Will climate change inaction take down the Morrison Government

Very few would have expected Anthony Albanese to slam dunk our media savvy sitting prime minister at the looming Federal election but COP26 held in far-flung Glasgow has supplied all the ingredients required

It appears the premise that most people do not believe enough is being done about climate change, something reinforced following all the twists and turns the Australian contingent had to manoeuvre in Glasgow, has hit home.

We are being asked to ditch the great team that saved us from the COVID-19 pandemic by running up a debt of $1.14 trillion on the back of housing prices so inflated that our own children and even grandchildren are more likely to be paupers on the street than homeowners.

And the same team that held all of us up needlessly for an extra 12 months by not ordering the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine when approached in 2020, hoping for a cheaper rate down the track. That wait cost many dearly in diminished will to carry on, and as a result of shutdowns businesses closed down forever.

And probably worst still, because of all the bad memories associated with the past two years of questionable decisions, be expected to vote for the most unlikely and hapless Prime ministerial candidate that has ever stood for the position, Anthony Albanese.

The Morrison government, like never before is waving the red flag so vigorously in our faces with the premise there is no possibility of poor Albo gaining the votes he needs to form a government.

However, it isn’t up to opposition leader Anthony Albanese setting up the win, it’s in the hands of the sitting government not to lose, and COP26 has made this government look like they have one hand tied behind their back with a label written on it called Miners, Big Polluters and Nats.

Climate change is with us now, and the challenge will be for Anthony Albanese to grab the reins and throw a lifeline for immediate action to a bewildered and spiritually lost voting public – just what a breath of fresh air that would be. But totally understood if Albo simply wants to continue to mimic the role of an opposition leadership, something he has been satisfied to do so far.

The following report card is how the Climate Council has rated the Federal Government’s performance at COP26 in Glasgow as the event winds up.

YardstickAssessment
A 2030 emissions target that’s in line with the science and a commitment to “revisit and strengthen” its 2030 targets ahead of COP27 in Egypt in 2022 (as outlined in the final Glasgow Climate Pact)A day after the final Glasgow Climate Pact was released, and despite agreeing to the communique, the federal government is refusing to update Australia’s current 2030 emissions reduction target, which was set six years ago and is the weakest in the developed world. 
Commitment to ‘phasing-down’ coal and fossil fuels more broadlyFor the first time, in 26 years of COP summits, there is a specific call to move beyond coal power and phase out fossil fuel subsidies. As UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson summed it: this sounds the “death knell” of coal. Our Prime Minister disputes this, claiming our coal industry will be “around for decades”. The government is ignoring the clear signal from our trading partners and key allies that they are moving away from fossil fuels, and is opening up and even funding new fossil fuel developments. 
A credible net zero by 2050 plan The federal government’s ‘Plan to Deliver Net Zero’ modelling is riddled with flaws; most notably, a failure to meet its own goal of net zero emissions by 2050. 
Global Methane pledgeRefused to join more than 100 other countries – including the US and the EU – to cut global methane emissions 30% by 2030. 
Deforestation Pledge The federal government signed up to this pledge, which is encouraging since Australia is a deforestation hotspot globally.
Climate finance for developing countries The federal government announced it will increase its climate finance by $500 million, taking the total to $2bn over five years to 2025. But that’s just 0.3% of the international goal of US$100bn per year. Australia’s fair share is 2-3% – or 10 times what Australia has promised so far.
Global Coal to Clean Energy Transition StatementMore than 190 countries and organisations agreed to rapidly phase out coal power – but Australia was missing from the list.   Australia is the world’s second-largest exporter of thermal coal, and has one of the most emissions intensive electricity networks in the world.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s speech on the world stage The PM’s address to world leaders at COP26 was light on commitments and credibility and heavy on spin. We’ve unpacked it here
Australia’s national pavilionAustralia’s pavilion provided free coffee to delegates (known as soft diplomacy) and included exhibits from fossil fuel companies and promotion of carbon capture and storage.    Meanwhile, other countries were promoting viable and exciting clean energy opportunities and technologies. 
Indo-Pacific Climate Diplomacy Australia’s Pacific friends, including Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said: “Australia’s [net zero] pledge is a start. I’ve now urged [PM] Scott Morrison to show us a concrete plan to halve emissions by 2030”.    That’s what we need to do – slash emissions at least 50% this decade and phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
Overall contribution towards COP26’s efforts to keep the planet ​​from warming no more than 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levelsWhile many countries stepped up in Glasgow and promised to do more, the world is still a long way from what is needed to limit warming below 1.5°C. Globally, we are still on track to exceed 2℃ of warming and this would lock in even more severe climate extremes, like the Black Summer bushfires, and spells catastrophe for our Pacific Island neighbours and our own Great Barrier Reef. 
Overall FAIL   The federal government acted as a dangerous handbrake at COP26. While 140 countries lifted their game on climate action at the summit, the federal government cemented its reputation as a laggard and blocker.    The pressure is on the federal government to step up, not cop out. The Glasgow Climate Pact is clear that governments like ours must return to the table next year with a stronger 2030 target. It’s critical that we do everything possible to slash carbon pollution this decade. We need to act as if our futures depend on it – because they do.

This is what the Climate Council believes should be done to change our current inertia position.

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie 

“The federal government has tarnished Australia’s good name in Glasgow failing to put forward a meaningful 2030 emissions reduction target. 

“The Morrison government must do better. All new fossil fuel expansion must cease, and we need to phase out their use as quickly as possible. Let’s show the world what we’re really made of.”

Climate Councillor and economist, Nicki Hutley 

“Australia’s position at COP26 has entrenched us as the pariah state. That means we are going to be increasingly vulnerable to carbon border tariffs but also to financial risk premiums. This places an unfair cost-burden on all Australians. 

The Morrison government thinking we can keep exporting fossil fuels and other emissions-intensive products to the rest of the world without penalty is a negligent fantasy. It will harm the very communities they claim they wish to protect.”

Climate Council Researcher, Dr Wesley Morgan: 

“The Glasgow Climate Pact requires countries like Australia to come back to the table with much stronger commitments in 2022. If the rest of the world had the same 2030 target Australia does now, we’d be headed for 4℃ of warming.  

When there’s a job to do, the genuine Australian way is to get stuck in and help. Australia needs to stop shirking its responsibility and set a new 2030 target that at least matches those set by our friends and allies on the international stage.”

Climate Council Head of Research, Dr Simon Bradshaw

“The federal government showed up empty-handed to a pivotal moment in the fight for our future. They’ve let down our Pacific neighbours, as well as Australians who do not deserve to endure more frequent and severe bushfires, floods, droughts and heatwaves.” 

“As our allies and trading partners rise to the climate challenge, we’re stuck in a polluting past with a handful of countries including Russia and Saudi Arabia.”

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