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Australia must adopt 'stringent' emission targets: Zurich

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Australia’s leaders need to adopt stringent carbon dioxide emission reduction targets as part of its long-term adaptation to longer and more severe bushfire seasons, Zurich says.

The recommendation was made in the insurer’s latest Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) - its first in Australia - which examined Tasmania’s devastating bushfires of summer 2019 that burnt 210,000 hectares and destroyed globally precious, protected ecosystems of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

It says the island state has entered a “new era of bushfire risk,” an area not usually associated with this type of event, and this requires action at the national level to mitigate climate change through emissions reduction.

“Traditionally cool climate areas of Australia are beginning to experience bushfires of a treacherous nature for the first time,” Zurich’s local CEO General Insurance and Head of Commercial Insurance Tim Plant said.

In January 2019, more than two thousand dry lightning strikes hit the state, igniting 70 fires that formed into four massive fire complexes. More than 95,000 protected heritage hectares burned.

"While Tasmania’s contribution to global emissions is small, it has a responsibility to contribute to the global effort,” Zurich said. “The Tasmanian Government can also play a significant role in contributing to Australia’s commitment to emissions reductions, which could have a more significant impact on the global stage.”

The PERC proposes increasing the size of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area to bring in “precious but less protected areas” on its borders.

“Unfortunately, beyond reducing emissions, options for arresting increasing bushfire risk in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area are limited, because bushfire weather and dry lightning strikes are the main drivers of increasing risk,” it said.