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Aug. 11 — Australia pledged to the global community Aug. 11 that it would cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2030 compared to emission levels from 2005.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in announcing his country's formal commitment to the United Nations ahead of the end-of-year international climate summit in Paris, said Australia's pledge puts it “fairly and squarely in the middle” of national plans in terms of its ambition to cut emissions in the post-2020 period.
Australia's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) falls short of a U.S. commitment to reach the same 26-to-28 percent target, but to do it by 2025. It also lags the Europe Union pledge to make emissions cuts of at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
The Sydney-based head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Australia, Kobad Bhavnagri, however, called the target “right in the middle of the pack with its trading partners.”
More than two dozen countries and the EU, on behalf of all 28 of its members states, have submitted their INDCs to the UN, which has asked all nations to make such pledges before the Paris climate summit, scheduled to start Nov. 30, where the global community hopes to agree on a plan to fight and respond to climate change.
Abbott classified the Australian target as “not quite as high as the Europeans,” who he said have a 2030 target equivalent to 34 percent below 2005 levels. It is better than the Japanese and Korean targets, however, “and it's immeasurably better than the Chinese, who will actually increase their emissions by 150 percent between now and 2030,” he said.
“We’ve got to be environmentally responsible, but we’ve got to be economically responsible too,” Abbott said, speaking to reporters in Canberra. “We’ve got to reduce our emissions in ways which are consistent with continued strong growth.”
But the opposition Labor Party, which is leading in voter polls and favors the reinstatement of an emissions trading scheme that was to have been part of a carbon levy that was repealed last July at Abbott's urging, said the new target would put Australia at the back of the international pack.
“Tony Abbott has set one of the weakest emissions targets in the developed world,” tweeted Labor's environment spokesman Mark Butler.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said Australia would achieve the target using a range of measures.
The largest chunk of emissions abatement between 2020 and 2030 would be delivered through the government's Emissions Reduction Fund (which purchases carbon credits through a reverse auction), and its safeguard mechanism (which would impose limits on very large emitters from mid-2016).
Other policies that would deliver emission savings include the development of a national energy productivity plan, vehicle fuel efficiency measures and actions to reduce emissions from synthetic greenhouse gases such as hydrofluorocarbons, Hunt said.
The government might also rely partially on international carbon credits, although it has no immediate plans to do so.
Industry groups generally welcomed the government's announcement.
But many indicated nervousness about the adequacy of existing policies and concern about ramifications if the target fails to win bipartisan support.
Matthew Warren, chief executive of the Energy Supply Association of Australia, said the government's Emissions Reduction Fund can't deliver the level of emission cuts needed to achieve the 2030 target. “We will need a credible, durable and bipartisan carbon policy to achieve this target,” said Warren, whose organization represents power generators and retailers.
Climate advocacy groups expressed dismay at the target. Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy described it as “out of step with other countries.”
“It's a defeatist target that shows no faith in the ability of Australians to adapt, innovate and make the transition to a clean economy,” O'Shanassy said.
Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said the target “fails tests both of scientific credibility and economic responsibility.”
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) said in terms of emissions reductions compared against a common 2010 baseline year, it was less ambitious than the EU and U.S., but better than offerings submitted to the UN from Canada, South Korea and Japan.
In terms of reduced emissions intensity per unit of gross domestic product, it was less ambitious than China, South Korea and Canada, but more ambitious than the EU, U.S. and Japan, it said.
Relative to the business-as-usual trajectory, it was less ambitious than South Korea, Mexico, Canada and the U.S., but more ambitious than Japan and the EU, BNEF said.
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Australia's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution is available at http://bit.ly/1gZEuIR.
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