Australia's Paris Agreement carbon commitments criticised

The Australian government's updated Nationally Determined Contribution to cutting carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement has drawn criticism for remaining substantially unchanged from its earlier commitments.

Australia submitted its updated commitments to the United Nations without increasing its commitments to cut carbon emissions from the initial Paris Agreement in 2016.

"Australia will continue to play our part in an effective global response to climate change," the submission states. "Under a Paris Agreement applicable to all, Australia will implement an economy-wide target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030."

This is in line with Australia's NDC of the previous submission.

As part of its submission, Australia detailed its previously announced Technology Investment Roadmap, which will "guide the deployment of an estimated $18 billion of Australian Government investments over the period to 2030 and leverage a further $50 billion of investment from the private sector, research institutions and the States and Territories."

According to global scientific research initiative Climate Action Tracker, Australia's updated NDC is rated "insufficient," meaning that the country is "least stringent" regarding a country's fair share range and "not consistent with holding warming below 2 degrees C, let alone with the Paris Agreement's stronger 1.5 degree C limit."

Jane Rennie, CPA Australia general manager external affairs, policy and advocacy, said Australia had "stuck a spoke in the wheel" of an increasingly ambitious cycle of climate action under the Paris agreement.

"Australia's NDC update shows the government is unconcerned by criticism at home and abroad about its inaction on climate change," she said. "Other countries are resolving to re-build more sustainability in the wake of COVID-19. The Australian government's intransigence risks further international isolation and will make the inevitable transition to a low carbon economy more painful and disruptive."

As part of the Paris Agreement, countries were meant to submit second NDCs by the end of 2020. Increases to targets are purely voluntary, but other countries and regions have increased their targets. The EU raised its 2030 target from a cut of 40% based on 1990 levels to a 55% cut. The UK announced its previous target to cut emissions would be raised from 57% to 68% below 1990 levels.

"Australia's lip-service to the Paris Agreement demonstrates an inherent weaknesses of the treaty, which is the lack of enforcement mechanisms to discourage errant behaviour," Rennie said.

Read more: Paris AgreementNDCAustralian GovernmentCPA AustraliaJane RennieClimate Action TrackerTechnology Investment Roadmap
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