With the ink barely dry on the Glasgow Climate Pact, the Morrison Coalition government has settled straight back into its domestic routine of climate obfuscation and obstruction, proudly declaring its intent to ignore one of the global pact’s most urgent requests, to ratchet up weak 2030 emissions targets.
On Sunday, Australia’s minister for emissions reduction Angus Taylor issued a statement welcoming the “positive outcomes” of COP26, among which he appears to count one of its most widely lamented failures – the down-playing of the urgency to phase out fossil fuels.
The last minute watering down of the pact – which quite literally brought tears to the eyes of COP26 president Alok Sharma – changed the wording of the agreement to call for a “phase down” of unabated coal use, as opposed to a “phase out.”
And while that aberration has been attributed to India and China, it is just fine with the Morrison government, including resources minister Keith Pitt, who quickly welcomed it as an endorsement of “our commitment … that we won’t be closing mines and closing coal-fired power stations.”
Equally thrilled was fellow Nationals MP Matt Canavan, who took to Sky News to hail the agreement struck at COP26 as a “green light for more coal production,” which in turn, he argued, would bring more and more people out of poverty.
But the real kicker in Angus Taylor’s post-COP26 statement was delivered with this line, towards the end: “Australia’s 2030 target is fixed and we are committed to meeting and beating it, as we did with our Kyoto-era targets.”
In other words, while Australia signed up to “revisit and strengthen” its 2030 emissions reduction targets by the end of 2022 – a condition that itself was watered down from an “urging” to a “request” – it did so with its fingers crossed behind its back.
In reality, the Morrison government has no intention to budge from its Abbott-era target of cutting emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent on 2005 levels, and no qualms at all in punching well below the weight of its major trading partners on a measure considered vital to keeping warming below 1.5°C.
“The Morrison government agreed to an international pact, and the same day confirms they have no intention to fulfil it,” said Labor’s climate change spokesman Chris Bowen.
“Mr Morrison’s untrustworthiness is undermining Australia’s reputation and interests.”
And it’s also undermining investment, warns the Investor Group on Climate Change, at a time when the Australian market is already seen as “unacceptably risky,” even for some of the world’s leading renewable energy project developers.
“The federal government’s 2050 net zero commitment is an important long-term signal to investors, but the failure to update the 2030 goal will harm the nation’s ability to invest in climate solutions across Australia,” said IGCC CEO Rebecca Mikula-Wright.
“Climate risk is investment risk …There is $131 billion that could be unlocked over the next decade in investments and new jobs in Australia. Investors are hungry to invest today in the new industries, and economic opportunities that strong action this decade can bring.
“Countries with strong 2030 emissions targets will attract that capital. Failing to keep pace with Australia’s allies and counterparts presents serious investment and capital flight risks.”
Heaping coal on the dumpster fire has been the release of the modelling meant to underpin Australia’s target of net zero emissions by 2050, but which, as Michael Mazengarb reports here, instead maps out plans to grow Australia’s fossil gas industry and to fudge the 2050 target.
“The most striking thing about this modelling is that it predicts the government won’t reach its own net zero by 2050 goal,” said senior Climate Council researcher Tim Baxter. “If it wasn’t so serious, it would be laughable.”
Speaking on Radio National’s Breakfast program on Monday, Taylor held the party line, stressing that the Glasgow Climate Pact clause requesting nations to strengthen their 2030 targets was just that – a request; and a request “made in light of national circumstances.”
And Australia’s circumstances appear to be that it has the coal, and it’s damn well going to use it, because the right thing to do is to alleviate global energy poverty, even if it means cooking the planet in the process.
“We’re not going to lecture emerging countries like India, and throughout south-east Asia… on what their fuel mix needs to be at any point in time,” Taylor told ABC Radio’s Fran Kelly. “And if we were to cut our exports to them, whether it’s gas or coal… emissions globally, and in their country, would go up.
“The goal is, from our point of view, is to make sure we’ve got the low-emissions technologies, technologies like clean hydrogen, whether blue or green, as long as it’s clean, so that they have access to the fuel sources that allow them to bring down emissions,” he said.