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Australia climate cuts “insulting sovereignty of other countries”

Leading UK government climate advisor says Canberra’s cuts to climate policy are “odd” and “selfish”

By Sophie Yeo

The Australian government is insulting the sovereignty of other countries with plans to dismantle its climate change policies says an advisor to the UK government.

Lord Deben, head of the UK Committee on Climate Change told RTCC that Australia’s attitude to reducing its carbon emissions was “very sad” and “something I feel very personally about.”

“It lets down the whole British tradition that a country should have become so selfish about this issue that it’s prepared to spoil the efforts of others and to foil what very much less rich countries are doing,” he said.

“All that pollution which Australia is pushing into the atmosphere is of course changing my climate. It’s a real insult to the sovereignty of other countries.”

The election of Tony Abbott as Australian Prime Minister, who had once described climate change as “absolute crap”, last September was a setback to environmentalists.

While the conservative leader now says he believes in climate change, his policies have been criticised for undermining Australia’s commitment to reducing its emissions.

Australia’s Climate Committee was immediately scrapped after Abbott was elected, with further plans currently in place to also abolish the government’s advisory Climate Change Authority.

In July, Abbott plans to fulfil his election pledge to repeal the country’s carbon tax – a price on emissions pushed through by the previous Labour government – and replace it with a ‘Direct Action Plan’.

Campaigners and analysts have said that this is unlikely to achieve Australia’s emissions reduction targets with current levels of funding allocated to the scheme.

Australia’s position is “nonsense” considering action being taken across the world to curb greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels, said Lord Deben, who cited progressive action being taken in less economically developed countries, including Mexico.

He said: “It’s wholly contrary to the science, it’s wholly contradictory to the interests of Australia and I hope that many people in Australia will see when the rest of the world is going in the right direction what nonsense it is for them to be going backwards.”

New targets

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia is committed to achieving a 5% reduction in emissions on 2000 levels in 2020. This is a relatively small commitment compared to the US’ domestically set target of a 17% reduction on 2005 levels, or the UK’s pledge of a 50% reduction by 2027 on 1990 levels.

Yesterday, Australia’s Climate Change Authority released its report, “Reducing Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions” – a study recommending future emissions targets to the government, something it is legislated to do under the Clean Energy Act 2011.

The report recommended a 19% reduction target by 2020, following by a 40-50% target by 2030. It also put a recommended cap of 10 billion tonnes on the amount of carbon Australia should be able to burn by 2050 if the world is to stay below 2C – the level of warming deemed manageable by governments.

“The report looks at whether the Australian economy can achieve this, and it concludes that the Australian economy can. Indeed, the cost of inaction is far more than the cost of action,” said Amanda McKenzie, CEO of the Climate Council, in an interview with RTCC.

The Council is the reincarnation of the Climate Committee that the government scrapped last year, now funded by crowdsourced donations. “We’ve argued for a long time that we need higher targets in line with the science, so we definitely welcome the Authority’s advice of the 19% target,” she said.

John Connor, CEO of the campaign group The Climate Institute, said: “For too long our public debate on climate change has focused on pollution reduction goals that are inadequate and economically risky as well as internationally ignorant and unfair.

“Should the Government stick with the minimum 5 per cent pollution reduction target, it would be ignoring all credible independent advice that suggests this target is scientifically inadequate, economically risky and out of whack with the actions of the USA and other major emitters.”

Greg Hunt, Australia’s environment minister, said in a statement: “We will consider the Authority’s work respectfully and carefully.”

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  • James

    I think Lord Deben should look and learne at what the Abbott Governments Direct Action policy will achieve before passing judgment. Energy efficiency is the core area of this poiicy and if anything the Climate Authorities statement this week backs this up.Emission reduction target can be achieved and exceeded using technology and simple logic; taxing energy has little effect on reducing emissions, the only thing it really does well is put pressure on housholds and moves jobs offshore; no manufacturing, no economy!

