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What does the Paris Agreement mean for Australia?

The memorable feature of the Paris Agreement was its ambition, to seek to limit global warming to well below 2°C and to strive for 1.5°C limit. Australia’s national emission reduction target is, however, 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 which, if every country had the same, would lead to 3-4o warming.

Thus to keep to 1.5°C, Australia has to adopt a more ambitious target, of 65-85 per cent reduction by 2030.

Writing from Paris at the end of the Paris conference, the Guardian’s Lenore Taylor said the Australian government must do a number of things to meet even its original targets: retire old brown coal fired-power stations; recognise that its Emissions Reduction Fund is not enough; back off funding infrastructure associated with new coal mines; adopt a credible, clear, transparent domestic climate policy, and quickly, to reassure investors in clean technology; stop using phony accounting rules to reach our emission-reduction pledges; provide much more money to help vulnerable people cope with climate change; and recognise that a clear, long-term policy for moving away from fossil fuels is not a threat, but an opportunity.

Many commentators are referring to the Paris Agreement as “the end of the fossil fuel era”. Australia’s economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Nevertheless, it will have to reduce its dependence on its coal, gas and oil industries, particularly coal. Although the emissions from exported coal will not be counted domestically, it cannot approve any new coal mines and particularly the megamines planned for the Galilee Basin and the Liverpool Plains if the world is to keep close to the 1.5°C limit. Australia must phase out coal-fired power stations and, as Taylor says, immediately close the most polluting of them, namely, the brown coal power plants such as Hazelwood in Victoria.

Signs of movement in Australia and carbon price is on global agenda

In early December, a 75 turbine wind farm at Ararat in Victoria was the first large scale wind project to be approved following months of uncertainty over the Renewable Energy Target (RET). The uncertainty had essentially dried up investor funding in such projects. If the federal government is serious about meeting its targets, it needs to restore the RET to its original level, even lift it higher.

After the Coalition won the 2013 federal election with the promise (a scare campaign to others) to ‘axe the tax’, Australia is now back looking at the possibility of a carbon price. Indeed, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop signed a Paris declaration calling for new clear rules for international carbon trading. Although the Coalition will not revise its climate policies until 2017, carbon trading is a logical inclusion, particularly in light of International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde saying “the right carbon price” had to be at the centre of reducing emissions.

Before the Paris Agreement was finalised, Prime Minister Turnbull rejected signing onto an initiative by New Zealand to phase out subsidies to fossil fuel industries. His National colleagues were adamant that the diesel fuel rebate remain. Globally, these subsidies amount to over half a trillion dollars annually. Such money needs to be re-directed from fossil fuels to subsidising renewable energy.

Help thy neighbour

On helping finance developing countries to adapt to climate change, Australia has committed a mere billion dollars over four years, taking it from the existing aid budget. Here too, ambition has to be lifted, with $1.6 billion annually from new money, not from the aid budget. As has been noted many times, Australia is a wealthy country whose historical emissions have helped create the problems of climate change, and it is developing countries who have contributed least to the problem that will suffer most.

James-HansenJames Hansen, father of climate change awareness, says Paris talks ‘a fraud’  without a global carbon price.
Mere mention of the Paris climate talks is enough to make James Hansen grumpy. The former Nasa scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, is a soft-spoken, almost diffident Iowan… Read full article in the Guardian.

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