The Victorian government has promised to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, in an announcement of long-awaited climate targets that outstrip commitments made by the Morrison government.
The plan, announced on Sunday, will see Victoria power all government-owned enterprises, including schools and hospitals, by renewables by 2025.
The plan also includes $20m to reduce emissions in the agricultural sector, another $15.3m for a carbon farming program, and a $3,000 payment for Victorians who buy zero-emissions vehicles.
The government said it planned to reduce emissions by 28-33% by 2025 and 45-50% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, a move it said would put Victoria “at the forefront of Australia’s climate change action”.
The announcement was welcomed as ambitious but sober by a major industry lobby group. Conservationists said it did not go far enough for the state to play its part in meeting science-based emissions reduction targets.
In a statement, the government said Victoria was “already taking world-leading action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change”, as the first Australian state and one of the first jurisdictions in the world to legislate net zero emissions by 2050, with five yearly targets to make sure we get there”.
It pointed out the state had already cut its emissions by 24.8% based on 2005 levels, which meant it had achieved its 2020 target two years early.
The cuts will largely be tied to the closure of at least one more of the state’s brown coal-fired power plants later this decade, which may be brought forward due to an influx of renewable energy supported by a state government target. A significant part of the reduction to date was due to the massive Hazelwood coal generator shutting in 2017, which was not a government decision.
Climate change minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the announcement “puts Victoria shoulder to shoulder with the world’s major economies and leaders. This will reduce emissions and create jobs across the economy – from agriculture to transport to energy”.
But Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said that while the targets “pile even more pressure” on the federal government to increase its own emissions targets they fell “far short” on what was needed to keep global heating below 1.5C.
“By announcing targets of 45-50% by 2030, Victoria has almost matched the recent US pledge of 50-52%, but the science is clear we need to act much faster. Judged against what we need to do to stop the climate crisis, these targets fall far short,” he said.
“US Climate Envoy John Kerry himself last week conceded that the US target of 50-52% cuts is not enough, and neither is Victoria’s target.
“The federal Coalition’s decade of sabotage and delay on climate has limited what can be achieved in the next decade here in Victoria, and for that they must be held accountable.
“This has to be the start of a decade in which climate action is an absolute top priority for the Victorian government. Every decision matters.”
The announcement was welcomed by industry groups. In a statement, Tim Piper, the Victorian head of the national employment organisation Ai Group, said the targets, while ambitious, “also show a sober regard for the challenges in further accelerating an already rapid rate of change”.
“Nationally consistent approaches are typically preferable to build scale and offer a simpler environment for businesses that operate across Australia,” he said.
“We hope for fuller collaboration between the states and the federal government as net zero emissions goals become universal. The truly heavy lifting will come as we look beyond the electricity sector and beyond 2030. Today’s announcements flag a lot more work to come.
“On existing trends, especially in electricity, Victoria’s 2025 and 2030 targets look achievable; the state is halfway there already. But we should not underestimate the work needed to keep the electricity sector stable through that transition.”