Australia May Exhaust Its Carbon Budget Within a Decade, Warns Study

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Written By: Emma Websdale

A new report warns that Australia needs to reduce its emissions drastically to keep global warming below 2oC.
1312827930A new study by renewable energy consultancy firm Ecofys, commissioned by WWF–Australia, warns that Australia should reduce its carbon emissions at least 25% by 2020 to keep global temperatures below a 2oC increase.  Furthermore, by 2030 the country will have to reduce its carbon emissions by 82% to hold to its commitment in tackling global warming.

The latest IPCC report, released in September, warned that global greenhouse gas emissions must be contained within a finite “carbon budget” if global temperatures were to remain under the danger threshold of a 2oC global increase. Breeching that amount, says climate experts, would create catastrophic weather events.

The report estimates that Australia’s share of the world’s carbon budget is around 18 billion tons, with the country’s usage already between 66% and 84% of that amount. The entire budget could be used up in just over a decade if annual emissions remain at their current levels.

“We’ve nearly blown our carbon budget already, and time is running out”, said Kellie Caught, WWF–Australia National Manager, Climate Change. “If we’re serious about keeping global warming below 2°C, then we should immediately move to at least a 25% [reduction].”

According to RenewEconomy, between March 2012 and March 2013, Australia reduced its electricity-generated emissions by 6.1%. Emissions from fossil-fuel extraction, however, increased by 12.7%, to 45.8 million tons of CO2 each year.

“Just as we need a stable plan for our economic bottom line, we also need a stable long-term approach to our carbon budget”, said Caught.

The report warns that among developed countries, Australia has the most to lose from climate change, with significant impacts on the country’s coastal communities, wildlife, agriculture and tourism industries already being felt. As a bare minimum, the report recommends that the federal government should move to the upper end of its existing target range (25%) in order to see Australia’s emissions reduce by 25% below 2000 levels by 2020.