The federal government has agreed to reduce carbon emissions to between 26-28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, though the opposition, climate experts and some industry figures have labelled the announcement weak and reckless.
A government statement said it was “a fair contribution for Australia”.
“When expressed against a common base year of 2005, Australia’s target is similar to those announced by the United States, the European Union, Canada, New Zealand and Japan,” it said.
In comparison, the statutory Climate Change Authority had recommended between a 40-60 per cent cut based on 2000 levels in order to make an equitable international contribution that would limit global warming to no more than 2°C.
A 60 per cent cut on 2000 levels equates to around a 65 per cent cut on 2005 levels, so the government’s proposed maximum is less than half the suggested CCA maximum.
“Tony Abbott has defied calls for action on climate change by negotiating down Australia’s emissions reduction target in Cabinet,” Opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler said.
Mr Butler said the cuts were consistent with global warming of 3-4°C, despite the government having committed to limit global warming to no more than 2°C, along with other major economies.
“How is Mr Abbott’s target in line with his commitment to limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius?,” he said.
“If the government has modelling to demonstrate this, they should release it immediately.”
Environment Victoria said the target was “inadequate, reckless and illogical”.
“The Prime Minister’s proposed 2030 target would make Australia the most polluting developed nation per capita by far in 2030, and prolong our reliance on dirty and outdated energy sources,” Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said.
Mr Wakeham said the government’s Direct Action scheme wouldn’t even be able to meet the weak target.
“And yet the Abbott Government continues to run fear campaigns about a price on carbon, which they themselves will need to adopt if they intend to achieve their inadequate 2030 target,” he said.
RMIT adjunct professor Alan Pears said the government’s assumption that a strong target would damage the economy was flawed.
“As expert groups like the International Energy Agency and IPCC have pointed out, there is substantial negative cost abatement potential available, much of it through energy efficiency improvement and innovation,” he said.
Propping up the fossil fuel industries while global demand for them fell was “a false economy”, he said.
The Green Building Council of Australia said Australia had an opportunity to set stronger targets, particularly through the property sector.
“Australia’s property industry, which outstrips the mining and agriculture industries in terms of contribution to GDP, offers the greatest emissions-reduction opportunities – and at the least cost,” GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew said.
“We have the technology and the capabilities to deliver low-carbon buildings that are cheaper to operate, are better long-term assets and attract international investment.”
The Climate Institute yesterday released survey results that showed renewable energy and action on climate change were popular in the electorate.
“Despite a year which has seen renewable energy targets wound back, and attacks on wind power, support for both solar and wind in Australians’ preferred energy mix has grown,” Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said.
“Most (84 per cent, up two points) prefer solar amongst their top three energy sources, followed by wind (69 per cent, up five points).”
Regulating and limiting carbon pollution was supported by 67 per cent of those surveyed.