Australia has been left behind as countries and businesses accelerate action on climate change after the historic global agreement one year ago, a new Climate Council report has revealed.
The report, Towards Morocco: Tracking Global Climate Progress since Paris provides a detailed snapshot of global action on climate change in the last 12 months.
World leaders will meet in Marrakesh next week for the first time since the landmark Paris agreement was signed.
Eighty-five countries have ratified the agreement, including 10 of the largest polluters including the US and China. As these countries cover more than 55% of global emissions, the agreement will come into force on November 4, shortly before the talks begin in Morocco.
Australia will be under pressure in Marrakesh other countries having already expressed strong doubts over Australia’s ability to meet its Paris commitments without serious changes in national policy.
The report also questions Australia’s capacity to meet the 2030 emission reduction target given it relies on a number of measures, including fuel emissions standards and energy productivity projects, which have yet to be implemented.
The report finds:
- Major deals have been struck in 2016 to limit a number of industries and pollutants not covered by the Paris agreement, including aviation and hydrofluorocarbon.
- A number of major deals between countries have been struck in 2016 to limit emissions and work together to advance renewable energy.
- The year since Paris has marked some of the most severe impacts of climate change to date, including widespread coral bleaching, deadly heatwaves reaching 50°C in the Middle East and India and eight 1-in-500-years rainfall events in one year in the USA.
- Renewable energy continues to go from strength to strength with record investment and installations of new power capacity. The costs for wind and solar power are continuing to fall and the number of countries with renewable energy targets has reached an all-time high of 173.
Professor Tim Flannery said the questions posed by other countries made clear the world was yet to be convinced that Australia would play its part in helping to tackle climate change.
“The spotlight will be firmly on Australia in Marrakesh and not for positive reasons,” he said.
“Despite the fact that ten of the top twenty polluters have ratified the agreement, Australia is not amongst them.
“Our emissions are continuing to rise even as our most recognised natural asset, the Great Barrier Reef, was badly damaged this year by the worst coral bleaching event in history.
“And as the questions posed by countries such as the US, China and NZ demonstrate, there is serious doubt about our commitment to meet our already weak targets under current policies.”
Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said the progress made globally stood in stark contrast to the lack of action at home.
“Australia has taken no new concrete steps, legislative or otherwise, since Paris to pursue the goals of reducing our emissions or increasing renewable energy,” she said.
“Countries like the US have taken major steps forward as President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made clear that clean energy is a big part of America’s future economy and jobs.”
Professor Will Steffen said Australia needed a plan to transition rapidly away from coal towards renewable energy.
“For Australia to play a meaningful role in the global effort to tackle climate change and to protect Australians from worsening extreme weather events, we have to act. Our current policies just won’t do,” he said.
“Our ageing, inefficient coal-fired power stations are continuing to pollute and without decisive action from the government, they will not be replaced with modern, efficient and clean renewables fast enough.
“The upcoming 2017 review provides the opportunity to take stock and admit the obvious: that what we are doing is not working.
“The ratification of the Paris agreement is further proof of the world’s commitment to tackling climate change.
“Australia must cut its greenhouse gas emissions much more deeply and rapidly to contribute its fair share in meeting the climate change challenge.”
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Download the report here.