Australia risks being caught in backwash as China and others announce plans to modernise and clean up economies Media Release

Jun 30, 2015 - 11:21am

The Australian economy risks being caught in the backwash of global climate action and economic modernisation, The Climate Institute said in response to China’s formal announcement overnight on its initial post-2020 pollution reduction targets.

“China’s formal post-2020 pollution reduction and clean energy targets are a significant global step forward and show China’s determination to modernise and clean-up its economy,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.

“They should be seen as the floor not the ceiling of China’s actions which have escalated in recent years and will need to lift more if we are to avoid 2°C warming.”

“With China’s announcement overnight, countries accounting for over half of global emissions have declared their initial targets for post-2020 pollution reduction. South Korea yesterday released more ambitious targets than expected, citing global responsibility as well as new business and innovation possibilities.”

“Australia risks getting caught in the backwash of global climate action and economic modernisation if it sticks with laggards like Canada. The tests of our soon to be released post-2020 target are primarily climate credibility but also carbon competitiveness.”

“The plans China has announced today, which confirm a historic peaking of its emissions by 2030, or ‘earlier if possible’, are driven by its hard-headed assessment of national interest that an economy dependent on outdated polluting technologies is not good for business, health or energy security.”

“China’s air pollution costs alone are estimated at around 10 per cent of GDP per year.”

“China has also committed to continue cleaning up its economy by reducing its emissions intensity by 60-65 per cent by 2030 on 2005 levels. These minimum targets will be set in binding domestic laws. If Australia reduced its emission intensity by 65 per cent by 2030, our emissions would be 35-45 per cent below 2005 levels in 2030." (Range dependent on IMF or Treasury GDP forecast.)

National and global energy markets are being transformed by investments in solar, wind and other clean energy technologies. The Climate Institute’s recent research brief demonstrated that China is already the world’s largest investor in renewable energy, with over AU$90billion invested last year alone.

“For China to meet the targets it outlined today it will need to build clean energy the size of Australia’s entire electricity system, each year for the next 15 years. Given China’s actions so far, while ambitious, they’ll need to do more.”

Governments will gather in Paris in December to finalise the international framework through which nations will facilitate their carbon pollution reductions. In the lead up to Paris, all countries are expected to submit their initial post-2020 emissions reduction targets. Final targets will be added to the final agreement in late 2016 or 17.

“The post-2020 targets that have been announced by China, South Korea, the US, EU and others are not just pollution reduction plans – they are plans to clean up and modernise their economies. Based on current projections, in 2030, these targets will deliver over US$1 trillion in clean energy investment a year,” said Connor.

“Australia needs to get with the modernisation and decarbonisation program picking up pace around the world.”

The Australian government is expected to release its initial offer in mid-July. The Climate Institute recently released a guide on how to judge that target. The primary test of credibility is whether the proposed target is consistent with a fair and ambitious contribution towards avoiding 2°C of warming. Achieving this requires net zero emissions before 2050 and 45 per cent reductions off 2005 levels by 2025. Secondary measures, like matching the US’ emissions intensity and per capita pollution by 2025 would require a 40 per cent reduction.

For more information
Kristina Stefanova | Strategic Partnerships & Communications Director | 02 8239 6299

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