ETS modelling ignores climate peril

Issue 

Treasury modelling on the impacts of the federal Labor government's proposed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was released on October 30.

The modelling confirmed that the Rudd government has ignored the warnings from 40 of Australia's top environmental scientists, who argue that the proposals contained in the Garnaut report would lead to catastrophe.

In an October 20 open letter, the scientists stated: "Recent developments in the state of the Earth's climate ... compel us to call for urgent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Yet following Garnaut, the treasury forecast for 5-15% emissions reductions by 2020 under the ETS scheme — a target that falls drastically short of the significant reductions required to stabilise the world's climate. The targets are also contingent on other countries making similar or greater cuts to emissions.

In the October 31 Sydney Morning Herald, Marian Wilkinson noted: "The treasury modelling ... appears to tilt towards cuts in global emissions that will at best stabilise [carbon in the atmosphere] at 510 ppm [parts per million] or 550 ppm, thus risking dangerous consequences."

This falls far short of the targets suggested in the scientists' letter, which states that Australia should at least match the European target of 450ppm but, "further reduction of CO2 levels to 300-350ppm may be required to have a reasonable probability of restoring a safe climate".

The government has welcomed the treasury modelling, claiming it provides evidence that the financial impact of the ETS on business and taxpayers will be slight.

However, concerns have been raised that the ETS would reward big business rather than forcing it to reduce emissions. On October 20, the Australian Conservation Foundation released a report conducted by financial analysts Innovest Strategic Value Advisors.

The report predicted as much as $3 billion of public money may be granted to Australia's biggest polluters in the form of free carbon credits.

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