Australia will take into account an historic climate change agreement between China and the US when it considers its post-2020 emissions reduction targets next year, the federal government says.
China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has set a goal for its emissions to peak at 2030, or earlier if possible.
It will also look to increase the non-fossil fuel share of all energy to about 20 per cent by 2030, while the US set a goal to cut its own emissions of the gases blamed for climate change by 26 per cent to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2025.
The declaration came as President Barack Obama had talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing.
Australia has a goal of reducing emissions by five per cent by 2020.
Labor and the Greens launched a blistering attack on the Abbott government’s climate policy after the historic deal was announced on Wednesday, as the federal government quickly indicated it won’t steer from its present course.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt reiterated the government would look at new developments when it considered Australia’s post-2020 emissions reduction targets in the lead up to the UN climate change conference in Paris in November 2015.
“This will take into account action taken by our major trading partners,” he said in a statement.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the agreement will provide significant momentum for dealing with climate change at the G20 in Brisbane, whether the prime minister likes it or not.
“While the United States and China show global leadership, Tony Abbott is sticking his head in the sand,” Mr Shorten said in a statement.
“At the G20 this week, Australia will hold the embarrassing title of being the only nation going backwards on climate change.”
Greens leader Christine Milne said Mr Abbott was so busy unwinding the nation’s climate policies that he failed to notice the global economy was changing around him.
“Until the Abbott government took control, Australia was a world leader in climate policy with an emissions trading scheme that was considered template legislation for other nations,” Senator Milne said.
The Climate Institute’s deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson says the Australian government has been caught with its pants down.
“This is the problem with having a pitiful 2020 target,” he said.
“There’s no free lunch for the government here.
“If you want to participate in global action and you want to be a credible player internationally, then you can’t continue to sit on your hands.”
The Climate Council’s Tim Flannery said Australia must be a lifter and not a leaner.
“Australia is a major climate change player. Per person, we are the highest emitter, more than Europeans or Chinese,” Professor Flannery said.