Monday, September 30, 2013

Cutting emissions. Hunt has twice as much to do

The Coalition may have to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions twice as fast as has been planned.

An analysis of international commitments in the wake of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests Australia will be obliged to cut emissions to 10 to 15 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 rather than the 5 per cent the Coalition had been promising.

The Coalition’s policy document commits it to a 5 per reduction “without the need for a great big new tax”. But it confirmed during the election campaign it would honour a commitment of the previous government to cut further if “conditions relating to the extent of global action are met”.

A new analysis by the Climate Institute finds some of those conditions have been met.

“The agreements say we would be prepared to move to a bigger cut, anywhere up to 15 per cent, if we got comparable commitments from other developed countries and policies in major developing countries that would substantially slow emissions growth,” said acting chief executive Erwin Jackson.

“Work by the Climate Change Department obtained under freedom of information concludes that the conditions surrounding developing countries have already been met. For instance China has made commitments consistent with a 25 per cent cut.

“Now the United States has committed to a 17 per cent cut on 2005 levels which is equivalent to a around a 20 per cent cut on 2000 levels.”

“The average of what developed countries have committed to is somewhere between 10 and a 12 per cent cut.”

“Unless we are prepared to act in bad faith, we will be required to lift our target to a cut of at least 10, maybe 15 per cent during next year’s round of international meetings,” Mr Jackson said.

Professor Frank Jotzo of the ANU Centre for Climate Economics and Policy agreed...

“By most yardsticks China and the United States now have significantly stronger targets than Australia's,” he said.

Committing to more, as Australia has said it is prepared to do, would send “a positive signal about Australia's commitment - that commitment is under a cloud of doubt following the announcement that the carbon price will be repealed,” he said.

Mr Jackson stressed that Australia’s commitment to prepared to do more was not binding but was essentially a political commitment.

The independent Climate Change Authority chaired by former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser will deliver an interim report in October on whether changed international conditions necessitate a higher target.

In May former Labor government climate change advisor Ross Garnaut said he thought the Authority should recommend a 17 per cent target.

The Coalition has promised to abolish the Climate Change Authority, but it is is still in place pending legislation which would need to pass through the Senate.

Environment minister Greg Hunt told Fairfax Media he remained committed to axing the authority in order to “stop bureaucratic duplication”.

However until then, the Authority would “continue under the law and I will review any material it produces, as I consider all reports,” he said.

The Coalition was committed both to the previous government’s 5 per cent reduction target and “to the conditions for any further change”.

During the election campaign the caretaker Labor government asked the Coalition to restate its concurrence with the documents Australia had signed. Mr Hunt gave that assurance and is prepared to extend Australia’s commitment beyond 5 per cent on the same terms as was Labor.

In The Sydney Morning Herald

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