Science, Technology, Environment and Resources
Australia was one of over 170 parties to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change in April 2016. Under the Agreement, most countries have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim to limit global warming to ‘well below’ 2 °C.
The Government needs to table the Paris Agreement in Parliament before Australia can ratify.
Australia has participated in international climate
negotiations since the 1980s and has had a domestic climate change target since
The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement on climate change, developed under
the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC). The Protocol encourages 192 parties to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, with many developed
nations having binding emissions reduction targets.
Under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, meetings are
held annually. At these Conferences of the Parties (COPs), decisions are made to promote the implementation of the
UNFCCC and Protocol. Major meetings have included the disappointing COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, as well as COP18 in Doha,
Qatar in 2012, where the Kyoto Protocol was
extended to 2020 with a second commitment period (the Doha
The first period of the Kyoto Protocol ran from 2008
to 2012. Australia met
and exceeded its first period target of 108% of
1990 emissions levels by 2012. For the second period,
2013–2020, Australia has a target of 99.5%
of 1990 emissions levels by 2020 (equivalent to 5%
below 2000 emission levels by 2020).
In December 2015, the Prime
Minister announced that Australia would ratify the
second period of the Kyoto Protocol (as established by the Doha
Amendment). Australia’s ratification will need to
follow the same process as the Paris Agreement, outlined below. However, the
Kyoto Protocol ends in 2020 and will be replaced by the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement was
agreed in 2015 by 175 parties. The aim of the agreement is to keep global
warming to ‘well below’ 2 °C, and strive to limit warming to 1.5 °C.
The Paris Agreement also includes a global
stocktake every five years to assess international progress, a ‘ratchet’
mechanism to increase emission reduction targets over time and an aim to
peak global emissions as soon as possible.
Each party nominated an emissions reduction target. Australia
proposed a target of 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030. In comparison, the European
Union pledged a target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The United States
(US) nominated a target of 26–28%
below 2005 levels by 2025.
Comparisons are complicated by the use of different
baseline years, but Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target has been described
ambitious than that of most developed nations. The Climate
Change Authority recommended a 30% reduction from 2000 emissions levels by
The Paris Agreement will come into effect when at least
55 parties that make up at least 55% of global emissions have ratified the
Agreement. As of writing, 22 nations which emit 1% of global emissions have ratified. It is predicted
that another 32 countries, including Australia, China and the US will ratify
in 2016, covering 53% of global emissions.
Ratifying the Paris Agreement
Former Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt signed
the Paris Agreement in April 2016. Signing
expresses Australia’s intent to be bound by the terms of the Agreement.
Australia must now ratify the Agreement, confirming its participation.
For ratification, a treaty is tabled in Parliament with a National
Interest Analysis, which explains the impact
of the treaty on Australia’s national interest. The Analysis for the Paris
Agreement is currently being prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Trade and the Department of the Environment and Energy.
Major treaties must be tabled for at least 20 joint sitting days to allow parliamentary
scrutiny, including by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. From this point, the Prime Minister can recommend the Governor-General
approve the ratification of the Agreement.
There are 23 joint sitting days scheduled
for the rest of 2016. If Australia is aiming to ratify the Paris Agreement this
year, as Minister Hunt stated in April,
then the government will need to table the Agreement in the first week of
sitting.The Library has been advised that the Doha
Amendment will be tabled at the same time as the
The next COP, which will discuss the Paris
Agreement, is in November
The Montreal Protocol on ozone-damaging gases does
not directly address climate change, but ozone-damaging gases contribute to global
warming. The 1987 Montreal Protocol binds 196 nations to reduce
the emission of ozone-damaging gases, commonly used in fridges, foam and
industrial applications. These gases thin the ozone
layer, allowing more ultraviolet (UV) light to pass through the atmosphere.
Increased exposure to UV light is linked to an increase in
Australia was one of the first nations to ratify
the Montreal Protocol, and has met or
exceeded all of its targets to date. In 2016, scientists reported
the first signs of healing in the ozone hole over Antarctica.
In April 2016, the Government responded to a
review of Australia’s actions on reducing the emission of ozone-damaging
gases under the Montreal Protocol. The review made a number of recommendations,
which the Government
will implement and aims to have in place by the start
of January 2018. Amendments
to implement these proposed changes will need to be introduced into this parliament
to meet the 2018 deadline.
Climate Change Authority (CCA), Final report on Australia’s future emissions reduction targets, CCA, July 2015.
S. Yeo, ‘Timeline: the Paris agreement’s ‘ratchet mechanism’’, Carbon Brief, January 2016.
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