On Monday, the Climate Change minister, Penny Wong, announced that Australia will aim to cut emissions by 5-15% over 2000 levels. This was widely greeted by derision and a complete cop-out on what many see as one of the central reasons for Labor’s election last year.
The Government’s cuts of between 5 and 15 per cent below 2000 emissions levels are an admission it has given up on an ambitious global climate change agreement coming out of the UN talks next year. Figures in the Garnaut review clearly show that Australia, along with other developed countries, would have to take on cuts of at least 25 per cent to get an agreement in Copenhagen that might have a chance of saving the Great Barrier Reef.
The UN’s scientific body believes the 2020 target for developed countries should be cuts in the range of 25 and 40 per cent below 1990 emissions to keep the global temperature rising above two degrees and avoid dangerous climate change. This, along with slowing the emissions from developing countries, is required to keep global greenhouse gas concentrations at about 450 parts per million and achieve an ambitious climate agreement.
As mentioned previously, the UN’s 25-40% targets are almost certainly too low to remain under 450ppm, so Australia’s 5-15% effort really is pathetic.
Rudd repeatedly said that he wanted Australia to be a leader in climate negotiations, in stark contrast to his predecessor, Howard, who wanted nothing to do with climate change at all. Rudd’s first act as prime minister was to ratify Kyoto, leading many to hope that finally we had someone in charge who was going to take the threat seriously. Unfortunately, it seems that this is no longer the case, and Australia will most definitely not be a leader on the global stage.
Our only hope now is that Obama comes forward with an aggressive US target and that Rudd then feels comfortable in raising Australia’s game. In a nice change from the orthodox, Obama has appointed a Nobel physics laureate as his energy secretary. No more oil/coal guys in charge!