Australian news, and some related international items

Australian emissions to ‘far exceed’ 2030 Paris pledge

Australian emissions to ‘far exceed’ 2030 Paris pledge as need for action rises: UN, Peter Hannam, 31 Oct 17

National pledges to cut carbon emissions fall well short of what’s needed to avoid dangerous climate change, with Australia likely to miss its 2030 commitment by a wide margin, a United Nations body said.

The UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap 2017 report found pledges to cut pollution made at the Paris climate summit two years ago are only about one-third of what’s needed to be on a “least-cost pathway” to stopping the worst effects of climate change.

The target is to stop global average temperatures rising two degrees or more above pre-industrial levels. Change on the scale is expected to cause major droughts, food shortages and damaging sea level rise.

The emissions gap to keep with a 1.5-degree goal is 16-19 gigatonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent, while the 2-degree target would need an extra 11.13.5 gigatonnes of CO2-e of cuts by 2030 to be attained, the report said.

“There is an urgent need for accelerated short-term action and enhanced longer-term national ambition, if the goals of the Paris Agreement are to remain achievable,” the report said.

The positive news is that global emissions have largely flatlined for the past three years, thanks in large part to a plateauing in China. Still, other potent greenhouse gases such as methane are rising, and carbon dioxide emissions could accelerate if global economic growth picks up.

Frank Jotzo, a professor at the Australian National University’s Crawford School and a contributor to the report, said tumbling costs of renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies suggest nations could increase their emissions cuts “and it won’t be terribly hard”.

“More climate action and deeper commitments are needed, but it’s eminently possible to achieve [the Paris climate goal] from the economic and technical perspective,” Professor Jotzo said. “It’s the politics that get in the way.”

Climate flurry

The UNEP survey is one of a flurry of reports to be released ahead of the UN climate conference – COP23 – that begins next week in Bonn.

The World Meteorological Organization said atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose at a record pace last year, rising 3.3 parts per million to 403.3 ppm. That’s the highest in as much as 5 million years, and the last time it was this high, sea levels were as much as 20 metres higher and temperatures 2-3 degrees warmer.

A new health and climate report by The Lancet, meanwhile, has found the number of vulnerable people exposed to heatwaves had increased by about 125 million from 2000 to 2016, with infants and the elderly especially at risk.

Labour productivity among outdoor workers has also fallen by about 5.3 per cent since 2000, while the frequency of weather-related disasters jumped 46 per cent over the period, The Lancet said.

Caritas, a Christian aid organisation, said climate change was also hitting Pacific nations hard, with as many as 35 coastal communities in Papua New Guinea forced to move or having lost homes in the past year because of worsening beach erosion.

Australia’s Torres Strait islands are also being hit by worsening king tides, with as many as 15 communities at risk over the next six decades, the State of the Environment for Oceania report found.

Australia needs ‘further action’

The UNEP report, though, also named Australia as one of the G20 nations – along with the US, Canada, the European Union and others – that “are likely to require further action” to achieve its 2030 goals.

Australia’s goal is to reduce 2005 emissions 26-28 per cent by 2030. The report noted government projections point to Australian emissions reaching 592 million tonnes of CO2-equvialent a year by 2030, compared with the targeted range of 429-440 MTCO2 needed by then.

Independent analyses “confirm that the emissions are set to far exceed” the target, it said.

‘Suite of policies’

Fairfax Media sought comment from Josh Frydenberg, the Environment and Energy minister.

Mr Frydenberg has repeatedly stated the Turnbull government’s “strong commitment” to the Paris accord, and it had a “suite of policies” to meet its 2030 goal.

Mark Butler, Labor’s climate spokesman, said Australia was on course for 2030 emissions to be in line with 2005 ones, implying no progress.

“This isn’t surprising since the government still don’t have a climate change policy to deliver on their commitments, and are proposing an energy policy that will strangle renewable energy and prop up aging coal power plants,” Mr Butler said, referring to government’s National Energy Guarantee.

Independent analysis conducted for the Greens has found the remaining abatement needed for 2021-2030 amounted to 513 to 893 million tonnes of CO2 if the electricity sector merely tracks the 26-28 per cent reduction.

“The latest sham, the National Energy Guarantee, doesn’t require the electricity sector to do the ‘heavy lifting’, which shifts the burden to agriculture, industry and transport, where there are no effective policies for pollution reduction at all,” Adam Bandt, the Greens climate spokesman, said.


November 1, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming

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