Environment Minister Greg Hunt. Photo: Louise KennerleyThe man charged with steering a government taskforce reviewing Australia’s climate targets says the Abbott government has made it clear that its recommendations should not hurt the economy or jobs growth.
And the Climate Change Authority has signalled it will release its own review of Australia’s emissions reduction targets in mid-April to pre-empt any findings by the government-appointed review panel.
David Gruen, a senior economist in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, chairs the steering commitee for a 12-person taskforce that is due to recommend post-2020 emissions reduction targets for Australia in mid-2015.
Speaking at a climate change conference at the Australian National University on Friday, Dr Gruen said: “The government has made it clear that our post-2020 target must be consistent with continued strong economic growth, jobs growth and development in Australia.”
He added that “nothing of value would be achieved” in the global fight against climate change “if emissions intensive economic activity in Australia ceases, only to be replaced by more emissions intensive activity overseas which produces essentially the same goods or service”.
Dr Gruen gave some new detail on how the taskforce would conduct its review, saying it was being guided by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senior ministers Julie Bishop, Andrew Robb, Greg Hunt and Ian Macfarlane.
He said the taskforce would shortly open the subject of setting new targets ahead of a global climate summit in December for public consultation and was seeking advice from “business, industry and academia”.
“The taskforce is seeking information on policies across a broad range of sectors of the economy which could achieve abatement in a cost-effective manner,” Dr Gruen said.
“The taskforce is looking at a broad range of policies with a fresh perspective and is not ruling anything out at this stage.”
Peter Woolcott, Australia’s ambassador for the environment who will lead Australia’s negotiations with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the government was looking for “clear, credible and quantifiable contributions by all countries”.
Mr Woolcott said while Australia would be guided by the US, China and major trading partners in Asia, the government expected any new global agreement to demand a greater contribution from developing countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“It must reflect the fact that developing countries are getting wealthier and have greater capacity to take action,” he said.
Climate Change Authority chief executive Anthea Harris said the authority would fast track its own review of targets – which was launched as part of government deal with the crossbench to pass direct action legislation last year – to try to force the government to consider its recommendations.
But Ms Harris did not say whether there had been any steps by the taskforce to seek out the independent authority’s advice.
“In terms of have we been asked for advice, we’ve been asked to do the review,” she said.
“The government will be required to respond to our recommendations. Mind you, that will be well after the event because the legislative requirement is to report six months after the final report, which isn’t until June next year.
“So I don’t think I can really add much more than that.”
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