Together with the rest of Australia, Oxfam keenly anticipated the outcome of Professor Ross Garnaut’s final report on climate change on 30 September.
While Oxfam welcomed Professor Garnaut’s openness to a stronger target of 25 per cent by 2020 dependent on a global solution, we believe it is essential that Australia show leadership and set much firmer targets, encouraging other developed countries to do the same.
The Garnaut Climate Change Review was commissioned by Australia’s Commonwealth, state and territory governments to examine the impacts, challenges and opportunities of climate change for Australia. A draft report was released on 4 July 2008 – a final report on 30 September 2008.
In releasing his final report, Professor Ross Garnaut said: “Of all developed countries, Australia probably has the most to lose from inaction and the most to gain from global mitigation. Australia should throw its full weight behind securing an effective international agreement from 2013”. However, Professor Garnaut believes that there is no point in aiming for something that is not going to be achieved. And on these grounds, argues for Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a mere 10 percent on 2000 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. This, he says, would achieve an atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases of 550 parts per million (ppm).
But scientific opinion is that this is not enough. Oxfam Australia believes that emissions must be reduced by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 95 percent by 2050.
If the Rudd Government accepts Professor Garnaut’s advice and its unambitious targets, Australia will fall behind much of the developed world in its efforts to combat climate change. Using Garnaut’s 550 ppm pathway, by 2020 the average Australian would still be emitting nearly twice as much as the average person in China, and roughly eight times as much as the average person in India. It would not achieve the required reductions and would further the devastating impact on our developing country neighbours.
Australia, as one of the highest per capita polluters in the world, has a responsibility to take urgent action and make deep emissions cuts. If we do not, as Garnaut said at the launch of his draft report, Australia faces geo-political and economic risk, as the problems of our neighbouring developing countries will become our own.
Within our region, people living in low-lying islands and river deltas are already experiencing the negative results of climate change, including rising seas and salt water inundation – which contribute to crop losses, destruction of fresh water sources and flooding. The nation of Tuvalu faces the prospect of disappearing completely, as do other low-lying islands in the Pacific, including those in Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands. For these people, climate change is already a stark reality and a terrifying future.
The Rudd Government’s response to the Garnaut Report must tackle the injustice at the heart of climate change – that poor people in developing countries, who are the most affected, are least responsible for causing climate change. People in developing countries are always going to be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change because they are more dependent on their natural environment, and have a lower capacity to cope with environmental hazards and shocks.
The Australian Government should:
- Go well beyond the recommendations of the Garnaut Report and set a strong target for its own emission reductions – and encourage other developed countries to do likewise. Developed countries need to reduce their collective emissions by at least 40 percent (on 1990 levels) by 2020, and by at least 95 percent by 2050, to give the world a chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.
- Pay its fair share of the financing needed by developing countries to adapt to climate change – scaling up to an estimated $1.7 billion annually by 2015. Revenue from the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme should be used not only to reduce Australia’s own greenhouse emissions but also to fund Australia’s fair share of assisting developing countries that are struggling to cope with the ongoing impacts of climate change.