Australian PM Tony Abbott said yesterday that he will cut greenhouse gases by no more than 5% below 2000 levels by 2020. This shock move would back away from Australia's longstanding commitment to a 15% to 25% target range.
However, the PM has previously indicated that his "off the cuff" remarks can't really be taken as gospel. Sometimes, you see, he gets carried away in the heat of the moment, and so only written statements could really be trusted as actual policy.
Obviously, it would be more than just a smidge of bad karma if Australia would walk away from the higher end of its target range at the same time as the worst ever typhoon wreaked havoc on their neighbours, the Philippines. This is particularly notable as the PM’s Coalition has endorsed the 15% to 25% range on more than one occasion – twice so far in 2013 alone.
Now let’s turn to the notion that Australia would review the conditions for moving to the 15% level because it is not "looking to make further binding commitments in the absence of very serious like binding commitments from other countries".
ECO suggests maybe Australia should have a word with their red-white-and-blue Umbrella Group mate. Even the US has committed to a 17% reduction by 2020 – weak as that may be, it’s now higher than Australia's 5% including adjustment for a different start date. And as the Australian Climate Change Authority made clear only a week ago, Australia's 5% target puts it behind not only the US, but also China, in terms of targets and action. Imagine that!
So we assume that this was simply one of those Abbott-branded “off-the-cuff gaffs” – and the government will promply set the record straight. Maybe you might ask a friendly Aussie delegate how that is going.
Surely, in the face of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, Australia will move to at least the top end of its range and – need we add, commit as well to substantial future climate finance.