September 9, 2008 / 3:47 AM / 11 years ago

Scientists say Australian carbon targets too weak

By James Grubel

CANBERRA, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Prominent climate scientists criticised the Australian government’s top climate adviser on Tuesday, saying his recommended targets for carbon emissions were too weak and would not help avoid catastrophic climate change.

Climate adviser Ross Garnaut has urged the government to cut Australian Greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent on 2000 levels by 2020, and to set a carbon price of A$20 ($16.25) a tonne in the first years of carbon trading in Australia from mid-2010.

"That won’t be good enough if Australia is wanting to minimise the impact of climate change on Australia and on the rest of the world," Melbourne University professor of meteorology David Karoly told Australia radio on Tuesday.

The criticism comes as a new poll found 88 percent of Australians support the centre-left Labor government’s moves to curb carbon emissions, blamed for global warning, with 61 percent saying Canberra should act even if other countries do nothing.

The Newspoll in the Australian newspaper also found 58 percent would pay more for energy to help slow global warming.

Australia is the world’s 16th biggest carbon polluter and produces about 1.5 percent of global emissions. But Australia is the fourth largest per-capita emitter, with five times more carbon pollution per person than China.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who won power last November, has promised to set up carbon trading in Australia by mid 2010, covering 75 percent of the economy, to provide a financial incentive for business to clean up their pollution.

The government has said it would consider Garnaut’s advice before announcing its emissions targets for 2020, or details of its carbon trading system. But Australia has promised to cut overall emissions by 60 percent by 2050.

Karoly, a lead author for the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said Garnaut had put off setting a tough emissions target.

"He appears to be putting the problem in the political too-hard basket, and taking a weak or easy option, leaving it to other countries and other generations to solve the problem," Karoly told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Fellow scientist Amanda Lynch, an IPCC author with Karoly, said Garnaut’s targets would not encourage businesses to drop their reliance on coal-fired electricity.

"The primary problem with that kind of level is that it doesn’t give sufficient signals to the market to restructure our ways of doing business in the fundamental ways we need to do right now," Lynch told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"We need to be stimulating investment in new ways of doing business. The target that Garnaut set doesn’t do that," she said.

($1=A$1.23) (Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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