For months before the Glascow climate conference the Federal Government was under pressure from our allies to improve its climate action. Even though the Prime Minister eventually secured the federal Nationals’ reluctant support for an Australian target of net zero emissions by 2050, Australia’s climate policy remains completely inadequate.
All the Australian states and territories, regardless of the political party in government, have committed to net zero by 2050 and are working to limiting their carbon emissions. Some have ambitious intermediate targets. NSW, for example, recently announced it would reduce its emissions to 50% below its 2005 level by 2030.
At Paris in 2015 the Federal Government committed to a 26-28% cut by 2030. Because scientists believe greater cuts are needed in the next 10 years to keep warming below two degrees, other nations have substantially increased their intermediate targets for Glascow. However, Prime Minister Morrison refused, saying he had made a commitment to the Australian people to leave it at that level. The real reason is likely to be the Nationals’ strong opposition to any increase.
As it happens Australia is likely to do better than the 26-28% reduction - but that will be the result of action by the states and territories - not from the climate laggards in Canberra.
Recent polls show Australians are increasingly concerned about climate change and want more effective government action. That is not surprising given the catastrophic bushfires, extreme weather events and lengthy droughts of recent years. The reality of the climate crisis is forcing more people to take notice.
Business too is taking action to deal with climate risk and limiting its emissions as well as advocating more government action. The Business Council of Australia (in contrast to its comments before the 2019 election) supports net zero by 2050 and wants the government to increase its 2030 target to 46-50% below 2005 levels.
Despite the urging from our allies as well as from an increasing numbers of concerned Australians and a wide range of business interests, the Prime Minister went to the Glascow climate conference with a completely inadequate climate “plan” which unsurprisingly failed to impress.
At the conference the Australian Government refused to sign a pledge to cut methane emissions, as well as dismissing calls to phase out coal and improve its 2030 targets.
The Federal Government remains an outlier both at home and among major advanced economies, locked in to its obsession with gas and coal.