Durban, Australia and the Future of Global Climate Action Policy Brief

Nov 16, 2011 - 2:54pm

With the recent passage of the Australian emissions trading scheme through the Parliament, our representatives at the next major UN climate meeting in Africa later this month will, for the first time in the 20 plus year history of the negotiations, be able to present a credible domestic policy framework capable of delivering Australia’s fair share of global action.

In this context, The Climate Institute has prepared this policy brief to place the current round of negotiations in their historical and  domestic policy context, provide an overview of the key political decision that will confront Ministers when they arrive in Durban; outline scenarios illustrating success and failure; and define Australia’s role internationally.

Key Themes

  • International climate change negotiations are inherently complex as they incorporate environmental, economic, security, trade and energy issues. Progress can be difficult, yet over the past two decades, much has been achieved.
  • Countries responsible for over 80 per cent of global emissions have committed to limit and reduce pollution under the UN. Kyoto Protocol countries covered 20 per cent emissions in 2010.
  • Since the Copenhagen meeting in 2009 nearly 100 new significant pollution reduction and clean energy policies have been announced in major economies.
  • Over the last three years global investment in renewable energy like wind and solar power has been competitive with investment in traditional power generation. China alone invested over US$50 billion dollars in renewable energy in 2010, followed by Germany (US$41 billion) and the US (US$34 billion).
  • Undue emphasis on the politics and symbolism of a global treaty has tended to overshadow the substantive practical progress that has been made. Although these actions are significant, they remain insufficient to meet the objective of limiting the world to less than 2oC global warming.
  • Both major political parties in Australia support reducing national emissions by 5- 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. Australia’s five per cent pollution reduction target implies an emission reduction on 2000 levels similar to that of Canada but less than the EU, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and the US. The average reduction among comparable advanced economies is a 19 per cent reduction on 2000 levels.

Global climate diplomacy is in transition as nations head to Durban, South Africa for the 17th annual Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We are witnessing a transition from a ’treaty before action’ approach to an ’action and agreement’ approach.

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