Australia has been warned to lift its game on emissions, with a new report finding it is still one of the most carbon-intensive countries among developed economies.
The OECD assessment of Australia’s environmental performance says the country must stabilise and strengthen its policies to deal with climate change.
It adds to a series of authoritative bodies, including the United Nations’ environment section, calling on Australia to do more.
“The country will fall short of its 2030 emissions target without a major effort to move to a low-carbon model,” says the report, released on Wednesday.
“Australia has adopted a piecemeal approach to emission reduction. The government needs to streamline its approach and clarify how existing and new instruments can be scaled up to reach the Paris Agreement goals.”
Australia has pledged to cut emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2007 levels by 2030 but government projections show that target will be missed by a significant amount on existing policy settings.
It says Australia is one of the few OECD countries where emissions have risen over the past decade.
The report laments lost opportunities to provide stability to the electricity sector, with repeated failures over recent years by the federal government to settle energy and climate policy.
“Adopting an integrated energy and climate policy framework for 2030 with an emission reduction goal for the power sector would avoid the projected rise in (greenhouse gas) emissions,” OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria says.
Nevertheless, Environment Minister Melissa Price says “progress continues to be made” towards the 2030 target.
“We have the right mix of policies in place to meet our targets and our policies are scalable,” she said in a statement responding to the OECD.
The organisation wants the government to clarify the role of two of these policies, the Emissions Reduction Fund and the safeguard mechanism, in meeting climate targets.
It notes Australia has warmed by 0.9C over the past 60 years – the Paris Agreement aims to limit warming to at most 2C or ideally 1.5C – and changes in rainfall patterns, more frequent hot days and heat waves are already affecting people’s wellbeing.
It says the overall status of biodiversity is poor and worsening, and the Great Barrier Reef is under threat from climate change and run-off pollution.
Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O’Shannassy says the OECD is clear that Australia is failing to protect the environment and in fact doing damage at record speed.
“We can no longer ignore the persistent warnings about what runaway climate change and a sick natural world mean for our country,” she said.
“The good news is we have the tools, skills and technology to forge a new way.”
The 50 recommendations also include that energy taxes better reflect the climate cost of using fuels, extending road pricing including congestion charges, and speeding up and strengthening regulation of industrial chemicals, with about three-in-five chemicals available in Australia yet to have risk assessments.