Coalition, Labor told to lift their games on climate action

The Climate Council wants the next government to commit to halving emissions this decade. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
The Climate Council wants the next government to commit to halving emissions this decade. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Whichever party wins next year's federal election should commit to at least halving Australia's greenhouse gas emissions this decade, a new report which describes a strong 2030 target as a "win-win-win" for the country says.

Climate change is shaping up as a major election issue with the Coalition and Labor attempting to woo voters with competing targets and policies.

In a new report published on Tuesday, the Climate Council argues both parties need to revisit their targets and commit to deeper emissions cuts this decade.

The report described the Coalition's target of cutting emissions 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels as "pitiful", citing research which suggested if all countries followed the federal government's lead the planet would be on track for more than three degrees of global warming.

The Morrison government believes greenhouse gas emissions will fall by up to 35 per cent this decade, but has refused to adopt that number as its formal target amid resistance from the Nationals.

The Climate Council's experts said Labor's new 43 per cent target was a step in the right direction, but still left it up to other countries to carry the burden of containing climate change.

Labor's Chris Bowen earlier this month announced the climate and energy policies which the opposition will take to the next election. Elesa Kurtz

Labor's Chris Bowen earlier this month announced the climate and energy policies which the opposition will take to the next election. Elesa Kurtz

While continuing to advocate for a 75 per cent target, the council recommended as a first step the federal government should commit to at least halving emissions ahead of the COP27 summit in Egypt.

That 2030 target would bring Australia closer into line with its allies, including the US and UK.

"The reality is that if all countries were to adopt the Morrison government's 'do-nothing' approach, we'd be trying to survive on a planet warmed to somewhere between three degrees and four degrees by 2100," Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said.

"Labor's 2030 target is better, but falls short of what the science demands."

Labor has committed to taking its 43 per cent target to next year's UN summit if it wins government. The Coalition is refusing to budge from its Tony Abbott-era target, despite the Glasgow climate agreement, which it signed up to, calling on countries to lift their 2030 ambitions ahead of the next conference.

The Climate Council report, titled Crunch Time: How Climate Action in the 2020s will Define Australia, described the global race to carbon neutrality as a once-in-a-lifetime economic opportunity for the country.

It said Australia's rich supply of renewables and critical minerals, including lithium, cobalt and rare earths, could help it create a clean energy export industry worth almost three times as much as fossil fuels exports.

The report also flaggedt the consequences of inaction, including the prospect of carbon tariffs being imposed on Australian products shipped overseas.

"Embracing a strong 2030 target would be a win-win-win for Australia," the report found.

"It would lower our emissions and save us all money in cheaper fuel and power costs. It would boost the productivity of our economy, particularly in our regions, and make us all healthier."

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This story Coalition, Labor told to lift their games on climate action first appeared on The Canberra Times.