Scott Morrison had to be shamed into even attending the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
He is clearly anxious to avoid further humiliation on the global stage.
At the last summit in 2019, Morrison stayed home but ordered officials to block with Donald Trump and Brazil’s hard right leader Jair Bolsonaro to undermine action. Australia was accused of cheating for insisting on the use of Kyoto carry-over credits to meet its target for emissions reduction.
That summit took place while Australia was literally on fire with 2019’s record bushfires.
This year parts of the Western US and Canada have seen the same apocalyptic events, as unprecedented heat fuelled fires for the second year running.
Morrison is again isolated globally as he refuses to adopt even the semblance of a serious climate policy. Just weeks from the summit, he is still unable to bring himself to adopt even the useless net zero by 2050 target.
Most world leaders adopted net zero by 2050 long ago. There is a good reason for this—it commits them to practically nothing.
No political leader of today is going to be around in 30 years when the target has to be delivered. It allows them to get away with much more modest actions in the here and now, while pretending they are part of a “pathway” to zero emissions.
The fact that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, which has spent years promoting climate denial, is now campaigning in support of the target speaks volumes.
Although both Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have made noises in its support, the Coalition is having serious trouble getting the Nationals to agree.
National MPs, including Resources Minister Keith Pitt, are demanding more funding for fossil fuels, calling for $250 billion in loan guarantees for mining projects as a condition of their support.
This is their answer to the fact even the banks no longer see coal mines as a good investment.
Far more important are immediate climate policies, and targets for 2030. Here Morrison is still hanging on to Tony Abbott’s useless target of 26-28 per cent emissions reduction. And an assessment by Climate Action Tracker shows that Australia will not even meet this target.
Australia needs to deliver closer to 75 per cent emissions cuts, according to the Climate Council, to keep heating lower than 2 degrees. The safe limit for warming nominated at the Paris summit of 1.5 degrees is now almost certain to be passed.
Cuts of 50 per cent could be achieved with very little effort. The NSW Liberal government recently adopted a 50 per cent target for 2030, with at least three coal power plants scheduled to close by then, and plans to encourage electric vehicles. Victoria and SA have similar targets.
Locking in future for fossil fuels
Morrison is using the fig-leaf of his “New Technology Roadmap” as a cover for inaction. This talks of developing new technologies to reduce emissions, while Morrison refuses to do anything to implement the technologies that already exist.
Instead his technology push is aimed at ensuring a future for fossil fuels.
Hydrogen, a clean energy source, would be produced using gas, meaning more carbon emissions, instead of developing green hydrogen using renewable energy. Alongside this the government is pouring another $260 million into carbon capture and storage, the failed technology promoted by the fossil fuel industry to bury emissions underground, and allow them to carry on polluting.
The Coalition is also continuing to fund its “gas-fuelled recovery”. This month it announced $30 million for another new gas plant at Port Kembla, on top of $600 million in spending on a new gas plant at Kurri Kurri.
And it is supporting new coal and gas mines up and down the country.
It wants to open up new gas fields with $50 million in funding for NT’s Beetaloo Basin and $20.7 million for Queensland’s North Bowen and Galilee Basins. And it has approved three new coal mine developments in the last month.
The fossil fuel companies want to carry on profiting from pollution as long as possible. But it is workers who will be left behind when the industry declines. Government funding should be going into the just transition needed, through ensuring workers well-paid jobs with good conditions in new clean industries.
The last two years have seen the climate movement in retreat, as COVID pushed climate change off the political agenda following the magnificent Climate Strikes in 2019. With all eyes focused on the COP26 summit, the climate movement needs to mobilise to put the spotlight back on Morrison’s fossil fuel expansion, and build the pressure to kick him out and force the urgent action on climate we need.
By James Supple