In a review of G20 countries and their transition strategies to a net-zero emissions economy, Australia has scored the lowest on all but one of the nine metrics evaluated by The Climate Transparency Report.

Based on 100 indicators for adaptation, mitigation, and finance the report aims to make good practices and flaws transparent.

Up against countries such as Brazil, the UK, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the US, Argentina, and India, the assessment has demonstrated that Australia is in fact the worst ranked G20 nation when it comes to implementing climate policies across a range of sectors.

While marking a ‘medium’ policy rating for the construction of low emission buildings, Australia scored in the red on policy ratings relating to renewable energy in the power sector, coal phase-out in the power sector, phase-out of fossil fuel heavy duty vehicles, energy efficiency in industry and setting a target for net-zero deforestation.


Climate change data
Pic: Climate Analytics, 2021

While all of this can bee seen as embarrassing, it isn’t entirely surprising.

Curtin University Professor of Sustainability Peter Newman said the phase-out of fossil fuel cars and heavy-duty vehicles was “rightfully bad in Australia”.

“We are Third World on cars,” he said.

“The CEO of Volvo spoke about this on Radio National Breakfast last Friday, it is our real black spot.

“Mining companies are starting to do electric vehicle trucks and ammonia-trains on their own, but we need to remove the diesel rebate to help with this.

“It’s 52c/l, which is huge.”

In regards to Australia’s net-zero energy rating and renovation of new buildings, Newman said regulations were also “very poor”.

“The present debate is about the update of the National Construction Code from 4 to 7 stars, which is not even close to what is needed.

“This must be net-zero and the data shows this is cheaper and relatively easy to do now.”


Australia’s emissions ‘nearly three times the average’

The report states that collectively, the G20 member nations are responsible for around 75% of global greenhouse gases and while some positive developments have been made, including in the growth of solar and wind power among G20 members, the dependence on fossils fuels is not going down.

It also highlights that the consumption of coal is projected to rise by nearly 5% in 2021 and the consumption of gas increased by 12% across the G20 from 2015–2020.

One of the major key findings was that while energy-related CO2 emissions plunged by 6% across the G20 in 2020, they are projected to rebound by 4% in 2021.

Climate Analytics chief executive officer Bill Hare said Australia has the G20’s highest per capita emissions “nearly three times the average” and yet the government has no credible climate policies and “no plan that doesn’t involve replacing fossil fuels with fossil fuels”.

“Australia has been long recognised by all organisations that have looked at a comparative analysis that it is a laggard on nearly every front.

“There is very little happening on a national level.”

In the report, Australia’s emissions targets were classified as “highly insufficient” and consistent with 4 degrees of global warming should they be adopted by other countries – meaning targets are not Paris Agreement compatible.

It said: “The UK is the only G20 member with a domestic target that aligns with a 1.5°C modelled domestic pathway in 2030; however, the overall rating is ‘almost sufficient’ as its policies and action are not yet 1.5°C aligned nor is it meeting its ‘fair share’ target or climate finance contribution.”

Rooftop solar isn’t going to get us over the line

And while data has been released stating that Australia has the “highest uptake of solar globally”, Hare said it does not scale to the emissions reductions nationally.

“Rooftop solar is very important but it is not the big story,” he said.

“The big story is how much is renewable energy penetrating the Australian energy system as a whole – not in one sub-sector.

“If you look at the big picture, Australia’s renewable energy in terms of its total energy use is really quite small; it’s only 7%.

“You also have to decarbonise the energy supply for big industry, transport and so on – they all have to work together to get to Paris Agreement compatible targets.”