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The Garnaut Review’s Targets and Trajectories: A Critique

Author(s): Andrew Macintosh

The Garnaut Climate Change Review was the most comprehensive government inquiry into climate change that has ever been conducted in Australia. The Final Report of the Review was published in late September 2008 and contains an extensive list of recommendations on adaptation and abatement policy options. Most controversially, the Review argues that Australia’s climate response should be built around gaining an international consensus on stabilising the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases at 550 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e). While arguing that a lower stabilisation target of “450 ppm or less” would better suit Australia’s interests, the Review concludes that anything significantly below 550 ppm is politically unrealistic. If there is a global agreement to pursue a 550 ppm outcome, the Review argues that Australia’s mid- and long-term targets should be to reduce emissions net of international trading by 10 per cent from 2000 levels by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050. This article provides a critique of the Review’s mitigation recommendations, focusing on whether the proposed global and national targets are likely to lead to a 550 ppm outcome. It concludes that the international community, and especially Australia and other developed countries, should adopt abatement targets in excess of those proposed by the Review if there is a desire to keep the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to 550 ppm.

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Research theme: Administrative Law, Environmental Law, Law, Governance and Development

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