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Australia taken to task on climate

By KARL WILSON in Sydney | China Daily | Updated: 2021-09-03 09:16
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Calls for stronger action grow at home and abroad over 'snail's pace' effort

Birds and a plane are seen flying above emission from the chimneys of a chemical plant located near Port Botany in Sydney, Australia, June 2, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

Australia needs to make deep cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions this decade if it is serious about tackling global warming, according to a think tank.

The Climate Council delivered the message as the country comes under increasing pressure from global leaders, businesses, and environmental groups to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.

In its analysis of Australia's latest "Quarterly Update of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory", released on Tuesday, the council said the race is on for Australia to respond to accelerating climate change by making "rapid and deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions this decade but the latest Federal Government data shows Australia is barely out of the starting blocks when it comes to responding".

These concerns are shared among the country's international partners.

At a virtual conference on Aug 19, Jonathan Pershing, deputy to US presidential climate envoy John Kerry, said Australia's emissions reduction commitments were not enough. "It would be really helpful to see Australia step forward with a more ambitious effort," Pershing said.

Britain's minister of state, Alok Sharma, who is president of the upcoming UN-sponsored climate conference in Glasgow called on Australia to do more.

The former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon recently said that by not acting on climate change, Australia risks its international standing.

The Climate Council said Australia should be cutting its emissions 21 times faster than it is if the country aims to play its part in avoiding the catastrophic consequences of worsening climate change.

The world's climate experts issued a "code red" for the climate crisis recently in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The quarterly emissions data released by the Australian federal government reveals a "sluggish and inadequate" national response, Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said. "The data proves the federal government's climate response is woefully inadequate. They say we're 'on track' to cut emissions by one-third of 1 percent per year over the next decade.

"That is a snail's pace-not the rapid and deep reductions we need to be making this decade," Baxter said.

For Australia to play its part, the Climate Council says it should be aiming for a 75 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. This would equate to emissions cuts occurring 21 times faster than what the federal government is managing, according to the council.

"Addressing the climate crisis is a race, but Australia's response remains sluggish and woefully inadequate. We should be doing everything we humanly can to respond to a threat as serious and pressing as this," Baxter said.

Emissions cuts

"Instead, we are making slow and painful progress at a national level that too often comes down to dumb luck, or happenstance. The federal government has no climate or energy policy which is resulting in emissions cuts."

Instead, the government relies on factors like lower transport demand due to COVID-19, he said.

In the lead-up to the climate talks in Glasgow in November many countries have increased their 2030 targets, including the United States (50-52 percent) and Japan (46 percent). China aims to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

Australia has set an inadequate target of 26-28 percent and has refused to increase it since 2015, despite committing to do so as part of the international agreement it has signed up to.

The Climate Council has recommended a science-based target for Australia of reducing emissions to 75 percent below 2005 levels and reaching net zero by 2035.

"Other countries are stepping up to the challenge-including all our strategic allies and trading partners-but we are nowhere to be seen. Australia needs a credible climate response, and that means making decisions that result in deep and rapid emissions cuts this decade. That's what most Australians want, and expect," Baxter said.

However, Australian Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the government's approach is the right one, given that the emissions cuts had come at the same time as economic growth falters.

According to the quarterly update, Australia produced 494.2 million metric tons of carbon emissions in the 12 months to March 2021.

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