Lord Deben, head of UK Committee on Climate Change, says Australia's 2030 emissions reduction target puts it among 'don't cares'
Australia's "pathetic" 2030 emissions reduction target shows the country has opted out of the global effort to limit warming, according to the head of the British government's climate change advisory body.
Lord Deben, previously a minister in the government of Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, said Australia's 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, based on 2005 levels was "simply not enough.
"Australia is fundamentally out of step and this decision puts Australia among the 'don't cares' of the international community," said Deben, who is the chairman of the Committee on Climate Change.
"Global warming won't wait for Mr Abbott and his government. Mr Abbott's hubris is staggering."
Deben, formerly known as John Gummer, said Australia's "pathetic" target showed it had "opted out of the greatest physical challenge of our times" and ignored the leadership of US president Barack Obama, the European Union and Pope Francis.
"Australia's friends know she could do so much better than this and all of us abroad will work with all those people who are determined to overturn this irrational decision," he said.
The condemnation of Australia's climate commitment, to be taken to crunch international talks in Paris later this year, was echoed by the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands - one of the low-lying Pacific nations at acute risk from sea level rises.
"Australia's weak target is another serious blow to its international reputation," said Tony de Brum.
"As with prime minister Abbott's attempt to ignore climate change when hosting the G20 last year, this will send a serious shudder through the Pacific and raise concern amongst its closest allies, including the United States and Europe."
De Brum, who has repeatedly called on Australia to show regional leadership on climate change, said it was disappointing Abbott had not embraced clean energy more readily.
"If the rest of the world followed Australia's lead, the Great Barrier Reef would disappear," he said. "So would my country, and the other vulnerable atoll nations on Australia's doorstep."
Tony Abbott has defended yesterday's announcement of Australia's post-2020 emissions target, insisting it was "highly comparable" to what other industrialised countries have committed to.
"This is a very respectable figure, it's environmentally responsible - and above all else, it's economically responsible," he told the ABC on Wednesday.
"We are confident we can achieve this without clobbering jobs and growth because in the end that's what we want - we want more jobs and we want higher economic growth because that means more prosperity.
"We are not expecting a reduction in the coal industry. Obviously in the ordinary course of events some mines will close, but I suspect more mines will open."
Environmentalists have lambasted Australia's target, although comparisons to other countries are not straightforward due to the differing starting points for emissions cuts. According to Bloomberg New Energy finance, Australia's emissions pledge is less ambitious than the EU and US, but more ambitious than Japan and South Korea.
When commitments are translated to the 2005 baseline year used by Australia, it appears the 26 to 28 per cent reduction is towards the lower end when compared to other countries.
The US has a 26 to 28 per cent reduction target, but for five years earlier in 2025. The equivalent 2030 target is 41 per cent. The UK has a 50 per cent reduction by 2025, based on 1990 levels, which translates as a 48 per cent cut when compared directly to Australia's 2005 baseline.
New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, the EU and Canada also have greater planned cuts than Australia when their commitments are considered with a 2005 starting point.
Conversely, Japan and Norway have weaker targets than Australia. China, the world's largest emitter, has no set reduction target beyond a pledge its carbon dioxide emissions will peak by 2030.
The government's independent Climate Change Authority recommended emissions be slashed between 45 to 65 per cent by 2030, based on 2005 levels. The decision not to adopt this recommendation means Australia will remain the highest per capita emitter in the industrialised world.
Beyond the target itself, there are serious questions over whether the Coalition has adequate policies to accelerate emissions cuts. Just $200m a year until 2030 has been set aside to buy abated emissions through the Direct Action plan, despite several studies of the plan showing it won't be sufficient.
The Australian Industry Group, which represents more than 60,000 businesses, said the Direct Action emission reduction fund would need between $100bn and $250bn in taxpayer funds in the decade to 2030 to reach the target. The Climate Institute estimates the cost at between $28bn to $200bn.
The government is pinning a large portion of its emissions cuts on "other" means of reductions, including technology changes that do not yet exist. A price on carbon, which was dismantled last year, will not return under the Coalition due to its insistence it will drive up electricity prices and cause job losses.
This article first appeared at the Guardian
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