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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 6040

Climate Change

(Question No. 286)

Dr Jensen asked the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, in writing, on 21 March 2011:

Assuming that (a) the entire globe takes action on reducing CO2 emissions and as a result such emissions are halved by 2050, and (b) this level of emissions is sustained beyond 2050: (i) how many degrees lower is the expected global average temperature expected to be than if Australia alone had not acted; and (ii) what is this abatement expected to cost Australia annually.

Mr Combet: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency advises that:

This is an extremely unlikely scenario because if the rest of the world had halved its greenhouse gas emissions while Australia had not made commensurate reductions in its greenhouse gas emissions, it is very likely that the rest of the world would also have taken economic or other action to persuade Australia to contribute its fair share to the global effort.

However, in the unlikely event that Australia's emissions did grow by 2 per cent a year until 2050 while the rest of the world reduced their emissions to half what they were in 2011, in 2050 Australia's emissions would be a little over 1 gigatonne of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to the global total of about 25 gigatonnes. Under this scenario, in 2050 Australia's annual emissions would be about 5 per cent of total global emissions, a significantly larger proportion than they are now. Emission reductions by any single country have only a limited impact on the expected average global temperature. This applies to Australia as much as to any other country. Only collective action by a majority of the world's major emitting countries can have a significant impact on the expected average global temperature. Almost without exception, the major emitting countries of the world are taking measures to reduce their emissions from business as usual.

The Government's modelling of domestic action to reduce emissions (published by Treasury in 2008) indicated that reducing Australia's national carbon emissions to 60 per cent below 2000 is consistent with gross national product (GNP) per capita being roughly 1.5 times larger in 2050 than in 2008. The modelling indicated that making emissions reductions of this magnitude would reduce average growth in GNP per capita by only 0.1 per cent per annum - from 1.2 per cent per annum down to 1.1 per cent per annum.

If, as posited by the honourable member, Australia alone did not act to reduce emissions it would be possible that other countries would adopt policies that would impact adversely on Australia's economy. The cost of this to a small, open economy like Australia could be considerable.