The Victorian government’s recently released emissions reduction targets are part of an ongoing, state-legislated process. The announcements include pledges across multiple sectors, and show the ‘how’ behind the state’s ambitions.

By Anna Malos.

On Sunday, Victoria announced a 2030 emissions target of 45–50 per cent and a new 2025 target of 28–33 per cent, below 2005 levels. One of the strengths of the Victorian approach is that it includes an obligation to set targets every five years, and underpin them with sectoral pledges.

The Victorian government has set out some ambitious plans for moving to renewable energy and reducing energy use. The government has committed that all of its electricity use will be 100 per cent renewable by 2025 – across offices, schools, hospitals, trams and trains. Combined with other new and existing announcements, this means that the reductions needed to reach the 2025 target are backed up by actions. 

The recent announcements added pledges across transport and agriculture. In transport, this included a target that would see zero emission vehicles make up 50 per cent of new light vehicle sales in Victoria by 2030. There’s further action on public transport, including buses: any purchased after 2025 must be zero emissions vehicles. Victoria will also be using the power of government procurement to shift performance around light vehicles and buildings. In agriculture, there’s funding for trialling new approaches, such as testing how well innovative feedstocks can reduce emissions from livestock.

The 2030 emissions target hugs the less ambitious end of the government’s independent panel recommended range that started at 45 per cent by 2030 for Victoria’s contribution to be in line with limiting warming to 2 degrees. It is also shy of the Paris Agreement goal to strive to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Similarly, the 2025 target falls short of a Paris compatible target for 2025 – the independent panel recommended a 32–39 per cent reduction. While the targets themselves are not yet fully compatible with the Paris Agreement goal, Victoria’s action will really make a difference. 

Victoria’s 2030 targets will create the largest emissions reduction by 2030 of any of the states or territories, although South Australia and ACT have more ambitious targets. This mirrors the situation after the US Biden Climate Summit – the US shift to a 50-52 per cent reduction by 2030 will create a bigger actual reduction than other countries’ more ambitious targets.  

A further demonstration of the impact state and territory targets can have is when we look at them as a collective. Current state and territory government 2030 targets combined are the equivalent of a national target of 37 per cent reduction below 2005 levels. This is well beyond the federal government’s current 26-28 per cent national emissions reduction target. While this combined state action does not replace the need for Australia’s national obligations, ambition by states and territories is a platform that federal targets and policy should build on. Climateworks analysis shows that Australia has opportunities to reduce emissions to around 50-75 per cent by 2030 below 2005 levels. Australia is facing increasing pressure – globally and from businesses and investors – to increase the 2030 target. 

In the same vein, collective impact means that Australia can already commit to net zero emissions by 2050 – because all states and territories have done so. Business is calling for Australia to formalise its 2050 target at the national level, to create the right economic signals and make the most of the opportunities available. Victoria’s targets are a key part of the picture that shows the gulf at the national level – and the opportunity to do more. 

Indeed, if the Climate Change Bill currently before the federal parliament passes, a similar approach would be taken at the national level. The Victorian Climate Change Act – the legal framework that drove this announcement – is based on the tried and tested method behind the UK’s target of 68 per cent reduction by 2030 below 1990 levels. 

ClimateWork was instrumental in proposing the Act and also played an advisory role in the lead up to these targets. Climateworks analysis provided evidence to inform both the targets and pledges to implement it, as reflected in the report from the independent panel. Our work also ensured the panel understood the opportunities for Victoria to reduce emissions in all sectors of the economy. Other analysis also helped the state government understand appropriate action in the sector pledges. For example, the 2030 target for zero emission vehicles (50 per cent of new vehicles) meets the level recommended in our Decarbonisation Futures 2 degrees analysis.

The targets and commitments made by Victoria this week are important in Australia’s transition to a net zero economy. As we head toward the UN climate talks in Glasgow this year, all Australian governments will need to demonstrate that they are playing their part in addressing climate change. Climateworks will aim to raise their ambition – in both their emission reduction targets and the action needed to realise them.