THE WORLD’S TWO biggest polluters, China and the US, have committed to redouble their efforts to fight climate change this decade, leaving Australia ever more isolated on the world stage as a ‘climate laggard’.
The surprise joint China/US statement – released overnight at COP26 – coincides with the first draft of the COP26 cover decision which urges countries to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 climate plans by the end of 2022.
Climate Council Head of Research, Dr Simon Bradshaw, who is in Glasgow at COP26, said: “This is a big deal. One of the big fears going into Glasgow is China and the US would be at loggerheads, but in fact what this statement says is they will collaborate, despite their differences. The focus on accelerating action this decade – in the 2020s – is significant. That’s what we have to do to keep 1.5°C alive, and that’s the memo the Australian Government has missed.
“Right now Australia is being left in the dust as other countries race to embrace renewable energy. The cost of inaction on climate is not just Australia’s international standing, but also the economic cost of not leading the race on renewables.”
The draft COP26 decision provides a good indication of where things are likely to land at the end of the conference in just a few days.
“For the first time, we have a decision text that explicitly calls on countries to phase out coal and phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Meanwhile, Australia’s federal government is forcing its Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in false solutions including carbon capture and storage that serve only to prolong the fossil fuel industry,” Dr Bradshaw added.
“The draft decision also calls on countries that did not come to Glasgow with a new and stronger 2030 target to do so as soon as possible in advance of COP27 next year – this includes, of course, Australia.”
Australia ranked dead last out of 61 countries on climate policy in this week’s Climate Change Performance Index and the Climate Council’s analysis also placed Australia last on commitments countries took to COP26.
Climate Councillor, Professor Lesley Hughes: “Australia has never been so alone. The federal government is now part of a tiny club of countries that is actively trying to water down the text requiring countries to strengthen the steps they are taking to avoid catastrophic climate damage. It’s appalling, dangerous and irresponsible behaviour from our so-called political leaders.”
“Net zero by 2050 is meaningless without a plan to cut emissions this decade. It’s this decade that really matters,” said Professor Hughes.
Climate Councillor and leading Australian economist, Nicki Hutley: “Australia is falling ever further out of step with the rest of the world, and the pressure on the Australian Government to commit to serious climate action this decade is only going to increase in the wake of COP26.”
“Luckily, the world’s two largest economies – China and the US – along with Australia’s other major trading partners, want to realise the opportunities from acting and appreciate what’s at stake if we fail to act decisively this decade,” she said.
“The sooner we commit to at least halving our emissions this decade, the sooner Australia can restore its international standing, can start unlocking the abundant opportunities for clean jobs and clean industries in Australia, and better protect Australians and communities everywhere from the ravages of climate change,” said Ms Hutley.
The Climate Council recommends that Australia reduce its emissions by 75% (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035. This is based on rigorous scientific risk assessments.
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