Only target to cut CO2 is 5%: Abbott

A long-standing bipartisan agreement to reduce Australia's emissions by more than five per cent depending on global action appears to be on shaky ground.

A loader shifts coal

A bipartisan agreement to reduce Australian emissions by more than 5% appears to be on shaky ground. (AAP) Source: SBS

The Abbott government appears to be walking away from a long-standing bipartisan agreement to lift Australia's target for cutting carbon emissions if global action on climate change is strengthened.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday said the federal government had made "one commitment and one commitment only" to reduce Australia's emissions by five per cent by 2020.

But both Labor and the coalition have since 2009 pledged to increase Australia's emissions reduction target to 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 if there's genuine global resolve.

The government's Direct Action plan, released in 2010, also reaffirms their support, stating "the coalition remains committed to its previously announced target range".

The policy shift comes as global delegates meet in Warsaw for the latest round of UN climate talks, which are laying the groundwork for a new binding agreement in 2015 to slash greenhouse gas output.

Mr Abbott said Australia's position at the Warsaw discussions would be "absolutely" the same message as the government's back home.

"We will meet our five per cent emissions reduction target, but this government has made no commitments to go further than that," he told reporters on Monday.

Mr Abbott said the government was "in no way looking" to make further binding commitments in the absence of similar action from other countries, and there was "no evidence of that".

The Climate Institute's Erwin Jackson said this was a shift in a long-standing position, as the target range of five to 25 per cent had enjoyed solid bipartisan support for many years.

"The coalition has supported emission reductions of up to 25 per cent since 2009," he told AAP on Tuesday.

"It is damaging for our credibility internationally to be signalling the walking away from action that is consistent with avoiding dangerous climate impacts on Australia and around the world."

He said the coalition had restated its commitment to the target range many times both domestically and internationally, even if it had a different approach to Labor in cutting emissions.

Last month, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the government had a "commitment to the current targets", after the Climate Change Authority called the unconditional five per cent target inadequate.

The Direct Action plan states it can "be changed to meet the obligations of any global agreements to which Australia may become a signatory, or amended to reflect the approaches taken by our major trading partners and big global emitters".

Mr Hunt said the government's commitment had always been to a five per cent reduction and to considering further action in 2015 in light of global efforts.

"This has always been our policy and this position remains unchanged," Mr Hunt told AAP in a statement.

3 min read
Published 12 November 2013 at 3:16pm
Source: AAP