Australia risks falling behind the U.S., China and other nations in cutting carbon emissions unless it raises its target for a 5 percent reduction by 2020, the government’s climate change adviser said.
“The scale and pace of international action suggests that Australia should be pursuing a stronger target,” the Melbourne-based Climate Change Authority said today in a preliminary report.
Greg Hunt, environment minister under Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s newly elected government, said the report won’t change plans to review emissions targets before a global summit in 2015. The government says its so-called Direct Action plan will achieve Australia’s 5 percent goal by subsidizing projects that cut greenhouse gases.
Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition has said it will commit A$1.55 billion ($1.47 billion) over three years to an emissions-reduction fund. The Climate Institute is among research groups skeptical the government will reach even the 5 percent goal.
“We will make our judgment on the targets in the lead up to the 2015 conference,” Hunt told reporters today in Queensland state. “We have a commitment to the current targets, and we will assess any change in the context of what the world is doing.”
The government plans to abolish the Climate Change Authority as part of draft legislation to eliminate the law that sets a carbon price in Australia.
Australia, the biggest emitter per capita among the world’s richest nations, has pledged to cut greenhouse gases by at least 5 percent by the end of the decade compared with 2000 levels. While the Climate Change Authority isn’t scheduled to make its final recommendation until February 2014, it said reductions of 15 percent and 25 percent are in line with other nations’ policies.
Abbott has said the carbon price introduced by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011 has driven up energy costs. Gillard’s program set a fixed rate for three years starting in July 2012 at A$23 a ton. The law calls for market-based pricing and a link to the European Union trading system starting in 2015.
Australia would need to reduce emissions rapidly after 2020 if the country is to help meet the global target of limiting temperature gains since industrialization to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the climate authority said.
“With such a slow start, Australia would be hard pressed to contribute a fair share,” Bernie Fraser, chairman of the Climate Change Authority, told reporters today on a call.
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