Australia study highlights gap between global pledges and 2˚C pathway

By Tierney Smith
RTCC in Durban

Sydney harbour and skyline
Australia’s Clean Energy Future plan is a “historic breakthrough” for the country (Source: wiki.will/flickr)

The latest Climate Action Tracker report offers a strong warning for the delegations at COP17; country pledges do not match the science.

Beginning with Australia – launched on the second day of COP17 – the report aims to highlight the gap that could be left between what countries’ governments have pledged and what the science says is needed to meet a 2˚C warming limit.

Niklas Höhne, Director of Energy and Climate Change at Ecofys said: “We find that there is a huge gap between what the countries have proposed and what would be necessary to keep global climate on a two degree pathway. There is a gap of between six and twelve gigatonnes depending on how you interpret the pledges. If we take all the confirmed then the temperature increase that we calculate is 3.2˚C and not 2˚C as it should be.”

As the work begins for the party delegations in Durban, strong criticism has been placed on countries including  initiatives and the US for continuing to block the path forwards for a new or extended global deal on carbon emissions.

As the Kyoto Protocol as it stands draws to an end at the end of 2012, countries are urging for a second commitment period to be agreed. This latest report offers a warning that commitments will need to be tougher if the global temperature is to remain below 2˚C.

For Australia, the joint project between Ecofys and Climate Analytics finds some room for praise. The new package that Australia has recently announced is a huge move forward for the country which has been seen to lag behind the process for many years.

But there is still a warning. While good, the measures are not enough to help the world keep on the pathways that scientists say are so vital. While the country has pledged a 5% reduction by 2020 compared to 2000 levels, this would still leave their carbon emissions 28% above, 1990 levels – the baseline for most countries under the Kyoto Protocol.

Bill Hare, Director of Climate Analytics highlights the positives of the country’s pledges. He said: “The new energy package adopted in Australia is actually a historic breakthrough for the country. It is a major break in past patterns and a major step in the right direction…Australia is starting from a difficult position because it is one of the highest per capita emitters in the world. And that starting position also tells us something about the risks of delaying.”

He said for a country starting so far behind, the latest move is a strong first step for the country.

While Australia’s renewable energy target of 20% got top marks by the analysts, they said there are still “gaping holes” in sectors including transport. It also highlighted that many of the countries emissions reductions would still come from buying credits from overseas.

The report is the first in a series of country reports and look at policies and actions across all sectors: electricity, industry, transport, buildings and agriculture and forestry.

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