The Morrison government has been slammed for its lacklustre performance during the first week of COP26, which has seen Australia commit to little more than its net zero target for 2050 and actively using the conference to promote Australia as a destination for fossil fuel investment.
The Climate Council, which has been tracking the negotiations in Glasgow, said the Morrison government had failed on a number of measures, including by refusing to increase its 2030 emissions reduction target and failing to sign on to major pledges around methane emission cuts and the phase out of coal power.
“Australia has a net zero goal but no new policies to reach it. It is yet to release the modelling, or provide any detailed costings,” the Climate Council’s report card says.
“Without a strong, scientifically-aligned 2030 target it’s hard to see how Australia can achieve its own net zero by 2050 goal.”
After considering Australia’s contributions at the talks so far, the Climate Council scored Australia with a ‘fail’ at the halfway mark of the talks, saying that Australia needed to improve its performance during the second week of the negotiations.
“Australia has done very little in the first week of COP26 with major room for improvement heading into week two,” the Climate Council’s assessment says. “The health, safety and economic prosperity of Australians depends upon it.”
Australia’s ongoing status as a laggard on climate action has not gone unnoticed by international environmental groups.
Australia has already received two ‘fossil of the day’ awards from Climate Action International during the first week of COP26, and is so far the only country to receive the dubious honour more than once.
The awards were given to Australia for its failure to set a new 2030 emissions reduction target and for allowing a fossil fuel company to use Australia’s official pavilion within the talks to advertise a massive new gas development.
While prime minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia would commit to a zero net emissions target for 2050, he refused to increase Australia’s interim target. This is against the prime goal of the COP26 talks and the intentions of the Paris Agreement.
Australia was absent from new international agreements to cut methane by 30 per cent – despite groups like the International Energy Agency stressing that methane represents a low-hanging fruit for emissions reductions – and a pledge to end cease investments in new coal fired power stations.
The Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director, Richie Merizan, who has served as an Australian negotiator at prior COPs, said Australia is being left behind by the international community by failing to embrace the commitments being made in Glasgow.
“The constellation of initiatives against coal power here at COP26 are impressive and beyond anything we have witnessed before,” Merzian said.
“There is a clear drive to ensure coal is on the way out. With over 70 new coal mine proposals in Australia, the Australian Government is trying to push Australia backwards while the world moves forward.”
“The UK is fulfilling its promise to help consign coal power to history. Australia is not only on the outer, it is being left behind. The world is determined to move on from coal,” Merzian added.
It sees Australia lumped with countries like Russia, China and Brazil, which have all largely rejected a push from the United Kingdom – as the host of COP26 – to accelerate the transition to cleaner energy sources.
The Climate Council said that while other countries had used their presence within the COP26 venue to promote successes in renewable energy adoption and sustainable technologies – Australia had allowed oil and gas producer Santos to promote a planned carbon capture and storage project in the Australian pavilion.
ACT minister for energy and emissions reduction, Shane Rattenbury, who announced on Friday that the ACT had joined the “Global Coal to Clean Power transition statement” – the only Australian jurisdiction to do so – said that the Morrison government’s efforts to promote the Australian fossil fuel industry was making a “mockery” of the COP26 talks.
“About one-third of the coal mined in Australia is used domestically — overwhelmingly for power generation, while the other two-thirds are exported to other countries.
“The fact that the Federal Minister for Emissions Reduction has headed to Glasgow and is promoting Australia as a reliable destination for investment in fossil fuels is making a mockery of climate action and the COP26 summit in Glasgow.”