Governments around the globe are under increasing pressure to ramp up action on cutting carbon emissions. More than 100 countries, including Australia’s major trading partners, have committed to net zero emissions by 2050 (or 2060 in the case of China). Australia’s federal government has resisted this and is becoming increasingly isolated amongst developed nations. However, all state and territory governments, irrespective of the political party in power, have made this commitment and are actively working towards the net zero emissions goal.
Federally the puerile “climate wars” of the last decade are continuing. Climate deniers and fossil fuel enthusiast MPs continue to prevent the Morrison Government from adopting an effective climate policy. Despite this the Government continues to claim it will meet our 2030 Paris commitments with its 26-28% cuts. And its much-touted “gas led recovery” shows it’s not really serious about curbing emissions.
Federal Labor also has internal difficulties with some MPs wanting to tone down the party’s emission commitments because of perceived election threats in seats where fossil fuel production is economically important.
All of these politicians concerned about the economies of fossil fuel dependent electorates should be actively working towards transitioning these economies and their workers to more sustainable industries in a carbon-constrained world. Instead they act like King Canute trying to hold back the tide - perhaps politically useful in the very short term – but certainly not in the national or global interest.
A new Australian group – the Climate Targets Panel - last week claimed the original Paris target of 1.5 degrees warming was now unachievable because of the cuts needed. According to Panel member and climate scientist Professor Will Steffen, if the rest of the world did the same as Australia, we’d be looking at three degrees warming.
The Panel believes Australia needs to reach net zero emissions by 2045 with interim targets being a 50% cut by 2030, 67% by 2035 and 84% by 2040. Currently it is obvious neither the climate-laggard Federal Government nor the timorous Labor Opposition is up to the challenge.
- Leonie Blain
Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , February 3, 2021.