Greens deputy leader and environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters said the government’s “pathetic” carbon reduction targets indicate it is beholden to its “big polluting donors”.
Two in three (65 per cent) Australians say that reducing the investment in wind farms and householder solar power is the opposite of what is needed. The July labour force figures showed employment grew by 38,500 jobs, but unemployment also unexpectedly spiked to 6.3 per cent. It meant that more than 800,000 people were out of work for the first time in more than 20 years.
The prime minister has on several occasions voiced support for Australia’s multibillion-dollar coal-export industry, and last week strongly criticized a court decision to overturn environmental approval for a coal-mine development- planned by Indian conglomerate Adani Corp-abutting the world-heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. “And… there are 330,000 more employed Australians”, Mr Abbott replied. “The only friend of the working Australian is a coalition government”.
The Climate Institute thinktank has calculated Australia would have to find between $16bn and $37bn a year by 2030 from the federal budget to reach the new emissions reduction targets with Direct Action policy.
The Australian Industry Group estimates that if the 26 to 28 per cent target by 2030 was met using an internationally linked emissions trading scheme, as designed by the Treasury a few years ago, the total abatement costs would be roughly $100 billion, in nominal terms.
Government has pledged a 26 per cent reduction target on 2005 levels by 2030.
“Australia’s weak target is another serious blow to its global reputation”, said Marshall Islands foreign minister Tony de Brum.
Mr Abbott used the pollution goals of South Korea, Japan and China as evidence Australia is not a laggard and is placed “fairly and squarely” in the middle of comparable economies.
It’s hoped nearly 200 nations will come to a global agreement to curb emissions, aiming to limit global warming to two degrees on pre-industrial levels.
Australia’s target put it “at the back of the pack”, and well below efforts being made by the United States, China, Britain and others, WWF-Australia said.
John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, based in Sydney, said emerging nations that have not yet submitted targets, like India and Brazil, will be watching Australia closely.
Canada, the most equivalent resource-rich nation to Australia with a like-minded conservative government, set a target of cutting emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
In June, the government reduced its Renewable Energy Target – a policy to ensure a minimum amount of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020 – from a legislated 41,000 gigawatt hours minimum to 33,000 gigawatt hours.
Opposition politicians and environmentalists were quick to criticize the targets released on Tuesday, noting that Abbott chose 2005 instead of 2000 as a benchmark since it was a historically high year for emissions.
Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said “the target proposed by the government is bad news for life in Australia, out of step with other countries and inconsistent with the global commitment to keep global warming below 2C”.
Australia too was expected to base its target on 2005 levels.