Australia has formally committed to increasing its climate ambition.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has signed an updated, strengthened Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement on climate, through the UN framework convention on climate change.

This new NDC – an interim national target on the path to net zero emissions – sees Australia committing to cut emissions by 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

This substantial strengthening of the target, which was previously 26-28 per cent, delivers on a promise made at the recent Federal Election.

What matters now is how governments, investors and businesses move to meet this stronger target and ensure its implementation allows us to get on track to net zero.

Australia will need to transition emissions intensive activities to meet the demands of the net zero global economy. Work by Climateworks Centre demonstrates the enormous potential of coordinated planning and action to achieve this goal.

By rapidly implementing its policy agenda, the Australian government has the ability to meet this 2030 target early – allowing Australia to reap the benefits of the global net zero economy sooner.

Rapid action possible

The increase in Australia’s target is part of the ratchet mechanism of the Paris Agreement, where governments are expected to set new, more ambitious targets with the goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees while striving for a 1.5 degree limit.

This ratchet was to be every five years. Since the Glasgow Conference, there has been an expectation that governments will revisit targets if the global assessments show countries have not been ambitious enough.

All countries were asked to revisit their 2030 target. Australia has now responded – an important step towards action in line with the Paris Agreement goals.

In 2020, Climateworks released research showing Australia has the potential to reduce emissions by around 50-75 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Analysis released by us last year found that actions taken by state and territory since the start of 2020 demonstrate Australia is capable of meeting global expectations for climate action.

It is not just governments acting – investors and businesses are also detailing how they will reach net zero, setting interim targets as part of plans to reduce their climate risk.

Solar panels
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Climateworks will be continuing to provide evidence-based advice on how to make the most of Australia’s potential for early action that reduces emissions and improves our lives in other ways including by keeping our economy strong.

Our work shows that improving energy performance in our buildings is some of the cheapest action with really good co-benefits for our comfort, health and hip-pocket. Initially, the easiest policy change will be the forthcoming improvement to the National Construction Code.

Australia can also take immediate action to reduce emissions from light vehicles by setting an efficiency standard across the suite of vehicles sold by manufacturers. This would help address the lack of EV supply into Australia, the current critical barrier facing uptake.

Early uptake and effective integration of renewable electricity, electrification and green hydrogen can help Australia achieve competitive costs for reliable decarbonised energy, and allow the nation to remain an energy and commodity export powerhouse.

Regional outlook

The Australian government has moved to highlight its stronger climate action in its diplomatic and trade negotiations.

This shift has been well-received by our regional neighbours, as it recognises limiting warming to 1.5 C is key to their survival as nations.

The Australian government is seeking to to co-host the 2024 Climate Summit with Pacific Island nations. For this to be successful, other countries – and particularly our potential co-hosts -will want to see how Australia is taking action on its new stronger target.

This new, strengthened 2030 target – backed by actions that will create speedy implementation of substantial reductions – is just part of what Australia will be expected to do to demonstrate its commitment to climate action.

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