Australia’s environment minister, Greg Hunt, claims the government’s 2.5 billion ‘Direct Action’ plan is vindicated by the latest United Nation climate change report.
The Direct Action legislation was approved by the upper house last week after Coalition concessions to Palmer United Party senators and independent Nick Xenophon. The bill now awaits the assured final approval from the government majority lower house.
A central plank of the policy is to pay the coal power industry to clean up its emissions.
Serious doubts have been voiced though about the achievability, through the plan, of Australia’s stated target of reducing carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020.
Asked by the ABC on Monday if Australia should do more to contribute to the global reduction of carbon emissions, Mr Hunt insisted the target was “one of the world’s leading reductions”.
“We are reducing our emissions on a basis that is very, very significant against business as usual – it’s one of the world’s leading reductions,” he said.
“We can all do more,” he conceded. “But we have to do this step by step, instead of big talk and just an electricity tax. I would rather have outcomes [and] achieve what we said we’d do,” he said.
Mr Hunt claimed the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change vindicates the legislation.
“It reaffirms precisely why we have taken the action we have,” he said.
“What we have to focus on is reducing emissions and the best thing that we can do is clean up existing power stations,” he said.
According to the new IPCC report, to avoid the worst effects of climate change the world’s energy must be made up of 80 per cent renewables by the middle of the century and fossil fuels use must cease by the end of the century.
Labor opposition climate spokesman, Mark Butler, derided the Direct Action plan, describing it as a “dressed up slush fund with a fancy name”.
“What will it take for Tony Abbott to wake up and realise Australia must take meaningful action on climate change?” Mr Butler said.
Greens leader Christine Milne said the report made a mockery of the Direct Action policy and ridiculed the government’s support for the coal industry
“The world cannot have coal and renewable energy – coal has to go,” Ms Milne said.
One of the concessions made to PUP senators in order to get the legislation passed was the retention of the Climate Change Authority, which the Coalition government wished to abolish.
Speaking for the CAA, John Connor refuted Mr Hunt’s ‘world leading’ claim and the idea that the IPCC vindicated the government’s policy.
“That’s a very creative and colourful interpretation of the report,” Mr Connor said, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Mr Connor added that the IPCC report discredited the government’s push to reduce Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.
“With this report as a backdrop it’s a nonsense to be winding back our RET,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
IMAGE: Australia’s Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)