From Paris to Glasgow: A World on the Move

21.10.21 By

The climate crisis is the defining challenge of our time. Culminating at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November (COP26), 2021 is a decisive year in the global response to this challenge. The latest science is abundantly clear – global emissions must plummet this decade to avoid climate catastrophe. For this to happen, every country, including Australia, must bring the most ambitious commitments and actions they can muster to COP26.

In the lead-up to COP26, there has been a rapid and irreversible shift in the global politics surrounding climate change. Almost all developed countries have committed to net zero emissions by 2050, and substantially strengthened their 2030 targets ahead of Glasgow, with major powers including the UK, EU, US and China racing to gain advantage in the global energy transition and even their defence planning. Meanwhile, Australia remains a fossil fuel giant, with coal and gas industries that are among the world’s biggest drivers of climate change

The Climate Council’s latest assessment shows Australia remains the worst performing of all developed countries when it comes to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and moving beyond fossil fuels. Australia is being left behind, and facing unprecedented international pressure from our allies, security partners and neighbours to do better. A commitment and plan for rapidly cutting our emissions this decade will unlock investment, grow new export industries and create new jobs in our regions thanks to our world-class renewable energy resources and enviable mineral reserves.

As we head towards crucial negotiations in Glasgow, this report takes stock of the world’s response to the climate crisis and what Australia needs to deliver if it is to play its part in protecting future generations and realise the economic benefits of stronger action.

To meet the goals of COP26, Australia must come to Glasgow with:

1. A substantially strengthened emissions reduction target for 2030, backed by a national plan to rapidly decarbonise our electricity and transport sectors, absorb more carbon in the land, and support the transition of communities to new clean industries. The science demands that Australia reduce its emissions by 75% (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035. As a first step, Australia must at least match the updated commitments from our key allies, and pledge to at least halve our emissions by 2030.

2. A new commitment of funding to support climate action in developing countries. As a first step, Australia should follow the US in doubling its current climate finance contribution, and pledge to provide at least AU$3 billion over 2021-2025 (see section 4.3 on climate finance).

3. A commitment to immediately end public funding for coal, oil and gas.


“The choices we make in the year ahead will determine whether we unleash a tidal wave of climate catastrophe on generations to come. But the power to hold back that wave rests entirely with us.”

Alok Sharma, COP President- Designate, December 2020

Key climate commitments from Australia’s traditional allies and biggest trading partners, and their implications
for Australia.

Key findings:

1. This year marks a defining moment in the world’s response to climate change. Avoiding climate catastrophe requires all countries to close the gap between what’s required and what’s been committed, by cutting their emissions faster and more substantially this decade.

2. By strengthening our climate commitments and actions this decade, Australia can have an outsized and positive influence on what happens next around the world.

3. Australia is the worst performing of all developed countries when it comes to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and moving beyond fossil fuels.

4. There has been a rapid and irreversible shift in the global politics surrounding climate change. Australia is being left behind and must catch up if it is to reap the economic and geostrategic benefits of taking stronger action.

Read more about the methodology used to rank Australia’s performance against the rest of the world