Abbott’s unambitious carbon target won’t impress the lighting world

So Australia has set itself a target for reducing its carbon emissions: 26 per cent by 2030.

To be more precise, a reduction of 26-28 per cent, by 2030, based on a 2005 baseline.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott calls the target ‘responsible and achievable’. But Abbott’s attempt to balance ecological and economic pressures has given us a target below what climate scientists had hoped for, and way below the 40-60 per cent reduction (based on a 2000 baseline) that the Climate Change Authority wanted. It leaves Australia trailing other developed nations for reduction targets, despite being one of the heaviest polluters.

Particularly for those who work in the field of energy efficiency and have seen first-hand what can be achieved, it’s a disappointment. A step in the right direction, of course, but a disappointingly small one.

As Frank Jotzo puts it on Business Spectator: ‘Time and time again, the experience has been that emissions reductions come cheaper than expected. Many emissions savings technologies have developed more rapidly and became cheaper more quickly than expected – just think of solar panels and LED lights.’

Lighting industries in other parts of the world have benefitted from more robust energy efficiency policy, showing how the right carrots and sticks can boost markets for energy-saving lighting and speed up the shift to LED.

Abbott says the government will review its emissions reduction policies in 2017-18, but has ruled out carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes. That leaves us with efforts such as the Emissions Reduction Fund - and the recent news that lighting projects can apply for a slice of the fund's $2bn pot is very promising. But without stretching targets, it's hard to see much impetus behind further efforts like these.

Australia’s lighting professionals will be hoping that when world leaders gather in Paris later this year to try to reach an international agreement on carbon reductions, something more positive comes out of it.