Factsheet: Climate Ambition Summit

10.12.20 By
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The COP26 ‘Climate Ambition Summit‘ begins on Sunday, December 13, at 1:00 am (AEDT). It marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement and is the centrepiece of a major diplomatic push, led by the UK, to encourage countries to step up climate commitments ahead of next year’s critical round of international negotiations at COP26. It’s still unclear if Australia will be granted a speaking spot at the summit. The hosts made it clear that only those countries which were willing to step up their ambition would be allowed to speak.

Australia’s major trading partners and strategic allies have already increased their climate commitments or indicated they will do so. In contrast, Australia is not planning to strengthen its woefully low 2030 target, has refused to set a net zero emissions target and withdrawn from the UN Green Climate Fund despite agreeing to contribute. Australia had threatened to use dodgy accounting tricks to meet its 2030 target but now appears to be backing away from that threat because of diplomatic pressure. On current trends, Australia won’t reach net zero emissions for 300 years.

Moves by other countries to set net zero emissions targets directly threatens 70% of our international trade. Australia’s refusal to adopt a credible climate policy also weakens our international relationships with the Pacific, the UK, European Union, much of Asia, and the United States. As climate momentum continues to grow, so will the share of countries leaving us in the dust.

You can watch it live here.


Today, we are selling over 70% of our coal and gas to countries that plan to stop buying them. What’s our plan?

The world is moving away from fossil fuels. Australia is rich in sunshine, wind and renewable technologies and has a skilled workforce. Why aren’t we trying to cash-in on a net zero emissions future?


– “Australia is meeting its targets and doing its bit.”

Our targets are weak, and ignore science. Under the first commitment period of Kyoto, Australia had the second weakest of all targets. Under the second, we had the absolute weakest despite being a wealthy country with access to abundant renewable energy. Australia met those targets without taking any credible, enduring steps toward reducing its emissions. We burn and export more and more fossil fuels each year. Our 2030 target is woeful, and ignores the science. It is a far cry from the independent advice offered to the government in 2015  by the Climate Change Authority. 

Not only are we failing to take credible action on climate change at home, but we are also trying to stop others from doing so. Australia has consistently been a key blocker at UN negotiations, and its climate policies were recently rated the second worst of all major emitters.

– “We don’t need to use or won’t use ‘carry-over credits’ from the Kyoto Protocol.”

This is the equivalent of winning one international sporting match and trying to carry over the score to the next one. In effect, Australia has dumped its plan to cheat but we are still committed to doing next to nothing on climate change.

– “We want to get to net zero as soon as possible—but we need a ‘clear plan’ on how to get there”

The Federal Government has had seven years to make this plan and has come up with nothing more than a technology investment wishlist. The rest of the world is moving to a net zero future without fossil fuels. The UK, Japan, South Korea, China, the EU, and every single Australian state and territory all have a net zero target, and plan. A Biden Government in the United States will also set a net zero emissions target. It’s the federal government’s job to do the same.

– “We don’t need to strengthen our targets; Australia is doing enough”

Under the Paris Agreement, all countries are expected to increase efforts over time. Of 195 countries in the world, 100 have indicated they are planning to increase their 2030 climate targets by COP26. Australia set a weak target five years ago (that was modelled on the US; but which gave us an extra five years to reach) and we’ve stuck to that target despite experiencing worsening climate impacts at home.

– “Australia has recorded a 15% reduction since 2005 – the biggest per-capita drop”

Almost all of Australia’s emissions cuts happened under the carbon price, before this federal government repealed the laws. Since 2014, our emissions have stagnated – with the exception of the impact of COVID-19 and lockdowns. The federal government is taking credit for policies it vocally campaigned against. To make matters worse, Australia still has the highest emissions per capita in the developed world. 

– “We are only responsible for 1.3% of global emissions.”

Australia is a massive emitter no matter which way you measure it: on a per-capita basis, or in total emissions. Australia emits more greenhouse gas emissions than 181 other countries. On top of this, Australia is the fifth largest producer of fossil fuels on the planet; after the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.