Submission to CCA's Special Review on Australia’s future emissions reductions targets Submission

Mar 16, 2015 - 5:00pm

The Climate Institute welcomes this opportunity to make a submission to the Climate Change Authority’s Special Review on Australia’s future emissions reductions targets.

This submission focuses on Australia’s international undertakings under the United Nation’s Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the implications for future targets. The terms of reference for the Authority’s review explicitly require these to be considered. Also required is consideration of Article 2 of the UNFCCC. The latter has been translated to international action to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius (“2°C goal”) above pre-industrial levels. As the Intergenerational Report (2015) highlights: “The international community has agreed to aim to keep global warming to a less than 2°C increase above preindustrial climate levels.”

Key Points

  • The Climate Institute supports the Authority’s previous recommendation that Australia should set a coordinated set of short-term targets and long-term goals, based on a 2010-2050 carbon budget consistent with a fair contribution to limiting warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels (“2°C goal”). Avoiding this level of climate change remains squarely in Australia’s national interest.

  • Carbon budgets, in particular, remain central to stable and effective policy development. The development and use of carbon budgets should be guided by risk management principles which give at least a 75 per cent chance achieving the 2°C goal.

  • Australia’s climate change policy is suffering from a lack of a long-term view. To meet the 2°C goal, the ultimate destination or strategic objective of climate policy is the progressive phase-out of emissions to net zero levels (and below), or ‘decarbonisation’. Ultimately, only a policy with a decarbonisation strategy for achieving net zero emissions and below will provide a stable and sustainable platform for long term investment.

  • The Climate Change Authority should be clear in distinguishing national targets from any policy related sectoral impacts. The level of Australia's post-2020 target is not the determinant of its net cost or benefit, or of its impact, on specific economic sectors.

  • The Authority should explicitly consider the economic, environmental and social risks associated with meeting only the minimum 5 per cent target, including being out of step with comparable countries, and requiring a more disruptive effort to later meet a 2°C goal trajectory.

  • The Lima Call for Climate Action outlines key benchmarks and expectations for new post-2020 contributions. By setting a high standard in the communication of its own target, Australia will be in a stronger position to expect the same of other nations. This will be particularly important in the context of encouraging ambitious, transparent and accountable actions from emerging economies. Specifically:
  • An approach that does not see a significant acceleration of emissions reductions is unlikely to be credible internationally because ‘progression’ from previous targets requires stepping up the pace of global efforts, not just committing to a more an ambitious target in absolute terms. Progression through stepping up effort, for example, can be seen in the targets that have already been indicated by the USA, China, and the European Union.

  • Nationally determined commitments consistent with 2°C are the only way Australia’s national interest will be achieved. It is therefore in the national interest that countries justifying and advancing their targets with reference to 2°C becomes the norm, not the exception, through time. This will require Australia itself to justify and implement targets consistent with this goal.

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