The Climate Council has released a report, Critical Decade 2017: Accelerating climate action, which describes Australia as “known as a climate laggard” and with a “lack of any coherent, national approach to reduce emissions in the short, medium or long term”.
The report, released during COP23, follows the first report of the Climate Commission, published in 2011, which defined this decade – 2010 to 2020 - as “the critical decade for action on climate change”.
The Council's report found that over the period to date, significant progress has been made, including the Paris Agreement, a global revolution that is transitioning energy from fossil fuels to renewable, and the flattening over the past three years of global carbon dioxide emissions.
However, global CO2 levels are now over 400 ppm, higher than at any time for millions of years, and average global temperatures are more than one degree C higher than before industrialised times. Extreme weather events have become more intense more frequent.
The new report provides a stocktake of climate action in Australia and a review of the uptake of new low emission technologies. It finds that while the direction of change is encouraging, time is running out to avoid dangerous global warming. Using the carbon budget approach, it concludes that to keep temperatures below 2°C, we have little more than two decades-worth of emissions before the global economy must achieve net zero emissions.
The report calls for a unified, bipartisan, consensus approach to climate change across all levels of Australian government, and a well-defined pathway towards a net-zero emissions Australia by the mid-2040s at the latest.
It recommends that the Climate Change Authority be revitalised and its climate science capacity strengthened to provide independent and authoritative expert-based policy guidance.