Senior US Climate Official Says Australia’s Climate Targets are ‘Not Sufficient’

September 12, 2021

A senior US climate official has warned Australia’s targets are “not sufficient” and the country should be considering a 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, given the urgency of the threat outlined this week in a landmark report, according to a report on August 11 from The Guardian.

Dr. Jonathan Pershing, the deputy to US presidential climate envoy John Kerry, said the major report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had “set the stage” for the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November and would place “a lot more pressure” on the world’s biggest 20 emitting countries to act.

He said that would particularly apply to those nations such as Australia that had not increased their climate commitments since the Paris agreement, or had a target that was “less significant than the science would dictate”.

“I think you can say, observing from the outside, that – as a G20 member, as a leading developed country – the commitments they made in Paris are not sufficient,” he said of Australia.

Pershing, a trained scientist and ex-chief US climate negotiator under Barack Obama, spoke with Guardian Australia ahead of a keynote address at a Better Futures Australia forum next week. He said the scientific evidence made clear that sharp reductions in global emissions were needed in the next decade on the way to net zero by mid-century.

He said the Morrison government’s policy of supporting low-emissions technology would likely be critical in the long-term and Australia was a world-leader in rooftop solar uptake, but the country had not done enough to introduce policies to drive “nearer term outcomes”.

“Looking at the emissions trajectory, that seems inconsistent with what the science is suggesting,” he said.

He said with the science suggesting a global 40% to 50% emissions cut was required by 2030, and an expectation advanced economies would move more rapidly, “50% seems like a pretty reasonable scientific estimate” for Australia’s target.

While the country’s fossil fuel exports meant “it’s probably going to be somewhat harder” than for some others, it did not alter the fact “the current set of policies ought to be strengthened”, he said.

US president, Joe Biden, earlier this year set a national goal of cutting emissions by at least 50% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, and this week Congress passed a US$1tn infrastructure bill that included measures supporting electric vehicles, clean public transport and updating the power grid. The European and British targets equate to 51% and 63% respectively, when calculated over the same timeframe.

The Australian government’s 2030 goal of a 26-28% cut is unchanged since 2015, when it just copied the then-US target for 2025 but gave itself five extra years to meet it. It has resisted joining the more than 100 countries to set a net zero goal for mid-century.