Emissions Reduction Targets: EXPLAINED
What the heck is an emissions reduction target?
Basically, Australia and every other country needs to set a target for reducing our carbon pollution levels at the Paris Climate Conference at the end of the year, to do our bit to address the climate crisis. Carbon pollution is the stuff that comes out of coal fired power stations, factories, cars and more, from burning fossil fuels. The government then sets in place policies to meet that target through various means (some more effective than others...).
This year governments have been putting forward their targets in the lead up to the UN climate talks where world leaders will come together in Paris to make a collective commitment to “unfuck the world”.
What does the science say?
Here’s a message from our sciencey friends at the Climate Council:
“Protecting the world from very substantial changes in the world’s climate requires keeping global temperature rise to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. While this may not sound like much, a 2°C rise in global temperature will have serious impacts on the lives of people worldwide, and could trigger major changes in the Earth System. For instance, the threshold to melting the Greenland ice-sheet, which would eventually raise sea level by about seven metres, inundating major cities worldwide, lies between 1 and 4°C, with the risk increasing through the temperature range.
On this basis, Australia’s current 2020 target of a 5% reduction on 2000 levels is much too weak. If the world copied Australia’s level of effort, we’d have little chance of staying below a 2°C rise in temperature. To have a good chance (75%) of staying below a 2°C rise in global temperature Australia would need to reduce emissions by 60% by 2030 on 2000 levels (65% below 2005 levels).”
The AYCC thinks even 2 degrees is too high and this limit is opposed by many of the countries most vulnerable to dangerous warming, which is why governments must keep warming to 1.5°C.
Basically, we have to keep the coal in hole, install clean energy errywhere, and our government has to listen to the scientists who are yelling at us to FIX IT!
Why the heck does it matter?
It matters because for too long world leaders have been too slow and useless in dealing with this global crisis. Australia plays an important role in this because we have the highest emissions per person in the whole developed world - but we are doing the least about it as a country - poor form, Straya!
If Australia doesn’t pull up its socks and commit to emissions reduction in line with the best climate science, we not only put ourselves at risk of more extreme and frequent bushfires, heatwaves and disasters, we put the lives of our Pacific Island neighbours on the line.
What on earth is a baseline year?
That’s the year on which future emissions reductions are based on - and they’re very important. Because if you base your comparison on a year when you had particularly high emissions, your target looks more ambitious.
Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt have done the dodgy by shifting their baseline year from 2000 to 2005 to make their target look better than it is. DODGY.
Is the rest of the world as bad at climate as we are?
The targets announced by the government today put us right at the back of the pack internationally. If every country set targets the way we did the world would not stop dangerous global warming.
In recent years countries around the world have ramped up their clean energy use, but our Prime Minister has been too busy waging a war on renewable energy (remember the cuts to the Renewable Energy Target?) to notice Australia is being left behind.
Still, the targets most world leaders are putting on the table right now aren’t good enough and we stand in solidarity with youth climate movements around the world calling on our governments to do more.
So what can we do about it?
As we saw last week, when we organise together we are powerful. So powerful that Commonwealth Bank won’t invest in the dangerous Adani Carmichael coal mine that would be exported through the Great Barrier Reef after a strong campaign by AYCC and our friends across the movement.
We need to do the same with our government.
Before Paris we’ll be mobilising in the community building a movement of movements calling for climate justice - you can get involved and volunteer at www.aycc.org.au/volunteer