Labor Climate Change Bill should pass, but three things are missing | Frank Jotzo for the Conversation

LThe Labor Climate Change Bill is set to pass the Senate after the government accepted amendments proposed by Independent Senator David Pocock to improve accountability and transparency.

The bill would set a national emissions target for 2030 and outline a process for increasing it over time, while enshrining the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. The Independent Climate Change Authority will recommend future goals. These are solid and useful elements that will serve Australia’s climate policy development well.

Yet three important things are missing from the bill: a long-term roadmap to net zero, securing the future of the Climate Change Authority, and steps for a proper national conversation on our journey to net zero. net zero emissions. And the 43% emissions reduction target should only be seen as a starting point.

Is a 43% reduction in emissions enough?

The bill requires Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Labor carried this target to the federal election and have been unwilling to negotiate since their coming to power.

Is a 43% cut in Australia’s emissions enough under the Paris Agreement?

There is no single yardstick for determining which country should do what it takes to achieve a global goal. And the trajectory of global emissions after 2030 – as before – is very important for longer-term global warming.

But an evaluation is nevertheless possible, and it suggests that a strengthening of the objective, perhaps a great deal, would be appropriate.

Emission reductions in this broad range are what is needed globally to limit warming to 2 degrees (C) above pre-industrial levels.

But high-income, high-emitting countries, led by Australia, are rightly expected to reduce their carbon footprint faster than developing countries or countries with already relatively lean economies. in carbon.

Moreover, the effort required by Australia to reach the 43% target is lower than that required by many other countries. This is because of the reductions in emissions from the land use and forestry sector over a decade ago, and because we have many opportunities to easily reduce emissions.

Significant further reductions can be achieved by accelerating the shift from coal to renewables, better energy efficiency, electrification of transport and cleaner processes in industry and agriculture.

What will net zero emissions mean for our economy?

An Australian reduction of the current order is definitely incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees (C) – the global aspiration to limit climate change. And it would be a contortion to say it’s somehow consistent with “well below 2 degrees [C’]», the long-term objective of the Paris agreement.

That said, a 43% emissions reduction target greatly improves on the previous government’s target. And enshrining it in law sends an important message. This makes zero-emissions options much more suitable for investment and signals internationally that Australia is back in the action on climate change.

A trajectory to net zero

Attention will soon shift to Australia’s 2035 emissions target. The bill commits the Climate Change Authority to recommending that target, and then new targets every five years.

If the government in place does not accept this opinion, it will have to explain its dissent to Parliament. It’s a good process.

But Australia also needs to chart a course beyond the next five-year period, as the biggest investments are made over longer timescales.

Such a roadmap would shed light on questions such as:

What are the indicative targets for 2040 and beyond, on the path to net zero emissions?

What might be the balance between remaining greenhouse gas emissions and removing emissions from the atmosphere, whether through forests and land-based carbon, or technological solutions?

The Climate Change Authority may choose to do such an analysis, mapping possible scenarios and trajectories. But such advice would be more valuable if there was a legal requirement for it.

Securing the Climate Change Authority

The bill puts the Climate Change Authority center stage, but it does not guarantee that it will always be properly equipped to do its job.

A future government might not like to hear a strong independent voice and might appease it by starving it out. It has happened before, following the Abbott government’s attempt to abolish authority.

The Climate Change Authority must conduct a deeply inclusive and wide-ranging consultation process for future target recommendations. Not just panel discussions and website submissions, but a very big effort to bring the analysis to groups across Australian society.

Hopefully this government and future ones will lend their political support to an inclusive process and fund the authority to do so.

A true national conversation

Either way, Australia needs a long-term national emissions reduction strategy. It should answer questions such as:

What will net zero emissions mean for our economy, both nationally and regionally?

What should be done to prepare for the changes, maximize the advantages and deal with the disadvantages?

Such a strategy should be much more than just an additional model-based report with discussions with stakeholders along the way. What is needed is a proper national conversation about how we are approaching the transition to net zero emissions.

This would bring out all the available information and the many different perspectives, opportunities and vulnerabilities. People need to come together to really understand the issues and, if possible, to come to an agreement.

This conversation should involve all major groups: business and professional associations, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, community leaders, youth groups, etc. The research sector would provide data and analysis, and the media would publicize the debate, in many formats and dimensions.

Governments at all levels would be involved – but they would not control the process.

Some political instincts work against such truly open processes. But they are essential – and the Climate Change Bill does not provide for them directly.

Frank Jotzo is a professor at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy and head of energy at the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions. This article was originally published by Conversation

Teresa H. Sadler