A new assessment of the responses of G20 countries to climate change has labelled Australia as ’embarrassing’, finding it remained one of the largest users and producers of fossil fuels, while also being one of the most vulnerable to the threats posed by climate change.
The latest global Climate Transparency Report has assessed the climate policies of all G20 members, finding that their current commitments were insufficient to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, and virtually all G20 members would need to ramp up their emissions reduction targets as a fair contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement goal.
The report found that while the Covid-19 pandemic had led to a reduction in global emissions, the economic response to the pandemic would largely see emissions increase over the long-term with half of G20 members providing direct financial support to their coal and gas industries.
Australia was assessed as ranking particularly poorly in its response to climate change, and the report was particularly scathing of the Morrison government’s Technology Investment Roadmap, finding that its claimed technology neutral approach “reflects the government’s pro-gas and carbon capture and storage position, without excluding coal.”
Australia is one of just two members of the G20, along with India, that does not have a form of carbon pricing in place, nor has plans to introduce one in the future. Of all G20 countries, Australia has the highest share of fossil fuel in its energy mix, making up 93 per cent of total energy used.
The emissions intensity of the Australian economy ranked as one of the highest in the G20, with the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per capita almost three times higher than G20 average.
The report found that the emissions intensity of Australia’s electricity system are substantially higher than other G20 countries and Australia’s transport sector compared particularly poorly, with almost four times more emissions per capita than the G20 average, driven by increasing transport emissions and lacklustre government policies.
Federal Labor climate and energy spokesperson Mark Butler said that the report exposed the degree to which the Morrison government was out of step with Australia’s major trading partners and the level of climate action being undertaken by Australia’s international peers.
“Scott Morrison’s dismal climate action has been highlighted in another international report, which found Australia is embarrassingly one of only four G20 countries without a policy to encourage renewable energy investment and ranks last in cutting emissions from transport,” Butler said.
“Scott Morrison’s climate record is woeful. After emissions came down by more than 15 per cent when Labor was last in government, they have flatlined under the Liberals and Nationals only reducing by one per cent.”
The report has been released ahead of the next meeting of G20 countries, set to be held in Saudi Arabia later in November. The G20 represents some of the world’s largest economies, and together is responsible for around 80 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“When measured up against other G20 nations, the Australian government’s record is simply embarrassing,” senior policy advisor at Climate Analytics Dr Ursula Fuentes-Hutfilter, said. “On so many counts, Australia is failing to address climate change, and this report highlights just how poorly we are doing.”
While the report highlights Australia’s lack of meaningful measures to reduce its contribution to global emissions, Australia has been assessed as one of the most vulnerable G20 members to the impacts of climate change, already fourth in terms of the annual costs of climate related events, already totalling $3.3 billion.
Australia’s last summer of bushfires, the severity of which has been linked to global warming, caused physical and health damages running into the billions, and according to the Bureau of Meteorology, the prospect of further global warming would only lead to such events occurring with an increased frequency.
CEO of Climate Analytics Bill Hare, which contributed to the Climate Transparency Report, said that Australia, as a leading contributor to global emissions, was contributing to increases to its own economic losses.
“Australia has its head in the sand when it comes to climate change, this is already costing us dearly, both financially and in the loss of biodiversity,” Hare added.
“While the rest of the world is rapidly moving towards cheap and green renewable energy, Australia continues to have one of the highest shares of fossil fuel use in the G20. The cold hard facts show that our record is absolutely abysmal compared to most other countries in this report.”
“Australia is simultaneously one of the most exposed G20 countries to climate change but also one of the greatest contributors per capita. This has to change”.