Fraser: Time to stop paying lip service to climate policies

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The Climate Change Authority has not budged from its call for Australia to rapidly increase its emission reduction targets, calling on policy makers to stop paying lip service to climate science and embrace the “unstoppable” transition to a low-carbon economy.

CCA chairman Bernie Fraser, a former head of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said the independent authority stood by its interim findings that Australia should aim for a 30 per cent cut in emissions from 2000 levels by 2025, and should possibly double that target by 2030. Its recommendations for 2030 are for a cut of between 45 and 60 per cent on 2000 levels.

In a direct backhand to current government policy, Fraser said he wondered why it was that policy makers said they accepted the science and the need to meet 2C targets, but did not set policies accordingly.

“Most policy people say they believe and accept the science of climate change and support the 2C target”, Fraser told a media briefing on Thursday.

“One has to wonder how strong this belief is. If they really supported the 2C goal, it would be pretty easy to get the type of targets we are talking about for Australia …

“You would really be wanting to take effective action,” Fraser added. “If you believe the science and support the goal, you would be wanting to do at least as much as other countries.” He said even the CCA recommendations would not represents Australia’s fair share of a real 2C target, but it would get the country a lot closer.

The Coalition government did not give a formal response to the CCA’s recommendations – it has tried to dismantle the authority and bring such advice “in house”. But the Abbott government has described the CCA’s targets as “onerous” and requiring more effort, in emissions per capita, than other countries.

But Fraser dismissed this view, saying that Australia was already so far behind other comparable countries, that even if it reached these targets, it would still only beat Canada in measures of per capita emissions.

This graph below shows the CCA recommendations and how they compare with other targets. The lighter shade shows the effort between 2005 and 2025, and the darker shade where the countries will sit at that point.

cca targets intensityThe Australian government is due to release its post 2020 emissions reduction targets this month. It has come under increasing pressure after China confirmed its decision to peak emissions before 2030, and to cut its carbon intensity by 65 per cent, and by new renewable energy deals struck by Mexico and the US, and increased emissions targets from South Korea.

However, the Abbott government has sought to play down the efforts of other countries, with foreign minister Julie Bishop dismissing the China pledge as “obvious”, because the Chinese economy would also stop growing by 2030.

Fraser also had stinging criticism about the move to reduce targets to suit certain sectoral interests, as had happened in renewable energy, and lamented the government’s attitude towards renewables.

He said recent policy decisions had clearly discouraged new investment in renewable energy.

“There is a bit of a bias against renewable energy at the present time,” Fraser said.

That was evident in the scaling back of RET and in the remarks of Prime Minister and the Treasurer about wind energy.   Tony Abbott has said wind farms are “ugly” and potentially harmful to health. Joe Hockey has described wind farms as “objectionable”.

“That is not helpful.,” Fraser said.

“There is a transformation going on to a low-carbon world,” Fraser said, describing it earlier as “unstoppable. “One should have open mind and recognise the role of renewable – not to be holding back new investments in that process. “

The CCA report says Australia has a lot of catching up to do, and should not model its targets on what “laggards” such as Canada recommend.

Fraser says the CCA targets are manageable because the emissions intensity of the Australian economy approximately halved in the 22 years to 2012, in response to structural changes, new technologies, fuel switching and improvements in energy efficiency.

These drivers of change can be expected to continue over the decade ahead, and to accommodate both larger absolute reductions in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and further substantial reductions in the emissions intensity of the Australian economy.

“While the recommended targets for Australia are challenging, they are no more so than the targets many other developed countries have been pursuing in recent years, and are committing to in the post-2020 period.”


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  • howardpatr

    With AuLPP PKPstralia being led by a first class second rate individual who does not understand anthropogenic climate change and rejects the views of those who do the prospect of any change by Abbott is negligible.

    Abbott and this LNP government will never get behind the renewable energy future – it will just evolve despite them.

  • john

    One lives in hope that without smoke and mirrors that Australia can set some meaningful target that is believable and achievable, however having the mind set that RE is never going to be economic and is a burden is the first hurdle to overcome.
    Considering the continued lowering in cost of the deployment of RE one would think this is not a huge hurdle to overcome.
    We are just at the start of doing the work on exploiting wave energy of which Australia has an abundant supply especially in the southern states.
    As to Geothermal our degree of utilization is very minor indeed.
    Solar, storage batteries and CSP are well established and as for wind it is proving to be quiet effective.
    So on 5 fronts Australia can move forward we only need the will to achieve.
    On other matters energy efficiency has to be looked at and even better goals set especially in the transport sector.

  • Adam Lucas

    I’m in Brighton UK at the moment and we had the hottest day on record yesterday. Conspicuously no mention in the media of climate change, which the Tories have managed to push off the public agenda since the last election – more successfully than Abbott, I might add. One piece of hopeful news, however, reported by my colleague Johan Schot from Sussex Energy Group over dinner a few nights ago is that a Dutch NGO just won a national court case against the Dutch Govt for failing to meet its international treaty obligations on emissions reductions. I’ve seen no reporting of that either. Giles, is this one you could possibly follow up? A coalition of NGOs in Australia might well be able to pull off something similar …

  • onesecond

    I still can’t get my head around the inaction of the Australians of all people in the face of climate change. Are you folk really that keen on having an average peak day temperature of over 50 degrees centigrade in the summer time? Maybe the catholics are right and hell is waiting, at least for the Australians.

    • john

      Some parts of Australia already experience those temperatures it was not that long ago the BOM added an extra bar to forecast maps to account for rising temperature in the interior

      • onesecond

        Yeah, I really would have thought that some people would respond to that. A century of rising temperature surely doesn’t sound good for Australia.

    • nakedChimp

      I’m pretty sure the composition of people in regards to RE and climate change etc. pp. is pretty similar all over the world, it’s just that we in Down Under managed to get a government elected with a more extreme view on the topic.. Or do you judge the North Korean population by it’s ‘choice’ of leadership as well? 😉

      • onesecond

        Ok, besides that North Korea voting joke there is another difference to Australia. It is not as hot there. I just would have thought that Australians would worry more about rising temperatures than let’s say Germans.