There’s some inconvenient truths for Australia in the Climate Change Authority’s Reducing Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Targets and Progress Review Draft Report released this morning.

Are we doing enough?

“The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that warming in the climate system is unequivocal, and that human influence on the climate system is clear … If Australia is to take this science — and the below 2 degrees goal — seriously, it needs to act now and continue this effort over the long term …

“… the scale and pace of international action suggests that Australia should be pursuing a stronger target. Taken as a whole, the Government’s own conditions for moving beyond 5 per cent appear to have been been met. More broadly, a 5 per cent target would put Australia at the lower end of effort compared with other developed countries. This position would sit uncomfortably with Australia’s relative prosperity and high per person emissions.”

But aren’t other nations dragging their feet?

“The evidence suggests international action on climate change is strengthening, particularly in some of the world’s largest economies …

“Ninety-nine countries, including Australia’s major trading partners and neighbours, and covering over 80 per cent of global emissions and over 90 per cent of the world’s economic output, have 2020 emissions reduction pledges …

“In particular, the world’s largest emitters — China and the United States (jointly producing over a third of global emissions) — are stepping up their efforts to reduce emissions. Both countries have emissions reduction targets. China is investing heavily in renewable energy projects, closing inefficient coal power plants and trialling market mechanisms to reduce emissions.”

So what should we do?

“The Authority’s present thinking is that a target of 15 per cent by 2020 is the minimum option consistent with what, in the Authority’s view, represents an equitable share for Australia of the estimated global emissions budget to 2050 … In relation to their consistency with the long term emissions budget, a 25 per cent target would clearly make a greater short term contribution to emissions reductions, allowing a more consistent pace of emissions reductions in the period to 2050.

“Compared with what other countries are doing, the 15 per cent and 25 per cent targets are both broadly in line with the efforts of other key countries.”

But won’t it hurt?

“… it is possible to sustain economic growth while reducing emissions … the impact on economic activity and national income would be relatively small even if more ambitious emissions reduction targets were to be adopted.

“Failing to do more in the short term is likely to increase future costs and cause unnecessary disruption to the economy and community more broadly.”

And the Australian government’s response to all of this? Well, it’s killing the messenger — scrapping the Climate Change Authority at the first available opportunity.

If you don’t like the answers …

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Peter Fray
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