The Paris agreement and implications for Australia Policy Brief

Dec 14, 2015 - 9:00pm

The Paris agreement, while not perfect, will continue to drive the momentum to modernise and clean up economies. Clean energy in the power sector - already outstripping fossil fuel investments - is now set to become the dominant source of electricity around the world.

Over the last decade or more, momentum has been building, with more and more governments take steps to limit pollution and build new clean industries, and an increasing number of investors start recognise and account for climate-induced financial risk. Paris marked this trend with many governments, businesses, investors and financial regulators taking additional steps to address climate change.

Five key elements of the historic Paris agreement:

  1. Stronger than expected global warming goals not just to keep warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but also to pursue efforts to keep warming to 1.5°C, half a degree above current warming.
  2. A universal and durable agreement requiring actions from all countries, and spanning decades, unlike previous agreements which needed to be renegotiated regularly.
  3. Bankable signals to investors that policies will continually ratchet up, with five yearly reviews, to achieve net zero emissions through time.
  4. A pathway to proper transparency and accountability with work to do over the next four years.
  5. Support for the vulnerable and poor nations to be scaled up after 2025 from a floor of US$100 billion. 

The Paris agreement marks a critical point for Australian climate policy.

The government has recognised the need to work towards net zero emissions where greenhouse gas emissions are balanced against natural and industrial processes of removing pollution from the air. The rest of the world is now accelerating down this path.

Crucially, the government joined the High Ambition Coalition, which championed the 1.5°C goal, but its targets and policies are more aligned to global warming of 3-4°C. Our 2030 targets would still leave us as the highest per capita polluter in the developed world – alongside just Saudi Arabia in the G20.

The government played a mostly constructive role in the negotiations. However, in order to maintain international credibility and take effective climate action, there are four immediate steps the Australian government should now take:

  1. Improve initial post-2020 pollution reduction target and commit to net zero emissions before 2050;
  2. Expand domestic policies and, in particular, have a plan to replace existing coal fired power plants;
  3. Increase climate finance investment to assist vulnerable countries; and
  4. Cancel our Kyoto carry over of surplus carbon credits.

Download the PDF below to see The Climate Institute's full analysis.

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