After 18 months attacking clean energy and climate policies, axing and defunding climate and scientific institutions, and embarrassing itself at climate negotiations; Australia’s coal-captured Abbott Government is being challenged by the international community for its inadequate commitment to climate action.
Documents from the United Nations show Australia has been asked 36 questions – the most of any nation – about its 2020 emissions targets, underscoring international concern it may fail to live up to its responsibilities.
Australia is on the front lines of climate change, yet it has moved to the back row on action. Australians are among, if not the, wealthiest people on earth, and also the worst polluters. Australia now emits more than every European country except Germany. It is one of the countries most exposed to climate change, but it has some of the world’s best prospects for renewable energy growth, and can go to 100% renewables by 2050 with relative ease, at low cost, and while growing its economy.
“Deep cuts to Australia’s emissions can be achieved, at a low cost. With our abundant renewable resources we are one of the best placed countries in the world for moving to a fully renewable electricity supply. Australia can achieve zero net emissions by harnessing energy efficiency, moving to a zero-carbon electricity system, switching from direct use of fossil fuels to decarbonised electricity, and improving industrial processes.” Australian National University Associate Professor Frank Jotzo.
Despite the great economic, environmental, health and social promise renewables offer, the Abbott government is working hard to protect the coal industry – even to the extent of arguing it needs special consideration at UNFCCC meetings, undertaking creative account with foreign aid and otherwise trying to cook the books, and backing away from climate action. Other nations have clearly noticed.
“There are those who say that there’s almost nothing that can be done. My response to that is that it’ll be worse if we do nothing. There’s not an excuse for doing nothing saying that you can’t stem it. You can slow it down, that’s for sure and we’ll be really culpable if we don’t.” Sir David Attenborough in a longer version of his UQx interview.
Pressure is growing on nations to step up ambition ahead of the Paris climate talks, and Australia has the ability to ambitiously reduce emissions at low cost. However, the Abbott government is instead choosing to stay “in the coal business” and fight the future, and is surrounding itself with voices to tell it what it wants to hear.
Despite deep cuts to science and education, the Department of Education has miraculously found $4 million for a new thinktank led by notorious climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg – presumably as the Government is fond of his (routinely discredited) arguments that coal can solve energy poverty and climate action is not urgent.
“Bjorn Lomborg asked to meet me, and I wondered whether talking to him would be good fun or a waste of time. It was neither: it was scary and illuminating. After 15 years as the smiling face of climate inactivists, Lomborg had raised his sights. His new mission was to ensure that governments also deliver inaction on global poverty alleviation, public health and gender inequality.” Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Dr Richard Denniss.
Surrounding oneself with contrarians, deniers and crony industry is a common theme for governments resisting climate action, so to help people identify and counter the misinformation coming from these sources John Cook, the creator of Skeptical Science, has launched a new massive open online course. Open to anyone, anywhere on earth, the in-depth course features interviews with leading scientists and researchers, including Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes and Sir David Attenborough, and will equip students with the tools to identify and comprehensively dismiss myths used to deny climate science.
The world’s major economies are moving with increasing determination to reduce emissions and get moving on the clean energy transition. If laggards like Australia, Japan and Canada continue to make excuses, delay and backtrack on their commitments, then they will be left isolated both politically and economically.