16 Dec 2008

Green groups criticise Australia climate decision

11:21 am on 16 December 2008

The Australian federal government's announcement on the level of greenhouse gas emissions it will aim for has been branded an embarrassment by a coalition of environment groups.

Australia aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% by the year 2020, and possibly as much as 15% if the world signs an effective climate pact.

Some scientists have called for emissions to be slashed by 25% to 40% to avert catastrophic climate change.

The government's own climate adviser, Ross Garnaut, called for a maximum 25% cut.

The 2020 target is crucial because it sums up Australia's climate policy to the world, and will set prices under emissions trading.

A coalition of 60 environment groups declared the target a "total failure" which would lead to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

"Five per cent is a global embarrassment, 15% is way below even the minimum the rest of the world wants to see," Greens Senator Christine Milne said.

However the move won a more positive response from business groups and the federal opposition, concerned that the fight against climate change could force companies offshore and cost jobs.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the plan was a positive compromise, but would still pose problems for business.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the 2020 target was appropriate and responsible.