Update papers

Update Paper 2: Progress towards effective global action on climate change

Released 7 February 2011

Summary of key points

The 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review said that strong mitigation, consistent with Australia‘s national interest, requires effective global action, with Australia playing its proportionate part. Effective global action requires comprehensive agreement among countries.

The Copenhagen meeting in December 2009 and the Cancun meeting in December 2010 moved the world towards several elements of such agreement, but away from one important element.

The Copenhagen and Cancun meetings have led us into a messy world in relation to the setting of each country‘s ambitions on emissions reductions. But they have embodied strong progress on several crucial and difficult issues, and may have laid a basis eventually for the comprehensive and binding international agreement that is still necessary to avoid high risks of dangerous climate change.

Most developed countries—members of the European Union, Japan, New Zealand and now Korea—are reasonably well placed to make full contributions to achieving strong global mitigation goals.

Major developing countries seemed to be sources of weakness at the time of the Review, but are now making large emissions reductions below business as usual. Chinese climate change policy is at the centre of the international effort to reach global agreement.

The three countries which have been the largest drags on the global mitigation effort are the three highest per capita emitters amongst the developed countries—Australia, Canada and the United States.

The United States faces large domestic constraints on early action, but is still committed to a significant reduction in emissions. It is also benefiting from favourable developments, such as the ‘gas revolution’, in its efforts to reduce emissions.

If Australia were to introduce a carbon price, one that was seen as commensurate with carbon prices in other countries, it would cease to be a drag on international mitigation. Australian success in introducing a carbon price is likely to assist the United States and Canada to maintain momentum in policies to reduce emissions.