Ross Garnaut releases interim report on climate change – a wake up call for Australia.

Professor Ross Garnaut yesterday released his Interim Report on climate change. It is an interesting document that paints a picture of Australia’s future that is far worse than expected if we continue on as we are and do nothing. Professor Garnaut posits that how Australia fares in a world of climate change will depend above all on the extent of effective global mitigation, on how Australia manages its share of a global effort and on how the global and Australian economies and environments adapt to the impacts of climate change.

He puts forward compelling reasons as to why Australia is likely to be more exposed to the impacts of climate change than other developed countries.

” First, our climate is already hot, dry and variable. Second, the sensitivity of our temperate agriculture assumes special importance because of the large role that agriculture plays in the Australian relative to other developed economies. Third, our terms of trade are highly sensitive to economic performance in Asian developing countries that are vulnerable to climate change. Fourth, our close proximity to fragile developing countries which seem to be disproportionately exposed to damage by climate change introduces special geo-political risks. “

If nothing is done then he asserts that Australia will be the biggest loser amongst developed countries, making the urgency of the situation even more important than previously thought. This would come about through the direct imposition of costs to the nation and indirectly through the effects that will be felt in the countries of the Asia Pacific region that are important to the Australian economy. He has put forward three mitigation scenarios that he will be analysing.

He also provides a view of the positives that would come from an ambitious international mitigation effect.

Countering the conventional wisdom, he feels that even though Australia relies on fossil fuels for exports, as inputs into export-oriented metals processing industries and for domestic electricity generation, Australia would do well under an ambitious international mitigation effort.

Professor Garnaut sees as positive the exceptional human resource base in engineering, management and finance related to the resources sector, that will allow us competitive participation in innovation in the emerging, low emissions industries, reducing the costs of adjustment to the new, low-carbon environment. Australia is a major exporter of minerals that will receive advantages from a strong international mitigation effort. He identified high quality uraniam reserves (the world’s largest reserves) and natural gas (exceptionally large resources per capita amongst developed countries). He also pointed out that Australia has exceptionally rich resources for renewable energy – for solar, geothermal and wind energy and possibly for tidal and wave power and biofuels – on a per capita basis, amongst the most favoured few in the developed world. He also suggests that Australia should look further into research into carbon capture technology given our wealth of high quality coal and exceptionally good sites for carbon capture and storage.

He concludes that “the combination of Australia’s exceptional sensitivity, relative to other developed countries, to climate change, and its exceptional opportunities to do relatively well in a world of ambitious, comprehensive mitigation, suggest that Australia should be pressing the international community towards ambitious mitigation. ”

In practical terms he outlines the targets required if Australia is to optimize its advantages and limit the obvious damage that it will face through climate change under a “business as usual scenario”. In his Summary he asserts that:

” Australia should make firm commitments in 2008, to 2020 and 2050 emissions targets that embody similar adjustment cost to that accepted by other developed countries. A lead has been provided by the European Union, and there are reasonable prospects that the United States will become part of the main international framework after the November 2008 elections. Some version of the current State and Federal targets of 60per cent reduction by 2050, with appropriate interim targets, would meet these requirements. Australia would need to go considerably further in reduction of emissions as part of an effective global agreement, with full participation by major developing countries, designed to reduce risks of dangerous climate change to acceptable levels. Australia should formulate a position on the contribution that it would be prepared make to an effective global agreement, and offer to implement that stronger position if an appropriately structured international agreement were reached.”

Reading the Interim report makes clear the need for urgent action on climate change with adequate targets both short and long term at levels that go beyond what had been forseen if optimal outcomes are to be achieved. It also highlights that it is in Australia’s interest to encourage other nations to adopt strong measures to combat climate change. The Interim report can be read in full from the link provided at the beginning of the post.

~ by abstraktbiblos on Friday, 22 February, 2008.

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