Australian government ‘mute’ on more ambitious plan to address climate crisis

School climate rally Brisbane March 2019

School climate rally Brisbane March 2019 – Photo courtesy Flickr user School Strike 4 Climate Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The Australian government continues to face mounting pressure, both locally and internationally, after its disappointing stance on tackling climate change at U.S. President Joe Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate on 22 April, with Sydney failing to increase its modest target of 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, under the 2016 Paris agreement.

The Australian non-government Climate Council was among the first to condemn Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s contribution to the summit:

…Australia stands on its own as being particularly out of step.

Alone among more than a hundred nations, Australia has no target for reaching net zero emissions.

This was no surprise for many Australians. A few days before the online meeting, Morrison attacked those wanting stronger action. He was clearly aiming his remarks at so-called ‘greenies’, a grossly simplified image of Australians in urban areas who have environmental concerns, in contrast to members of rural and mining communities. His remarks were seen to be intentionally divisive, and fired up his critics on social media:

The Biden administration and other nations have made it clear that countries such as Australia will be held to account for inaction.

Morrison’s summit presentation had an unfortunate start as his microphone was on mute. Many commentators saw this glitch as fitting. At The Conversation, environmental academics, Lesley Hughes Professor and Will Steffen, found his contribution very ‘depressing’:

…sadly for Australians, the summit revealed the clear contrast in climate policy leadership between Morrison and his international peers.

Australian economics professor John Quiggin also took up this theme:

In place of the approaches adopted elsewhere, the Morrison government is betting heavily on alternatives that have failed previous tests, such as carbon capture and storage. And it’s blatantly ignoring internationally proven technology, such as electric vehicles.

The government could have followed the lead of our international peers and backed Australia’s clean energy sector to create jobs and stimulate the post-pandemic economy. Instead, it’s sending the nation on a fool’s errand.

Morrison’s speech was mocked by many on social media. Marque Lawyers tweeted:

Climate change policy has been politically controversial since the mid-2000s. Many observers believe that even the current goal is unlikely to be met without further action. Climate Action Tracker is among them:

According to our analysis, Australia will need to implement additional policies to reach its 2030 target, even with the expected emissions reductions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Any hopes of more expenditure were dashed in the latest Morrison government Federal budget announced on 11 May 2021. There was little extra funding for renewable energy or electric vehicles, or general environmental programs. It contained few green programs to aid economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government is committed to a gas-fired recovery and handouts to fossil fuel emitters. In fact, funding for a new gas-fired plant has been announced just a day after the International Energy Agency recommended that there be no new investment in coal or gas projects.

Australian superannuation funds have called on the business community and consumers to push for stronger action:

Prominent finance commentator Alan Kohler found villains apart from the Prime Minister:

It’s not entirely Scott Morrison’s fault that he managed to look like a dissembling idiot at President Joe Biden’s leader’s summit on climate change last week.

…Those people who actually know what’s going on have allowed themselves to be intimidated by Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch and their bullies, who in turn have been collaborators in the crime of the century.

That the fossil fuel industry managed to turn global warming into a political issue – Left saying it’s happening, Right saying it’s not – might have been tactically brilliant, but it was also a vast global crime.

Some of the youth of Australia are not prepared to remain silent and are taking direct action. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition AYCC sent a clear message outside parliament house on budget night:

School student activists School Strike 4 Climate (SS4C) are at the forefront of action by young people. They have organised a day of protest across the nation for Friday 21 May 2021:

There are many other voices in the ongoing campaign to bring about a change in government policy. Public policy think tank, the Australia Institute, held a webinar, which included Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Action Champion:

Many people hope that the government will take more ambitious targets to the November 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. U.K. Prime Minster Boris Johnson is one of them:

The message couldn't be clearer:

‘The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of all countries setting ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions, and encouraged Australia to commit to reaching Net Zero by 2050 which will deliver clean jobs and economic growth.’

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