Sunday, April 12, 2009

Current targets won't protect planet

Tom Arup, Canberra 
The Age, April 12, 2009

SENIOR CSIRO scientists are set to deliver a sharp rebuke to the Federal Government over its climate change policies, urging deep cuts to coal-fired electricity and tougher carbon reduction targets.

Michael Raupach, John Church and Pep Canadell have made the calls in a submission, not yet public but seen by The Age, to a Senate select committee into climate change.

In the submission the three argue that developed nations must play a greater role in carbon reduction. As it stands, Australia has not committed to that.

"The Australian targets will not achieve climate protection," the submission reads.

It also warns the Government against making "bookkeeping" reductions through forestry carbon sinks, saying the only way to reach strong emissions reductions in 2050 will be to dramatically cut energy and transport emissions.

Australia has pledged to reduce its emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 (15 per cent if a global agreement is reached) and 60 per cent by 2050.

Dr Raupach, Dr Church and Dr Canadell find that to have a 50 per cent chance of avoiding a two-degree temperature rise a global emissions targets must be at minimum 5-10 per cent by 2020 and 70-80 per cent by 2050 on 2000 levels.

The Bali conference in 2007 found that developed nations must reduce carbon emissions by 25-40 per cent to compensate for the rate of growth in their emissions. Global emissions are split roughly 50-50 between developed and developing countries, but developed nations have only about 17 per cent of the global population.

Dr Raupach said yesterday he and his colleagues have entered the public climate change debate because science has been relegated to an "input".

"There is still a tendency when framing policy to negotiate with climate change — that is to treat climate change as one of the factors that have to be taken into account — and that you can trade off meeting climate change goals with meeting economic goals and meeting other sorts of goals," Dr Raupach said. "The perception of climate scientists, including me, is that over the next few decades that kind of negotiation is not possible. That it is like trying to negotiate with a speeding train."

The submission has pleased Greens senator Christine Milne, who has called for more scientists "to say publicly what they are saying privately" about the Government's climate change policies.

The Senate select committee into climate change was set up by the Opposition and Greens in February and will conduct its first public hearings on Wednesday and Thursday. Among those giving evidence will be the head of Infrastructure Australia, Sir Rod Eddington, ahead of his release of an audit into preferred infrastructure projects for the Government this month.

Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck said yesterday that more than 7000 submissions have been received for the inquiry.

Senator Colbeck added that the committee will also hear the concerns of individual businesses, including Rio Tinto and Woodside, about the Government's emissions trading scheme.

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