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‘Ravaged’ Australia’s policy makers must heed climate warnings

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Australia’s decision makers must not ignore the warnings of unprecedented bushfires, droughts, and floods which have ravaged the country in recent years, says a new report entitled Aim High, Go Fast: Why Emissions Need to Plummet this Decade.

Given Australia’s huge renewable energy resources, the nation should aim to reduce emissions to 75% below 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2035, the Climate Council report says.

This is “a fair and achievable contribution to the global task and an imperative given our high vulnerability to escalating extreme weather,” it says, warning that the world achieving net zero by 2050 is “at least a decade too late” and carries a strong risk of irreversible global climate disruption at levels “inconsistent with maintaining well-functioning human societies”.

Australian governments, businesses, industries and communities “can and must” cut emissions deeply, the publication urges. Protecting Australians from the worsening effects of climate change requires action to deeply reduce emissions during the 2020s.

“All efforts must now focus on steps that can be taken this decade,” the report says.

The lengthy report warns far stronger and quicker global climate action is needed to avoid the catastrophic consequences of a two-degree warmer planet.

Evidence is mounting that it is now no longer possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels without significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The world has now "reached the endgame" and dramatic action is needed to avoid devastating consequences.

Australia “should be a leader not a laggard, and reduce its emissions even faster than the required global average,” it says.

“Australia, as a major emitter in its own right and a giant of the global fossil fuel economy, has a major role to play in the global effort to stabilise the climate. Bold and decisive climate action ultimately protects us and is in our national interest.”

Already, at a global average temperature rise of 1.1 degrees Celsius, more powerful storms, destructive marine and land heatwaves and a new age of megafires is being experienced, the Climate Council says. Evidence strongly suggests the global average temperature rise will exceed 1.5 degrees during the 2030s.

Should temperatures spike above 1.5 degrees for a significant period of time, critical ecosystems will be even more severely damaged, or destroyed, with every fraction of a degree measured in lives, species and ecosystems lost or saved.

“There’s little time left to limit global warming below catastrophic temperature rises,” the Council says, adding that breaching 1.5 degrees of warming significantly increases the risk of triggering abrupt, dangerous and irreversible changes to the climate system.

“Australia has unrivalled potential for renewable energy, new clean industries, and clean jobs. We need to rapidly scale up the energy transition and advance solutions in other sectors including transport and agriculture,” the report says.

It says climate leadership from states and territories has shown what works, and the benefits that decarbonising the economy can bring, such as regional jobs, cleaner cities and cheaper power.

“Despite our natural advantages, we are being left behind in the new, clean economy race,” the report says.