower end of the recommended range.
Acting Premier James Merlino said the “ambitious and achievable target” would make Victoria the nation’s leader.
Despite global moves towards net zero, the Commonwealth has kept its pledge to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has conceded Australia’s energy mix needs to change, but the 2050 target is a deeply divisive subject in the Coalition.
Ms D’Ambrosio said Mr Morrison’s performance at a recent climate summit called by US President Joe Biden was “embarrassing.”
“But we need the Commonwealth to step up and take the responsibility the community expects of them.”
Australian Industry Group (AIG) energy and environment advisor Tennant Reed said businesses wanted to see “consistent policies across the country”.
If the federal government adopted the net zero by 2050 target, “that would simplify a lot of things for the electricity market operator, and for everybody who needs to plan investments in this state and elsewhere”, he said.
Victoria is likely to reach the targets, as emissions had been reduced by more than 24 per cent on 2005 levels by the end of 2020.
But Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said the targets fell “far short” of what was needed to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“The science is clear. Victoria really needs to be aiming to cut our emissions by around three-quarters by 2030,” he said.
Currently, the world is not on track to keep warming within 2C, according to the Climate Action Tracker.
“If the world adopted targets, in the order that Victoria has today, we would still be exceeding 2C global warming,” Mr La Nauze said.
“And that puts us in a very dangerous place.”
‘No mean feat’ for a state that relied heavily on brown coal
The announcement comes a day after the government announced subsidies of up to $3,000 for electric vehicles.
The government has faced criticism for at the same time introducing a road tax for electric car users.
Ms D’Ambrosio said “decarbonising the transport sector” was a critical part of achieving the goal.
Agriculture is the third-largest carbon emitter in the state and was a key area for research.
“We’ve got some policy and investment dedicated to doing that research and development to identify those next series of opportunities to reduce emissions in the agricultural sector,” she said.
The government will also spend $3.9 million to fund research on new animal feed to reduce carbon emissions from livestock.
The AIG’s Mr Reed said the biggest risk to business would be if the transition away from fossil fuels was not handled well.
“It is easy enough to build a lot of wind farms and solar farms, the harder work that’s in front of us now is to build the transmission lines to connect them up… and to stabilise the system,” he said.
But Mr Reed said the AIG believed the transition and the targets were achievable if they were delivered as planned.
“We should be OK, we should have power prices that are … better than they’ve been in recent years,” he said.
Greg Combet, a former federal Labor climate change minister, chaired the panel for the government to come up with recommendations on how to reach the target.
“It’s the fact that the state has also gone through, in the last 12 months or more, a sector-by-sector analysis of how these emissions reductions can be achieved in the state economy.
“With a state that has historically depended upon brown coal electricity generation, that’s no mean feat.”