Australia should set a 2025 carbon emissions target 30 per cent below 2000 levels, a draft report by the Climate Change Authority has recommended. However new research out of the Australian National University suggests much more can be done.

The CCA’s draft report has been released as the government prepares to set a new emissions target ahead of a global climate agreement expected to be made in Paris in December. The government has indicated it will reveal its target mid-year, though all indications suggest its target will be well below what is being called for.

The CCA says its suggested target of 30 per cent would make Australia’s actions comparable to the efforts of other countries.

Last year it released a report suggesting Australia cut its 2020 emissions by 19 per cent based on 2000 levels, advice that was ignored by the government.

In a statement, CCA chair Bernie Fraser said getting to the 2020 target would become more costly if the government was intent on cutting carbon only by five per cent by 2020.

“[I]f that turns out to be the best Australia can do over the next few years it will necessitate more rapid and potentially more costly reductions post-2020,” Mr Fraser said.

He also said the CCA had recommended cuts of between 40-60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030.

“These are challenging targets, but not more so than the targets now being adopted by many other countries,” he said.

“The Authority’s recommendations in this report (as in its earlier report) are based squarely on an assessment of the science of climate change and its impacts, the efforts of other countries to reduce their emissions, and on judgments on what is in Australia’s own best interests.”

In meeting these targets, he said, Australia would be showing “the behaviour of a good global citizen”.

Indications are that the government will ignore the CCA’s advice, as it did with its 2020 target suggestion.

The government has attempted to abolish the CCA, and this month revealed it was providing $4 million in funding to bring Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre to the University of Western Australia.

Dr Lomborg argues that there are more pressing needs than reducing carbon emissions, for example, tackling malaria, and has campaigned against carbon reduction instruments like the Kyoto Protocol.

Opposition climate change spokesman Mark Butler said Labor welcomed the CCA’s position, and that the Abbott government should take notice of its recommendations.

“Tony Abbott has consistently ignored expert advice across a range of policy issues, but particularly in climate change,” he said.

“Labor will consider this report closely and we want Tony Abbott to do the same.”

ANU research reveals big cuts can be made

Research released this week by ANU’s Crawford School’s Centre for Climate Economics and Policy for the WWF has found Australia could generate 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2050 and reach net zero emissions at costs much less than previously estimated.

The report, also released ahead of the government’s decision on Australia’s post-2020 emission reduction targets, found that:

  • cutting emissions is getting cheaper, and achieving given targets tends to be cheaper than expected
  • cutting emissions can have significant other benefits, in addition to protecting Australia from future climate change
  • Australia’s economy will continue to grow as deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are made
  • as one of the most vulnerable countries exposed to climate change, Australia’s national interest will be protected by strong global action

“Deep cuts to Australia’s emissions can be achieved at a low cost,” report author Associate Professor Frank Jotzo said.

“With our abundant renewable resources we are one of the best placed countries in the world for moving to a fully renewable electricity supply.

“Australia can achieve zero net emissions by harnessing energy efficiency, moving to a zero-carbon electricity system, switching from direct use of fossil fuels to decarbonised electricity, and improving industrial processes.”

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