By Dr Anthony Horton
An Australian delegation was questioned for an hour at the latest United Nations climate meeting at Bonn in Germany overnight Australian time. The Bonn meeting is essentially an assessment of nations’ climate change commitments in the lead up to Paris in December.
A number of countries including China and Brazil questioned Australia’s move to scrap the carbon tax introduced under the previous Labor Government, and whether the current Government’s $2.55 billion Direct Action Policy and its flagship Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) will be sufficient to meet its 5% reduction by 2020.
In addition to Australia’s pledge is to reduce emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 and they have also committed to limit the average yearly emissions to 99.5% of 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (2013-2020).
The carbon reduction pledges made by 31 economies will mean that by 2030, they will only achieve approximately 30% of what is required. According to a Climate Action Tracker (CAT) initiative report which was issued on the sidelines of the Bonn meeting, much more work is needed in order to strengthen the commitments.
The CAT initiative assessment of Australia’s commitment revealed that Australia’s 2020 targets are inadequate, and that Australia is unlikely to meet its target. It noted that the current Abbott Government had repealed many of the instruments of the National Climate Policy and legislation which was introduced by the previous Labor Government’s Clean Energy Future package, including the Carbon Pricing Initiative.
The assessment pointed to the substantial turnaround in Australian climate policy which implies a shift away from a targeted climate policy which is designed to meet set goals that are aligned to international climate policy targets and to meet the emissions reductions that climate scientists are calling for. Further, the CAT assessment highlighted Australia’s cumulative abatement challenge as 507 Million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalents until 2020 (equivalent to one year of Australia’s emissions in the early 1990s). When the potential abatement from the ERF until 2020 was taken into account, the assessment found that there was a shortfall of 440 Million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalents.
The 195 nations that comprise the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are charged with sealing a deal to ensure that global warming is limited to 2°C. To date, finger pointing between rich and poor nations over the burden for reducing carbon emissions has been the dominant action.
I can’t help but wonder what other governments would think and say about Australia’s commitments if they didn’t have to play the diplomatic game. I also can’t help wondering when the collective patience of these governments is going to completely run out. I don’t think it will be very long if Australia continues down this path for much longer – and after all, December is only six months away. In recent blogs I’ve highlighted potential actions that are being considered by some governments towards nations who are deemed not to be acting in the best interests of the rest of the world, and for them to be considering this shows how serious they are in wanting to act on behalf of their constituents and that they won’t tolerate inaction any longer. The number of large corporations that are also wanting a seat around the table when it comes to climate change discussions and policy/decision making would suggest that these corporations also know that inaction can (or should) no longer be tolerated.
Anthony Horton blogs on his own site: The Climate Change Guy