Coal crisis: Graph reveals massive Aussie energy problem
SEVEN environmental groups with a membership of more than one million Australians are calling for a radical overhaul of the country's electricity network saying coal-fired power needs to be replaced within 11 years.
It comes as Climate Analytics, a non-profit climate science and policy institute, releases a report today that suggests Australia needs to phase out coal-fired power by 2030 in order to "do its bit".
The report suggests Australia's electricity grid is one of the most polluting in the world and its current target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030, is not enough for the Paris Agreement to achieve its goal of keeping global temperature rises to 1.5C.
If all countries followed Australia's approach, it's been estimated this would lead to warming of between 3-4C by the end of the century.
"Just half a degree more warming above the 1.5C limit could mean the demise of nearly all of Australia's coral reefs," the report noted.
The report says the use of coal for electricity would need to be phased out around the world by 2040, and in OECD countries by 2030, to be compatible with the Paris Agreement.
In light of these findings seven environmental organisations have launched a campaign today calling for the government to develop a plan to retire and replace coal-fired power stations.
Environment Victoria, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Climate Action Network Australia, The Sunrise Project, the NSW Nature Conservation Council, and the Queensland Conservation Council, have been inspired by the success of the Beyond Coal campaigns in Europe and the United States, where hundreds of power stations have been retired and replaced with clean energy.
"When Australians look out the window, they see the climate changing," Environment Victoria chief executive officer Jono La Nauze said.
"In the past few weeks alone, we've seen catastrophic fires ravage the east coast before summer has even begun. Much of Queensland and New South Wales is battling through year-on-year drought. Authorities warn Victoria could face a repeat of Black Saturday this summer, stretching the nation's firefighting resources to breaking point."
The environmental groups are calling on the Federal Government to create a national plan for the orderly retirement of Australia's ageing coal power plants as soon as possible.
Emissions in the electricity sector are still responsible for about one third of Australia's total carbon emissions.
"Australia is the only OECD country in the G20, which relies on coal for more than half of its electricity supply," the report notes.
Australia has 19 coal power station supplying about 60 per cent of its electricity, which is well above the G20 average of 41 per cent.
States like Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales are particularly reliant on coal power.
"Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel and phasing it out … is the single most important measure to bring down emissions at the pace and scale needed to curb dangerous climate change," the report said.
Analysis of Department of Environment and Energy figures indicated Australia's reliance on coal would continue well beyond 2020 under current policies, with the electricity system projected to generate 29 per cent of total emissions in that year.
"These projections have coal still providing just under 50 per cent of electricity generation in 2030," the report noted.
The report suggests the most cost-effective pathway for Australia to support the Paris Agreement would see emissions fall by 27 per cent below 2018 levels by 2025, before reaching zero by 2030.
It notes that studies have shown it was possible for Australia to achieve a fast transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.
"This timely new research from Climate Analytics spells it out: burning coal is Australia's number one contribution to climate change," Mr La Nauze said.
"Phasing out coal and replacing it with renewable energy is the single most important thing Australia can do to bring down emissions at the pace and scale needed to curb dangerous climate change.
"We have to get on the right track, right now."
The report suggested that cleaning up Australia's electricity supply would also help achieve reductions in other sectors, where electrification could play an important role in bringing down emissions.
The report also suggests that delaying the phase-out would mean more stringent and costly emissions reductions in other sectors.
"The longer the world and Australia continue to use coal as currently planned, the higher the cost and the smaller the feasibility of keeping the door open to achieve the Paris Agreement's long-temperature goal."