Copy us: Britain urges Australia to imitate its net-zero climate law

London: Britain's independent Climate Change Committee is encouraging Australia to pass its own Climate Change Act to legislate carbon reduction targets, pointing to the support received by the business community when the UK took the step in 2008.

The committee was established by that legislation, which was the first in the world to legally require a government to meet its emissions reductions targets.

The law was passed by the then Labour government led by Gordon Brown with overwhelming cross-party support in Parliament.

Independent Member for Warringah, Zali Steggall started a Parliamentary inquiry into whether Australia should also legislate its carbon goals.Credit:Christopher Pearce

It compelled the UK to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 compared to its carbon output in 1990. But last year, the government led by former conservative prime minister Theresa May went a step further, becoming the first country to legislate a net-zero target by 2050.

The independent Member for Warringah, Zali Steggall, successfully sought a parliamentary inquiry into whether Australia should also legislate its carbon goals to end a decade-long climate change tussle.

Steggall has introduced into the House of Representatives a bill that mimics the UK’s. It was rejected by Prime Minister Scott Morrison who has increased the government's reduction targets to net-zero even as he refuses to specify when they will become effective, committing only to a time frame of "as soon as possible".

The British committee's chief economist Mike Thompson wrote to Steggall's inquiry and endorsed Australia adopting a UK-style legislation, saying it was the reason for Britain's progress in bringing down its carbon emissions by 45.2 per cent on 1990 levels as of last year.

"Over-arching climate legislation such as the proposed Climate Change Bill and the UK’s Climate Change Act can provide the frameworks for meeting those targets at the least cost, while adapting to the further climate impacts that cannot be avoided," Thompson said.

"They provide clear signals to investors, help build political consensus and navigate political challenges, and encourage an evidence-based approach to climate policy.

"The UK Act has been strongly supported by the business community."

Demonstrators lie under sheets in a Extinction Rebellion “die in” protest in London in September. They were urging MPs to pass a further climate emergency bill to prepare for a climate crisis.Credit:AP

Thompson said the act contained several features that helped the country reduce its emissions, including the requirement to conduct a national climate change risk assessment every five years, a national adaption plan, a requirement on the government to produce policy plans to deliver its targets and the creation of an independent monitor.

But Thompson warned there remained "a policy gap" to deliver on Britain's net-zero target.

"Delayed, incomplete or ineffective policies have stifled emissions reduction in key sectors such as buildings and transport, whereas strong and consistent policies have accelerated decarbonisation of the power sector," he said.

Steggall said the committee's submission to her inquiry sent a "loud message to the Morrison government to start treating climate change and its impacts seriously".

"The UK is one of the leading countries to reduce emissions and this submission is a testament that Australia needs to urgently put in place legislation that effectively sets targets to achieve net-zero by 2050.

"The Climate Change Bill is modelled off the UK’s own Climate Change Act that has established a solid framework to adapt and mitigate for a warming world.

Both provided clear signals to investors and encouraged an evidence-based approach to climate policy, she said.

Australia currently adopts new carbon reduction emissions every five years at the discretion of the government.

The existing target, set by the Coalition when Tony Abbott was prime minister, is to reduce emissions by up to 28 per cent of the country's 2005 output by the end of this decade.

Morrison was left out of a global climate summit hosted by Britain at the weekend and the UK Labour party has attacked former cabinet minister Mathias Cormann’s bid to be named OECD boss because of his record in providing key backing to opponents of carbon prices in Liberal party leadership spills.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley was contacted for comment.

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