The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) has called on the federal government to make a strong committment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the lead up to the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November, saying that $226 billion worth of infrastructure and housing could be under threat from rising seas.
PIA national president Brendan Nelson pointed out that a significant number of countries have already submitted their emissions reductions targets for the conference, including New Zealand, the USA, Russia, Korea and Canada.
“It’s time for the Australian government to finalise our targets recognising the clear and unequivocal evidence of the link between carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change,” he said.
The UN asked states to submit their intentions for an emissions reduction target from 2020 before 31 March 2015 to increase the chances of a successful agreement being reached at the November conference. Over 33 countries submitted their targets by the March date, but the Australian government has not yet announced a target for emissions reductions.
The Paris conference aims to reach an international agreement that will contain global temperature rise within two degrees above pre-industrial temperatures.
“We are concerned that inadequate action on climate change will leave our cities and regions inadequately prepared for the changes brought about by extreme weather events,” said the PIA in a public statement.
The planning body went on to outline some of the potential negative effects of climate change, including frequent major droughts and flood, the threat of inundation of coastal cities and towns, thousands of human deaths from climate change related natural disasters each year and the extinction of many species.
The Australian Academy of Science estimates that over 30,000 kilometres of roads across the country could be under threat if the sea level rises 1.1 metres, and the housing and infrastructure at risk is worth $226 billion.
At the moment, Australia has a target in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by five percent on 2000 levels by 2020. The EU has indicated that it will reduce its emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030, the USA has said that it will make a reduction of 26 to 27 percent by 2025, and China has said that they will aim to ensure that their emissions peak in 2030.
The 2015 UN Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December.