Australia's emissions reduction targets


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Australia will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 per cent compared with 2000 levels by 2020 if the world agrees to an ambitious global deal capable of stabilising levels of GHGs in the atmosphere at 450 ppm (parts per million) carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) or lower.

Australia will unconditionally reduce its emissions by 5 per cent compared with 2000 levels by 2020 and by up to 15 per cent by 2020 if there is a global agreement that falls short of securing atmospheric stabilisation at 450 ppm CO2-e under which major developing economies commit to substantially restraining their emissions and advanced economies take on commitments comparable to Australia's.

These targets have been anchored under the Cancun Agreements. A detailed statement of Australia's target conditions can be found below.


Australia will reduce GHG emissions by 80 per cent compared with 2000 levels by 2050.


Australia's emissions reduction targets are based on net national emissions; that is, any imported units will be counted as contributing to meeting the national target, and any exported units will not be counted. The 2020 targets refer to Australia's net emissions from the sector/source categories included in Annex A of the Kyoto Protocol as well as from afforestation, reforestation and deforestation. The same sectoral coverage applies to both the base year (the year 2000) and 2020 emissions.


Australia remains on track to meet its Kyoto Protocol target of limiting average annual emissions over the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period (2008 to 2012) to 108 per cent of 1990 levels. Australia's emissions are projected to average around 580 Mt CO2-e per year over 2008 to 2012, which is 106 per cent of 1990 levels. Without further policy action, Australia's emissions are projected to continue to increase. In 2020, emissions are projected to reach 686 Mt CO2-e, or 24 per cent above 2000 levels. Australia's unconditional target of 5 per cent represents a 23 per cent decline below business as usual.

Australia's emissions trends, 1990 to 2020

Australia's emissions trends, 1990 to 2020
Note: trajectories to the 2020 target range are illustrative

In the following table:

  • 'advanced economies' refers to Annex 1 parties to the UNFCCC and at least some other high/middle income economies
  • 'major developing economies' refers to non-Annex 1 members of the Major Economies Forum.
Australia's emissions targets at 2020 and conditions
Target at 2020 Conditions
5% None
15% International agreement where major developing economies commit to substantially restrain emissions and advanced economies take on commitments comparable to Australia's. In practice this implies:
  • global action on track to stabilisation between 510 and 540ppm CO2-e
  • advanced economy reductions in aggregate, in the range of 15 to 25% below 1990 levels
  • substantive measurable, reportable and verifiable commitments and actions by major developing economies, in the context of a strong international financing and technology cooperation framework, but which may not deliver significant emissions reductions until after 2020
  • progress toward inclusion of forests (REDD) and the land sector, deeper and broader carbon markets, low carbon development pathways.
25% (up to 5 percentage points through government purchase) Comprehensive global action capable of stabilising CO2-e concentrations at 450ppm CO2-e or lower. This requires a clear pathway to achieving an early global peak in total emissions, with major developing economies slowing the growth and then reducing their emissions, advanced economies taking on reductions and commitments comparable to Australia, and access to the full range of international abatement opportunities through a broad and functioning international market in carbon credits. This would involve :
  • comprehensive coverage of gases, sources and sectors, with inclusion of forests (REDD) and the land sector (including soil carbon initiatives (e.g. bio char) if scientifically demonstrated) in the agreement
  • clear global trajectory, where the sum of all economies' commitments is consistent with 450ppm CO2-e or lower, and with a nominated early deadline year for peak global emissions not later than 2020
  • advanced economy reductions, in aggregate, of at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020
  • major developing economy commitments that slow emissions growth and then reduce their absolute level of emissions over time, with a collective reduction of at least 20% below business-as-usual by 2020 and a nomination of a peaking year for individual major developing economies
  • global action which mobilises greater financial resources, including from major developing economies, and results in fully functional global carbon markets.

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