08 June 2016

Australia, India and South Africa fall short in new report on energy policy

Transitions 2030 report launch
A new report reveals that major countries, including Australia, India and South Africa, will struggle to achieve the emissions targets agreed at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris. Commissioned by the IChemE Energy Centre, the study concludes that significant changes in national energy policies, such as Australia’s repeal of its carbon tax in 2014, will have a negative effect on progress towards lower CO2 emissions.

The report, Transitions in Electricity Systems Towards 2030, reinforces the widely-held view that a strong focus on the power generation sector is needed in order to secure progress. Power generation accounts for 30-40% of the CO2 emissions in the countries examined in the report. In order to achieve the emissions targets agreed at COP21 in December 2015, alternative power generation technologies must be deployed urgently.

The report examines the electricity generation systems in seven countries – Australia, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and the UK. These countries have a substantial community of chemical engineers, and are all significant emitters of greenhouse gases. The report describes a scoring methodology based on ‘condensed principles of rational energy policy.’ Each country’s performance is assessed based on existing low-carbon generation capacity and current policy trends.

The UK ranks top with a score of +2; indicating positive moves in evidence-based policy, a focus on negative emissions, and continuing deployment of renewable energy sources. India scored a -4 with South Africa on -3, but Australia scored lowest at -5 as a result of weak targets and policy reversal, driven by cost reduction rather than environmental goals.

Transitions in Electricity Systems Towards 2030 was launched in London, UK on Monday 6 June at a meeting hosted by IChemE’s Energy Centre Chair and Dean of the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences at Brunel University, Professor Stef Simons. The report was presented by its co-author Renée van Diemen from Imperial College London followed by a discussion with a panel of experts, an invited audience and online participants.

The research team for the report was supervised by Energy Centre Board member, Dr Niall Mac Dowell, a lecturer in Energy and Environmental Technology at Imperial College, who said:

“The Paris agreement represents an important step in tacking climate change, but this must now be matched with sustained action commensurate with achieving the ambitious 1.5oC target. Many governments are taking positive steps, but the current commitments by some nations will be insufficient to meet climate goals. Serious consideration must be given to the policy measures that will be required to achieve these demanding emissions targets; and implementation must follow quickly.”

Renée van Diemen said: “One of the countries I profiled in the report was Australia, and some of the findings were eye-opening. The Australian government's justification for their repeal of a carbon pricing mechanism was to ensure international competitiveness on the energy market. However, it has hindered progress in reducing electricity sector emissions. The power sector is one of the biggest contributors to energy-related emissions not just in Australia, but globally. We must make meaningful structural changes here to have any hope of limiting average global temperature rises."

Also in attendance was the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Economic Affairs Officer, David Elzinga. He said: “Energy security for individual nations will often trump global policy, and that is where we need to strike a balance. Energy is currently taken for granted and the market needs to move to a service-based provision for people.”

Clara Heuberger, a PhD student at Imperial College, who also contributed to the report, agreed saying: “Decarbonising one sector, such as transport or power will be a tough problem to tackle. We need to integrate the energy system so that all sectors feed into one another – this will make decarbonisation much more straight-forward.”

The full report is available on the IChemE website. Those wishing to hear further contributions from the authors can watch the full recording of the report’s presentation and discussion on IChemE’s YouTube channel.

My IChemE

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).