Our summary of the Climate Change Authority’s Draft Report

27.08.14 By
This article is more than 9 years old

We’ve written an accessible summary of the Climate Change Authority’s draft report. The report shows that Global action on climate change is strengthening.


Climate Council Summary

The role of the Climate Change Authority is to provide recommendations to the Government on how much Australia should reduce its emissions. The Authority is working on a review of Australia’s emission reduction goals and their draft was released today (30.10.2013). This document summarises the key points in the draft report.

Global action on climate change is strengthening.

The Climate Change Authority affirms that international action is increasing. In particular, the USA and China, the world’s two largest emitters, are gearing up to reduce their emissions more aggressively by 2020.

Ninety-nine countries, including Australia’s major trading partners and neighbours are implementing policies to do so, including renewable energy targets, emissions trading schemes and vehicle emissions standards. These countries collectively produce over 80 per cent of global emissions and over 90 per cent of the world’s economic output.

We now know the volume of greenhouse gases that can be emitted to 2050 to have a reasonable chance of stabilising the global climate.

The Authority has used a “budget” approach. The budget determines the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted to 2050 while still having a good chance of staying below 2 degrees global temperature rise (compared to pre-industrial levels).

Most nations of the world, including Australia, have agreed that the risks?of global temperatures increasing beyond 2°C are unacceptably high. The temperature rise we have already experienced is approaching 1°C above pre- industrial levels, nearly halfway to the 2°C limit.

The Authority concludes that the world can emit 1,700 gigatonnes, Gt of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) between 2000 and 2050 to have an estimated a 67 per cent chance of staying below 2 degrees. It notes that emitting less would improve these odds; emitting more would reduce them. It further notes that about 35% of this budget has already been used between 2000 and 2012, so that the budget from 2013 to 2050 is about 1,100 Gt CO2-e.

Australia’s current emission reduction target is too low.

The Authority has broken down the global budget to determine Australia’s fair share, finding that Australia can emit 10.1 gigatonnes of CO2-e through the period 2013 to 2050, roughly 1% of the remaining global budget.

The budget determines the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted. Emission reduction targets are a mechanism for societies to determine how fast emission reductions must occur to meet a particular target. For instance, a low 2020 target means that most of the work must happen between 2020 and 2050, which is likely to be more costly and difficult. On the other hand, a higher target in 2020 means that work is spread over a longer timeframe.

The Authority concludes that the current 5% emission reduction target requires very rapid emission reductions after 2020. It concludes that Australia’s current target of 5% is:

  1. at the lower end of what other countries are doing, including the US;
  2. is inconsistent with achieving the 2 degree global goal;
  3. would mean that Australia would use its budget quickly, making it more difficult and costly to remain within the budget after 2020.

The Authority also concludes that a more ambitious target could be met at a lower cost to the economy than previously anticipated.

The Authority recommends increasing Australia’s emission reduction target and also provides an assessment of both 15% and 25% reduction targets for 2020.

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