The rationale for the Climate Change Authority’s July recommendations for Australia’s future emissions reductions targets was clear: they were based on the hard science that the world needs to avoid a rise in global temperatures of more than two degrees, and that much of the industrialised world has now committed to strong emissions reduction targets.

On that basis, it recommended Australia aim for a 30% reduction on 2000 emissions levels by 2025, and a 40% to 60% reduction by 2030.

The Abbott government’s proposed target —  a minimum of 26% reduction by 2030 and a maximum of 28% — is so woefully inadequate as to be little more than a joke. It is well short of the commitments made by other industrialised nations such as the United States (one of the few Western economies nearly as emissions-intensive as Australia’s) and will perpetuate Australia’s role as the spoiler of international climate negotiations.

In any event, the government’s targets are meaningless: its so-called “Direct Action” policy won’t achieve the current bipartisan 5% cut in emissions by 2020 (achieving that will instead rely heavily on dodgy international accounting of Australia’s emissions). Achieving even the inadequate goal of a 26% cut by 2030 will require a massive expansion of Direct Action to a point where it will cost tens of billions of dollars, all paid from taxpayers to polluters to undertake efficiency and abatement programs.

Instead, the government will continue the charade of pretending it takes climate change and the challenge of decarbonising the Australian economy seriously, while it attacks renewable energy and backs the increasingly unviable coal industry that so generously donates to the Coalition.

If it’s a joke, it’s one at the expense of our kids and grandkids. They are the ones who will shoulder the burden of climate change, which we dumped on them out of laziness, ideology and sheer partisan bloody-mindedness.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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