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US climate plan pressures PM

Barack Obama
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Pressure is mounting on the Abbott government to do more to combat climate change after the United States unveiled an unprecedented plan to slash carbon emissions.

The Obama administration has announced it will reduce emissions from its power sector by 30 per cent by 2030, a significant pledge from the world’s biggest economy and second-largest polluter.

The commitment has put pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott ahead of his trip to Washington next week, where it’s expected climate change will now be high on the agenda when he meets President Obama.

The government has only pledged to cut Australia’s emissions by five per cent by 2020, but will review its commitments in the lead-up to a major climate summit in Paris next year.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said compared side by side, the 2020 emissions reduction targets announced by Australia and the US were quite similar.

Based on 2005 emissions levels, Australia was agreeing to cut emissions by 12 per cent while the US was chasing 17 per cent.

“Each country has to make their own decisions, but there’s a lot of comparability there,” he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

The government’s direct action plan would offer power plants incentives to clean up their act, and the US strategy bore “many of the hallmarks” of the Australian approach.

But critics of the government’s policy are calling for a complete rethink on Australia’s action to date in light of the US commitment.

Labor MPs and climate groups have urged the government to do more, while Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the prime minister should be embarrassed as he heads to Washington for vowing to tear up Australia’s clean energy package.

“I don’t think the American president is going to take too kindly to the number-one cheerleader of the Tea Party turning up in America sprouting his coal vision for the world,” she told reporters.

The government’s advisory group on climate science has recommended Australia triple its emissions reduction target, labelling the five per cent goal inadequate and out of step with global action.

The Climate Change Authority – facing abolition under the Abbott government – said, based on global efforts, the conditions had been met to commit to a more ambitious target.