Australia’s sub-national governments are showing how climate collaboration is done

6 May 2015

LONDON: The State of South Australia, a member of The Climate Group’s States & Regions, is leading on collective climate action between Australian states and territories.

In an international meeting held last Monday in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, representatives from local and national government discussed how to spur the economic opportunities of tackling climate change. The seven jurisdictions which attended also aimed to find a common pathway toward the global climate talks, COP21, which will take place in Paris this December.

South Australia’s Premier Jay Weatherill is a long-standing co-chair of The Climate Group States & Regions Alliance, which brings together sub-national governments around the world to share their low carbon success stories, demonstrating the national impact of their policies.

The event saw the participation of the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres and our CEO Mark Kenber, who highlighted the important role of The Climate Group States & Regions Alliance’s members in shaping a better future for their citizens and grasping the economic opportunities arising from the low carbon economy.

“The vision and leadership shown by our sub-national members in the fight against climate change brings them direct economic benefits that cannot be ignored by national governments,” Mark Kenber said while speaking at the event via videolink. “Only last week, South Australia committed to the Compact of States and Regions, a platform launched at the UN Climate Summit in New York last year that will allow sub-national governments to grow long term ambition and accurately report on their emission reduction achievements.”

The Compact of States and Regions, supported by the UN, is a partnership between The Climate Group, CDP, R20 and nrg4SD. The main aim of this instrument is to prove a clear picture of the overall contribution being made by state and regional governments around the world, through aggregated global data. Increasing the ability to compare state and regional efforts allows a meaningful comparison of the regional efforts to tackle climate change, while creating incentives for additional state and regional governments to set targets and measure emissions.

“Across Australia, states are implementing low carbon policies that are creating strong, sustainable economic growth,” Mark Kenber added, “and helping to tackle the greatest causes of climate change. This leadership state governments have already shown has been recognized worldwide – we now need the federal government to follow suit.”

Role of States and Territories

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres also praised the role sub-national governments play in tackling climate change: “States and territories are a lot closer to citizens than the federal government and perhaps they are reflecting more the concerns about climate change and the opportunities that are there.

Climate change is one of the greatest economic development opportunities of the 21st Century. In general, the higher the renewable energy target, it does attract investment. If there’s anything that’s growing in recent years in Australia, it’s renewable energy investment.”

She also briefed the ministers and senior officials about the dangers of delaying action on climate change, highlighting the importance of a global climate deal at COP21 in Paris. “We welcome that the federal government is turning in its national target by July,” she said, “and I’m confident it will encompass what the states and territories are doing. I’m confident we will be pleasantly surprised.

Video: Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, speaks at the Australian Jurisdictional Meeting on Climate Change - courtesy of the South Australia's Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

South Australian leadership

Forward-thinking sub-national governments are already leading the way in Australia, with bold and clear climate policies. South Australia’s wind capacity is one of the highest in the world for a sub-national administration. The State has exceeded a renewable energy proportion of 20% with its South Australian Strategic Plan, and is aiming for at least 33% by 2020.

South Australian Environment Minister Ian Hunter said States and Territories at the Summit agreed “to harmonize all of their state-based regulations, and work together to reduce emissions while improving partisanship around climate change and working co-operatively with the federal government.”

The Australian Government is committed to achieving a 5% reduction on 2000 greenhouse gases emissions levels by 2020. However, the Australian Climate Change Authority labelled such target as “a non-credible contribution to the global goal of keeping warming below 2 Celsius degrees. A 5% target would leave an improbably large emissions reduction task to later.”

Ian Hunter agrees more must be done, calling for Australia’s federal government “to embrace the report from its own climate change authority, making ambitious changes above the 5% target that it set for itself, and to embrace a 19% by 2020 and a 30% emissions reduction by 2025.”

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