Australia‘s fair share
550 ppm C02-eq
Australian policies to reduce carbon emissions
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16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
6th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol
29 November to 10 December 2010.
- Climate Change Review — Update 2011, 31 May 2011.
Pledging the future
To date, 89 developed and developing countries, representing more than 80% of global emissions and about 90% of the global economy, have pledged large cuts and actions under the Cancun Agreements.
The pledged target ranges for the United States, the European Union and Japan all correspond to entitlements for a global agreement between 450 ppm and 550 ppm …
The targets pledged by Canada and Russia, by contrast, are less ambitious than suggested for a 550 ppm global agreement.
[On] average, developed countries‘ pledged 2020 targets are somewhat less ambitious than are needed under a 550 ppm scenario. …
In May 2011, the UK government announced new emissions reduction targets — 50% from 1990 levels by 2025 — that are binding under domestic law.
A number of major developing countries have pledged reductions relative to a business-as-usual scenario (including China, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and the Republic of Korea). …
These, too, are as ambitious—or more ambitious—than were called for under the modified contraction and convergence framework developed and proposed in the 2008 Review.
Australia‘s fair share
The Australian Government and Opposition accepted the 2008 Review‘s proposal that Australia should reduce emissions by 5% in 2020 from 2000 levels whatever the rest of the world was doing as our contribution to keeping hopes for a strong international agreement alive. …
Australia should offer to reduce 2020 emissions by 25% from 2000 levels in the context of a strong international agreement focused on holding concentrations at 450 ppm or the temperature increase to 2°C.
If the world had reached effective agreement on emissions reductions that would lead to concentrations of 550 ppm, our fair share would, in my judgment, be 10%.
Given our starting point, the realistic ambition is to catch up with our fair share, rather than to be a leader.
Choosing the future
If we are clever, we can apply mitigation policies that have relatively little effect on the rise in living standards in the years immediately ahead. …
Australians in future will have to manage the world as they find it.
We may be leaving them with a difficult task.
We should seek to avoid leaving them with an impossible one. …
Once we put the carbon pricing incentives in place, millions of Australians will set to work finding cheaper ways of meeting their requirements and servicing markets. We don‘t know in advance what the successful ideas will be, but I‘m pretty sure that there will be extraordinary developments in technology.
That will lower the costs of our transition to a low-carbon economy. …
If we didn‘t do much [it] would be contrary to our national interest because
- it would make a strong global mitigation outcome less likely [and]
- because it would lead to our political and economic isolation and eventually to action being taken against us in international trade and other areas of international cooperation.
[If] we sought to do our fair share through direct action [we would be relying] on the ideas of a small number of politicians and their advisers and confidants.
While some of these ideas might be brilliant, in sum they would not be as creative or productive as millions of Australian minds responding to the incentives provided by carbon pricing and a competitive marketplace. …
(p 12, italics added)
- Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, IPCC, adopted section by section at IPCC Plenary XXVII, Valencia, 12-17 November 2007.
550 ppm C02-eq is falls within the Category III family of post-TAR (Third Assessment Report) projected stabilization scenarios.
Based on current commitments it is likely that this will be exceeded.
118 Category IV scenarios (590 — 710 ppm) project the following range of temperature and sea level outcomes [adapted from Table 5.1, p 67]:
Global average temperature increase above pre-industrial at equilibrium, using ‘best estimate’ climate sensitivity 3.2 — 4.0 °C Global average sea level rise above pre-industrial at equilibrium (from thermal expansion only) 0.6 — 2.4 m
There is high confidence (8 out of 10) that temperature and sea level changes of this magnitude will have the following impacts [adapted from Figure 3.6, p 51]:
- Increased water availability in moist tropics and high latitudes
- Decreasing water availability and increasing drought in mid-latitudes and semi-arid low latitudes
- Hundreds of millions of people exposed to increased water stress
- Up to 40% of species at increasing risk of extinction
- Widespread coral mortality
- Terrestrial biosphere tends toward a net carbon source as ~20% of ecosystems affected
- Increasing species range shifts and wildfire risk
- Ecosystem changes due to weakening of the meridional overturning circulation
- Complex, localised negative impacts on small holders, subsistence farmers and fishers
- Tendencies for cereal productivity to [progressively] decrease in low latitudes
- [Initial tendencies] for some cereal productivity to increase at mid- to high-latitudes [progressing to] decrease in some regions
- Increased damage from floods and storms
- About 30% of global coastal wetlands lost
- Millions more people could experience coastal flooding each year
- Increasing burden from malnutrition, diarrhoeal, cardio-respiratory and infectious diseases
- Increased morbidity and mortality from heat waves, floods and droughts
- Changed distribution of some disease vectors
- Substantial burden on health services
- Learning the hard way: Australian policies to reduce carbon emissions, Grattan Institute, 2 April 2011.
John Daley and Tristan Edis.
Reducing Australia’s emissions to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 will not be easy or costless.
Between now and 2020 a number of sectors in the economy that consume fossil fuels are expected to grow substantially.
For Australia to both accommodate this growth and meet a 5% emissions reduction target will require government policies (beyond those already committed to) that by 2020 will reduce emissions by 160 million tonnes of CO2-e a year. …
To give a sense of scale, it requires measures equal to:
- Eliminating emissions from all of Australia’s planes, trains and automobiles, and in addition replacing the current use of gas for heating and industrial production with a zero emission energy source;
- Expanding from 10% to 75% the amount of electricity that is sourced from renewable energy;
- Reforesting an area of land at least half the size of the State of Victoria. …
As a result, our electricity production is the most carbon-intensive in the developed world.
There is also great potential for Australia to become more efficient in consuming energy and in using emissions-intensive materials.
Australia’s energy use per unit of industrial output, for example, is one of the worst in the OECD. …
The amount of energy used, per kilometre, to transport people in Australia is the second highest in the developed world …
Australia could substantially reduce emissions while still driving cars and keeping the lights on.
But we would need to put in place incentives to produce electricity using less carbon-intensive fuels, and become more efficient in our use of fossil fuels — as many other wealthy developed nations already do. …
The average size of new Australian homes increased by 40% between 1985 and 2009.
Australia’s new homes are now the largest in the world — well above those in the US, and almost double those of the UK.
[Larger] dwellings require more heating, cooling and lighting.