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Tony Abbott’s climate policy likely to blow Oz emission targets

Research by The Climate Institute shows that Australia opposition climate policies fall $4bn short

Pic: flickr / Foreign and Commonwealth Office

By Sophie Yeo

Australia will not reach its mandatory 5% reduction in emissions under the policies of Tony Abbott’s Coalition without another $4bn of funding.

That’s the view of the Sydney-based Climate Institute, which says Australia’s emission would rise by 8-10% under a Coalition government, rather than achieve the 5% cuts beneath 2000 levels that both parties have agreed to achieve under the Copenhagen Accord.

Analysis shows that based on current policies, the Labour party would reduce domestic carbon pollution by 290 million tonnes, while the Coalition would only reduce it by 200 million.

Both of these figures would push Australia above its 5% targets, but the Labour government would offset this with an emissions trading policy, which it intends to introduce in 2014. According to the research, this would allow emissions levels to dip the required about beneath 2020 levels.

The analysis shows that if Tony Abbott wants to hit the 5% target, he must put another $4-15 billion towards his climate policy. But he has refused to accept the finding of the report, and accuses the Labour government of shirking its duty by buying international credits instead of decreasing domestic emissions.

Another study also carried out by The Climate Institute suggested that, if stable support for investments in clean energy and energy efficiency was forthcoming, Australia could even achieve the non-binding 25% reduction by 2020 target.

Elections

Australia is currently one of the top 20 polluting countries in the world. It has a large coal and mineral extraction industry, and per capita emissions are the highest in the developed world.

With the federal elections looming, the climate change policies of both leaders are coming under scrutiny.

Abbott is opposed to any form of carbon pricing. At the recent leaders’ debate, he said that he instead intended to reach the 5% cuts through what he termed “direct action”.

He said, “We will do this by going to the market and purchasing what we think are cost effective ways of getting reduced emissions: more trees, better soils, smarter technology.”

John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute, says such policies will put Australia in an antagonistic position on the international stage.

“As a country highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, it’s in our own interest for the world to limit temperature rise to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels,” he says.

“In this context, policies that demonstrably cannot meet our own targets do nothing for Australia’s credibility and will get short shrift overseas.

“That creates a risk that Australia would return to an obstructionist position in international negotiations – which would of course run counter to our national climate interest.”

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