Signing the Paris Agreement means Australia must take real action at home Media Release

Apr 21, 2016 - 6:00am

Tomorrow in New York, Australia will join over 150 countries in the largest signing ceremony ever undertaken for an international treaty, committing each to take action towards achieving net zero emissions under the historic Paris Agreement. Yet, Australia will attend the event with domestic policies that are delivering rising pollution, sluggish clean energy investment and no plan for net zero emissions, said The Climate Institute.

“Signing the agreement adopted in Paris means committing to take action consistent with its objectives,” said Climate Institute CEO, John Connor. “Australia’s current policy framework is seeing increased emissions from coal-burning power stations and limited investment in clean energy – a stark contrast to the rest of the world where, last year, investments in clean energy doubled those in coal and gas-based electricity.”

Connor said the next step is for countries to ratify or join the agreement and make it legally binding. The US and China have said they will seek to do so this year, and many vulnerable countries are already ratifying.

“Doing our bit to keep global warming below 1.5-2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to achieve net zero emissions, are the heart of the Paris Agreement,” Connor said. “Australia’s initial offer on its 2030 emission target is not consistent with limiting warming to 1.5-2°C. If others did the same, we would be on a path to 3-4°C. On current commitments, only Saudi Arabia will have higher per capita carbon pollution in 2030.”

Connor said the next 12 to 18 months were crucial because either party, should they be in government, will conduct reviews and face the widely recognised need to integrate climate and energy policy for post-2020 and long-term targets. The government has committed to consider a long-term emissions target in its review and Labor has already committed to net zero emissions by 2050.

He said the US and Canada had already said they will develop their 2050 targets and zero emissions plans this year. They have called on other G20 countries to do the same – and that includes Australia. At the same time, the UK and Sweden are seeking to strengthen their long-term targets around net zero emissions.

“In New York, government leaders and ministers will stand up in front of their international counterparts and sign on the dotted line. In doing so, each country is saying to the international community that it is going to act on the commitments made through the agreement and implement them domestically,” Connor said.

“Australia has to increase its ambition. Australia urgently needs a plan to build an economy shifting towards net zero emissions. That plan needs to replace coal burning power stations with clean energy over the next 20 years as well as maximise opportunities in the growing global clean energy economy.”

He said that signing the agreement was a welcome step from Australia, but the next is to implement a policy to deliver the agreement’s objectives.

“This week, Australia will sign a contract with the world to play our part in global action to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change,” Connor said. “Now we actually need to deliver on the terms of the agreement.”

Today, The Climate Institute released its latest global update on the actions countries across the world are taking to implement the Paris Agreement. Last Friday it released the Switch in Time report into electricity sector reform to accord with Paris goals.

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Brinsley Marlay ● Media Manager ● 0422 140 555

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