Labor and the Greens have seized on a report from the government-appointed Climate Commission to ram home the need for urgent action on climate change.
In its first report, titled The Critical Decade (HERE), the commission says the evidence that the planet is warming is now even stronger.
It warns global warming could cause global sea levels to rise up to one metre by the end of the century, higher than previously thought.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says the report underlines the need to “get on with it” and backs the Government’s plans for a carbon tax.
“This report issued today underlines just how important it is that we tackle climate change, and the best way to do it, the fact remains, is through a carbon price so we can cut pollution and drive investment in clean energy,” Mr Combet said.
“The contrast we’ve got in Australia, of course, is with Tony Abbott who doesn’t think we should do anything. “
Greens Senator Christine Milne says she is “buoyed” by the commission’s recommendation for a high enough carbon price to drive the economy towards renewables.
But she said realistically, the carbon price would not be high enough to attract investment in renewable energy by itself.
“That’s why it has to be carbon price plus, plus, plus. Carbon price, plus protection of forests; carbon price plus a strong incentive for renewables, plus carbon in the landscape,” Senator Milne said.
“So many things to do but a big opportunity to do them.”
The Opposition, however, was cool on the report.
Deputy Senate Leader Barnaby Joyce said a carbon price would just make people poorer and do nothing to prevent climate change.
He was critical of chief commissioner Tim Flannery, saying he is “on a very comfortable salary” while making people’s lives “more miserable”.
“I think there is something not quite right about that,” Senator Joyce said.
Liberal backbencher Dennis Jensen says the world has not warmed over the past 10 years and climate change action is not needed.
Climate scientist and commissioner Professor Will Steffen (above) is concerned the science is being muddied in the media by many with no credentials.
“I don’t think we have the luxury anymore of climate denialism. We need to get beyond this fruitless phoney debate in the media,” he said.
Professor Steffen says the decisions made between now and 2020 will determine the level of severity of global warming.
“We’ve got to make some very important policy decisions,” he said.
“We have to make some very important investment decisions this decade if we’re to take advantage of this fleeting last opportunity to get this situation under control.”
The report has also taken a blowtorch to the Opposition’s direct action policy.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s plan to reduce pollution is predominantly focused on storing carbon in soils and trees.
The commission says while returning carbon to land ecosystems can help restore degraded soils and improve the land’s productivity, it does not equate to reducing fossil fuel emissions.
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• Vica Bayley…
Stopping logging most effective way to cut emissions
The Wilderness Society today welcomed the Climate Commissions analysis that protecting forests is an important policy measure for Governments to embrace to combat climate change.
This reinforces calls for the State and Federal Governments to engage in negotiations with Tasmanian stakeholders about protecting native forests and managing those forests in the long term for their carbon storage and climate change mitigation benefits.
The science is clear and this is reflected in the Commissions report, said Vica Bayley. Protecting forests is one of the quickest and most effective ways to cut carbon emissions and one of the quickest and most effective ways to combat climate change.
This report gives clear direction to Governments to introduce policy and take real steps to protect native forests across Australia, starting with Tasmania.
The report states:
In general, forests with high carbon storage capacities are those in relatively cool, moist climates that have fast growth coupled with low decomposition rates, and older, complex, multi-aged and layered forests with minimal human disturbance.
This framework underscores the importance of eliminating harvesting of old-growth forests as perhaps the most important policy measure that can be taken to reduce emissions from land ecosystems. [our emphasis]
Protecting and restoring native forests will deliver real climate benefits for Australia and help meet immediate targets for emissions reductions, continued Mr Bayley.
Government action to secure an agreed resolution to the forest conflict in Tasmania, which will include the protection of some of the worlds most carbon dense forests and the elimination of logging in oldgrowth and mature native forest ecosystems as part of a rapid transition into plantations is urgently required.
Both the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments must agree to negotiate with signatories to the forest agreement in Tasmania, to realise the climate change benefits protecting Tasmanias forests would bring, concluded Mr Bayley.
Tonight the Wilderness Society will continue a series of community forums about the opportunity to resolve Tasmanias forest conflict. This will include a presentation on forest carbon issues by Conservation Biologist Nick Fitzgerald.
Carlton Surf Live Savers Club, 1 Raprinner Street, Carlton, TAS from 6.00 to 7.30 pm