Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Labor's 2019 Climate Policy

By AusSMC

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has unveiled Labor's climate change policy — the plan it will use to reach its target of cutting emissions by 45% by 2030, and ensure half of Australia's energy comes from renewable sources by 2050.

"Labor’s push for electric cars is great so long as they’ll be run on renewable energy, not fossil fuels. Otherwise, what’s the point? Coal, in particular, is the dirtiest of all fuels in terms of carbon emissions -- and almost 60 percent of Australia’s electricity currently comes from burning coal. And to be clear, there’s no such thing as ‘clean coal’—it’s a total oxymoron. Every time an Australian politician advocates ‘clean coal’, a giant fist should come flying out of the blue and knock them straight off our TV screens."

Professor William Laurance is director of the Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Sciences (TESS) at James Cook University.


"If this is done with a fleet that is predominantly battery operated, such fleet needs to obtain its energy (power) from the mains electrical grid. If the power generated in the main grid is from non-renewable sources such as coal overall GHG emissions will be larger than for a new technology diesel or petrol vehicle. In addition the emissions that would come from the tailpipe of diesel/petrol vehicles are just displaced to a power plant in the case of electric vehicles. Only if we significantly increase the contribution of renewable low to zero emission power sources to our electricity generation will the electric vehicles come to its full potential.

Taking into account the resources we have in Australia for renewable fuels we should continue investing into development and implementation of biofuels as a transient solution to electric based transport sector."

Professor Zoran Ristovski is Research Director in the School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).


"We hope the type of electric vehicle considered includes fuel cell electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles. The focus of attention by existing media announcements seems to be that ‘battery operated’ are the only electric vehicles on the market. A diversity of energy options for transportation – each of which have zero or exceptionally low carbon emissions – is a sign of a healthy economy and healthy economic policy."

Professor Ian Mackinnon is from the Institute for Future Environments at Queensland University of Technology.


"As an oil importing country with no domestic car manufacturing industry, Australia is well placed to make the shift to electric vehicles proposed by Labor. A crucial step towards this goal will be the restructuring of the National Electricity Market, and the design of charging infrastructure to encourage flexible recharging of electric vehicles to match peaks in the availability of renewable energy."

Professor John Quiggin is an Australian Laureate Fellow in Economics at the University of Queensland.


"Labor’s proposed electric vehicle (EV) targets and incentives are a long overdue step in the right direction to reduce vehicle emissions.

It has been confirmed in several independent studies that more people die from vehicle emissions than from road accidents, so the time to act is now.

A high uptake of EVs will improve Australia’s air quality and its general population health.

EV targets and government incentives help, as can be seen in Europe and the US, where most countries have already 2% EVs in the general vehicle fleet, versus only 0.2% in Australia.

An Australian EV target of 50% for 2030 would be in line with other countries, such as South Korea (30% by 2025), Norway and the Netherlands (100% by 2025) and the UK and France (100% by 2040)."

Thomas Bräunl is Director of the Renewable Energy Vehicle Project at The University of Western Australia (UWA).


"The biggest opportunity identified by Labor is its commitment to retain the cap on emissions, reduce these over time and allow trading in credits.

This makes it possible to phase in a state of the art climate sharing scheme or, as some prefer to think of it, a state of the art emissions trading scheme."

Professor Michael Young is Research Chair in Water and Environmental Policy at The University of Adelaide.


"The ALP climate change policy is not perfect, but it is very much better than the current government’s approach. It has a more ambitious overall target and eschews the creative accounting the government is relying on to disguise its failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A 45 per cent reduction in emissions is, however, still not doing our share to slow global warming.

Bringing in vehicle emissions standards and encouraging electric vehicles are very welcome changes. While there has been some political attention to electricity generation, our greenhouse gas emissions from transport are still increasing rapidly. The government’s so-called congestion-busting plan, funding road schemes that are mostly in marginal electorates, is using public funds to reinforce a hopeless strategy. No city in the world has ever solved its transport problem by building roads. The standards proposed are not radical, being in line with the US levels rather than European regulations, but they are a start.

The crackdown on big polluters is very welcome."

Ian Lowe is Emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University, Qld and former President of the Australian Conservation. Foundation.


"The hype about autonomous and electric vehicles solving the world’s mobility problems, at the expense of public transport, is a gigantic load of nonsense.

As a researcher in this field, my emotions tend to boil over rather easily when discussing the merits of public transport versus autonomous vehicles.

Traffic congestion has now become a global issue, not just for environmental reasons. Car traffic brings significant impacts to communities, especially on urban liveability, including the separation of urban centres by busy roads and creating further social disadvantage.

By 2020, traffic congestion will cost the Australian economy more than $20 billion.

But from where is the solution to this problem going to come?

The truth is that transit systems are the only option available for shared occupancy at the volume needed and the quality provided that can meet the need of large and growing cities."

Professor Graham Currie is Director of Monash Infrastructure, Chair of Public Transport, Professor in Transport Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering at Monash University.