SYDNEY, Australia — Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday announced a greenhouse gas reduction goal for Australia that he said struck “the right balance” between economic concerns and the need to address climate change, but scientists and environmental groups said the plan fell short of what was needed.
The goal — of reducing carbon emissions at least 26 percent, and possibly 28 percent, from 2005 levels by 2030 — also earned Mr. Abbott a stinging rebuke from the Marshall Islands, the tiny archipelago northeast of Australia that is threatened by rising sea levels.
“If the rest of the world followed Australia’s lead, the Great Barrier Reef would disappear,” Tony de Brum, the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, said in a statement. “So would my country, and the other vulnerable atoll nations on Australia’s doorstep.”
Mr. Abbott, a conservative leader who last year repealed laws requiring large companies to pay for carbon emissions, said the target set Tuesday was achievable and responsible. The government will take its goal to the United Nations climate change conference to be held in Paris in November and December.
At 26 to 28 percent, Australia’s target gets the right balance between our economic and environmental responsibilities,” Mr. Abbott said Tuesday after meeting with lawmakers.
“We are committed to tackling climate change without a carbon tax or an emissions-trading scheme that will hike up power bills for families, pensioners and businesses,” he said.
Mr. Abbott has told Australian voters that measures like a pollution tax or carbon-trading program would result in higher electricity prices and reduced economic growth. “There are many additional ways we can reduce emissions, while saving businesses and households money and lifting productivity,” he said Tuesday.
Mr. Abbott said the new target was “about the same as the United States.” But the United States’ stated goal is to reduce emissions between 26 percent and 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, not 2030. The Australia-based Climate Institute said the American goal would amount to a 41 percent reduction by 2030.
“The government can’t pretend that this target would see us doing our bit in limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius,” said John Connor, chief executive of the Climate Institute. Scientists hope that holding global warming to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) will limit the worst effects of climate change.
According to the Climate Institute’s calculations, Australia’s goal for 2030 lags behind those of the European Union, Canada, Germany and Britain as well as the United States, if a 2005 benchmark is applied to all of them.
The Australian Academy of Science said the country should aim for cuts of 30 percent to 40 percent from 2000 levels, arguing that the starting point should not be 2005, when Australia’s emissions were higher.
Mr. Abbott has been a supporter of coal and the earnings it brings to Australia, which is a major coal exporter.
An Australian National University scientist, Will Steffen, said the target announced Tuesday was “way below what is required to meet the climate change challenge.”
Press link for more: Michelle Innis | nytimes.com