CANBERRA, Australia, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Australia's emissions could be 24 percent higher in 2020 than in 2000 if the government continues with current policies, a new study shows.
By contrast, Canberra has been aiming for a 5 percent decrease in carbon emissions by 2020, below 2000 levels.
In announcing the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency report Tuesday, Australia's Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the projected emissions for 2020 would need to be reduced by 160 million tons for Australia to meet the target.
That's equivalent to reducing emissions from power generation by 75 percent, the minister said.
Combet said a carbon price -- in which industries would be required to pay for their greenhouse gas output to encourage a shift to cleaner technology -- was necessary to make emissions cuts.
''Clearly more needs to be done and that's why we need a carbon price, soon,'' he said in a statement.
Australia is the largest per person emitter of carbon dioxide.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has made pricing carbon one of her key policy goals and a multiparty climate committee aims to introduce carbon price legislation this year. But the opposition is against such a scheme, maintaining that it would simply be a tax on electricity.
More than 80 percent of Australia's electricity is generated by coal-fired plants.
"Without a carbon price underpinning long-term investments in renewable energy, low emissions gas generation and energy efficiency, the report anticipates that new coal fired generators will continue to be built and there is a risk of falling short of the government's target of generating 20 percent of our energy from renewable sources in 2020," Combet said.
A separate report released by The Climate Group said emissions from energy use in four Australian eastern states -- Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia -- fell by 2.17 percent in 2010, following a 1.8 percent fall in emissions in 2009.
The group attributed the decrease to a decline in electricity generation from coal: coal-fired generation dropped by 5 percent across the four states, thus producing 8.7 million megawatts less electricity and 8.7 less emissions overall, the report states.
"It is encouraging to note that this year's fall in emissions has occurred at the same time as a return to stronger economic growth rates compared with 2009," said Rupert Posner, The Climate Group's Global director of energy, in a statement. "This is a clear demonstration that we can cut emissions while maintaining growth and jobs."