The Climate Change Authority says Australia needs to be prepared to take decisive action as the world moves towards ambitious abatement targets at next year’s international conference in Paris.
The CCA on Monday released a paper looking at the implications and requirements of an international agreement, and what that means for Australian climate policy, particularly in light of current moves to unravel the carbon price, the renewable energy target and other environmental initiatives.
CCA chairman Bernie Fraser said the forthcoming conference was likely to be held in “rather more favourable circumstances” than the last in Copenhagen, which coincided with the early onset of the global financial crisis.
And, he noted, mainstream climate scientists had continued to strengthen their earlier findings on the links between human-induced increases in greenhouse gas emissions and the rise in average global temperatures.
The CCA has previously called for Australia to lift its target from emissions reductions of 5 per cent to more than 19 per cent by 2020, reflecting the increased ambition of major emitters such as the US, China and the EU, and other international action.
However, as the CCA released its paper – the first of several planned for the next two weeks – Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s main business advisor, Maurice Newman, has again launched an extraordinary attack on the climate science.
In an article published in The Australian newspaper, Newman claims that the “wheels are starting to fall off the anthropogenic global warming bandwagon.”
In a collection of anecdotes seemingly compiled from the more notorious anti-climate blogs, Newman says climate science is not settled, and attacks “global warmists” – which in his estimate presumably include US president Barack Obama, China Premier Li Keqiang, UK prime minister David Cameron, and just about every other global leader apart from Abbott, Canada’s Stephen Harper and maybe Poland’s Donald Tusk.
“As the proof of human-induced global warming evaporates, an orchestrated push for more extreme policy action continuesm” Newman writes.
“The celebration of Australia’s 0.8 per cent drop in CO2 “pollution”, the biggest reduction in 24 years (subject to revision), didn’t satisfy the abatement zealots. They want higher taxes and more challenging targets.
“They seem oblivious to job losses, our already high energy costs and slipping international competitiveness. That the drop is utterly meaningless in a global context, or that CO2 is not a pollutant, does not deter them.
“Global temperatures have stopped rising. Their future direction is unknown.”
Newman is one of those instrumental in calling for the CCA to be dismantled – for fear that dissenting views are heard – along with every other part of the clean energy package put together by Labor and the Greens. So far, most of this has been held up in the Senate, but this could change when the new Senate takes shape in July.
The CCA, meanwhile, says that international action on climate change is squarely in Australia’s national interest. It will reduce the risks and likely impacts of climate change for Australia.
It notes that the Paris meeting in December 2015 will not deliver a binding agreement like Kyoto, but would focus on action rather than legal form,
“The best measure of success of the Paris meeting will be the extent to which it encourages and inspires stronger national action to reduce emissions over time,” it writes.
”A successful agreement would see countries committing to act, setting targets, and being transparent and open to review.”
And it says an international framework should support and encourage all major emitters – including Australia – to set fair targets and implement policies to meet them.
“Australia has played an active role at past international negotiations and, as a wealthy developed country and a high per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, it will be expected to carry a fair share of the post 2020 emissions reductions.”
Sadly, there seems little prospect of that. Abbott has sought to curry favour among other climate obstructionists such as Harper and Tusk, has refused entreaties to have the topic discussed at the G20 (apparently it is not an economic issue), and has instructed the country’s negotiating team to throw up obstacles at every turn in climate talks.
This comes as more Australia fossil fuel projects are abandoned in the face of an “energy revolution” in China, and elsewhere, and as Australia attempts to pull apart the renewable energy industry that seeks to take its place.
As Newman notes, Australia risks being left out in the cold on climate. But not for the reasons he thinks.