05/09/2008 - 16:14

Garnaut report draws ire from greenies

05/09/2008 - 16:14


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Mineral production in Australia will slide by 210 million tonnes by 2020 if a 10 per cent reduction in emissions is set, according to the Minerals Council of Australia, while conservationists have labeled the target as "laughable".

Mineral production in Australia will slide by 210 million tonnes by 2020 if a 10 per cent reduction in emissions is set, according to the Minerals Council of Australia, while conservationists have labeled the target as "laughable".

Top climate adviser Ross Garnaut said Australia should aim for a 10 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, less than the 40 per cent cut environmental groups were calling for.

In a major report released today, Professor Garnaut says Australia is a special case and should reduce its emissions by less than every other developed country.

The reason is a high level of immigration, which he says means Australia cannot realistically cut emissions as much as can other wealthy nations.

The Minerals Council said the report sets the right framework but poses very difficult numbers and questionable basis for an international agreement.

"A 10% national emissions reduction target by 2020 will be extremely difficult to achieve given that it represents a 30% reduction on a 'business as usual basis'," the Minerals Council said in a statement.

"This amounts to a reduction in the order of 210 million tonnes by 2020 which is equivalent to the current emissions from Australia's entire electricity generation sector.

"Put simply, meeting this target without significant technological breakthroughs is akin to moving Australia to a candles economy."

Meanwhile conservationists have labeled the report as "laughable".

Australian Greens climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne said the target was weak.

"Five to 10 per cent is laughable," Senator Milne said.

"The rest of the world will regard that as selfish and in bad faith."

WWF Australia chief executive Greg Bourne said Australia would be "laughed out of court" internationally with anything less than a 20 per cent target.

But the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Greg Evans said Prof Garnaut was on the right track.

"It's much closer to the ballpark than some of the previous discussion," he said.

"That's the sort of scope that Australian business has indeed been looking at in terms of modelling outcome."

Prof Garnaut said Australia should revise down its 2020 target to a five per cent cut in emissions if there was limited international agreement on the issue.

And he said the main impact of emissions trading on household budgets would be more costly electricity bills.

They would rise by 40 per cent by 2020 if Australia adopted his 10 per cent target.

Petrol would rise by five cents a litre at a $20 carbon price - but the government has exempted petrol from emissions trading until at least 2013.

Prof Garnaut warned the impact of climate change on Australia would be dire, describing the problem as "diabolical" and "daunting".

The odds were not great on the survival of the Great Barrier Reef.

He took a pessimistic view of the ability of the world to tackle the problem, and said there was "just a chance" that dangerous global warming could be avoided.

"The review has reluctantly concluded that more ambitious international agreement is not possible at this stage," he said.

He called for a realistic 2020 target.

"I know much higher numbers have been talked about but I don't think they are achievable at this stage."

Prof Garnaut says all other developed countries should adopt tougher reduction targets than Australia, because Australia has a high level of immigration, so the population is growing and needs to emit more.

Prof Garnaut has recommended emissions trading start in 2010 with a fixed carbon price of $20 a tonne, which would increase by four per cent, plus the rate of inflation, each year.

He thinks Australia should push for a global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of 550 parts per million. He says 450 would be better for Australia, but is not likely.

Today's report included some modelling on the costs of climate change.

Not acting on climate change would cost Australia dearly, slashing eight per cent from GNP by the end of this century. Wages would drop by 12 per cent.

But taking action on climate change would have a net positive affect on the economy by 2060.


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