Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull might be enjoying a break from domestic (read: energy) politics at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London this week, but he is unlikely to escape scrutiny of his government’s feeble efforts on cutting emissions.
Alongside the important business of anointing a successor to the Crown, emissions targets have been thrust high on the CHOGM agenda for 2018, by none other than the meeting’s host.
As the Guardian reports, the UK government has used the forum to announce plans to review its long-term emission reduction target – raising the possibility it could implement a “net zero” goal for 2050, up from the existing target of 80 per cent.
Whether it does this or not, the news makes Australia – with its unshakable commitment to a 2030 target of 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels, and complete absence of any longer-term target (Tony Abbott dumped the long term target when he dumped the carbon price) – look pretty pathetic.
As do the findings of a Christian Aid report, released on Monday, that named Australia – alongside the UK and Canada – as being in climate mitigation “deficit,” while some of the Commonwealth’s poorer countries – Bangladesh, Kenya and Zambia, for example – were in credit.
Small island states vulnerable to sea level rise – and many of them Australia’s Pacific Island neighbours, like Kiribati, Vanuatu and Tuvalu – were also more than doing their fair share, the report found.
The report, which assessed national capacity to make cuts and emissions since 1990 to calculate fair proportional efforts to address climate change, included the below table which translates each country’s mitigation deficit into TWh of renewable energy.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the federal government will try again this week to win the states over to its National Energy Guarantee which, according to broad independent consensus, won’t help cut carbon emissions, won’t incentivise a shift away from coal power, and might even dampen renewables investment.
As we reported yesterday, the latest indication from the Coalition on the shape of Turnbull’s NEG is that it will hold position not just on a weak emissions target, but on locking it in for as long as possible.
Contrast this with the UK, which – on top of its plans to review its 2050 emissions target – has set a clear target to exit coal, will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, and is using an independent authority to advise it on all matters climate.
(Australia has one of those, called the Climate Change Authority, but tends to ignore it.)
But Turnbull won’t be able to ignore climate change in CHOGM, which has also flagged climate inequality – both in terms of its effects, and the efforts made to combat it – as a major topic of discussion.
In its pre-meeting notes, the Commonwealth said that climate change would disproportionately impact poorer former British colonies.
Indeed, as Climate Home News points out, this year’s meeting was relocated to London from Vanuatu after the Pacific island’s took a battering from Cyclone Pam in 2015.
“Without urgent action to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience, the impacts of climate change could push an additional 100 million people across the world into poverty by 2030,” the CHOGM statement said.
“This is particularly relevant for the Commonwealth as 39 of our 53 members are small or other vulnerable states.
“The Commonwealth is well placed to take action, underlining our on-going commitment to tackling climate change, protecting the environment and increasing the resilience of our members.”
Over to you, Malcolm Turnbull.