Climate Institute says the speed with which the Paris agreement has come into force has caught the country by surprise
November 3, 2016 — Australia’s lack of progress on climate change policy is increasingly at odds with global momentum and risks leaving Australia’s economy behind, according to a new report.
The Climate Institute has released a report called “COP 22 – Getting to Zero” in the lead-up to an international climate conference next week.
World leaders are meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, from 7 to 14 November to decide the global rules towards achieving net zero emissions.
The goal was set in train by the Paris agreement in December, which produced commitments for all countries to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, to limit global warming to 1.5°C to 2°C.
Australia is heading to the meeting in Morocco without having ratified the Paris agreement, which comes into force on Friday. But Guardian Australia understands the Turnbull government is likely to ratify it by the end of next week.
If that occurs, it means Australia will have ratified it before the international meeting ends, allowing it to formally take part in the decision-making process at the meeting.
The Climate Institute’s chief executive, John Connor, said Australia needed to drop the culture wars on climate change so it could take part meaningfully in the global movement to reduce emissions.
“The Australian government will be in the spotlight in Marrakech and will need to step up efforts to help achieve commitments central to the Paris agreement,” Connor said.
“Domestic action hasn’t kept pace with unprecedented global momentum in clean energy and emissions reduction. The 2030 target Australia set itself in August 2015 is not consistent with the Paris objectives. Nor is our emission reduction policy framework. These weaknesses leave Australia exposed,” he said.
“At a minimum Australia needs to ratify the Paris agreement, release its 2030 emission projections and incorporate achieving net zero emissions into domestic policy processes, like Coag energy reviews and the upcoming 2017 climate policy review.”
Connor said the speed with which the Paris agreement had come into force had caught the global community by surprise, including Australia.
He said the long-term implications of what the agreement was meant to achieve had not yet sunk into Australia’s mainstream political discourse, or into domestic policy making.
But other countries had acted quickly in the past 12 months to pursue long-term emissions reductions targets, he said.
The UK has agreed to reduce emissions by 57% by 2030 and the Canadian government is imposing a nationwide carbon price floor.
In August 2015, he said, Australia put forward an initial target of a 26% to 28% reduction in emissions, below 2005 levels, by 2030, but if other countries followed that example it would lead to warming of 3°C to 4°C above pre-industrial levels.
He said in a “landmark” paper published last month, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, had advised investors to incorporate climate change risks into their portfolios.
On Thursday the New South Wales government said it had set an objective to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Connor said the state’s premier, Mike Baird, and his government should be congratulated. “Because of the federal vacuum, we seeing state governments realising that it’s in their long-term interests to have good renewable energy in their jurisdictions,” he said.