3. Its target is inadequate

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Previous: 2. It ignores Australia’s responsibility to lead

The Government is aiming for the former government’s emissions reduction target of 5% below 2000 by 2020, and its 2015 review looks set to delay stronger targets until post-2020. Instead of raising the 2020 target as is urgently needed, the review will focus on post-2020 targets and base its decision on the level of international action. This is completely inappropriate considering the situation outlined in points 1-2.

The former government’s choice of a 5% target was based on Garnaut’s “modified contraction and convergence” framework, which unfairly favors Australia by allowing it to maintain its high per-capita emissions for decades, rewarding Australia for its past failure to cut emissions, and rewarding Australia for policies promoting rapid population growth. The CCA Targets Review’s draft report uses essentially the same unfair approach as Garnaut.

Australia’s surplus credits from the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period will be used to meet the 2020 target. Not only will this displace future emissions cuts, it further unfairly rewards Australia for having demanded an emissions growth target in Kyoto, and “achieved” that target with dubious accounting in LULUCF (land use, land use change, and forestry) without meaningfully reducing its contribution to climate change.

The Government’s present target is relative to a baseline of emissions levels in the year 2000 and includes LULUCF. But it would be much fairer to make 1990 the base year and exclude LULUCF from the main target, so that Australia is not rewarded for the failure of past governments to cut emissions (during a period when harm from emissions was foreseeable).

Furthermore, the Direct Action Plan is highly unlikely to meet its target (let alone a more ambitious target), because of all the reasons described in points 4-15.

Next: 4. It doesn’t penalize business-as-usual


  1. “Contraction and Convergence unfairly favours Australia.”
    Really? Which rates of Contraction and Convergence are being referred to in this comment?
    Here’s a link to help check the answer: – http://www.gci.org.uk/cbat-domains/Domains.swf

    1. I’m not necessarily opposed to contraction-and-convergence per se, more the way it’s been interpreted by former Australian government advisor Ross Garnaut and used to justify Australia’s pointless 5%-by-2020 emissions reduction target, which remains in place under the new Government. Here are some of my objections to Garnaut’s approach.

      By setting the convergence date as late as 2050, with a linear trajectory, Garnaut’s recommendation effectively allowed Australia (and other developed countries) to maintain high per capita emissions for decades, ignoring the urgency of rapid emissions cuts and flouting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

      In allocating targets Garnaut accounted for projected population change, effectively rewarding Australia for policies promoting rapid population growth, which if anything justify a more stringent target for Australia than for other countries.

      Garnaut calculated targets relative to the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, instead of relative to 1990. This effectively rewarded Australia for having insisted on an emissions growth target in the first commitment period, and for meeting its target with a non-additional decline in land clearing which occurred between 1990 and 1997, while Australia’s non-LULUCF emissions increased 32% between 1990 and 2011.

      All of these unfair choices led Garnaut to recommend an Australian target of 25% below 2000 by 2020. Garnaut then watered it down to a mere 5% by recommending that targets of 15% and 25% be conditional on a global agreement in which targets add up to stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations at the corresponding level, an unrealistic negotiating strategy which if anything makes global agreement less likely. Unsurprisingly, these conditional targets have been forgotten over time and the new Government has all but disowned them.

      All the above problems are compounded by the fact that Australia may use international offsets to meet its targets, which makes a mockery of dividing up the work into fair shares in the first place.

      The overall effect of Garnaut’s misjudgements, and their implementation by Australian governments, was to let Australia off the hook with uniquely lenient targets (not to mention conditions and offsets which defeat their purpose). This is neither responsible nor helpful in global negotiations, where it is surely seen as shameless special pleading, especially in the context of Australia’s long history of obstructionism at climate talks. Garnaut has openly admitted his chosen approach “protects Australia’s position”, as noted here: http://www.crikey.com.au/2008/09/30/clive-hamilton-essay-politics-trumps-science-in-garnaut-report/

      It seems to me that a much better approach than this complicated target-setting is to start from the premise that we need to leave most fossil fuels in the ground, and acting to phase out fossil fuel use as quickly as possible: http://precariousclimate.com/2012/09/11/australia-laggard-to-leader/

  2. I agree with you and communicating this matter – ‘the ‘rates of C&C’ – has been a problem for me too. Hence CBAT.

    LINKS to ‘Carbon Budget Analysis Tool’ [CBAT] Support. Some basic CBAT animation is here: –


    Stocker’s 250 GtC [MEDIUM] compared with Hansen’s 171 Gt C [LOW] with UK Climate Act [HIGH] – i.e. different paths and different integrals: –

    Stocker’s 250 Gt C ‘immediate’ [LOW] delayed [MEDIUM] and BOOM/BUST [HIGH] – i.e. different paths and same integrals: –

    Betts lowest 140 Gt C [LOW] McKibben’s 154 Gt C [MEDIUM] and Hansen’s 171GtC [HIGH] – I.e. similar paths and similar integrals: –

    Its work in progress but some supportive things that have so far been said about CBAT are here: – http://www.gci.org.uk/Responses_to_CBAT.html

    LINKS to C&C Support – [it is fairly extensive, institutionally diverse and geographically dispersed]


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