The best way Australia can ensure that it does its fair share in achieving climate change goals is to implement a long-term climate budget. This is the finding of a report released by the Climate Institute.
Erwin Jackson, Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute points out that carbon laws are based on the agreed need to limit global warming to no more than two degrees over pre-industrial levels. To achieve this no more than 1,500 billion tonnes of carbon pollution can be released up to 2050.
“Defining Australia’s fair share of the global carbon budget is a complex task, but it is critical if short-term targets are to be set with clear reference to avoiding dangerous climate change. Australia’s current high levels of per capita carbon pollution, which have grown at around twice the global average over recent decades, make this particularly challenging,” said Jackson.
“If the average Australian consumes no more of the global budget than the average person in other advanced economies then over the next 40 years we can only release 8 billion tonnes carbon pollution. At current emission levels this budget would be consumed in around 15 years.”
Much recent debate has centred on the carbon tax and it has come in for much criticism, but Australia carbon laws also place an absolute limit on emissions emissions-intensive industries. These will be set by the Government after recommendations are set by the independent Climate Change Authority.
A long-term carbon budget would allow the nation to adjust its emissions over time to meet this target. Like any budget, the more you use now, the less you can use later on.
Jackson pointed out that without a budget drastic emission cuts may be necessary in the years ahead. He also said that they will allow Australia to aim for per capita carbon consumption that is more in line with the consumption of other countries.
“The Climate Institute’s and others analysis suggests that by 2030 Australia will have to reduce emissions by around 60 per cent on 2000 levels. Australia’s emission reduction task does not end in 2020 and this will test the policy credibility of all major political parties,” he said.
2030 is a fair way off, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that deeper emission cuts will not be on the political agenda in the foreseeable future.