Australia’s federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, has conceded that world’s current emissions reduction pledges – including Australia’s, presumably – are not ambitious enough to limit global warming to 2°C; the outermost increase in global temperature that science says could avert catastrophic climate change.
Of course, this may appear to many to be a statement of the bleeding obvious, but for Hunt, it is a statement he might never have uttered, but for the change in leadership that arrived with Malcolm Turnbull.
Hunt made the comments in his speech to the National Pres Club on Wednesdaty – a speech in which he also declared the clinching a global deal in Paris to keep global warming below 2°C as a “deeply personal goal.”
The new look environment minister described COP21 – which begins in Paris this coming Monday – as “arguably the most highly anticipated global climate meeting since the failure at Copenhagen. And for good reason.”
Hunt continued: “We know that we are not yet on track for the global goal of keeping temperature rises to less than two degrees.
“This is why Paris is so important. We want it to provide a framework for nations to review and increase their ambitions to achieve that outcome.”
Hunt then outlined what he hoped for in a new global agreement, including all countries making emissions reduction commitments that can increase in ambition over time; countries reviewing their commitments every five years; and all countries reporting on their emissions and progress towards their targets.
This is a welcome change in rhetoric from a minister who, under the leadership of Tony Abbott, dismissed the policy recommendations of the Climate Change Authority – a 30 per cent cut in emissions by 2025 and 40-60 per cent by 2030 – as “staggering”.
The new Hunt says things like climate change “inaction is simply not an option. We all know this.” – Indeed, we do.
He is also keen to talk about Australia’s leading role in soil carbon:
“While in Paris, I will also be joining the French government and others to launch a new international partnership on soil carbon. Australia is a world leader in this area,” Hunt said in his speech.
“We are one of the first to include soil carbon in our national greenhouse accounts and already have nearly eight million tonnes of soil carbon projects contracted under the Emissions Reduction Fund.
“Australia is similarly leading the way on bushfire management and bushfire prevention practices, including Indigenous land management projects under the Emissions Reduction Fund,” he said.
“Australia has been working with the United Nations University to assess the potential for emissions reduction through fire management in other countries and we will release outcomes of this work in Paris.”
Rainforest recovery, Hunt added, was is another area where Australia was leading the world – as well as being “another deep, personal passion” of his own.
“In Paris, Australia will help lead the push to expand our Asia-Pacific Rainforest Recovery Programme with a global rainforest initiative,” he said.