Emissions cuts will protect the environment and the people, says academy

Tuesday, 05 May, 2015

The Australian Academy of Science has responded to the government’s consultation on Australia’s post-2020 carbon emissions target, recommending that Australia should aim to reduce its carbon emissions significantly over the next 15 years.

“Building on the Australian Government’s commitment of achieving at least a 5% reduction of emissions levels by 2020 (relative to year 2000 emissions), the academy recommends that based on the best available evidence, a 2030 emissions reduction target of 30-40% below 2000 levels is consistent with approaching zero carbon emissions by 2050,” the submission reads.

Academy President Professor Andrew Holmes said Australia needs to aim for this level of emissions reduction to match global targets and avoid the more serious impacts of human-induced climate change. He stated, “Australia is at great risk from the worst impacts of climate change, including costs to the economy, the health and wellbeing of Australians, and extreme weather events.”

Such impacts were examined by the academy in the recent report ‘Climate Change Challenges to Health: Risks and Opportunities’, which identifies the major pressures on health that Australia will face as global temperatures rise and climates change. They include the health impacts of extreme weather events, changing patterns of disease, disruptions to food and water supplies, loss of livelihoods and increased threats to security.

These pressures will impact most those Australians who are already the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, the sick, the very young and the disadvantaged. The report includes recommendations to protect these groups, such as better national coordination of adaptation strategies, encouraging individuals and organisations to help those affected in their communities, and pursuing the goal of national and international reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases.

“To stabilise the climate, we need to transition toward a decarbonised economy by mid-century,” said academy fellow and climate expert Professor Matthew England. “It’s in our national interest to do this - even though we only contribute 1% of global emissions, we are vulnerable to 100% of the impacts of climate change.”

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