Australian archbishop urges tougher carbon target

Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier has joined other religious leaders in urging more ambitious emissions targets to halt climate change

Archbishop Philip Freier has joined other religious leaders in urging more ambitious emissions targets to halt climate change, saying that politicians may have misread Australians’ commitment to effective action.

 

Dr Freier signed letters with Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist , Catholic and Uniting Church leaders to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Environment Minister Greg Hunt, and another to Labor leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler.

 

The leaders urge a target for Australia of 40% below 1990 levels by 2025. They say they are pleased that the Government has acknowledged the importance of Australia contributing to an effective global agreement in Paris later his year, but this needs to be matched by robust policies.

 

20th May, 2015

 

Dear Prime Minister

 

We write as religious leaders from diverse communities concerned about the targets Australia has accepted for the reduction of carbon emissions. In response to the issues paper of the Prime Minister’s Department, we would like to comment on Australia’s formal post-2020 target for emissions reductions to be put to the UNFCCC by mid-year.

 

We are pleased to see the Government acknowledges the importance of Australia contributing to a strong and effective global agreement in Paris. However this needs to be matched by robust policies.

 

Some of the reasons given in the issues paper for considering that Australia should not set higher targets are reasons we suggest should make our ambition higher. That coal and natural gas make up so much of our exports, that 95% of our energy consumption comes from fossil fuel sources when the OECD average is 81%, should spur us on to more  rapidly decarbonise our economy.

 

On April 22, the Climate Change Authority released its report putting forward that a reasonable pollution reduction target for Australia should be 30% below 2000 levels by 2025. This would be broadly comparable with levels of ambition of other wealthy developed countries, given the aim of limiting global warming to 2 degrees.

 

We believe there is a moral imperative to work towards this target.

 

Indeed there are very good reasons to aim for even higher emissions reduction targets. We propose 40% below 1990 levels by 2025, and 80% below by 2030, and to increase our offer to the UN Climate Fund.[i] We recognise that these are challenging targets that require a significant restructure of the Australian economy over a relatively short timeframe, will involve strong political debate and require particular courage given the strength of the mining lobby in Australia. We want to assure you of our support for these policy positions.

Australia has the technological and economic capacity to deliver on these policies. It is an opportunity to play our part in addressing the common environmental challenge humanity faces. It would not only create a safer, more stable climate for Australia and other vulnerable countries; it would also bring added economic benefits, through the strengthening of sustainable technology sectors and the creation of new employment opportunities.[ii]

 

As representatives of some of the world’s great faith traditions we find compelling moral and religious reasons from within our very different traditions for the policy actions we commend to you and your government.

 

We urge you to support these emissions reduction targets so that Australia can begin to show leadership in this important international and intergenerational issue.

 

Yours faithfully

 

 

 

Dear Mr Shorten

 

We write as religious leaders from diverse communities, to urge you to support the adoption of robust commitments to limit carbon emissions at the Australian Labor Party National Conference.

 

From our various traditions, we urge you to adopt a policy platform that will allow Australia to give leadership in this important international and intergenerational justice issue.

 

We affirm Labor’s commitment to increasing the nation’s capacity for generating energy from renewable sources.

 

On April 22, the Climate Change Authority released its report putting forward that a reasonable pollution reduction target for Australia should be 30% below 2000 levels by 2025. This would be broadly comparable with levels of ambition of other wealthy developed countries, given the aim of limiting global warming to 2 degrees.

 

We recognise that this is a challenging target that would require a significant restructure of the Australian economy over a relatively short timeframe. Yet we believe there is a moral imperative to work towards it.

 

Indeed there are very good reasons to aim for even higher emissions reduction targets. We propose 40% below 1990 levels by 2025, and 80% below by 2030, and increase our offer to the UN Climate Fund.[i]

 

Australia has the technological and economic capacity to deliver on these policies. It is an opportunity to play our part in addressing the common environmental challenge humanity faces. It would not only create a safer, more stable climate for Australia and other vulnerable countries; it would also bring added economic benefits, through the strengthening of sustainable technology sectors and the creation of new employment opportunities.[ii]

 

We urge the ALP to support these policy positions. As representatives of some of the world’s great faith traditions we find compelling moral and religious reasons from within our very different traditions for the policy actions we commend to you.

 

Yours faithfully

 

Archbishop Philip Freier, Primate, Anglican Church in Australia

Professor Nihal Agar, Chairman, Hindu Council of Australia

Venerable Ajahn Brahm, Australian Sangha Association, Spiritual Director, Buddhist Society of Western Australia

Rev Professor Andrew Dutney, President, Uniting Church of Australia National Assembly

Ms Jacqui Remond, Director, Catholic Earthcare Australia

Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, Senior Rabbi, Emanuel Synagogue

Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, Environmental Advisor, Council of Progressive Rabbis

Mr Kim Hollow, President, Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils

 

Cc The Hon. Greg Hunt, MP, Minister for the Environment

The Hon. Mark Butler, MP, Shadow Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water

[i] An analysis at ANU suggested Australia’s fair contribution to be somewhere between $1.9 and $2.7 billion p.a., ref. Jotzo, F., Pickering, J. and Wood, P.J., “Fulfilling Australia’s International Finance Commitments: Which Sources of Finance are Promising and How Much Could they Raise?” CCEP working paper 1115, October 2011.

[ii] According to Professor Robert Pollin at the Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, investment in a green economy creates 17 jobs for every 5 jobs created by equivalent investment in fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

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