The Morrison government’s commitments on climate change are consistent with global warming exceeding 3C, bordering on 4C, levels that a new analysis says would result in catastrophic damage across the planet.
Labour’s climate target has been found to be consistent with warming of around 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Both would likely lead to the loss of tropical coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, and a significant increase in the number of extreme heat events in Australia, provided other countries take appropriate action.
Climate Analytics’ research found that none of the major parties had emissions reduction targets that matched the commitment made in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement and reaffirmed in last year’s Glasgow Climate Pact to limit warming as close to 1.5 as possible C. It turned out that the goals of the Greens and the “blue-green independents” vying for downtown seats aligned with this brand.
Bill Hare, Chief Executive of Climate Analytics, said scientists had demonstrated the risk of irreversible climate impacts if 1.5C were exceeded, even for a short time. Measured against that goal, the coalition acted in a way that would have disastrous repercussions, while Labor “hadn’t really gotten to face the consequences of what the science says”.
Still, Hare said the impact of not dealing with climate change was largely missed during the campaign.
“The polls have shown that climate change is a very big issue, tops the cost of living and integrity, but it’s not really penetrating the main political and media discussion,” he said. “This is despite the fact that Australia has faced disasters around the world in recent years.”
The scientific consensus is that global temperatures have increased by about 1°C since 1900, mostly due to greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, the average rise was 1.4C. It has been linked to unprecedented bushfires, rain events that have caused catastrophic flooding and four massive coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef since 2016.
Climate Analytics found that the coalition’s emissions target for 2030 – a 26-28% reduction compared to 2005 levels – was consistent with the destruction of all tropical reefs and an increase of around 3°C in maximum temperatures in Australia. Intense heat events, which could now occur every ten years, would be expected every year and would be significantly hotter.
The 43% working target for 2030 was consistent with the likely destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and a 1.7°C increase in maximum temperatures in Australia. Intense heat events would be expected about every three years.
The analysis found that Australia should cut its emissions by 57% by 2030 to be consistent with a 1.5°C heating target.
The Greens say Australia should cut by 75% over that period, while the Blue-Green Independents are broadly backing a climate bill proposed by Zali Steggall that includes a 60% target. Climate Analytics said both are consistent with the survival of some tropical reef areas and intense heat events occurring more frequently than in recent decades.
During the election campaign, the main focus of climate policy has been Labor’s proposal to use the coalition’s ‘safeguard mechanism’ policy to phase out industrial emissions and disagreements within the government over whether it has committed to net by 2050 – Achieve zero emissions.
A separate report released on Friday highlighted another Labor policy – a commitment to bid to host a major UN climate summit in partnership with Pacific countries in the next parliamentary term.
Richie Merzian, director of climate and energy at the progressive Australia Institute, said hosting the COP29 summit in 2024 could be the most important thing the country would do in the next three years in relation to the climate crisis, given its reputation for A global “climate laggard” would set back years of allegations and could help repair ties in the Pacific.
Chris Bowen, spokesman for the climate change and energy party, alongside Labor leader Anthony Albanese on Thursday said hosting a summit “would send the message to the world that Australia is under new leadership on climate” and allow him to sell the land as a “renewable energy power plant”.