Climate cliff reveals Australia’s carbon budget risks and realities Media Release

Apr 08, 2013 - 6:00am

Australia needs to use a long-term carbon budget approach to properly recognise the risks, responsibilities and realities in doing its fair share in helping achieve climate change goals set in the national interest, concludes a policy paper released today by The Climate Institute.

“Australia’s carbon laws and international negotiations are based on avoiding more than two degrees global warming above pre-industrial levels. To have good chance at this, no more than 1,500 billion tonnes of carbon pollution can be released to 2050,” said Erwin Jackson, Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute.

“Defining Australia’s fair share of the global carbon budget is a complex task, but it is critical if short-term targets are to be set with clear reference to avoiding dangerous climate change. Australia’s current high levels of per capita carbon pollution, which have grown at around twice the global average over recent decades, make this particularly challenging.”  

“If the average Australian consumes no more of the global budget than the average person in other advanced economies then over the next 40 years we can only release 8 billion tonnes carbon pollution. At current emission levels this budget would be consumed in around 15 years.”

The paper comes as the Climate Change Authority is set to release its initial thoughts on Australian emission targets and budgets as it prepares draft recommendations by October and final recommendations by February 2014.

Australia carbon laws are more than just a price. From 2015, they place an absolute limit on emissions from Australia’s most emissions-intensive industries. These limits will be set by the Government after receiving recommendations from the independent Climate Change Authority.

“Like any budget, the more you spend early on the less you have for later. If targets are set without reference to a long-term and fair national carbon budget, more draconian emissions reductions will be required after 2020 to meet national goals and international commitments."

The Climate Institute calculations also highlight that Australia current emission targets are not a fair contribution to avoiding dangerous climate change.

Jackson added: “A carbon budget based on the bipartisan minimum targets would see, on average, Australians emit four times as much as other people globally to 2050. Alongside the domestic transformation to a low pollution economy, credible pollution budgets can boost international momentum to address an increasingly hostile climate.”

“The Climate Institute’s and others analysis suggests that by 2030 Australia will have to reduce emissions by around 60 per cent on 2000 levels. Australia’s emission reduction task does not end in 2020 and this will test the policy credibility of all major political parties.”

For more information
Erwin Jackson | Deputy CEO, The Climate Institute | 03 9600 4039

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