Playing our part: The international solution

Amid doubts over whether Australia will reach its 5 per cent emissions target, the Climate Change Authority is highlighting the elephant in the room when it comes to abatement – international permits.

Using international emission reduction credits can help Australia to “play its part” stopping climate change, the Climate Change Authority said in a live webinar this week.

CCA chief executive Anthea Harris, speaking online, re-emphasised the central points of the authority's draft Targets and Progress Review which was released last month.

Australia currently has a minimum commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent, but this target could be higher if it uses international emissions reduction credits under the Kyoto Protocol, Mrs Harris said.

“Australia can’t solve the problem all by itself. The CCA is suggesting that Australia play its part,” Mrs Harris said.

“As a country that clusters itself on the coast, the prospect of rising sea levels is not promising.”

The CCA’s draft review outlines that, under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia can purchase international emissions reductions if its actual emissions are higher than the target.

From a global perspective, there is no special merit in confining emissions reductions to domestic action provided the international emissions reductions it purchases are credible, the report says.

Having access to international credits meant: “Australia will be able to have a bigger improvement on its reductions in emissions without having a negative impact on its own economy,” she said.

“As long as those emissions reductions are credible, that to the authority’s opinion is a credible goal.”

It is agreed that sticking to a 5 per cent minimum target would require extremely rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020.

“We are not talking about emissions reductions that would have a crippling effect on the economy," Mrs Harris said.

The government has already said it would set a target higher than 5 per cent in certain circumstances – circumstances which had already been met.

The modelling done suggests to the authority that setting a stronger target would have relatively small economic implications.

For example, to go from 5 per cent to a 15 per cent target would only take 0.2 per cent off the gross national income per person. But gross national income per person would still be rising, and would still be much higher in 2050 than it is today.

The CCA’s 180-page analysis, released on October 30, said a 15 per cent reduction target by 2020 should be accompanied by a 35-50 per cent reduction by 2030; while a 25 per cent reduction target by 2020 should lead to a 40-50 per cent cut by 2030.

It said Australia’s overall carbon budget from now until 2050 should be restricted to 10.1 billion tonnes.

The authority’s final report, due to be published at the end of February, will make a final recommendation on a single target for 2020, as well as a trajectory out to 2050 and a carbon budget.

CCA is currently accepting submissions on its draft, which is published on its website.