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IPW: Australia's new emissions targets, New Zealand renewables audit, and South Africa’s energy reform

21 June 2022

In this week’s Infrastructure Policy Watch, Australia raises the country’s ambition to mitigate climate change and New Zealand and South Africa examine their future energy needs. 

IPW: Australia's new emissions targets, New Zealand renewables audit, and South Africa’s energy reform
Australia upgraded its emissions targets to get on track for net zero by 2050. Image credit: Tiff N/Pexels

Australian government strengthens climate change commitments

Australia’s new Labor government has presented an updated nationally determined contribution (NDC), setting a more ambitious climate change mitigation target.

It raises the country’s 2030 emissions reduction target from 28% to 43% below 2005 levels. Its aim is to put Australia on track for net zero by 2050.

The government next plans to include those targets in legislation.

The NDC commits the government to provide an annual progress update to parliament.

It also restores the role of the country’s Climate Change Authority as an independent advisor.

To deliver its climate agenda, the government created a new Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

ICE’s view

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned the world’s governments of the major challenge of mitigating the effects of climate change.

Its report said limiting global warming to 1.5°C needs ‘rapid and deep, and in most cases, immediate’ emissions reductions.

Yet, the report highlighted a gap between ambitious national targets and the actual emissions cuts the world is on course to achieve.

Thus, it's important that swift action follows the Australian government’s increased ambitions. Only then can it deliver the necessary emissions cuts.

New Zealand sets out a path to a renewable energy future

A new report by New Zealand’s Infrastructure Commission argues the country has more than enough natural renewable energy resources to power its net zero goal.

The report identifies untapped wind, solar, hydro and geothermal resources. Combined, these could deliver three times the renewable energy needed to achieve net zero by 2050.

The commission claims New Zealand has the funding and workforce needed to deliver a low-emission energy system on time.

The report featured research showing the cost of building wind farms is quickly falling around the world due to technology improvements.

Yet, it notes several challenges the government will have to address.

These include enough low-cost back-up generation, and a resource management system that speeds up approval of new wind farms.

ICE’s view

Governments worldwide are reviewing their long-term energy strategies. In part because of the rising cost of energy, but also the need to reduce carbon emissions.

Like the UK, New Zealand benefits from plenty of renewable energy resources.

Yet, there's a risk of failing to maximise those natural advantages in some sectors. ICE raised this concern about the UK government's recent energy security strategy, especially regarding onshore wind.

New Zealand’s new long-term infrastructure strategy recognises the need for plans that prioritise net zero.

This report made the opportunities and hurdles facing a low-carbon energy system clear. The responsibility is now on New Zealand’s government to consider its recommendations.

South African government targets energy sector reform

South Africa's government is planning reforms to ensure a reliable supply of energy and electricity.

The country is currently experiencing regular load-shedding. This led to short-term measures to increase generation capacity.

But a new Electricity Amendment Regulation Bill intends to go further and form a competitive electricity market.

The government also asked the independent Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) to prepare a report on the country’s future energy mix.

Last year, the PCC’s emissions reduction recommendations got the government to submit a new NDC. It was more ambitious than the one initially proposed ahead of COP26.

The commission is currently finishing work on a just transition framework.

ICE’s view

The current energy crisis is an opportunity for governments to speed up the push towards low carbon energy systems.

These can ensure long-term security of supply and deliver the emissions cuts needed to mitigate climate change.

South Africa’s problems are particularly grave, as its ageing energy infrastructure is unable to meet current demand.

The transition to a low carbon energy mix can address those shortages and deliver wider benefits, including job creation.

These are crucial as South Africa works to carry out its National Development Plan.

As the country continues planning its future energy mix, there are lessons it can learn from around the world. For example, New Zealand and Singapore’s energy 2050 report.

In case you missed it:

  • ICE published a policy position statement on defining the outcomes from levelling up.
  • Our recent presidential roundtable looked at how rising inflation is affecting global infrastructure pipelines. Find out how governments, developers and the supply chain might respond.

Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch.

You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE. This includes calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.

  • David McNaught, policy manager at ICE