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Turnbull repeats incorrect global action formula, ALP needs to do more for reef

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Last night’s leadership debate saw the term climate used almost as much as the economy (26 v. 27),  It wasn’t till the very end that the two started to connect with highlights on the costs of inaction – there was very little on the opportunities for Australia in a world clearly shifting to clean energy.

(NB Our There goes the neighbourhood report out today gives more on the economic link by highlighting the threats of climate impacts to home-owners and the broader economy (e.g 60% of the big four banks’ assets are in mortgages)).

While his early comments framed the issue in terms of the environment, the Prime Minister restated his personal concern about climate change but also repeated an incorrect interpretation of how global action will proceed under the Paris agreement.

Australia and other countries agreed to a process of reviewing and ratcheting up actions every five years starting in 2018.  The PM is incorrect in the implication that the global community needs to agree together before stronger action is taken.

In the debate the PM said:

“my commitment is to ensure that Australia meets the target we agreed to in Paris and when the global community agrees to higher targets, as I have no doubt it will, that we will meet them, too.”

We fact checked a similar statement by the Prime Minister earlier this month in which we said:

One of the key reasons Paris was a success is because national targets are not negotiated in the agreement. Countries are required to set them and consider the objective of limiting warming to 1.5-2°C and the goal of net zero emissions economies. Australia’s inadequate targets were established by Tony Abbott well in advance of Paris and if other countries did similar would lead to warming of 3-4°C.

Australia is locked out of any leverage with its low ambition targets and policies. This was highlighted last month when Australia wasn’t invited to a “High Ambition Coalition” meeting, which includes the US, EU and small island states. If Australia is to have any leverage it will need to lift its ambition and then engage globally, not the other way around

The Paris climate agreement requires countries to regularly revisit their targets in a “nation driven” process not a process where countries have to negotiate targets together.

As a high carbon economy and highly exposed to climate impacts Australia should be planning for and implementing policies that would see us prosper in the now inevitable shift to clean energy.  Australia did agree in Paris to a shared goal of keeping warming “well below” 2 degrees celsius and to “pursue efforts” to keep it to just 1.5C above preindustrial levels.

We are already 1 degree above.  The Paris agreement also included the recognition that this will need net zero emissions globally. Recently petroleum giant Shell recognised that the1.5C goal would require net zero emissions by 2050.

The race is to net zero emissions and Australia is well behind. The 2030 targets of both major parties would leave Australia towards the back of G20 countries in per capita terms, the government’s would leave us close only to Saudi Arabia as the figure below shows:

turnbull analysis

The ALP does have more credible emissions reduction targets but leaves a fair bit of detail to be sorted out after the election.  It’s targets give Australia a chance of doing our bit in avoiding 2 degrees warming. However that would be too hot for the reef to handle which will be significantly stressed even at 1.5 C warming.

While the ALP’s additional funding for the reef today is welcome, it too will need to lift Australia’s climate action and its targets to leverage greater action off other countries if it is to help protect the reef.

John Connor is CEO of The Climate Institute  

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  • howardpatr

    John; Cayman Turnbull’s position is clear – just do as Mad Monk Abbott and his right wing religious conservative want; as long as Lucy and I can get the power to top up out money.

    Malcolm and the Malcontents

    Reporter: Sarah Ferguson

    Broadcast: 09/11/2009

    Reporter Sarah Ferguson goes inside the conservative parties to find out what the party members really think about climate change and why they’re so reluctant to back their leader.

    In October Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull said, “I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.”

  • SM

    No point having a target if the tools don’t exist to meet it. The policy mix needs to be resolved and all the b/s around Direct Action show up for what it is!

  • Alastair Leith

    “Recently petroleum giant Shell recognised that the1.5C goal would require net zero emissions by 2050.”

    So we’re taking our scientific advice from Shell now? Why will nobody in the mainstream Australian climate movement speak the truth and say that the +1.5º C train has already left the station. The chances of halting temperature rise this century to 1.5ºC even if we stopped all human caused GHG emissions tonight at 6PM would be dicey at best. Even 350.org who brought us the “Carbon Budget” concept (thankfully discarded in recent 350.org messaging) is internally saying ~+1.7º C is locked in already due to historical emissions.

    The Great Barrier Reef has no hope of survival in any recognisable form given that corals are sensitive to anything above 1º C of warming and 1.5-1.7º C is locked in due to lag-effect from emissions and the loss of the cooling effect that will be removed with the removal of sulphates emitted from coal power plant stacks when they all close.

    The disconnect between science and Australian climate and conservation groups is increasingly apparent.

    • Farmer Dave

      Good points, Alastair. The questions I would like to see reporters ask those standing for election – all of them – are:
      1. Have you talked to climate scientists about what emissions reductions are needed to protect Australia from further damage due to climate change?
      2. If not, why not? (And if the answer is “no” ask them if they would get advice from a plumber if they had a heart condition).
      3. What emissions reductions did the climate scientists recommend as being necessary?
      4. What emissions reductions are you planning?

      If any readers of Giles’ wonderful web site are also on Twitter, how about giving the hashtag #ListenToScientists a run?

      • Alastair Leith

        yeah, unfortunately IPCC has been heavily politicised from the start. And our Climate Council are just as reticent to say anything ‘alarming’ — even if an emergency alarm is exactly what this country needs.

  • Alastair Leith

    This is an interesting report, but it has a number of declared limitations on the scope of assessing property damage associated with CC. Two of which are majorly significant:

    “Thirdly, it does not include riverine flooding, or indeed any other natural perils such as bushfire or heatwaves which may damage homes now or in the future.

    Fourthly, it does not include localised storm surge modelling for some states (notably, Queensland).”

    The storm surge flooding of NYC during super-storm Sandy was to 4 m+ on the back of a 30 centimetre sea level rise on the sea level in 1750. It resulted in tens of billions of dollars in property damage to NYC on the island (including flooding of subways and electrical substations) and disruption to the entire Manhattan Island for two days including electrical power outage (no figures found on costs of those losses). The flooding of Brisbane during December 2011 inundated some 20,000 homes.