SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Australia’s new leader should ramp up renewable energy use and enshrine tougher energy efficiency standards to fight global warming, leading climate scientists said on Tuesday, describing them as easy policy wins.
Australia has struggled to get support for an emissions trading scheme that would put a price on carbon pollution from industry, such as the refining, minerals and mining sectors.
Shelving the scheme in April led in part to a plunge in the popularity of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ahead of an election later this year. His deputy Julia Gillard took over as prime minister last week, pledging greater consensus on setting a price on carbon.
But Gillard is also expected to announce more steps in favour of green energy and energy efficiency in the world’s top coal exporter and major coal consumer, in an effort to win back support from voters expecting more action on climate change.
“You get much more support for climate policies if you frame them in a positive way and not present them only as constraints but also opportunities,” said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
More investment in public transport and energy efficiency made people’s lives easier and cheaper, he told an online media briefing on the sidelines of a major climate change and adaptation conference on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
“I want (the Australian government) to look at an emissions trading scheme because eventually you have to have a price on carbon or you don’t send a market signal,” said Stephen Schneider of Stanford University in California. “But markets aren’t the only thing,” he told reporters.
“I think if you follow the role of California or Japan, which have implemented mandatory building codes for windows and insulation and refrigerators and air conditioning -- the average person is going to save money and you’re going to reduce your carbon footprint.”
“Do that first because that way you get a win win,” he said.
Australia has already passed laws mandating 20 percent of electricity must be generated from renewable sources by 2020 and is looking at steps to ramp up energy efficiency.
But analysts say more can be done to curb the nation’s appetite for coal, oil and gas that makes it one of the developed world’s highest per-capita greenhouse gas polluters.
The scientists also pointed to the need to better integrate efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions with adapting to climate change impacts such as rising seas, coastal erosion, threat to crops from changes in rainfall patterns and mass extinction.
Overall, the planet has already warmed about 0.8 degrees Celsius since the 19th century and scientists blame emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation as the main cause for the temperature rise.
Scientists say some impacts such as rising seas and more intense droughts and floods are inevitable given the sharp rise in planet-warming carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
But there was a limit to how you could adapt economies to these impacts if emissions kept rising, scientists say.
“What I keep arguing is, don’t think about next year, think about the whole century. Because over that time frame, if the climate starts going up towards (a rise of 3 to 5 deg C by 2100), which is where we’re headed, then we have the problem where adaptation becomes almost impossible,” Schneider said.
(Editing by Ron Popeski)
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