Moving on from a loud argument about a distant target

Australia must slash climate pollution this decade: Joint statement from 50+ environment, social and health organisations

The political debate about climate change in Australia is stuck on whether the Federal Government should commit to net zero climate pollution by 2050. This is largely irrelevant to the real world climate crisis that’s harming Australians now, and endangering many of our livelihoods. The scientific consensus is that a rapid reduction in climate pollution is required by 2030 to avoid even more climate damage and keep the global 1.5 degree goal within reach.

Australia needs greater, immediate climate action to protect our communities, economies, jobs, and nature. Setting a net zero emissions target for 2050 is not only too late, it is also meaningless without a plan or concrete steps or investments that cut emissions this decade.

Australia is out of step with the rest of the world. Globally, our strategic allies and trading partners are committing to significant pollution reduction targets for 2030.

At a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) country leaders in June this year, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan all committed to halving carbon emissions this decade. Australia set a weak emissions reduction target of 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030 six years ago, and has been refusing to increase this.

In the meantime, the United States has almost doubled its 2030 commitment to at least 50% reduction by 2030. Japan increased its 26% pollution reduction commitment to 46% by 2030, including a plan to halve gas-fired electricity generation and reduce coal power by more than a third. Canada, a major fossil fuel exporter like Australia, has increased a 30% commitment to 40-45% cut by 2030. South Korea has committed to a 40% cut below 2017 levels by 2030.

The United Kingdom is committed to 68% reduction by 2030, and 78% by 2035. The European Union is committed to 55% reduction by 2030. Collectively, these commitments are moving the world closer to the pathway of keeping global heating as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.The science says that the Federal Government needs to triple climate pollution reduction targets to 75% this decade if we are to help keep Australians safe. If we continue with the current plan, then Australia won’t reach net-zero climate pollution until the year 2170.

Australia has exceptional natural advantages with its abundant renewable energy and skilled workforce. We can develop world-leading new industries and jobs based on our vast reserves of solar and wind energy, but if development plans and investment don’t materialise, these renewable industries and jobs will go to other countries. Our exporters and workforce will also become disadvantaged as they wear the cost of border carbon adjustments applied to countries that are not acting responsibly to reduce climate pollution.

"Unless the Federal Government acts decisively we will be left behind, or worse, penalised and globally isolated for our inaction."

There is no 'safe' level of global warming. Already, at a global average temperature rise of 1.2°C, we’re experiencing more powerful storms, destructive marine and land heatwaves, and a new age of megafires. The latest science, and extreme floods, fires and heatwaves being experienced here and around the world, tell us climate change is accelerating. Our response must match the scale and urgency of this worsening crisis.

In November all countries will come together at the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow to accelerate climate action and avoid the most catastrophic social, economic and environmental consequences of global warming. Our long term allies, the United Kingdom and the USA, and some of our largest trading partners, Japan and South Korea, want the Australian government to commit to much stronger targets for the coming decade.

Making a promise for net zero climate pollution 30 years from now, without any concrete plans to significantly cut climate pollution this decade, will rightly be seen as meaningless.

The Federal Coalition Government is split over a long-term target for 2050; having a public squabble between Barnaby Joyce and some Queensland National Party MPs, who continually question climate science, and many Liberal MPs who want the government to act. This debate is a loud argument about a distant target, when it should be about immediate action.

The Australian Federal Government does need to commit to a net zero target, but most importantly all Australian federal political parties should be pursuing a science-based target of 75% pollution reduction by 2030, with a just and fair national plan to rapidly slash climate pollution across our economy this decade.


Australian Conservation Foundation

Australasian Epidemiological Association

Australian Parents for Climate Action

Climate Council

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action

Veterinarians for Climate Action

Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Lighter Footprints

Environment Centre NT


Queensland Conservation Council

Friends of the Earth Australia

The Sunrise Project

Climate and Health Alliance

Outdoors People for Climate

Climate Action Burwood/Canada Bay

The Wilderness Society

Climate for Change 

Citizens' Climate Lobby Australia

Medical Association for Prevention of War (Aus)

Australian Marine Conservation Society

The Australia Institute

Conservation Council ACT Region

Australian Rainforest Conservation Society

Climate Justice Union

350 Australia

Conservation Council SA

Fossil Free SA

Edmund Rice Centre

Galilee Blockade

Green Music Australia

Doctors for the Environment Australia

Sustainable Energy Now

Women's Health Goulburn North East

Nature Conservation Council 

Australian Federation of Medical Women

Estuary Care Foundation

Australian Association of Social Workers

NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association

Comms Declare

Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health

Gippsland Climate Change Network

Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association

ACF Community Adelaide

Yarra Climate Action Now

Common Grace

Australian Lesbian Medical Association

Sustainable Living Armidale

Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

Australian College of Nursing

South Hobart Sustainable Community

Climate Action Network Australia

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Contact Conservation SA on (08) 8223 5155, [email protected], or at our offices at the Joinery at 111 Franklin Street, Adelaide.

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