Government post 2020 climate target puts Australians at risk

Media release 11 August 2015

[check below for international responses]

National environment group Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) has condemned the federal government's proposed post 2020 emissions target.

The Australian government has been backed into a corner on the question of it's post 2020 targets. It left its announcement until the last minute, and has now benchmarked it's commitments against some of the worst of the developed nations such as Canada. The target that they have put on the table is well below the efforts of the USA, China, and UK and nowhere near enough to reduce the risk of catastrophic global warming” said FoEA campaigner Cam Walker.

According to media reports, the target is a 26% to 28% reduction on 2005 levels. 1990 is the baseyear used by the UN. It is widely recognised that this level of reduction does not align with the effort needed to limit temperature increases to below 1.5c.

The time is long gone when Australia was a leader in the international climate negotiations. The government has done it's best to destroy local programs to reduce our contribution to climate change, while being conspicuously absent from international debate about climate change. The world is moving, and countries like India and China are making huge investments in renewable energy while Tony Abbott is at war with wind and solar. This government is dangerously out of step on the most pressing issue of the 21st century.”

As one of the world's highest per capita greenhouse gas emitters, there is an onus on Australia to show leadership in adopting emission reduction targets. Without strong commitments from nations like Australia it is hard to see why lower per capita emitters like India or China would adopt deep cuts.”

The government's ideological opposition to taking action on global warming does not change either the science or the fact that Australia has built up a large carbon debt to the developing world. When matched with our cuts to foreign aid, our repressive approach to asylum seekers, and the gutting of our renewable energy target, the post 2020 announcement has confirmed the reputation of the Abbott government in the global community as backwards looking and isolated.”

Mr Abbott claims ‘coal is good for humanity’ but the rest of humanity is actually turning away from coal. This target was a chance to show that the government realised the world was changing. Instead it shows they’re committed to being on the wrong side of history.

This week, research showed that two thirds of Australians want Mr Abbott to take climate change more seriously. Polling consistently shows that the majority of voters want more renewable energy. Yet the government continues to impose its ideology over the top of community expectations.”

Domestic energy policy debate in recent weeks has focused on community opposition to massive new coal projects planned for Queensland. The Prime Minister has backed coal companies, arguing that coal is the solution to global energy policy, a proposition that is refuted by the World Bank and people across the world. Meanwhile the government proceeds with a House of Representatives review of environmental groups, a process that was originally proposed by the mining industry and is being prosecuted by anti environmental MPs in order to damage the power of the green movement.

The federal government has failed the Australian people. Australia's renewable energy workers and the cleantech sector is up for the challenge of tackling climate change, and the community is responding through taking personal action like installing solar panels. Sadly the Abbott government isn't interested.”


The international response

The Australian Government has now presented the preliminary details of its "intended nationally determined contribution" to the UN Paris Climate Summit.

The draft proposal has been roundly condemned for being insufficient to match the necessary pollution cuts identified by science.

The Australian target is one of the weakest in the world, and has drawn further criticism for not including reference to climate finance. Australia, as one of the wealthiest nations in the world, has a huge responsibility to contribute to countries in the South to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and to prepare for climate impacts.

The following are some responses from civil society organisations from around the world.


"The science is clear, to halt climate change, Asia must lead a renewable energy transformation.  So to see Australia, our nearest neighbour going backwards is unthinkable. 

Mr Abbott claims ‘coal is good for humanity’, but  Indonesians know first hand the devastating impacts coal has on our people and the environment.

If Australia's post 2020 climate targets were to be adopted by the world, it would mean large parts of my country going underwater and forced climate migration on an unprecedented scale."

-- Friends of the Earth Indonesia/WAHLI director Abetnego Tarigan


"The two year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan is fast approaching and the Australian government seems to have learnt nothing about the serious threat of climate change. Here in the Philippines we know that climate change is real and we know that people want community controlled renewable energy not old-polluting coal power stations. But Australia wants the world record for blocking renewable energy and supporting coal, it's unjust and it's madness."

-- Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development, an alliance headquartered in Manila, of grassroots and social movements from 11 countries in Southeast, East and South Asia whose constituencies, such as farmers and fisherfolk, are among those most affected by climate change.


"In Mozambique we know that coal is the energy of the past. Coal mining and burning destroy lives, livelihoods and the earth itself. We will not make the mistakes of the so-called "developed countries" like Australia who do seem to ignore all evidence - on climate and on the end of coal. Australia has a historical responsibility due to its past pollution along with other developed countries. In Mozambique we are seeing floods, droughts, and failing crops. The historical polluters like Australia must support the developing world to get community based renewable energy so we don't further decimate our precious land."

-- Anabela Lemos, Director of Justiça Ambiental, a group that works closely with communities to challenge dirty energy and secure the energy systems of the future in Mozambique.

"The test for all governments in Paris is clear: do they cut climate pollution immediately, do they protect the rights to food and water, do they help people impacted by climate change, and do they go for transformational solutions instead of business as usual. On all of these fronts the Australian government has failed. The government has failed its people and will be failed by history."

-- Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate at Friends of the Earth in the UK.

"Tens of thousands of people marched through Lima last December calling for the protection of our land, our air, our water, our forest, and our lives. We did not march for more polluting coal plants or coal mines. We marched for a future where communities control renewable energy and where the energy reaches the people who need it."  

-- Antonio Zambrano, from the Citizens Movement on Climate Change in Peru, which organised the largest rally on climate change in Latin American history last December.

"Australia's target puts it at the bottom of the barrel. Given how weak the US and European targets are to begin with this suggests the outcome of the Paris Summit will be miles away from what we need to seriously reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change. A proposal this weak suggests that the Australian government wants to see the Paris conference fail to deliver the fair and necessary agreement we need."

-- Meena Raman, a negotiations expert at Malaysian based Third World Network, which links activists and analysts from developing countries to follow UN processes.


Significant pollution cuts and the transfer of finance and technology are needed in order to limit global warming to well below 1.5C, the limit identified by many scientists and social movements across the world.



Further comment:

Cam Walker 0419 338 047