Aus­tralia pledges 26% emis­sions cut by 2030


Aus­tralia plans to re­duce car­bon emis­sions by 26 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2030, Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott an­nounced Tues­day, a tar­get crit­ics say falls well short of its fair share glob­ally.

Ab­bott, how­ever, said his con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment’s tar­get was “fairly in the mid­dle” of those made by other economies which will be taken to an up­com­ing global cli­mate con­fer­ence in Paris.

“We have come to the po­si­tion our 2030 emis­sions re­duc­tion tar­get will be in the range of 26-28 per­cent,” Ab­bott told re­porters in Can­berra.

“There is a def­i­nite com­mit­ment to 26 per­cent but we be­lieve un­der the poli­cies that we have got, with the cir­cum­stances that we think will ap­ply, that we can go to 28 per­cent.”

With its heavy use of coal-fired power and rel­a­tively small pop­u­la­tion of 23 mil­lion, Aus­tralia is con­sid­ered one of the world’s worst per capita green­house gas pol­luters.

Ab­bott has been widely seen as a re­luc­tant ad­vo­cate for fight­ing cli­mate change, hav­ing scrapped a con­tro­ver­sial tax on car­bon emis­sions by in­dus­trial pol­luters and con­sis­tently pro­moted the coal ex­port in­dus­try.

He said Tues­day strong and ef­fec­tive poli­cies were needed to tackle the is­sue, and Aus­tralia was re­duc­ing emis­sions in part through a car­bon abate­ment pro­gram — whereby energy ef­fi­cient com­pa­nies are re­warded.

But he said Aus­tralia’s com­mit­ment to the en­vi­ron­ment had to be bal­anced against eco­nomic growth and jobs, and did not need to be the strong­est in the world.

“Our 26 to 28 per­cent tar­get, it’s bet­ter than Ja­pan. It’s al­most the same as New Zealand. It’s a whisker be­low Canada,” said Ab­bott.

“It’s a lit­tle be­low Europe. It’s about the same as the United States. It’s vastly bet­ter than Korea.

“And, of course, it is unimag­in­ably bet­ter than China,” he said, in ref­er­ence to the world’s top car­bon pol­luter which last month promised to peak emis­sions within about 15 years, in a move widely hailed as a boost for the in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to curb global warm­ing.

“We are not lead­ing but we are cer­tainly not lag­ging,” Ab­bott said.

‘Vastly in­ad­e­quate’

Paris will host the United Na­tions cli­mate con­fer­ence at the end of the year, with or­ga­niz­ers hop­ing to con­clude a pact lim­it­ing global warm­ing to two de­grees Cel­sius over pre-in­dus­trial lev­els.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists ac­cused Aus­tralia of not do­ing enough to curb the pol­lu­tion blamed for global warm­ing, say­ing the Ab­bott gov­ern­ment fell well short of do­ing its fair share glob­ally.

“These tar­gets are vastly in­ad­e­quate to pro­tect Aus­tralians from the im­pacts of cli­mate change and do not rep­re­sent a fair con­tri­bu­tion to the world ef­fort to bring cli­mate change un­der con­trol,” said Tim Flan­nery from the in­de­pen­dent Cli­mate Coun­cil.

Will St­ef­fen, a cli­mate change ex­pert at the coun­cil, said Aus­tralia’s pledge was not too dif­fer­ent from that of Canada and Ja­pan but sig­nif­i­cantly be­hind the EU and United States and “still at the bot­tom of the pack in terms of the de­vel­oped coun­tries.”

“Where we need to be in terms of play­ing our fair share for the two-de­gree pol­icy tar­get ... we are way be­low that,” St­ef­fen told AFP, adding it was un­fair to com­pare Aus­tralia’s pledge to China’s com­mit­ments given it was still a de­vel­op­ing coun­try.

WWF-Aus­tralia also said Aus­tralia’s tar­get was be­low ef­forts be­ing made by the United States, which has pledged to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 26-28 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2025 — sig­nif­i­cantly five years ear­lier than Aus­tralia — and the EU which has gone even fur­ther.

“If ev­ery coun­try matched Aus­tralia’s ef­fort the world would be on track for three to four de­grees of warm­ing,” said WWF-Aus­tralia’s Kel­lie Caught.

Frank Jotzo, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Cli­mate Eco­nom­ics and Pol­icy at the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity in Can­berra, agreed the tar­get fell far short of the in­ter­na­tional goal.

But he noted that “most other de­vel­oped coun­tries’ tar­gets also fall short.”

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