Knives come out for Australia’s reported climate target

Published 07:11 on June 23, 2015  /  Last updated at 05:07 on June 24, 2015  /  Asia Pacific, Australia  /  No Comments

Criticism is building against Australia’s government amid media reports the past two days suggesting Canberra could opt for a post-2020 climate target along the lines of what has been pledged by the US or Canada.

Criticism is building against Australia’s government amid media reports the past two days suggesting Canberra could opt for a post-2020 climate target along the lines of what has been pledged by the US or Canada.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is reportedly considering setting a greenhouse gas emissions goal roughly equal to Canada’s 30% below 2005 target by 2030, or somewhat higher to match the US pledge of achieving 26-28% by 2025.

Both those targets are higher than the prime minister’s initial preference, but the government is already being criticised for dodging its responsibilities.

“The Climate Institute is concerned that initial post-2020 pollution reduction targets reportedly under consideration by the government would fail key climate and competitiveness tests,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.

“Canada’s figure, which would allow it to be the only country with increased pollution above 1990 levels, would signal the government is prepared to accept devastating warming, disastrous to Australia and other countries,” he said.

Canada’s plan relies to a large degree on accounting methods in the forestry sector, and has been dubbed inadequate by analysts such as Climate Action Tracker.

The US target is more ambitious and requires it to step up actions after 2020, but would still leave Australia short of initiating a transition to a low-carbon economy, according to Connor.

“While matching the US’ 2025 target may leave open the door to more credible action in the future, it would lock in our poor relative carbon competitiveness as a high polluting economy,” he said.

He was backed by Kellie Caught, national climate change manager at WWF Australia.

“Neither targets proposed by Canada and the US would put the world on a pathway to limit global warming to below 2 degrees, which will have negative consequences for Australia and Australian people,” she told Carbon Pulse.

“In particular Canada’s 2030 targets are woefully inadequate and if other countries committed similar targets it would firmly put the world on track for 3-4 degree temperature rise.”

Caught and Connor said Australia’s fair share would be a cut of around 35-40% below 2000 levels by 2025, significantly higher than what the government is contemplating.

“There is certainly a lot more Australia could be doing on the policy front including shutting down old and dirty coal-fired power stations, expanding renewable energy; improving energy efficiency in cars, buildings and appliances; halting land clearing and revegetating the land,” said Caught.

“Putting a limit and price on carbon pollution is a core part of the solution. It’s important we provide long-term price signals to big polluters and investors, to provide the incentive to transition to low carbon products and services and drive innovation,” she added.

But Australia repealed its carbon pricing mechanism last year and is reducing its 2020 renewable energy target. According to Environment Minister Greg Hunt, the Emissions Reductions Fund will remain the nation’s key policy to bring down emissions.

Australia is expected to officially announce its post-2020 target next month.

By Stian Reklev – stian@carbon-pulse.com

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