ABC News Online, Apr 20, 2009
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The Government's chief scientist wants the country to set the toughest possible targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, warning that action must begin now against climate change.
The Government has committed to cutting Australia's emissions by 5 to 15 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020 and wants to start an emissions trading scheme next year.
However, the target has been slammed by the Greens and environmental groups as being too low and the Opposition has also recently signalled it would support a stronger cut in emissions.
Professor Penny Sackett would not put an exact figure on what she thought the target should be but she said she has advised the Government to set the steepest target possible.
"We know we need to set the highest possible target we can now not only to start the process but because the lower the targets now, the more difficult it will be to achieve the aim later," she told Sabra Lane on ABC Radio's PM program.
"What we all need to do is join together and begin to act because there are many things that need to be put in place and I would like to see action now."
"I believe the Australian Government is aware that the targets need to be ambitious but it is also aware that we need to put a mechanism in place and that is actually the first step."
Time running out
Professor Sackett has also warned the world only has six years to decrease its emissions to avoid damaging climate change.
"We know that the rate at which we are putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is increasing rather than decreasing," she said.
"We also know that if we want to maintain that level of climate change which we could measure by the increase in global average temperature to 2 degrees then we have six years to reverse the trend from increasing CO2 emissions to decreasing CO2 emissions.
"It's not long, which is why we need to begin to act now."
Last week two scientists told a Senate inquiry that there was no evidence to suggest that global warming was caused by human activity.
But Professor Sackett says she is surprised a debate over the science of climate change still exists.
"There is no doubt the evidence is very clear that [climate change] is under way and it is also clear that the largest portion of that change is due to human action through deforestation and emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere," she said.