The incoming president of international climate change negotiations has sent a clear message to the Morrison government – Australia will be expected to adopt a 2050 zero emissions target or face isolation on the international stage.
Alok Sharma, who is the UK secretary of state for energy, and will serve as the president of the forthcoming COP26 round of international climate negotiations to be held in Glasgow, praised each of the Australian states and territories for setting zero emissions targets, heaping pressure on the federal government to do the same.
“I would like to thank Australia’s states and territories, which have all made commitments to reach net zero by 2050. And I urge all of you who have not already done so to join the race to zero campaign,” Sharma said.
While not directly singling out the Morrison government, the message from Sharma, who addressed the Carbon Markets Institute summit on Wednesday, was clear – Australia will be expected to join a growing number of international peers committing to zero emissions targets.
“The momentum is now building behind similar targets around the world,” Sharma told the Carbon Markets Institute summit.
“Globally more than 120 countries have made carbon neutrality or net zero announcements. This includes recent examples of targets from Japan, from South Korea, from China. And I urge all other countries to join them.”
Sharma pointed to a climate leadership summit, to be held next week on the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement, as an opportunity for countries to announce more ambitious targets.
The summit will be jointly hosted by the UK, Italy, France and Chile, who have told government leaders that they should expect to announce substantial new commitments on climate action during the summit, if they intend to seek a speaking role.
“We are calling on leaders from across the world to use this moment to announce ambitious climate commitments on emissions reductions, on climate finance, and on adaptation. And we need everyone to play their part,” Sharma added.
Prime minister Scott Morrison and federal energy minister Angus Taylor have refused to commit Australia to a target of zero net emissions by 2050, and at times have questioned the sincerity of other countries making such a pledge.
However, the Morrison government will find itself increasingly isolated on the international stage if it refuses to adopt the more ambitious target, with most of Australia’s largest trading partners, as well as an incoming Biden Administration in the United States, has adopted a 2050 net zero target.
Sharma said that the United Kingdom was already demonstrating its leadership, ahead of the next round of international climate talks which is expected to see many countries announce strengthened pledges to tackle climate change.
“Here in the United Kingdom, we are seizing those opportunities. We have developed the world’s largest offshore wind sector, and we will accelerate that success with prime minister, Boris Johnson’s new plan for a green industrial revolution, which was announced last month,” Sharma said.
“This includes a commitment to quadruple our offshore wind capacity within a decade, supporting many thousands of jobs. In the UK, we’ve demonstrated that green growth is absolutely possible.”
Sharma said that the pace of emissions reductions needed to be dramatically increased to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, but added that strong investment in new renewable energy projects would be a strong creator of jobs at a critical period for a global economy in recession.
“To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, we must decarbonize the global economy up to five times faster over the next 10 years than we have over the past 20 years,” Sharma said.
“That is why I’m calling on all parts of society to increase their ambition and to focus efforts on five critical areas: restoring nature, adaptation resilience, clean energy, clean transport, and finance. Businesses realize that going green is not just the right thing to do, but it is also what their customers want. And increasingly what drives shareholder value.”
“Analysis suggests and many of you will know this, that investments in renewables create more jobs than the equivalent in coal, oil and gas. Over the past decade, we know that the cost of solar power has fallen by 85% and that a wind power by almost 50%. Both are now cheaper than new coal and gas plants in two thirds of countries,” Sharma added.