Prime Minister's climate statement: response and fact check Statement

May 09, 2016 - 11:30am

The Prime Minister’s recognition that countries will need to increase their emissions reductions targets is important, but his interpretation of the Paris Agreement and the way countries are to move forward is respectfully incorrect. 

One of the key reasons Paris was a success is because national targets are not negotiated in the agreement. Countries are required to set them and consider the objective of limiting warming to 1.5-2°C and the goal of net zero emissions economies. Australia’s inadequate targets were established by Tony Abbott well in advance of Paris and if other countries did similar would lead to warming of 3-4°C. 

Australia is locked out of any leverage with its low ambition targets and policies. This was highlighted last month when Australia wasn’t invited to a “High Ambition Coalition” meeting, which includes the US, EU and small island states. If Australia is to have any leverage it will need to lift its ambition and then engage globally, not the other way around.

Our budget release highlighted that Australia’s emissions are rising and that Direct Action funding is running out. We look forward to a coherent climate and energy plan from the government.


Climate Policy - Fact Check

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the Paris Agreement during his press conference with Luke Howarth on 9 May 2016.

Point 1: “All of the nations in the world agreed to emissions targets for 2030.”
No, they did not.

In Paris, countries agreed to limit warming to 1.5-2°C and to achieve net zero emissions. A framework was also established to ratchet up national targets through time towards these goals.

Before Paris, countries put forward a range of initial targets for 2025 or 2030. Counties only formalise their targets when they ratify the agreement. The Abbott government submitted its initial, and inadequate 2030 target, well after most other advanced economies.

A process to update these targets starts in 2018. Updated 2030 targets are to be submitted in 2019-20. These targets will be judged against their compatibility with the objectives of the Paris Agreement – limiting warming to 1.5-2°C.

Point 2: Setting credible targets limits a countries leverage
Countries do not negotiate their targets. They are nationally determined. This is a key reason why the Paris meeting succeeded.

History shows that when countries advance credible targets it drags up the targets of other nations, not the opposite.

Australia is actually limiting its leverage by advancing an inadequate 2030 target. This is demonstrated by not being invited to a “High Ambition Coalition” meeting with the US, EU, small island states and other vulnerable nations on how we should accelerate towards the 1.5-2°C goal.

Point 3: Countries will only strengthen targets if they do so together
It is good that the Prime Minister has reiterated that Australia will need to strengthen its targets.

The Prime Minister, however, implies that countries have not already agreed to do this. In Paris countries strengthened their targets, and agreed to continue strengthening targets every five years.

As the Prime Minister notes key test against which countries will be judged is whether the target is consistent with the 1.5-2°C goal. This will be a collective process.

Australia’s current target is consistent with a world heading towards 3-4°C, and the longer it takes to get on a credible path towards the Paris objectives the more costly the transition will be.

Click below to see the full transcript.

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