Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Scott Morrison’s climate PFFT

  • 27 October 2021
After an excruciating few weeks of negotiations with the Nationals — and far too many hours subjected to Barnaby Joyce’s ramblings — the Morrison government has finally announced their predictably underwhelming plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Plan with a capital P, that is. Yesterday’s PowerPoint presentation from Energy Minister Angus Taylor consistently spelled the word with a capital letter, giving it proper noun status to confer an aura of substance that wasn’t there.

But rather than a climate Plan, it’s better described as a climate PFFT. That stands for Projections For Future Technologies because instead of using government policy to drive down emissions, the Coalition’s approach is to wait for a few hand-picked technologies to get cheaper and magically save the day.

PFFT also has the added benefit of accurately describing the response of energy experts who expected something more than this series of charts with very little detail, and no actual modeling because the Minister has claimed that’s not in the public interest.

And PFFT is what our international allies are likely to say when Scott Morrison rocks up to the Glasgow talks with no plan to increase Australia’s very low 2030 climate target, which has again been ranked dead last among developed nations.

One of the Fs in that acronym could also stand for Fantasy Technology. The plan (available here) assumes 15 per cent of pollution cuts will come from ‘global technology trends’, which aren’t specified. Another 15 per cent would come from ‘further technology breakthroughs’, which the report at least gives 72 words to explaining later on, but the only specific technologies mentioned are ‘bioenergy’ and ‘direct air’ forms of carbon capture and storage.

'The federal Coalition doesn’t approach the climate crisis like a government trying to solve a problem. They approach it like a political party in the frantic final weeks of an election campaign, beginning with slogans and then working backwards to produce charts and figures that can justify their sales pitch.'

(Above: Chart from Australia’s Long-Term Emissions Reduction Plan, page 15)

In other words, growing plants, burning them for energy and then storing the pollution underground, or sucking carbon dioxide from the air and storing that somewhere too.

To give this more credit than it deserves, relying on such unproven technology in climate scenarios is hardly unusual. Many models for keeping warming under 1.5 degrees assume large-scale use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (called BECCS in the literature).