Of all the dumbest things we’ve heard from the right-wing government of Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, this just about takes the cake.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop, apparently in seeking to downplay the significance of China’s pledge to cut the carbon intensity of the Chinese economy by up to 65 per cent by 2030, and to reach a peak in its emissions before 2030, said this on Wednesday morning:
“China says its emissions will peak in 2030,” Bishop told Sky News. “Well that coincides with when its economy is likely to peak.”
Say what? Australia’s foreign minister is predicting that the Chinese economy will not grow beyond 2030? Has anyone thought of the implications of this on the world’s economy, and Australia’s own trade? Is the Chinese government aware of this?
Of course, it is absolute nonsense. Bishop, like so many others in the Abbott government, is willing to say anything to maintain the pretense that Australia is not being left behind in the global race to decarbonisation, and to reach an agreement in Paris.
The OECD, for instance, predicts that China’s economy will be growing by at least 3 per cent a year well into the 2030s and 2040s. Australia’s conservative government, however, has a hard time understanding that emissions growth need not equate with economic growth. They do not need to grow together.
The International Energy Agency, in a report last month, said growth in the world economy will not rely on ever greater consumption of fossil fuels, boosting energy security and bringing energy services to the billions who, today, have no such access. That’s bad news, though, for Australia’s coal exports.
Bishop will likely lead the Australian delegation in Paris, and with environment minister Greg Hunt is putting together a proposal for Abbott’s inner sanctum to approve. Australia will likely reveal its own post-2020 target some time in July.
Australia is coming under intense pressure to put some decent numbers on the table. Brazil and the US overnight committed to generating 20 per cent of their energy needs from non-hydro renewables – i.e. wind, solar, and probably geothermal and biomass.
On Thursday, the Climate Change Authority is set to release the final report of its own investigation into Australia’s emissions targets. It has suggested a 30 per cent cut on 2000 levels by 2025, although it seems likely that Australia will fudge this by announcing a cut of between 16 and 25 per cent, but from 2005 levels, when emissions where higher.
The Climate Institute said that if Australia was to match China’s carbon intensity target, it would need to cut emissions by between 35 and 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
TCI chief executive John Connor said that the China pledge is also a floor on its action, not a ceiling, as it is likely that it will reach its emissions peak before then.
“The plans China has announced today, which confirm a historic peaking of its emissions by 2030, or ‘earlier if possible’, are driven by its hard-headed assessment of national interest that an economy dependent on outdated polluting technologies is not good for business, health or energy security.
“For China to meet the targets it outlined today it will need to build clean energy the size of Australia’s entire electricity system, each year for the next 15 years.” But, he said, even though China’s actions so far are ambitious, they’ll need to do more.
Bishop’s French equivalent, Laurent Fabius, the man who will host the Paris talks, had this to say overnight at a UN-sponsored conference in Washington, when he urged remaining countries to submit their pledges as soon as possible:
“When S&P (ratings agency Standard & Poor’s), not only says, but acts in such a way, that there is now a climate risk, with what it means in terms of financial cost, it matters.
“When the oil companies say that is a real problem and we would like carbon pricing. When the largest financial fund in the world, which is Norwegian, decides to abandon its investments in carbon economy, it means that really, things are changing.
“And it’s very important, because apart from the public financing, what will be decisive, it’s the decisions which will be taken directly, either by the companies or by the local authorities, New York, California, in order to have less and less a carbon economy. And it could not have been imagined two years ago.”