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Australia’s dismal climate record comes under spotlight after COP26

Australia’s dismal climate record comes under spotlight after COP26

Australia’s dismal climate record comes under spotlight after COP26

LONDON — Days before arriving in Glasgow, ScotlandFor what was billed to be a pivotal gathering global climate initiatives, Australian Prime Minister Scott MorrisonHis country was announced adopting a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050

He stated that he would never legislate this goal and would instead rely upon consumers and businesses to drive emissions reductions. 

It was the kinda half-measure that climate activists feared would be carried over to the next generation. COP26 summitThe recent United Nations climate talks in Glasgow. They said it did.

“Australia’s ambition for COP26 was to get away with it. To do as little as possible,” said Richie Merzian, who previously spent a decade as an Australian government COP negotiator and now works as the climate and energy program director at The Australia Institute,  an independent public policy think tank.  

Fondly known as the  sunburned country due to its vast stretches of dry and barren terrain, Australia has long been under fire as one of the world’s top producers of coal and gas, and narrowly dodged being labeled the summit’s villain. 

The country is still a key U.S. ally amid tensions with ChinaDespite its pride for its rich native wildlife and other environmental treasures, the country has done little to suggest that it will be a key partner in fighting climate catastrophe. Its actions at the climate conference did little to assuage environmentalists’ concerns.

Critics say Australia’s net zero announcement was a hollow promise and that the country’s attendance at the global summitOnly showed that the current conservative government is more attached to fossil fuel interests then it is to tackling climate change substantively. 

“They wanted to neutralize the critique that they aren’t doing anything on climate” by showing up but did little beyond that, Merzian said in a phone interview from Glasgow during the closing days of the summit. 

Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter was also harsh in his criticism of Australia’s performance during the climate summit. 

“The position the Morrison government took to Glasgow was an embarrassment, deeply inadequate, and wildly insufficient as the climate crisis accelerates in front of our eyes,”  he said in an email from Sydney after the summit.

NBC News reached out to  Morrison’s office for comment and was referred to public comments by Angus Taylor, the minister for industry, energy and emissions reduction.

“Under our Plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, we will act in a practical, responsible way to reduce emissions and build on our track record of achievement — reducing emissions while growing our economy, maintaining affordable, reliable energy and ensuring our regions remain strong. That’s the Australian way,” Taylor said in a joint statementAfter the climate summit, Marise Payne was seated with Marise. 

The powerful fossil fuel industry is caught between a series of natural disasters and the powerful fossil fuel industry. climate change has found its way to the heart of Australian politics.

Mining has been a major driving force in Australia’s economy since it was a British colony in the early 1800s, but coal production truly expanded after World War II the industry is still a major employer in many rural communities. 

The country is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases on a per capita basis and ranks as the world’s third largest fossil fuel exporter, behind only Russia and Saudi Arabia

Australia was criticized in Glasgow for not signing on to agreements such as the “Australian Free Trade Agreement”. Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statementpromoted by the United Kingdom of Great Britain global methane Pledge led by the  United States in an effort to curb methane emissions.

In November 2019, Hillville was the scene of one of Australia’s most destructive wildfires.Sam Mooy / Getty images file

The conference’s closing hours saw coal power become a major issue when delegates from India, China, and other countries came together. insisted on watering down the final language of the COP26 deal and replacing a commitment to “phase out” coal with the term “phase down.” 

And yet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assertion that Glasgow had effectively sounded “the death knell for coal power,” Morrison reiterated his country’s commitment in the wake of the summit, saying the coal industry will be working in Australia for “decades to come.” 

Australia’s lack of action on the issue sets a bad example for other countries, Merzian said, “instead of driving ambition like the U.S.The U.K.

“They are giving cover to other laggards like Russia and Turkey because they can look at Australia and say, ‘Look, if a wealthy industrialized country like Australia isn’t doing more in the short term, why should I?’” he said. 

Morrison has been in a political predicament over climate change for a long time. 

Climate activists were disappointed by Scott Morrison, Australia’s Prime Minister, at the COP26 summit.Ian Forsyth/ Pool via Getty Images

His government’s coalition partner, the National Party, is a strong supporter of the coal industry and made multiple attempts to block the  net zero target, citing potential risks to the country’s economy. 

Morrison is a well known proponent of the industry. He was known for bringing a lump of coal into the Australian Parliament  in 2017 and, with a showman’s flair, praised its value during a debate on renewable energy.

“Sadly, historically, Australia’s climate policy, to some extent, has been dictated by the position of incumbent interests in the oil, gas and coal industry” and that is why it has lagged behind it’s global peers, Christian Downie, an associate professor at the Australian National University who specializes in energy and climate politics, said ahead of the conference.

The country has also felt the effects of climate changeThat has led to increased pressure from some voters to take decisive action.

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Sixty percent of respondents said “global warming is a serious and pressing problem” that should be addressed now “even if it involves significant costs,” according to a May 2021 poll by the Lowy Institute, an independent think-tank in Australia.

Catastrophic wildfires in 2019-20 The destruction of more than 44,000,000 acres of land, 34 deaths and the loss of nearly 3000 homes was the result.

Nearly 3 billion koalas, kangaroos and other native Australian wildlifeAccording to the World Wide Fund For Nature Australia Australia, a total of 62 people were killed or forced from their homes by wildfires. 

The World Wild Fund for Nature ranked Australia’s 2019-20 wildfires as one of the most devastating wildlife disasters in recent history.Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Image file

And the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s most extensive coral reef ecosystem, has suffered so much from warming sea temperatures that it lost half its corals in just 20 years. 

Australia reacted angrily when the United Nations threatened to downgrade the reef’s World Heritage status unless the country did more to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, narrowly avoiding the designationAfter much lobbying. 

In one assessment at the COP26 summit, Australia ranked last among 60 countries in terms of its climate policy response. 

“The country’s lack of domestic ambition and action has made its way to the international stage,” the Climate Change Performance Index report said. “Australia has fallen behind its allies.” 

A spokesperson for Taylor, the minister for energy and emissions reduction, said that the Australian government “rejects” the report’s “subjective” findings “because it clearly ignores key facts and statistics.”

Glasgow’s lack of action has angered environmental activists. 

Two young climate protesters disrupted operations at the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle, Australia, on Nov. 17 by abseiling off the huge machinery and declaring in a video livestream: “This is us responding to the climate crisis.” 

To Ritter, from Greenpeace Australia, it’s past time for the country to step up on the world stage. 

“Australia’s reckless climate obstruction is as brazen as it is appalling,” he said. “A betrayal of our trust and a betrayal of our future.”

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