- Tom Arup and Adam Morton
- The Age, March 20, 2009
A LABOR-DOMINATED committee has recommended the Federal Government toughen its 2050 emissions reduction target to 80 per cent.
But it has refused to make recommendations on Australia's 2020 target of 5-15 per cent on 2000 levels because "there was not enough evidence presented do so".
The chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Kelvin Thomson, yesterday told The Age 80 per cent was the only target the Labor members of the committee could reach based on the scientific evidence presented to them.
Mr Thomson said the Government's aim to stabilise the atmospheric carbon level at 450 parts per million would need a stronger 2050 target. He added that though it was not the committee's role to develop wholesale policy — the committee was investigating Australia's role in the Kyoto Protocol and beyond — it has also recommended a large revegetation program and increased investment in public transport to lower emissions.
"Public transport in major metro areas has been totally inadequate for a long time," Mr Thomson said.
Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry backed the committee's recommendation to beef up the targets and bring Australia into line with the US position under President Barack Obama.
But Greens senator Christine Milne jumped on comments by Mr Thomson that the 80 per cent reduction targets should be based on 2009 emissions, rather than 1990 levels, as is the global convention.
A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had flagged a stronger 2050 target in a speech at the National Press Club in December, when he said that Australia would move to an 80 per cent reduction by 2050 if a "truly ambitious global agreement" was reached and the Government was re-elected.
A report to be released today says a dramatic cut in emissions — more than 90 per cent by 2050 — could be reached by tweaking existing policies and investing $28.3 billion in renewable energy and clean coal over the next four decades.
The modelling, by consultants Climate Risk and commissioned by WWF, found the transformation could be set up with a 2020 greenhouse reduction target of 15 per cent.
Report co-author Karl Mallon, Climate Risk's corporate analysis director, said the solution was "relatively simple".
"The emissions trading scheme (target) needs to be set at a minimum of 15 per cent. It is actually hard to go much beyond that domestically," he said.
Dr Mallon said the shift would also require renewable policy to be recast to ensure investment in at least five existing technology forms — wind, biomass, geothermal, solar and ocean power, such as wind and tidal.