Scott Morrison’s preference for cricket over climate action has earned Australia the first Fossil of the Day award from environmental groups at the UN climate talks in Madrid.
The Fossil of the Day is awarded on each day of the international climate talks by Climate Action Network, a collective of more than 1,300 environmental organisations, and the groups narrowed in on Morrison’s lacklustre response to the bushfire crisis that is still threatening communities across Australia’s east coast.
Australia was jointly awarded the Fossil of the Day on Tuesday, along with Japan and Brazil, with the environmental groups citing the lack of strong climate change commitments from Australia, particularly in light of bushfires that have devastated communities and blanketed major cities like Sydney in thick smoke for weeks.
“As Australia has been on fire in recent weeks – literally – with an astounding 6000-kilometre front of flaming destruction wiping out homes, forests, precious habitat and farmland, experts, one after another, connected the dots to climate change,” Climate Action Network said in a statement.
“But not Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He made his view known on national radio declaring that Australia’s unprecedented bushfires were unconnected to climate change. And further, he said he doesn’t think that Australia doing more on climate would change fire outcomes this season, despite Australia being the world’s third-biggest fossil fuel exporter.”
“Instead of taking responsible action on climate change, the Prime Minister made clear he was sending his thoughts and prayers to those who had suffered loss. Forget climate action, just thoughts and prayers.”
The award was accepted on Australia’s behalf by one of the Australian youth delegates at the climate talks who shared the story of two residents of the New South Wales town of Nymboida, which has been devastated by recent bushfires. Around 80 homes have been lost in the town, which has a population of around 300 people.
Earlier this week, Melinda Plesman, from the small regional town of Nymboida in New South Wales, took the remains of her home and displayed them on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra, calling on the government to act to reduce the risk of future bushfire damage.
Climate Action Network singled out Morrison’s decision to attend the cricket and expressing his desire on Twitter that the cricket could serve as a distraction for firefighters and communities impacted by bushfires.
“He actually added fuel to the fire to stir up people’s anger. The same day as fires busily destroyed people’s lives, Prime Minister Morrison went to a cricket game, and happily posed with cricketers tweeting: “Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer for.”” Climate Action Network added.
Japan also received the joint Fossil of the Day for what the environmental groups described as its “coal addition”, its plans to expand the use of coal, and for refusing to commit to the phase out of fossil-fuel use.
Brazil received the joint award for the Bolsonaro Government’s work to unwind environmental protections, particularly those that sought to prevent clearing of the Amazon rainforest, and for seeking to blame environmental groups for fires that have burnt through almost a million hectares of the Amazon.
“The results have been an appalling increase in violence against indigenous peoples, an unprecedented surge in illegal logging and a 30% increase in deforestation this year – the highest in a decade,” Climate Action Network said.
“Several studies have indicated that deforestation rates in Brazil in a weak governance scenario can triple, with yearly emissions of up to 1.3 billion tonnes in the Amazon alone. That is not only a blow to Brazil’s Paris targets, but also to the 1.5C degree goal.”
The negotiations in Madrid kicked off in earnest on Tuesday, following the formal opening of the talks and the agreement of an agenda on Monday.
Negotiations, mostly lead by officials and negotiators rather than ministers or heads of state, broke out into different negotiating streams, with particular interest in the ‘article 6’ negotiations under the Paris Agreement, which seek to finalise the rules around international cooperation and trading that countries may undertake in order to meet their Paris targets.
The fossil of the day award has been a long-time tradition for environmental groups at the annual United Nations climate change talks.
Australia has been a frequent recipient of the dubious honour, and the newly elected Abbott Government was awarded the ‘Colossal Fossil’ at the 2014 round of talks held in Peru.