National

Garnaut urges zero emissions target ‘ASAP’

By AAP Newswire

Australia must aim for zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible otherwise bushfire conditions will deteriorate significantly, economist Ross Garnaut says.

Professor Garnaut undertook a review for the then-Labor government in 2008, which concluded climate change would make bushfires worse in Australia by 2020.

"Things will keep getting more challenging, hotter conditions will be worse for bushfires," he told ABC radio on Monday.

"That will continue to be the case until the world has zero net emissions. It's in Australia's national interest that we're part of the global effort to get to zero net emissions as soon as possible."

Australia has pledged to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 under the Paris Agreement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under pressure for his handling of the bushfire crisis as well as his government's attitude towards the link between climate change and carbon emissions.

Mr Morrison says he accepts climate change is driving longer, hotter and drier summer seasons and the government's emissions targets need to "evolve".

But he says this won't include introducing a carbon price.

Prof Garnaut says the government could ensure the coal and natural gas industries buy carbon credits to offset their future emissions, which continue to grow.

Director of the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute Mark Howden says putting a price on carbon would be the most effective and efficient way of reducing emissions.

Other options are "second-level policies which are less efficient, cost more, deliver fewer benefits", he told ABC news.

Dr Howden, who is also a vice chair of the UN's climate policy advisory group, said the government could do more to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles and to ensure energy efficiency in agriculture.

Chief councillor of the Climate Council Tim Flannery says Australia must start taking action to ensure damage doesn't get worse.

Prof Flannery was the chief commissioner of the Climate Commission set up by the Gillard Labor government in 2011. But it was dumped two years later by the Abbott government.

"As climate commissioner my first report in 2011 was titled: The Critical Decade," he told AAP.

"The argument was that if we didn't start making deep cuts through this decade, then we'd face some very nasty consequences. Sadly that's proved to be the case, here at the end of that critical decade."

Natural Disaster Minister David Littleproud has continued to stand by the government's plan to use carryover credits towards achieving the Paris target.

Australia is the only country which plans to use the accounting technique.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says Australia needs to plan for a transition away from fossil fuels in order to drive down emissions.

The opposition's renewable energy and emissions reduction targets remain under review, but Mr Albanese says Labor won't open any new coal-fired power stations.