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climate legislation

Australia, one of world’s most carbon-intensive countries, recently began implementing a comprehensive national policy to address climate change and transition to a clean-energy economy. Yesterday, WRI had the pleasure of hosting Mark Dreyfus, Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, who outlined his country’s plans to a group of business, congressional, and NGO representatives.

One point that came through at the event is that Australia’s recent energy and climate choices can be very instructive to the United States. This post provides a quick look at Australia’s new policy and explores how it can inform and inspire U.S. efforts to move toward a low-carbon future.

Why Did Australia Adopt a National Climate and Energy Policy?

Australia faces a high level of climate risk, with significant vulnerability to sea level rise as well as to extreme weather events like drought, heat waves, and wildfires. At the same time, the country is heavily dependent on carbon-intensive resources. Australia has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions of any country in the developed world, and it's the 15th largest emitter overall.

This post is part of WRI's "Extreme Weather Watch" series, which explores the link between climate change and extreme events. Read our other posts in this series.

This post originally appeared on the National Journal's Energy Expert Blog. It was a response to the question "Is global warming causing wild weather?"

It’s the question on everyone’s minds these days: What’s up with the weather?

The answer is increasingly clear: It’s our changing climate.

The trends we are currently experiencing– a warmer world with more intense, extreme weather events– could not be clearer. It’s exactly what climate scientists and their models have, for many years now, forecast global warming will bring.

Evidence of a Changing Climate

July 2011 to June 2012 was the warmest 12-month period on record for the contiguous U.S. Globally, June 2011 was the 316th month in a row that posted a higher temperature than the 20th-century average. Spring 2012, not to be outdone, was the hottest on record in the U.S. And record drought in the Southwest has helped fuel the wildfires that have already consumed about two million acres this year. (See our recent post on forest fires and climate change.)

On June 25, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released the 2012 Annual Energy Outlook (2012 AEO) – the same day the public comment period closed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new power plants. The NSPS proposal marks EPA’s first step toward controlling carbon pollution from stationary sources, and the agency received a record-breaking more than two million comments supporting the rule. EPA will take the comments it receives into consideration before finalizing the rule later this year. (Get more information on the proposed rule, including WRI’s official comment).

This post was written with Sara-Katherine Coxon, Objective Coordinator at the World Resources Institute.

“Smog was a daily occurrence, something you could taste and see.”

This reflection came from William Ruckelshaus, the first U.S. EPA administrator, recalling the early 1970’s when he worked in the Nixon administration to pass the historic Clean Air Act.

He continued: “The result of this was a public deeply concerned about the environment, and a Congress which gave into public demand by setting federal laws to regulate emission levels.” Ruckelshaus was speaking at a roundtable discussion this week hosted by the World Resources Institute, moderated by Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). The event featured Ruckelshaus and former EPA Administrator William Reilly, as well as business and public health experts.

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