SYDNEY (Reuters) - The world’s electricity must be generated from zero or near zero-emission power plants by 2050 if a 50 percent cut in global greenhouse gas emissions is to be achieved by mid-century, Australia’s Environment Minister said on Wednesday.
Australia, a long-standing critic of the Kyoto Protocol and heavily reliant on traditional coal-fired power, says clean-coal technology, most notably carbon sequestration or burying carbon underground, is the key to achieving such a goal.
“The fundamental reality is by 2050 all or almost all of the power stations in the world will have to be zero or near zero emissions,” Malcolm Turnbull told Reuters in an interview.
“You cannot get to those big cuts in emissions without doing that,” said Turnbull, ahead of the APEC leaders’ meeting in Sydney in September where climate change will be high on the agenda.
“Now that is a huge technological leap and it is going to require both the technology being feasible and economic...and simple enough to be deployed universally,” he said.
Environmental critics such as Australia’s Greens party say clean-coal technology such as carbon sequestration will not make deep cuts in emissions in the necessary time frame.
Turnbull agreed such technology was still in its infancy, but added Australia was leading the world in developing clean coal, and hoped it could be “retro-fitted” to existing power stations.
“The deployment of clean-coal technology...is something we expect to be able to achieve within 15 years,” he said.
Turnbull said reducing deforestation, the second largest source of emissions, was the other major goal world leaders must now adopt to reduce the effects of climate change.
“That has to be put on the top of the agenda leading up to the Bali conference,” Turnbull said.
China, India and major developing nations said in June they backed a G8 plan to launch talks on a long-term U.N. deal to combat global warming at a major U.N. meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in December.
It is hoped the new pact would be agreed by 2009 and be ready to take over from the Kyoto Protocol’s first phase, which ends in 2012.
Forests are not included under Kyoto, even though deforestation, especially in the tropics, contributes about 20 percent of man-made global carbon emissions. But there will be discussions in Bali to try to allow schemes to pay countries to avoid deforestation as part of a new global climate pact.
Australia has committed A$200 million ($175 million) over five years to a World Bank-backed fund to help counter forest destruction and illegal logging in the Asia-Pacific region.
Part of the plan is to track deforestation using satellites, but environmental critics say tracking merely monitors the problem and does not offer incentives for loggers to stop.
Turnbull said monitoring and managing forests would lead to investment in sustainable forestry schemes and create carbon offsets, which provide financial incentives to stop logging.
“The incentives, the revenues from the carbon trading and investment in CO2 abatement, have to get all the way down to the grassroots,” he said.
Australia has refused to ratify Kyoto, saying the climate pact is flawed because it does not include the world’s largest developing nations India and China, which have rapidly increasing emissions as their economies boom.
Turnbull said world leaders must in the next 12 months commit to a post-Kyoto treaty and set a major global emissions reduction target of around 50 percent.
“We recognize that developed countries will take a larger share of the burden, as they have to date. But you simply cannot get to the big global cut in emissions if there isn’t a pathway for the developing world,” he said.
Australia, which has been allowed to increase its emissions under Kyoto, has yet to announce its own future reduction targets, pending an economic study.
Turnbull said “aspirational” targets will be announced in 2008, but Australia will not set big cuts without equivalent reductions in competitor nations.
“We have a lot of industries in Australia which are very energy dependent...now they have to become decarbonizes, we accept that,” he said.
Australia plans to launch an emissions trading scheme in 2011 and says that a carbon price will be set by the market. The scheme will cover 70 percent of Australia’s emissions.
“It certainly could connect with other schemes and indeed connect with other forms of abatement, such as avoiding deforestation and reforestation,” he said.
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