Australia needs to stop burning coal by 2030 if it wants to help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, a new report warns.
Climate Analytics says the government needed a national plan to phase out remaining coal-fired plants, and needed to take them offline faster than the existing timetable.
Such a plan would help provide the energy sector with certainty, the report released on Thursday said.
The report noted that while 10 coal-fired plants had closed since 2012 another 19 remaining plants remained in operation and were responsible for generating 60 per cent of Australia’s electricity.
That must stop if Australia was to honour it’s obligations under the Paris accord, said Climate Analytics chief executive Bill Hare, who pointed to the current bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland as a sign the country needed to curb emissions rapidly.
“The realisation that climate change poses an existential threat to Australia is certainly hitting home right now,” Mr Hare said.
“Australia must play its part in fighting climate change, and it could start by switching from coal to renewables in its own electricity system.”
The report, using data from the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says phasing coal out completely by 2030 would allow Australia to do its bit.
It warns just half a degree more warming above 1.5C would see the death of nearly all of Australia’s coral reefs.
It also warned that Australia faced longer bushfire seasons, less rain and more drought due to climate change.
The report stated that at the slow rate coal-fired plants were being shut down across the country, Australia would still emit twice more than what it was allowed to under the Paris Agreement.
This made it the only OECD country in the G20 that relied on coal for more than half of its energy supply.
In a decade, half of these plants – which the report said were already technically obsolete – would be 40 to 60 years old.
The report says Australia has natural advantage when it comes to renewable energy resources and should jump on this to move to a carbon-free energy system.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said if Australia had cut its emissions it would still be facing its current bushfire season.
Speaking to Neil Mitchell on 3AW on Friday, he said higher emissions targets would destroy regional jobs.
Asked if the number and intensity of the fires was the new normal, Mr Morrison said it was certainly the advice he’d been receiving.
Meanwhile, climate protesters picketed a meeting of state and territory energy ministers in Perth demanding stronger government action to address climate change.