Australian emissions target fails climate and economic test

Australian emissions target

Creative Commons: 2012

The Australian government has finally revealed the emissions reduction target it is considering taking to December’s United Nations climate talks in Paris, committing to a “pathetic” 26 to 28% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030.

It is not only far below the 40-60 per cent on 2000 levels recommended by its own Climate Change Authority, but totally inadequate to meet its bipartisan goal of doing its bit to holding warming below  2C.

If other countries took the same approach, the world would face a disastrous 3-4C of warming.

Australia is currently aiming to reduce emissions by 5% by 2020 – based on 2000 levels.

By changing the year of its new target, the government’s plan is easier to compare against other countries, including the US and Canada.

However, 2005 was a particularly high year for emissions, and its new target of 26% on 2005 levels actually equates to 19% on 2000 levels – and therefore represents a rolling back on the government’s current target.

As such, Australia faces a hard time explaining its target to an international community who have labelled the target recalcitrant, “an exercise in duplicity”, and more about political science than science.

Australia’s foot-dragging already prompted a warning from France, and today’s announcement has already been slammed by the Australia’s vulnerable Pacific Island neighbours.

Tony de Brum, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands said:

Australia’s weak target is another serious blow to its international reputation. As with Prime Minister Abbott’s attempt to ignore climate change when hosting the G20 last year, this will send a serious shudder through the Pacific and raise concern amongst its closest allies, including the United States and Europe.

This seems to be another example of Australian exceptionalism when it comes to tackling the biggest economic, environmental and security challenge of the 21st Century. If the rest of the world followed Australia’s lead, the Great Barrier Reef would disappear. So would my country, and the other vulnerable atoll nations on Australia’s doorstep.

The move has also been slammed by national and international NGOs, who urge the government to reconsider its weak target at the UN climate talks in Paris this December.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive, Dr Helen Szoke said:

Importantly, this must be understood as a provisional offer – there is still time for Australia to up its game and commit to a stronger target in Paris…Developing countries are already putting in place ambitious climate action plans and setting about building the resilient, equitable, low-carbon economies of the future, while the Australian Government seems intent on making Australia a polluting backwater.

Australia it joins Canada, New Zealand and Russia’s axis-of-inaction at the bottom of the barrel.

It is becoming clearer just how clueless the Abbott government is regarding the economic opportunities of climate action.

CEO of The Climate Institute, John Connor said:

This target fails tests both of scientific credibility and economic responsibility in a world increasingly focused on modernising and cleaning up energy as well as economic systems. This target is bad for the climate and bad for our international competitiveness.

Abbott openly admits that his government’s policies are aimed at protecting a dying coal industry, and argues that stronger pollution reductions could ‘detract from economic prosperity’ despite its own figures showing essentially no difference in cost for a stronger emissions cuts.

All credible economic analyses to date show Australia can achieve significant pollution reductions while retaining economic growth.

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