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Paris Climate Targets and Australia

Australia's current climate target is 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. Australia is currently reviewing what it's post 2020 targets should be. Public consultation and submissions occurred with a deadline of 1st May 2015. It is expected that Australia's post 2020 climate targets (INDC) will be submitted around June 2015 to the UNFCCC secretariat where it will be scrutinised by other nations, and indeed the global public at the UNFCCC INDC website.

A few of the submissions to the Australian post 2020 climate targets:

GroupBaseline year20202025203020402050
Climate Change Authority200019%30%40-60%Zero net emissions
Academy of Sciences2000 30-40% approaching zero
Climate Institute200040%65-75 by 2035zero net emissions by 2040 - 2050
the Greens1990 or 200040-50%60-80% plus 100% renewablesnet zero pollution
Climate Action Moreland199025%40% 50% plus 90% renewablesCarbon neutral, then carbon negative

So What should Australia’s post 2020 #climate targets be? (April 20, 2015)

PriceWaterHouseCoopers analysis of comparative ambition -11 May 2015


An analysis done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated the target that Japan, Canada and Australia needed to meet to achieve the same level of ambition as Europe or USA. We know these countries still aren't doing enough to achieve 2C target, yet they still set a benchmark for other industrial countries to also match. The EU committed to a 40% reduction on 1990 levels by 2030 and the US a 26-28% reduction on 2005 levels by 2025.

Applying the Low Carbon Economy Index (LCEI) model to match the present US target PricewaterhouseCoopers results came up with:

  • Japan: 6% reduction on 2005 levels by 2025
  • Canada: 19% reduction on 2005 levels by 2025
  • Australia: 24% reduction on 2005 levels by 2025

"Our LCEI report in 2014 showed that global carbon intensity is falling by around 1% per year, but that this needs to be 6% per year on average to stay within the 2 degrees carbon budget. All these targets fall well short of the 2 degrees goal." reports PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Other national or state targets

Tracking Paris climate pledges:

GroupBaseline year20202025203020402050
USA200517%26-28%20% renewables by 203080%
California19901990 levels40%80%
Switzerland199035% 50%
Lichtenstein1990 40%
Russia1990 25-30%
Mexico Emissions peak by 2026, 25% reduction compared to business as usual in 2030
Gabon50% reduction by 2025 compared to business as usual.
China2005reduce CO2 by 40-45% on 2005 levels by 2020, 15% renewables. Peak emissions before 2030, 20% non-fossil energy. Cut carbon intensity by between 60 and 65% by 2030.
India2005reduce GDP emissions intensity 20-25% by 2020
Canada likely to achieve half this goal
Offsets likely to be needed
Korea30% from business-as-usual (BAU) 37% from BAU
Serbia199018% cut9.8% under 1990 levels


Prime Minister Kevin Rudd presented a range of 5 to 25 per cent emission reduction targets for Australia at the Copenhagen UNFCCC climate negotiations in 2009. He came prepared to negotiate, but Copenhagen spectacularly failed to produce a global agreement. These targets were formalised the following year at Cancun with Australia adopting the lowest unconditional target.

Australia currently has a target of 5 per cent emission reduction on 2000 levels by 2020. In March 2014 the Climate Change Authority handed down a report recommending that Australia's target be lifted to 19 per cent as the mid-range conditions had been substantially met.

As Australia was already ahead with it's Kyoto commitments the CCA recommended that Australia adopt a 19 per cent emissions target by 2020. The report was ignored by the conservative Abbott Government, who have maintained the target at 5 per cent. Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop was shunned at UN Climate summit in September 2014 when she re-iterated Australia's low target as fair and reasonable.

Bishop was again evasive and full of spin in answering a journalist question at a doorstop interview after Obama's 2015 State of the Union speech.

The Abbott Government was able to get the abolition of the carbon pricing through with negotiations with cross-bench Senators in June 2014. Since then Australian emissions are set to soar: new report shows carbon tax was working.

The Abbott Government have set aside a capped amount of $2,55 billion for their Direct Action climate policy and Emissions Reduction Fund. The fund has been criticised as not being sufficient to meet even Australia's minimal present target. There is no facility to scale this policy up to even greater emission reduction targets to meet our international commitments. This is especially relevant given the considerable movement over the last year with an agreement between the USA and China, India's solar revolution, and Europe's continuing emission reductions.

The following commitment was sourced from the Climate Change Department website

In the following table:

  • 'advanced economies' refers to Annex 1 parties to the UNFCCC and at least some other high/middle income economies
  • 'major developing economies' refers to non-Annex 1 members of the Major Economies Forum.
Australia's emissions targets at 2020 and conditions
Target at 2020 Conditions
5% None
15% International agreement where major developing economies commit to substantially restrain emissions and advanced economies take on commitments comparable to Australia's. In practice this implies:
  • global action on track to stabilisation between 510 and 540ppm CO2-e
  • advanced economy reductions in aggregate, in the range of 15 to 25% below 1990 levels
  • substantive measurable, reportable and verifiable commitments and actions by major developing economies, in the context of a strong international financing and technology cooperation framework, but which may not deliver significant emissions reductions until after 2020
  • progress toward inclusion of forests (REDD) and the land sector, deeper and broader carbon markets, low carbon development pathways.
25% (up to 5 percentage points through government purchase) Comprehensive global action capable of stabilising CO2-e concentrations at 450ppm CO2-e or lower. This requires a clear pathway to achieving an early global peak in total emissions, with major developing economies slowing the growth and then reducing their emissions, advanced economies taking on reductions and commitments comparable to Australia, and access to the full range of international abatement opportunities through a broad and functioning international market in carbon credits. This would involve :
  • comprehensive coverage of gases, sources and sectors, with inclusion of forests (REDD) and the land sector (including soil carbon initiatives (e.g. bio char) if scientifically demonstrated) in the agreement
  • clear global trajectory, where the sum of all economies' commitments is consistent with 450ppm CO2-e or lower, and with a nominated early deadline year for peak global emissions not later than 2020
  • advanced economy reductions, in aggregate, of at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020
  • major developing economy commitments that slow emissions growth and then reduce their absolute level of emissions over time, with a collective reduction of at least 20% below business-as-usual by 2020 and a nomination of a peaking year for individual major developing economies
  • global action which mobilises greater financial resources, including from major developing economies, and results in fully functional global carbon markets.

The chart explaining the three emission reduction pathways. Source: Australian Government. Climate Action Tracker did this chart comparing Australia's present target commitments with that of the USA:

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