The government of Australia has announced its support for net zero emissions by 2050 as Australia distances itself from developing countries in favour of countries such as China and the US.
According to the statement, the government will “declare its interest” in being a net-zero emission country. This is in line with a recently established Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) panel on energy that highlights net zero as one of the most viable options for limiting emissions to “no more than zero”.
Asked whether the Australia government’s climate policy would act to act net zero, the Climate Change Minister, Josh Frydenberg, said the government was committed to the IPCC’s climate change work and recognised the potentially “catastrophic consequences” of not acting on climate change.
Frydenberg also said the government believed the best way to decarbonise energy systems in the future was through “open market mechanisms with stringent regulatory oversight”.
Such an approach is in line with previous statements by Frydenberg, who previously said the government was open to introducing “carbon pricing, caps and subsidies”.
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At the national party room meeting on Friday the opposition party agreed to clarify what aspects of the Paris Agreement it would push for, in line with what has been proposed by the IPCC.
However, Labor’s position has long been that Australia should remain under the global climate agreement until its emissions are below 1990 levels, which amounts to a major “amnesty” for delaying global warming targets beyond 2020, under the current target.
The first meeting of the IPCC’s working group on energy will take place on 30 October. On 12 November this group will be expected to provide its assessment of a 1.5C world.
The IPCC’s report on climate change from the fifth assessment session published last year found the world will likely be confronted with “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes” in the climate system, and that by the mid-21st century “the world as we know it will be transformed”.
It found a low-carbon pathway could limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels, with a 2C minimum temperature limit listed as the “plan B”, in case a higher level was not reached.
The IPCC’s draft conclusions further state that “as a rule of thumb, for every one degree Celsius of warming, the following additional impacts on human society are estimated to be felt:
increased risks of extreme heatwaves; increased rates of heat-related deaths; increased risks of water stress; increasing costs of dealing with heatwaves and water stress; and increased vulnerability to the impacts of climate change across the environment, especially in relation to agriculture and people living in vulnerable areas”.