  • Dean

    Isn’t it the opposite? It’s Australia’s sovereignty being threatened by the economic vultures in Europe and the US that would like to see our economy undetermined in order for them to increase their profiteering from their oversees operations. Who would benefit the most from a collapsed Australian economy? Who has no resources left that has to exploit 3rd world countries by mining or extracting oil like a locust would devour a crop.

  • Andrew Howard

    We will need to start laying the legal foundations for redress when the current anti-science mob’s damage starts to manifest. Much of the resistance is from the extremely wealthy, so we cannot let them get away when nations need to be virtually restructured due to global warming.
    I am personally sick of the radicalism of these “conservatives” as they spout hatred, ignorance and hubris while blatantly acting corruptly.

  • Gary

    How about Lord Deben be told to mind his own business. We don’t need to be told by a Pom how to run our country. The carbon tax is a crazy tax with no benefits. It is costing jobs, and creating unemployment. Australians gave the Government a mandate to get rid of it. So let’s do that…

  • Bruce

    This is a good example of English people whinging about things over which they have no control.

    Australia has a right to put anything into its atmosphere that it wants to.

    • Otto Reitano

      “Australia has a right to put anything into its atmosphere that it wants to”

      By that logic, you should be able to throw as much rubbish as you want into a lake filled with people, without anyone telling you otherwise.

      It’s flawed logic – Australia isn’t only contributing to local environmental problems, but also to global environmental problems. It’s internationally ignorant and irresponsible for a country as developed as Australia to take such a nonsensical stance towards an issue as serious as climate change.

    • Bruce

      Really showing your ignorance here.

  • stanley

    “broke 70 year records for snowfall”

    That’s called climate change.

  • Bridget Cameron

    I am totally appalled by Tony Abbott’s retro-vision of doing anything, in particular his open slash directives to dismantle and destroy anything that is natural and beautiful. He denies Global Warming as it is not in his vested interests to do so.

    He has since being made PM 1. given North Stradbroke Island – the second largest sand dune island in the world and was a playground for people in the Gold Coast and Brisbane- to a miner to lease for 25 years, to do as he pleases,2. promoted industrialisation of the Great Barrier Reef and pushed the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority to the decision to dump dredge material at Abbott Point, instead of dumping it on land ( to save money), by dismantling Environmental Protection Acts, and opposing all the evidence stating that dredge spoil, dredging and industrialisaton will cause irreversible damage to the Reef, eocide, the loss of over $8 billion dollars/year of tourism income, and the loss of the fisheries industry and future fish populations due to chemicals and disease., 3. the negotiations in progress to destroy heritage listed old growth forests in Tasmania and the list goes on… His motivations are clear. He aims to profit the wealthiest mining magnates/ and heritage destroyers in the country- including himself- and to assist the wealthiest people get richer. in December 2013, he gave (ATO) $900 million to Murdoch (Newscorp), whose primary objective in previous years was to debunk the ALP and get Tony Abbott in.

    Kevin Rudd led the world with his pioneering pricing of carbon, now we have Abbott, who is not a man of vision, only a self-serving and ignorant man, happy to take Australia back to pre-1950′s conditions.

  • guest

    Don’t go on vacation in Australia, don’t by Australian products, until they become part of the solution and not the problem of global extreme weather.
    Its a world economy, and its interconnected, with $ and with a common atmosphere. Its not that hard a concept to grasp.

  • smaritcus

    Carbon Taxes, even if a good idea, just don’t sit well with the rich down to the poor people. The word Tax just is not a way to win over voters.

    outlaw profits on unneeded waste instead, allow same profit $’s to be placed on present consumption. Only allow for recapitalization of costs for losses. slowly remove % of unneeded waste allowed to be capitalized as efficiency measures and efficiency equipment-technology can be reasonably installed in a given time frame. laggards loose right to charge for wastage if they drag their feet.

    Those proactive and ahead of the impending lowering of wastage limits. get keep extra profits, until they are removed. Another feed-forward policy would be to allow a tax waiver on profits IFF it is reinvested in more efficiency measures.
    Helping the less capitalized utilities that are having trouble with keeping up with the wastage removal limits, would be an example of a possible tax waiver, that would accelerate removing unnecessary GHG emissions in a pain free way