The G20 Summit: From Brisbane to Paris

Late last year, Australia hosted the G20 Summit in Brisbane. The G20, also known as the Group of Twenty, comprises 20 leaders from 19 countries plus the European Union (EU). These leaders meet annually to discuss ways to boost the world’s economic growth, and in turn, improve global living standards through better education, health care and jobs.

To some extent, the G20 was overshadowed by an unexpected and welcome joint announcement by the US and China on climate change. China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, agreed for the first time to absolute limits on its emissions to peak by 2030 or earlier. 

The US has a goal to reduce its emissions by 26-28 percent on 2005 levels by 2025. They have already made steps towards this by reducing emissions by about 10 percent since 2005, largely because of a significant switch to natural gas for electricity generation.

The Chinese President also signed a new free trade agreement which creates opportunities for Australian exports. Origin is part of the Australia Pacific LNG joint venture, which will export natural gas to China. Natural gas emits around half the carbon of coal when used to generate electricity and as a result will help to further reduce China’s emissions. 

Within this context, it was fitting that we supported the release of a report by Deloitte Access Economics (DAE), ‘Emissions metrics: Australia’s carbon footprint in the G20’1, which examines the link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions in the G20 nations. The G20 countries represent a good sample to measure Australia’s performance against as they account for 85 percent of global GDP and 76 percent of global carbon emissions.

The report found that traditional measures of carbon efficiency that focus on simple metrics such as carbon emissions per capita fail to account for the link between carbon emissions and economic activity.


The report found that traditional measures of carbon efficiency that focus on simple metrics such as carbon emissions per capita fail to account for the link between carbon emissions and economic activity.


According to the report, a better indicator is carbon emissions per unit of GDP (CO2e/GDP). Australia’s performance in CO2e/GDP is better than the G20 average, being similar to that of Canada and the United States. Over time Australia’s CO2e/GDP has improved significantly and at a faster rate than the G20 average. 

The focus in international climate change policy negotiations is now on developing targets for the period beyond 2020. To meet long term global targets we need to find a way to increase economic output whilst reducing carbon emissions. This will require investing in new technologies – as well as collaboration between developed and developing countries to deploy this new technology as rapidly as possible. 

With the US and China already announcing their post 2020 targets, Australia and other countries are expected to also announce emission reduction targets in 2015 ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference of the Parties meeting in December 2015 in Paris. The UNFCC Conference is expected to link the nationally announced targets into a framework for emissions reduction in the period after 2020. 

With formal announcements by the three largest emitters in the world, China, US and the EU, covering about half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, momentum is building to a comprehensive agreement in Paris.

References

  1. Deloitte Access Economics 2014, Emissions metrics: Australia’s carbon footprint in the G20, Deloitte supported by Origin Energy.  

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