The Climate Institute today said the United States has taken important steps to reduce pollution, make major emitters responsible for their carbon emissions and prepare that nation for escalating climate dangers.
"President Obama's climate strategy has some important strengths and some limitations," said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.
“Frustrated by the hyper-partisan US Congress’ inability to meet his calls for a cap and trade carbon market, The President’s Climate Action Plan’ is chock full of regulatory and other initiatives to achieve the US’ stated commitment of a 17 per cent reduction of 2005 greenhouse gas levels by 2020.”
"Using US 2000 emission levels, a 17 per cent reduction on US 2005 levels by 2020 would be equivalent to a 21 per cent reduction. Both Australian major parties support a 5 to 25 per cent reduction on Australia’s 2000 emissions by 2020, calibrated to global action."
"Regulatory interventions to limit carbon emissions from coal fired power stations and other major emitting sectors offers the potential to continue to drive down US carbon emissions. The outlined energy efficiency measures could also reduce pollution at the same time as helping families and business with their energy bills."
Connor added: "Importantly, in the face of recent severe climate impacts, President Obama has outlined important mandates to drive investments in improving the resilience of the US economy, infrastructure and communities to the impacts of climate change. 'Superstorm' Sandy, severe drought and bush fires have been stark reminder of the vulnerability even one of the world's richest nations face from climate impacts."
“Obama's climate adaption plans contrast Australia's which have been, to date, limited and piecemeal. Like the US, Australia needs to prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change."
The Climate Institute’s Federal election policy priorities paper, Managing the Unavoidable while Avoiding the Unmanageable, calls for integration and disclosure of readiness for impacts of 2 and 4 degrees warming above pre-industrial levels.
"There are also important lessons from President Obama's strategy. In the face of opposition of Congress to a price and limit on pollution, the President has been forced to implement direct regulatory interventions and numerous processes to achieve the US' 2020 emissions target."
“This has resulted in a raft of interventions as opposed to a more streamlined and economically efficient carbon limit and price. While there are funding initiatives, this is not voluntary direct action with a taxpayer fund, this is direct regulatory action," Connor said.
“The final outcomes of these Executive proposals will need to stand the test of time, but if enabled, will allow the US to achieve mid-term 2020 targets. To achieve the deeper emissions reduction targets needed beyond that, the US, like Australia, will need stronger laws that price and limit carbon pollution."
A copy of The Climate Institute's media brief comparing recent US and Australian climate action is available here. Obama's action plan is available here.