Australia lagging in carbon cuts

March 19, 2012 at 1:37 PM
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SYDNEY, March 19 (UPI) -- Australia rates the worst of any advanced economy in its readiness to handle a low-carbon world, a study says.

The study, released Monday by The Climate Institute, an Australian think tank, and GE, ranked Group of 20 countries on a number of measures including energy generation, emissions growth, investments in clean technology, export industries and transport.

Australia ranked 16th out of 19 countries, ahead of just India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

"Looking at the index, countries that performed well in the rankings are those who have recognized the inextricable link between economic, resource security and climate change policies and are acting accordingly," John Connor, chief executive officer of the Climate Institute, said in a statement.

Climate Institute Deputy Chief Executive Officer Erwin Jackson noted that compared to other countries, Australia's economy had become more -- rather than less -- dependent on pollution.

"Among other things our energy sector is dominated by coal, our use of oil is inefficient, we have high rates of deforestation and our export industries are based on low-value-added resources and not high-value-add technologies," he was quoted as saying by The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Australia, the world's largest exporter of coal and iron ore, relies on coal to generate about 80 percent of its electricity generation.

The index used for the study, created by British consultants Vivid Economics, doesn't account for Australia's carbon-pricing scheme. Under the law, which was passed last November and goes into effect in July, 500 of Australia's top polluting companies will pay $24 for each ton of carbon they emit.

The law has fiercely been opposed by Australia's resource sector and industry, manufacturing and business lobby groups, who want the amount reduced to $10 a ton.

"GE believes that securing Australia's carbon competitiveness is crucial to long-term prosperity and competitiveness," Ben Waters, director ecomagination, GE Australia and New Zealand, said a news release.

"While the report shows that Australia is lagging behind our major trading partners, there have been positive steps to change this trajectory. We believe a price on carbon is the most cost effective economic lever but it's up to businesses to maximize the opportunities and mitigate the risks to ensure competitiveness in a carbon constrained future."

Australia aims to cut the country's emissions by 5 percent from year 2000 levels by 2020 and bring emissions down 80 percent by 2050.

The report authors of the study quote a 2010 speech by Marius Kloppers, chief executive of Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, in which he stressed that "to remain competitive in a future carbon-constrained world Australia will need to turn into a lower carbon economy."

The study notes that more than 100 countries have policies that support clean energy, resulting in a record $260 billion in spending in the sector.

"With a growing low carbon global economy and as the developed country most exposed to the extremes of climate change, Australia's national interest lies in enhancing both its carbon competitiveness and climate co-operation with other nations," said Connor.

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