What Does The Paris Climate Agreement Mean For Australia?

The Guardian - Lenore Taylor

Climate policy is no longer something that can be papered over, or worked around, or ignored, or used as a political attack weapon
Coal operations at the Port of Newcastle: We will have to retire the old brown coal-fired generators and reduce industrial carbon pollution. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images 

Surely Australia can use this Paris climate agreement to finally end the barren, wasted years of climate policy war.
There's already an uneasy ceasefire, a letup in the mind-numbing slogans. Labor is promising some kind of emissions trading scheme and a relatively ambitious renewable energy target – but no details yet lest it once again feel the barrage of a full bore axe-the-tax scare campaign. Under the sceptical gaze of his party's hard right, Malcolm Turnbull is also unwilling to even hint at the policy changes he and his minister Greg Hunt appear to be planning when they revise Australia's policy after the election.
But now the world has entered a binding agreement – imperfect and incomplete in parts – but absolutely clear on one thing: all countries have agreed to reduce their greenhouse emissions and keep reducing them.
That has some very big implications for Australia.
  • We will be under pressure to revise our emission reduction target out to 2030 – the one we brought to Paris – by 2020. Given that we are among the world's highest per capita emitters and our target has been rated inadequate by the Climate Tracker think tank and other analysts, we are going to be under strong pressure to increase its ambition.
  • To meet even the current target, and certainly a higher one, we will have to get real about emission reductions, including from electricity generation. We will have to find a way to retire the old brown coal-fired generators and start reducing industrial carbon pollution. Australian business and environment groups are begging political parties to come up with some kind of stable, sensible plan. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and multiple heads of state in Paris think the best policy is a carbon price, using Paris to launch the carbon pricing leadership coalition. Greg Hunt spent his time in Paris continuing to pretend that his emissions reduction fund (ERF) is a carbon price and also an idea being adopted around the word, but the experts, when asked, said reverse auctions like the ERF were useful additions to a carbon price, but not a good primary policy to drive down greenhouse emissions. The bottom line is that if we are to meet our 2030 target, the ERF is not going to cut it.
  • Fossil fuel use will continue to decline. It won't stop; even with their accelerating rollout of renewables, India and China are still building coal-fired power stations. But as renewables get cheaper and countries actively shift away from fossil fuels, any government backing for the infrastructure needed by big new coal mines appears increasingly misguided.
  • The smart investment will be in clean technologies, and if Turnbull wants to be active and nimble and innovative and get a slice of it, he needs a credible, clear, transparent domestic climate policy, and quickly. That's exactly what Jie Zhang, from Chinese firm Hareon Solar, told me he is looking for when deciding whether to make a billion dollar investment in Australia next year.
  • We are also going to be under pressure to stump up more money to help vulnerable countries cope with the impacts of climate change. The government fudged this in Paris, saying it would provide at least $200m a year – which appears to be a figure arrived at by adding up what we are already providing. Canada, by contrast, promised $2.5bn.

No comments :

Post a comment

Lethal Heating is a citizens' initiative