Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday stressed the similarities between Australia’s and the US’ emission trajectories, after a government advisory body said Australia should increase its current effort and target a 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 compared to 2000 levels.
In an interview with ABC radio, Hunt said Australia was in a good position to achieve bigger CO2 cuts in the future because of the success of the Emissions Reductions Fund, and named the US as somewhere the country might catch up with.
“The United States has 2005 (as baseline year) and by 2020 they’ll be minus 17%. We’re on track to be minus 13% – well, that’s our official target, but we will beat it. So we’ll start to get very close to the United States, which is being held up for its achievement. And we’ll go very, very close to matching that in the real world,” Hunt said.
The comment came in a discussion over a new report by the Climate Change Authority, an independent body set up by the previous government to advise on climate policies, but unwanted by the current administration.
The Authority said Australia should cut its emissions 30% from 2000 levels by 2025 (equal to 36% below 2005 levels), and 40-60% by 2030.
Hunt declined to comment on specific numbers, but the United States has taken on a slightly lower target of a 26-28% cut from 2005 by 2025 in its INDC.
However, one source speaking to Carbon Pulse was not convinced Australia would go as high as the US target.
“He may be trying to get there but I would be very surprised if he can get cabinet there,” the source said.
Australia will announce its own post-2020 UN pledge later this month. The government has been tightlipped about numbers so far, though there have been rumours for several weeks that the target will be set at or near the US pledge.
The Abbott government, which has picked up a reputation of putting the well-being of the nation’s mining industry well above any environmental priorities, is thought to prefer a lower target but is concerned over the potential diplomatic backlash from being seen as a laggard at the year-end climate conference in Paris.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has long been an ally of Canada’s Stephen Harper on climate change issues, but is under pressure to set a more ambitious climate policy after Canada’s INDC was largely cold-shouldered by international observers.
“Canada is in the laggard class, frankly. It’s not hard to go above Canada. As far as the US is concerned, we think our recommendations are really comparable with what the US is proposing,” Bernie Fraser, chair of the Climate Change Authority, said Thursday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
With China and South Korea both releasing their INDCs this week, while Brazil revealed part of its plan, most of the world’s major emitters have made it clear what pledges they will bring with them to Paris.
Australia remains one of the few significant unknowns among major economies, together with India, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Correction. The first version of this story said the Climate Change Authority’s recommendation was to cut emissions 30% below 2005 levels. It has been corrected to 2000 levels.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org
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