Reported pollution targets would fail climate as well as competitiveness tests Media Release

Jun 23, 2015 - 11:00am

Pollution reduction targets reported to be under consideration by the government would fail key climate and competitiveness tests with Australia’s pollution dependent economy and slowing carbon productivity improvements a growing liability in a world increasingly focusing on a zero carbon economy, said The Climate Institute today.

“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.

“The making of the initial target offer into the international process ahead of Paris climate negotiations in December is a core test of Australia’s climate credibility.”

Fairfax papers today reported that “the target to be proposed to cabinet is broadly in line with the recently announced US position of 26 to 28 per cent cuts on year 2005 levels of emissions by 2025 or the higher-than-expected Canadian pledge of 30 per cent on 2005 emissions, albeit by the later date of 2030”.

Connor said: “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.”

“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.”

“Canada's target is consistent with international action in line with 3-4°C of global warming. Does our government accept the risks of a 3-4°C warming scenario? Severe damage to settlements, infrastructure and human health from climate extremes; large areas of agricultural land rendered unfit for production; and few coral reefs remaining.

“If Australia advances such a target, it either accepts the consequences of 3-4°C of warming or is asking others to do more to pick up the slack in achieving the 2°C goal, which is in our collective interests. The maths are simple: if we do less, others have to do more.”

Earlier this month The Climate Institute released a guide to Australia’s initial pollution target offer which set out three tests.

“Firstly and most importantly is whether the target would, as a proportional contribution, help the internationally agreed goal of avoiding 2°C warming - this would mean reductions of 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.”

“Secondly on comparisons with international peers, a key metric is how Australia would perform against comparisons of developed economies emissions intensity and per capita pollution - just matching the US would require 40 per cent off 2005 levels by 2025.”

“Thirdly on a competitiveness test of our carbon productivity improvements. Australia has been improving the carbon productivity of the economy, as measured by emissions intensity of GDP, at six per cent per year but this is projected to slow to four per cent a year. A weak target such as Canada’s may just sustain the current rate of improvement when being part of a world moving to avoid 2°C warming requires increases of eight per cent a year by 2025 with targets such as those recommended by The Climate Institute or the Climate Change Authority - which recommended 35 per cent.”

“If the government, and indeed the Opposition, wanted to get into the emerging mainstream then they need to have much stronger initial post-2020 targets but also need to be clear on the pathway to zero carbon economy. The G7 joined other voices calling for decarbonisation and had targets which effectively mean emissions from energy and industry need to be near zero by 2050.”

“You can’t have a plan for the future, a plan for climate, if you don’t have a plan for decarbonisation.”

“The other issue is that this is a budgeting issue, there is only a limited amount of heat trapping gases that can be emitted for certain levels of warming. Like any budget, the weaker the early targets the more drastic the action required later.

“As the world recognises the costs of 2°C warming are disastrous and need to be avoided, softer early targets will require drastic action later especially for more carbon intense, pollution dependent economies such as Australia’s,” concluded Connor (the graph above highlights the more urgent action required should weaker targets be adopted).

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Kristina Stefanova | Communications Director | 02 8239 6299

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