Australia should treble its target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions as part of its fair share in the fight against global warming, the Federal Government's top climate change advisory body has recommended.
The Climate Change Authority said increasing the target to 15 per cent could be achieved at a cost to taxpayers as little as $210 million with minimal economic impact.
Business groups warned the higher target would destroy jobs. The Government is sticking by the bipartisan aim of a 5 per cent cut.
Authority chairman Bernie Fraser said the existing goal of a 5 per cent cut on 2000 levels by 2020 was inadequate for Australia's contribution to keep temperature rises to below 2C.
More credible was a 15 per cent target, which effectively becomes 19 per cent when credits from reductions under the Kyoto Protocol are carried over.
In the medium term, the authority urged cuts of between 40 and 60 per cent by 2030. It argued the economic impact of the higher target was manageable. Gross national income per person is forecast to rise $66,350 in 2020 under a 15 per cent target, only $100 less than the total under a 5 per cent target.
It said the emissions abatement that would be needed through a higher target could be met by buying cheap carbon credits from overseas, which are selling for less than $1. It would cost the Budget $210 million to $850 million, based on a price ranging from 50Â¢ to $2.
The coalition has ruled out using international permits under its Direct Action policy, despite pleading from business.
To also help reduce greenhouse gases, the authority recommended tougher fuel economy and carbon dioxide emission standards.
The report found Australia's 5 per cent target was weaker than other comparable countries such as the US, Britain and Norway.
Environmental groups hailed the recommendations but the Minerals Council said it showed the authority had "lost touch with reality".
The Australian Industry Group said setting deeper targets while climate change policy was uncertain was a huge gamble.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the coalition remained committed to the 5 per cent target.