As Julie Bishop assures UN climate talks in Marrakech that Australia’s private sector increasingly sees it “as their responsibility and their business… to embrace low-emissions technology,” two new new global reports underline just how far behind the climate eight-ball the Turnbull government remains.
The first – the latest Climate Change Performance Index, released overnight in Marrakech by Climate Action Network Europe and German NGO, Germanwatch – ranked Australia fifth-last out of a group of 58 countries responsible for more than 90 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions.
According to a release accompanying the Index, Australia was ranked in the bottom group of the CCPI 2017 – rated “very poor” – alongside Canada and Japan. Other countries ranked below Australia include Kazakhstan, Korea and Saudi Arabia.
The CCPI report said Australia has gone backwards in energy efficiency since the last ranking, and continued to lag in ambition of climate policies.
The index also noted a gap between the national and state policies in Australia: the former described as “rather unambitious and uninspired,” the latter managing “to some extent to take independent action.”
The second report, also released overnight in Marrakech, named Australia among a small number of G20 nations whose domestic efforts are falling well short of their pledged contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The report – launched at COP22 by the Grantham Institute and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics – lumps Australia in this ignominious category alongside Argentina, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US.
The rankings are based on the “Paris consistency monitor” which assesses past and present action against three indicators: the consistency of domestic emissions reductions targets with those pledged nationally; progress towards meeting 2020 emissions reduction targets pledged internationally; and past performance in ratcheting up the ambition for climate change mitigation.
It concludes that these six G20 nations “lack overall framework legislation or regulation on climate change, and need to move from sectoral to economy-wide targets and extend the timeframe of their targets to 2030.”
The six countries were also found to be “either behind on meeting their 2020 targets or have not set any”.
“The government spruiks its climate credentials but Australia remains a laggard on cutting climate pollution,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy in response to the findings of the CAN-Germanwatch report.
“The world is watching as our pollution rises and governments support new mega polluting coal mines.
“Australia has so much to lose from more heatwaves, droughts and bushfires – and we have some of the best renewable energy resources in the world – so we should be a leader on this list, not bumping around near the bottom,” she said.
“If Adani’s proposed giant Carmichael mine is ever built, it will wipe out Australia’s efforts to reduce pollution under the Paris Agreement.”
Meanwhile, yet another report – this time from the United Nations Development Program in conjunction with a group of 43 developing countries among the most vulnerable to climate change – has highlighted the not insignificant economic benefits of ambitious climate action, and the economic cost of the alternative.
The report argues that keeping global warming to 1.5°C would see the world’s gross domestic product fall by $21 trillion by 2050, rather than by $33 trillion under a ‘business-as-usual’ approach that allows global warming of 2.5 degrees – a $US12 trillion saving that represents about 10 per cent of global GDP.
It would also “substantially” reduce the risk of the flooding of large parts of the world’s lowest lying land and give coral reefs like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef a fighting chance of survival – as opposed to “virtual disappearance” under BAU.
The report, called Pursuing the 1.5C Limit, said changes like those projected under business as usual would dramatically affect the world’s economy.
“The contractions in India and China alone may have large implications specifically on the growth of neighbouring countries in the region, as well as the world economy.
“These reductions in macroeconomic outputs induced by climate-change impacts could therefore pose a very serious challenge to poverty eradication efforts in the developing world.”
And in rich nations like Japan and the USA – and presumably Australia – the report warns “climate-change damages might flip the GDP projections from a modest annual growth to a potential annual decline, in the absence of adaptation.”