Because the COP26 local weather talks wind up in Glasgow, Australia has once more proved itself a local weather laggard on the world stage. Prime Minister Scott Morrison may be a advertising and marketing supremo, however he can’t spin his method out of his authorities’s failures.
Certainly, it’s baffling the prime minister would suppose his new dedication to internet zero emissions by 2050 could be sufficient to warrant a aircraft ticket to Scotland.
However whereas Morrison doesn’t seem to grasp – or care – what’s required from Australia underneath the 2015 Paris Settlement, and what’s at stake at COP26, his refusal to ramp up emissions reductions is beginning to backfire.
‘The Australian method’
In saying his internet zero dedication final month, Morrison declared “Australians will set our personal path by 2050 and we’ll set it right here by Australians for Australians”. This was additionally the message he took to the world stage at COP26, the place he described his coverage of “know-how not taxes” to be the core of “the Australian method”.
Most nations have a pavilion on the local weather negotiations, the place they host occasions and showcase their efforts to negotiators and observers. The Morrison authorities appeared to mistake COP26 for a fossil gasoline expo – its pavilion was branded as “Optimistic power the Australian method”, which touted fossil fuels and carbon seize and storage.
At Glasgow, the Morrison authorities additionally caught with its paltry 2030 goal, set in 2015 by the Abbott authorities, making it an excessive outlier amongst developed nations. It additionally refused to hitch the pledge to scale back methane emissions and one other to section out coal.
Morrison set the tone on the G20 assembly in Rome, simply days earlier than Glasgow, when Australia joined China and India in blocking a proposed coal phase-out. Minister for Assets Keith Pitt has since made the federal government’s place clear: Australia will proceed to export coal for many years.
Australia already had a nasty popularity
Australia already had a popularity for “gaming” the processes of carbon accounting. However Morrison took inventive carbon accounting to a brand new degree at US President Joe Biden’s local weather summit in April.
Seasoned local weather analysts had been shocked on the metrics used, similar to excluding emissions related to extracting fossil fuels for export. This breaks with the official methodology for measuring all emissions produced inside a rustic’s territory.
Take coronary heart at what’s unfolded at COP26 in Glasgow – the world can nonetheless maintain international heating to 1.5℃
At COP26, the Morrison authorities has enhanced the scale of its local weather finance – to assist Pacific and Southeast Asian neighbours with the results of local weather change – from A$500 million to A$2 billion over the subsequent 5 years. Nevertheless, that is effectively under Australia’s fair proportion of US$2.9 billion (A$3.96 billion) per 12 months, primarily based on accountability, financial capability and inhabitants.
Other than the Trump administration, since 2018 Australia can be the one developed nation to refuse to channel its local weather finance by the multilateral Inexperienced Local weather Fund. In keeping with Donor Tracker, in recent times, Australia’s climate-related assist has had “cross-cutting aims” and none of it went to initiatives that handle local weather change as a “principal objective”.
The annual local weather COPs are, amongst different issues, a worldwide “present and inform”. The issue for Australia is that it had nothing to point out, and no quantity of telling can cowl this lack. As Lord John Deben, the UK’s chief local weather advisor informed the ABC this week, “it was only a entire sequence of phrases”, with no understanding of “the urgency of what we’ve to do”.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama tried a unique tactic. At COP26, after urging Morrison to halve Australia’s emissions by 2030, he handed him a duplicate of Fiji’s Local weather Change Act “as a information – it’s our uniquely Fijian method of following the science to maintain religion with future generations”.
The rise of “scorecard diplomacy” primarily based on scores and rankings of nationwide local weather efficiency has additionally made advertising and marketing cover-ups inconceivable.
Key examples embody Local weather Motion Tracker, which has rated Australia’s general efficiency as “extremely inadequate”, and the Local weather Efficiency Index, which ranked Australia seventh final general – and behind Russia – in the latest evaluation introduced at COP26 this week.
The “Fossil of the Day” awards go to these events “doing essentially the most to attain the least” on the annual local weather negotiations. Organised by Local weather Motion Community Worldwide, made up of over 1,500 environmental teams from round 140 nations, they’re a speaking level amongst negotiators. To this point at COP26, Australia has gained 5 fossil awards, greater than every other nation.
This contains the award for “aiming low” on the primary day of COP26.
Australia, we’ve come to count on some unconscionable behaviour from you on local weather change however this time you’ve really outdone your self.
Flying within the face of Paris
The Morrison authorities’s stubbornness on its 2030 goal flies within the face of not solely the targets and guidelines but in addition the core fairness rules within the Paris Settlement.
These rules require developed nations to take the lead in local weather mitigation in step with their higher historic accountability and financial capabilities. They’re additionally required to mobilise local weather finance to assist to mitigation and adaptation in nations with minimal accountability for emissions, excessive vulnerability and weak capability.
The Morrison authorities lives in a parallel universe to the Paris Settlement in its defence of the “Australian method”. This signalling can solely imply certainly one of two issues.
The primary is that the remainder of the world, together with poor nations, should compensate by carrying most of Australia’s burden if we’re to carry warming to the mandatory 1.5℃ this century. The second is that the federal government has little interest in “holding 1.5℃ alive,” on the idea Australia can adapt to a warmer world and by no means thoughts the large struggling elsewhere.
Commitments and efficiency (not branding)
In worldwide local weather politics, a rustic’s popularity is set by the credibility of commitments and efficiency over time in relation to the collective targets, rules and guidelines negotiated by the events.
It isn’t a model or picture that may be created in Canberra after which marketed to the world like Vegemite.
Australia’s COP26 diplomacy is damaging its popularity additional. There’s rising anger from growing nations, which represent nearly all of world’s states.
There’s additionally deep anxiousness in our areas, amongst Pacific nations, the place Australia is an more and more awkward companion. Tuvalu’s overseas minister Simon Kofe filmed his COP26 speech standing thigh-deep within the ocean.
Even Australia’s closest allies, the US and the UK, are pissed off about our the federal government’s stubbornness.
The free experience will finish
Australia’s free experience will come to finish in the end, as our buying and selling companions contemplate imposing carbon tariffs and the export marketplace for coal and fuel shrinks.
Australia is undermining the Paris Settlement, it doesn’t matter what Morrison says – we want new legal guidelines to cease this
Nevertheless, the reputational harm arising from Australia’s nice refusal could come to hang-out us after we search the cooperation of others. Because the oceans rise, it also needs to hang-out Australians that Fiji despatched army engineers throughout the Black Summer season fires of 2019-2020.
We could not have the ability to depend on such assist in future.
Robyn Eckersley has obtain funding from the Australian Analysis Council.