A TWO-THIRDS cut in household greenhouse gas emissions would still not achieve Federal Government carbon targets because the population is growing too fast, a study into immigration policy and climate change contends.

Population time bomb ticking on emissionsBy 2050, when Australia plans to have cut its total emissions by 60 per cent, the population will have risen to just over 30 million unless immigration policies change radically, said Bob Birrell, director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University.

“I just can’t see how they can realistically aim for these targets,” he said. “My main concern is that business doesn’t seem to be aware of the consequences of the population rise and there’s no discussion about it.”

Dr Birrell said Treasury modelling, which underpins the Government’s climate change response, underestimates population growth. A study by him and Ernest Healy, published in the centre’s quarterly journal,

People And Place , argues that the carbon output of new migrants expands rapidly once they arrive in Australia, and that population size is the main driver of emissions.

The average amount of carbon emissions per Australian in 2000 was 25.6 tonnes, compared to 24.5 tonnes in the US, 11 tonnes in Britain and 3.9 tonnes in China.

By moving to Australia, immigrants would increase global emissions, they say.

The report concludes that even a tough emissions trading regime, with a high carbon price and no new coal-fired power stations, would fall far short of the Government’s emissions reduction goals, unless Australia’s population had stabilised at about 22 million by 2050.

“When the Government announces its cap for the proposed 2010 emissions trading scheme,

Australia’s major polluters will receive a nasty surprise,” Dr Birrell said. “They will discover that for every increase in Australia’s population and consequent increase in greenhouse emissions, the cost of the limited stock of emission permits will also go up.”

The Government’s target, reaffirmed yesterday by the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, will require that carbon emissions be cut from 491 million tonnes released in 2000 to 196 million tonnes by 2050.

The Government said yesterday it would allow for population growth in its projections.

“Population growth is being taken into account in the Treasury modelling that will help the Government provide a firm indication of a medium-term emissions target range by the end of the year,” a spokeswoman for Ms Wong said.

The Climate Institute, a non-profit group that has produced modelling based on Treasury projections of population growth, said the Government’s cuts could be met regardless of rising populations with the broad-scale adoption of renewable energy.