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Abbott Government to reveal post-2020 emissions targets

The Abbott Government is poised to reveal its post-2020 carbon emissions reduction targets in a global effort to reduce carbon footprint, ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in December. Australia’s ruling conservative coalition, on the other hand is facing rising heat over its stance on greenhouse-gas emissions as cabinet debates long-term targets for greenhouse gas reductions. Cabinet is expected to discuss post-2020 emissions targets on Tuesday, following strong declarations of intent by other developed economies in the recent months. However, emissions reduction challenge could be more difficult for Australia than some other nations because of strong economic reliance on fossil fuels. A local poll showed Abbott government is underestimating the importance of climate change, urging the government to take climate threats more seriously.

The federal government is reportedly considering a post-2020 carbon emissions target between 15 to 25 percent by 2030 on 2005 levels. Changing the base year from 2000 to 2005, when emissions were at its peak in Australia’s history would make the target look stronger. Australian Greens and environment groups want a 60 to 80 percent reduction on 2000 levels by 2030, while the government-funded Climate Change Authority recommended a 40 to 60 percent cut by the same year. The opposition Labor Party has put a bigger show of its own environment policy and pledged to increase renewable by 50 percent in the nation’s power generation mix by 2030, saying voters want strong action on climate change policy.

The research by the independent Climate Institute clearly suggests that a lot of people in the community feel the government isn’t doing enough and they should take climate change more seriously. Majority of the Australians overwhelmingly support wind and solar energy with the Abbott Government seeking to limit support for both, and see coal-fired power stations as potential threat to global climate. But, many of those surveyed believe Labor’s carbon policies will “just increase electricity prices and not do much about pollution.” The research came after Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Sunday set the scene for his government’s highly anticipated announcement on climate change policy, saying any measures to cut emission must not hurt the economy or involve a carbon-pricing scheme.

Mr. Abbott said Australia was already a world leader in greenhouse gas emissions cuts and would make a “strong and responsible contribution to the global effort to address climate change”, but not at the expense of jobs or prosperity. “That’s why the government will never resort to harmful policies like a carbon tax or an ETS. A carbon tax, or an ETS, is really just a tax on everyone’s electricity bill. The Labor Party wants to bring the carbon tax back and force everyone to pay more. This government will not.”

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Greg Hunt maintains Australia will ‘meet or beat’ its 2020 emissions targets of 5 percent on 2000 levels. Should the Abbott government choose a 25 percent target on 2005 levels by 2030, the nation would still lag far behind United States, the European Union and Switzerland. U.S. pledged deeper cuts of up to 28 percent by 2025, while the EU is targeting a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas by 2030, relative to 1990 levels. Switzerland tabled a 50 percent reduction target on 1990 levels by 2030, and Canada committed to 30 percent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030.

The Australian people and the country’s environment related groups believe that Australia needs to come up with bigger targets in line with other countries. A separate survey by the Lowy Institute for International Policy in June, recorded the third consecutive rise in the number of Australians who see global warming as a serious and pressing problem, with 63 percent expecting their government to take a leadership role internationally on emissions reduction target. The poll published by Fairfax Media on Sunday showed just 41 percent of voters prefer Mr. Abbott as Prime Minister while 58 percent prefer Labor’s Bill Shorten.