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Budget analysis shows climate-change commitments to be left to the 11th hour

Date

Lisa Cox

Environment Minister Greg Hunt addresses the media.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt addresses the media. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

More than three quarters of the cut in greenhouse gas emissions needed for Australia to meet its international commitments on climate change would be left to the last minute under the government's direct action plan, a budget analysis suggests.

The analysis by The Climate Institute finds nearly the entire 5 per cut in emissions by 2020 would be left to the final two years of the decade under the funding plan laid out in the budget.

It has prompted fresh claims the government is not serious about meeting the target as it prepares to face a grilling when budget estimates hearings for the environment portfolio begin on Monday.

While the government says it is committed to signing contracts to spend $2.55 billion on its emissions reduction fund, the budget papers indicate it only expects to spend $1.1 billion of that over the next four years.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has expressed confidence the fund will "easily" achieve the 5 per cent target by paying businesses that cut their emissions.

But the Climate Institute said under the spending outlined in the budget the government would only reduce Australia's emissions by 60 million tonnes by 2018 - just a seventh of what is required by 2020.

That would leave it the mammoth task of achieving the remaining 360 million tonnes needed to hit the target in the final two years.

Institute chief executive John Connor said the risk of missing the target would be heightened if the 20 per cent renewable energy target – currently under review - was reduced or scrapped. It would leave the emissions reduction fund to make up the shortfall in emissions cuts.

''I think, once again, it shows the weakness of relying on the annual budget as central to your carbon reduction strategy,'' Mr Connor said.

''It is so backward to shift the burden from the polluter to the taxpayer.''

But Mr Hunt said the government was committed to the 5 per cent target and believed its direct action strategy would work.

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