Sunday, July 13, 2008

Australia falls behind on easiest greenhouse cuts

AUSTRALIA lags behind most rich nations in taking the easiest steps to make an emissions trading scheme as cheap as possible: becoming more energy efficient at home, work and on the road.

Due largely to a love of petrol-guzzling cars and an energy-intensive manufacturing sector, Australia's energy efficiency improved at only a third of the rate of the OECD average between 1990 and 2004.

According to a report released today by the Climate Institute, only Canada and the US, among developed countries, use more energy than Australia on the goods and services they produce.

Prepared by consultants McLennan Magasanik Associates, the report found Australians could make energy savings of up to 73% at home, 70% at work and 46% in manufacturing industries.

At home, the biggest growth in Australians' energy use and emissions relates to appliances, including flat-screen televisions. The figure jumped 50% in the 15 years to 2004.

On the road, Australia is highly dependent on energy-inefficient car travel, accounting for more than 80% of all passenger travel.

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor called on the Federal Government to set a 2015 deadline to meet its election promise of making Australia a leader in energy efficiency. "We urgently need policies to reverse our rising pollution by 2012," he said.

Solutions canvassed include listing more detailed information on energy bills, introducing a mandatory energy-efficiency target and rebates for energy efficiency drives in poor households.

The report, Defining a National Energy Efficiency Strategy, cites a study that found an average low-income family could cut its annual energy bills by $200 through better efficiency and insulation. It also weighs into the debate about paying trade-exposed polluters compensation once an emissions trading scheme is introduced.

It found the world's most-efficient aluminium smelters were in Africa, challenging "the myth" that industries denied compensation in the transition to emissions trading would boost global greenhouse emissions if they chose to leave Australia and move offshore.

The report calls on the Government to make emissions trading compensation contingent on improving efficiency.

■Australia should dedicate revenue reaped from an emissions trading scheme to helping developing countries adapt to dealing with climate change, a report says.

Launched yesterday by Make Poverty History, a coalition of more than 60 aid agencies, community groups and religious organisations, the report found people on low-lying Pacific islands were being hurt by climate change, with rising seas and saltwater inundation causing crop losses and destruction of fresh water sources.

Make Poverty History acting co-chairman James Ensor called on the Rudd Government to pledge $1.75 billion over the next decade to help climate change refugees. He said last year's election promise of $150 million was welcome but far short of what should be Australia's contribution towards the World Bank's estimated target of $50 billion.

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