New report says efforts to fight climate change have accelerated | Asia Pacific

New report says efforts to fight climate change have accelerated

New report says efforts to fight climate change have accelerated

Updated 21 August 2012, 22:17 AEST

A new report by Australia's Climate Commission says international efforts to fight climate change are fast gathering pace.

It found that more than 800 million people around the world will soon live in countries which have some form of carbon pricing.

Australia's Labor government says the report is an endorsement of its own mechanism, which was introduced on the first of July.

The Federal opposition however, argues that Australia is paying too high a price.

Correspondent: Girish Sawlani

Speakers: Professor Tim Flannery, Australia's Chief Climate Commissioner; Mark Dreyfus, Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change; Greg Hunt, Australian Opposition's Climate spokesman

SAWLANI: It's been almost two months since Australia's carbon pricing scheme came into effect. Understandably, it is too early to judge if it would have a positive effect in reducing Australia's carbon emissions in the longer term. But one thing is certain and that's the ongoing bickering between the government and the federal opposition about the imposition of a 23 dollar per tonne price on carbon, for around 500 of the country's highest polluting firms and entities.

But a new report has put the ruling Labor party's chosen path in good stead.

In its third report, the Climate Commission, that was set up by the government last year, says international efforts to tackle climate change are accelerating rapidly.

The report titled, The Critical Decade, says nearly 850 million people in 33 countries will soon be living in economies with a carbon price or similar arrangement.

Professor Tim Flannery is the Chief Climate Commissioner.

FLANNERY: And the fact is, you know, that Australia's the fifteenth largest emitter on the planet and we're one of the carbon heavy-hitters. So what we do really counts and is watched. And of course, the world is taking action as this report shows. So it's important that people understand, I think, what's happening globally because the changes that have been put in place now are irreversible and unstoppable. The shift towards a clean energy economy is well and truly underway. The only question is whether we'll achieve it in time, to avoid dangerous climate change.

SAWLANI: He says while the US does not have a national carbon pricing mechanism, efforts are being made at state level.

FLANNERY: Around about 70 percent of US emissions are already covered by regulations, so they're already bearing a cost. In jurisdictions such as California, there's a carbon trading scheme coming into play this year, and US emissions are reflecting that. They're already 7-point-6 percent below what they were in 2006, so the US in on track to achieve its obligations under the Copenhagen Accord and that's good news.

SAWLANI: And it's the same case for the world's largest carbon emitter. China will being a pilot scheme next year in preparation for a national plan in 2015. The Pilot scheme will be implemented in many of its major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Tianjin, covering a population of 250 million people. Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea will implement an emissions trading scheme in 2015 following parliamentary approval earlier this year, while Japan is still pondering the start of its own mechanism.

Mark Dreyfus is Australia's parliamentary secretary for Climate Change.

DREYFUS: There're many, many different responses to climate change. Different countries, because they have differences in their economies, respond in different ways, But other major economies are taking action on climate change about putting a price on carbon. By next year, 850-million people worldwide will be living in countries in the region with a carbon price.

SAWLANI: But the latest report by the Climate Commission hasn't swayed the federal opposition and its Climate spokesman Greg Hunt.

HUNT: The United States has said NO to a carbon tax. Canada has voted decisively against one. Japan has deferred indefinitely, Korea rather than bringing one forward, has set one back. India has said NO and Europe's carbon tax has been a scintilla or a fraction of what's proposed in Australia. So we do see some action which is positive, but overwhelmingly it's YES to action, NO to a carbon tax - that's the real global experience, as the Productivity Commission found.

SAWLANI: In comparing the carbon pricing mechanism with Europe, he says Australia's carbon price per capita is too high.

HUNT: The first five years of the European scheme, averaged 500-million dollars. In the first year in Australia, it's 9-billion dollars almost - so eighteen times greater, but then on a per head basis, Europe has the best part of 500-million people, so it's been a dollar person in Europe, it's 400 dollars per person in Australia.

SAWLANI: But the federal treasurer Wayne Swan says he's proud of the Labor party's brave the hope that younger generation will enjoy a clean energy future. But that legacy could be in doubt, with the federal opposition leader Tony Abbott vowing to dismantle the Carbon pricing scheme if the Liberal-National coalition wins the next election.

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