By Kellie Caught, Climate Change National Manager, WWF-Australia
As well as being lucky enough to have some of the world’s most spectacular natural environments – from tropical reefs to rainforests – and so many unique plants and animals, Australia is also a country that’s particularly susceptible to global warming and climate change.
More extreme weather events are already having a devastating effect on our environment, economy and livelihoods.
The latest science tells us that in just 16 years from now climate impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, our global icon, could be irreversible if we don’t limit global warming to well below 2℃. At the moment we’re on-track for at least 3.6℃.
So it’s in our own national interest to do more to cut our greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being part of the wider global effort. Australia is among the world’s top 20 biggest polluters, with similar emissions to countries like France, Italy, Brazil and the UK, despite having a much smaller population.
AN IMPORTANT FIRST STEP WOULD BE TO RAISE THE 2020 EMISSIONSCUTTING TARGET FROM A WEAK 5% UP TO 25%.
What Australia does in the five years up to 2020 will be crucial. The first thing we need is stronger targets. The government’s current carbon pollution reduction target is extremely weak and not in line with those set by other countries.
An important first step, a sign of faith to the Australian people and the international community, would be to commit to raising Australia’s 2020 emissions target from the current 5% cut (based on 2000 levels) to a 25% cut.
There are a number of things the Australian government could do to achieve that 25% cut. Here are just five:
1. Stick to the 2020 Renewable Energy Target of 41,000 GWh, which means renewables could provide around 24% of electricity by 2020 (depending on final demand), generating $15billion in investment and supporting more than 18,000 new jobs.
2. Implement similar measures to Germany and the US to help take old and inefficient coal-fired power plants out of the electricity grid. This will free up capacity for renewable growth, reduce carbon pollution and provide current and future investors stability and investment certainty.
3. Strengthen energy efficiency measures, starting with strong vehicle emissions standards (equivalent to European standards). Australia’s cars are among the most energy-intensive in the world, consuming on average 9.1 litres of gasoline equivalent per 100km (about 31mpg). The EU average is around 5.9 litres/100km (48mpg). Better energy efficiency will also improve economic productivity.
4. Regulate to make sure that hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) imports and use are phased down to levels proposed by the US, Canada and Mexico. That could cut around 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
5. The biggest gains before and after 2020 could be achieved through an internationally linked cap and trade scheme. A 2013 analysis by London-based Vivid Economics found that this kind of policy could allow Australia’s 2020 emission reduction target to jump from 5% to 25% at very little additional cost to the economy. The small delay in GDP growth would be balanced out within two months.
Many Australian people and businesses are trying to do their part, and want Australia to do more. But the focus on old economic models, vested interests and short-termism gets in the way of pushing forward a sustainable, clean economy.
For example, renewable energy companies are clamoring to invest in solar, wind and other renewables, but the scrapping of Australia’s carbon price in 2014, and the threats to cut the Renewable Energy Target, have meant they’re often turned away.
We need vision and stable long-term policies – to provide stability and certainty for business and investors, stimulate innovation, improve economic productivity, create sustainable jobs, protect our natural environment and build a more sustainable future for our children.
It’s all doable and desirable, but it requires political will. In 2015, the Australian government could build on the goodwill created when they announced a financial contribution to the Green Climate Fund, by increasing their 2020 target. This would help build a new era of fair climate talks and sustainable prosperity for Australia.
RENEWABLES COULD PROVIDE AROUND 24% OF AUSTRALIA’S ELECTRICITY BY 2020.
WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature. The Global Climate & Energy Initiative is WWF’s global programme addressing climate change through promoting renewable and sustainable energy, scaling up green finance, engaging the private sector and working nationally and internationally on implementing low-carbon, climate-resilient development.
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Published in February 2015 by WWF International (World Wide Fund for Nature, formerly World Wildlife Fund), Gland, Switzerland. Any reproduction in full or in part of this publication must mention the title and credit the abovementioned publisher as the copyright owner.
We’d like to thank the following people whose contributions and collaboration helped create this report: Tasneem Essop, Naoyuki Yamagishi, Vanessa Perez-Cirera, Lunyan Lu, Liangchun Deng, T S Panwar, Jaco du Toit, Regine Günther, Jason Anderson, Juliette de Grandpre, Kellie Caught, Karen Kalpage, Pierre Cannet, André Costa Nahur, Lou Leonard, Ian Morrison, Lauren Granger, Mandy Jean Woods.
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WWF, 2014. Crossing the Divide: How to Close the Emissions Abyss.
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