With the 6th Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change scheduled for mid-November and with the recent announcement that Australia’s 1998 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reached 17% above the 1990 level, it is time to examine options for making serious reductions in
Australia's emissions. This paper proposes a broad strategy and some key specific actions for federal, state and local governments to reduce substantially GHG emissions from the Australian energy and transport sectors.
Further work is required to estimate the magnitude of the greenhouse gas reductions; the economic, social and other environmental benefits; and the economic costs of the actions proposed in this paper.
Targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
The proposed short-term and medium-term targets are:
- stabilisation of GHG emission at 108% of 1990 levels by 2010; and
- reduction to 50% by 2030.
Modelling by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that, to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of GHG, emissions by the rich countries may have to be reduced to 10-20% of 1990 levels by some time in the second half of the 21st century. Based on continuing improvements
to existing technologies, such a long-term target is technically feasible, although it appears to be very expensive at present. However, by the time the 50% target is achieved, the technologies required for a 10-20% target may be already cost-effective.
The aim is to implement institutions, practices and technologies that will enable short-term and long-term GHG reductions to be achieved simultaneously. This contrasts with the apparent policy of the federal government to place the main emphasis on short-term measures with limited long-term potential for reducing GHG emissions.
The overall strategy for achieving the 2010 and 2030 targets is quite simple to state, although some measures will be politically difficult to implement. In general, the economic savings achieved by substantial increases in the efficiency of energy use and the removal of subsidies to inefficient energy use will be used to fund the
transition to an energy supply system based on a mix of renewable energy and natural gas sources for electricity and heating/cooling. New institutions will be required to ensure that the economic savings are actually used to fund the cost of the transition.
It should be emphasised that the targets cannot be achieved by individual actions alone. There is little point in exhorting people who live in areas where there is inadequate public transport and long distances to travel to forego using cars; or exhorting people who live in poorly insulated rental accommodation to do without
electric radiators and convectors. Since market failure is endemic for environmentally sound practices in the energy sector, the community must insist that governments assist the transition by removing the barriers and providing appropriate infrastructure, laws, institutions, planning processes, pricing signals, funding and
Actions proposed for achieving targets
The following proposed actions contain both short-term and long-term measures. The numbering is for ease of reference and does not reflect priority.
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