Australia may have already consumed at least two-thirds of its share of the global carbon budget, according to a new report prepared by Ecofys on behalf of WWF Australia.
The report, which has been released as the Climate Change Authority prepared to release a crucial report on Australia’s carbon pollution targets before the end this week, suggested that Australia may exhaust its carbon budget within a decade.
The latest IPCC report, released in September, warned that the global greenhouse gas emissions must be contained within a finite carbon budget if the world was to retain a reasonable chance of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius.
More than half of this global carbon budget has already been used up. Investors are now taking the issue of carbon budgets seriously, even if the UNFCCC, the body which is hosting negotiations for an international climate treaty, says making carbon budgets a centre-piece of an agreement is politically difficult.
Ecofys estimated that Australia’s share of the world’s carbon budget is around 18 billion tonnes but the country has already used up between 66 per cent and 84 per cent of that budget.
WWF has calculated that for Australia to reduce its fair share of pollution reduction targets need to be: 27 – 34 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020; 82 – 101 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030; and 98 – 106 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050.
Australia has made an unconditional commitment to reduce pollution by at least 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 and to increase that target to as much as 25 per cent if other countries take similar action.
“We’ve nearly blown our carbon budget already and time is running out. If we’re serious about keeping global warming below 2°C then we should immediately move to at least a 25 per cent target,” WWF-Australia National Manager Climate Change, Kellie Caught said.
“A 25% pollution reduction target for 2020 is the bare minimum to put Australia back on track to meet our long-term carbon budget.”
“The good news is that other countries are taking stronger action. Unless Australia strengthens its target we risk falling out of step with key trading partners, such as China and the United States,” Ms Caught said.
“The only credible way to meet stronger targets is if we have a stable, long-term policy framework in place, including a price and limit on pollution.”
“Just as we need a stable plan for our economic bottom line, we also need a stable long-term approach to our carbon budget.”
On Monday, the Sydney Morning Herald released a survey that showed only two out of 35 leading economists support Tony Abbott’s direct action plan. One of these supports of Direct Action did not accept humans were contributing to climate change, and the other didn’t think Australia should act anyway.
According to SMH, Justin Wolfers, renowned Australian economist, said that he was surprised any economists would opt for Direct Action, under which the government will pay for emissions cuts by businesses and farmers from a budget worth $2.88 billion over four years.
According to the latest government data, Australia reduced emissions in the 12 months to March, 2013 by just 0.1 million tonnes to 557 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Emissions from electricity generation, the country’s biggest source of heat-trapping emissions, fell 6.1 per cent to 187 million tonnes, largely driven by a drop in demand, Reuters Point Carbon found.
But emissions resulting from fossil fuel extraction rose 12.7 per cent to 45.8 million tonnes of CO2e per year.
The Greens said the data proved that the carbon price was working to bring down emissions from the country’s dirtiest power plants. The government said it was proof that the carbon price was not working.