Update Paper 1: Weighing the costs and benefits of climate change action
Summary of key points
- The 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review argued that it is neither rational nor helpful for someone to reject a policy recommendation because they do not like it.
- For discussion of policy to be productive, it is necessary for debate to focus on the validity of the premises, logic and information that led to a recommendation.
- The transparency of the Review’s decision-making framework, premises and sources of information was designed to encourage rational criticism or acceptance of its conclusions.
- There have been few general criticisms of the Review’s decision-making framework. It has survived the public discussion as a robust, logical and ethical framework within which to consider the diabolical policy problem of climate change.
- However, there have been some criticisms of specific choices made within the decision-making framework.
- Five issues that have been the subject of criticism are addressed in this Update Paper: the Review’s choice of discount rates; the treatment of uncertainty; the contributions to mitigation from low-income developing countries; determining Australia’s proportionate effort as part of global mitigation; and the optimal balance between efforts on climate change mitigation and on climate change adaptation.
- The Update Paper finds that:
- the Review’s choice of discount rate was sound and that the Australian case for climate change action is not affected by reasonable variations in the approach to choosing a discount rate;
- the presence of uncertainty in the range of possible climate outcomes strengthens the case for climate change action;
- the Review’s approach to the treatment of developing countries as part of a global response remains a robust and ethical basis for a long-term solution;
- the case for substantial and well-designed Australian action to encourage international agreement on climate responses remains compelling; and
- while the current and prospective realities of damage from climate change warrant effective efforts on adaptation, this does not weaken the case for strong focus on mitigation.