Scott Morrison might have declined to attend the 2019 global Climate Summit in New York, and his government might have no policies in place to drive down Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, but boy does he have a plan to combat catastrophic global warming: put the blame on China and recycle cardboard boxes.
At the same time on Monday as 16 year-old Greta Thunberg was in New York delivering an emotional rebuke to world leaders for failing to act on what is so rapidly becoming a climate emergency, Australia’s PM was in nearby Illinois, delivering his own keynote speech at the Chicago Institute for Global Affairs.
Morrison, who presides over a government that was not even invited to speak at the UN Climate Summit thanks to its lack of any plan to ratchet up national emissions reduction, said his government was focused on “practical” action to solve key environmental problems, such as recycling, plastics pollution, and “oceans”.
As we reported here on Monday, Morrison joined US President Donald Trump to open a $US500 million paper plant owned by major Australian company – and Liberal Party donor – Pratt Industries, and has been praising it since as an paragon of innovative recycling and doing stuff.
“On Wednesday, when I give the national statement in the UN General Assembly, I’ll be focusing very much on Australia’s response to the global environmental challenges, which isn’t just climate change,” he said.
“It’s about plastics, it’s about oceans, it’s about recycling.”
In his Monday speech, which mostly focused on trade and his “unashamedly pro-growth” government, Morrison also felt free to say that while Australia was taking this no-frills approach to the climate crisis, China ought to step up its own efforts to halt global warming.
“China’s economic growth is welcomed by Australia and we recognise the economic maturity that it has now realised as a newly developed economy,” he said.
“Having achieved this status, it is important that China’s trade arrangements, participation in addressing important global environmental challenges like the ones I just mentioned, that there is transparency in their partnerships and support for developing nations, all of this needs to reflect this new status and the responsibilities that go with it as a very major world power.”
The comments are stunningly hypocritical coming from Morrison, whose glib rehash of Tony Abbott’s Direct Action climate policy and his Green Army wants to save the world by recycling cardboard like his Liberal Party donor mates at the Ohio box factory.
China, meanwhile, was actually speaking at the New York summit on Monday, its foreign minister Wang Yi calling for greater action from all nations.
“To jointly tackle this challenge and protect this planet that we all call home, will be a journey critical to the future and destiny of mankind,” he said.
“In tacking climate change, we must first be determined to win the fight. We must honour our commitments, follow through on the Paris Agreement and its implementation guidelines, and see to it that this Summit and the COP 25 will produce positive outcomes that will inject fresh impetus into the post-2020 multi-lateral process.”
Australia, under Morrison’s leadership, is doing none of these things.
As Labor Opposition leader Anthony Albanese pointed out at a door-stop on Tuesday, Morrison hasn’t even bothered to “call in to participate and to encourage” other countries’ global action in New York.
“Scott Morrison needs to send a message that climate change is a priority,” Albanese told reporters in regional Victoria.
“You can’t say … as an excuse for Australia’s inaction, that you want the rest of the world’s leaders to act.”
But you can change the subject, by saying ‘how good is American recycling?’
Thank you To Prime Minister Scott Morrison & President Trump , two GREAT leaders for well paying manufacturing jobs in Australia and America pic.twitter.com/k2UGklSwJT
— Anthony Pratt (see Instagram ) (@anthonyjpratt2) September 23, 2019
Meanwhile, at the Climate Summit, while the turnout and talk has been good – even Vladimir Putin is there and has formalised Russia’s participation in the Paris Accord – actual progress has been left wanting.
As Climate Home News has reported, the vast majority of the presidents and prime ministers of the world’s largest emitting economies have “stumbled” in shaping up to the tougher 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement, which as we reported here will require a five-fold increase in ambition from most governments.
“I haven’t met any leaders who know… how to get there,” said French climate ambassador and CEO of the European Climate Foundation Laurence Tubiana in an interview with CHN.
“The top levels of government are not yet engaged.. Most [countries] haven’t started really seriously” and most leaders “don’t have a clue” how they will meet a 1.5C compatible target, he said.
As Germany’s environment minister Svenja Schulze acknowledged, “we know how to get to 2030 but the last percentage to reach carbon neutrality, we need more techniques, we need new ideas … “no-one around the world does [know] exactly,” she told CHN.
“The important thing is to say that we want to reach that goal.”
And for those not even saying that, or without any new plans, Greta Thunberg has a clear message:
“How dare you,” she told the Summit.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”