Australia is once again a climate laggard as the COP26 climate talks end in Glasgow. Prime Minister Scott Morrison might be a marketing supremo, but he can’t spin his way out of his government’s failures.
It is indeed baffling that the prime minister would think that his recent commitment to net zero emissions by 2020 would be enough to justify a ticket to Scotland.
But while Morrison does not appear to understand – or care – what is required from Australia under the 2015 Paris AgreementHis refusal to reduce emissions is starting to backfire, especially considering the stakes at COP26.
‘The Australian way’
Morrison made his net zero commitment public last month. declared “Australians will set our own path by 2050 and we’ll set it here by Australians for Australians”. This was also the message he took to the world stage at COP26, where he described his policy of “technology not taxes” to be the core of “the Australian way”.
Most countries have a pavilionThey host events and present their efforts to negotiators as well as observers at the climate negotiations. The Morrison government appeared to mistake COP26 for a fossil fuel expo – its pavilion was branded as “Positive energy the Australian way”, which touted fossil fuels and carbon capture and storage.
The Morrison government at Glasgow also stuck to its principles. paltry 2030 targetIt was established by the Abbott government in 2015, making it an extreme exception from other developed countries. It also refusedTo join the pledge to reduce methane omissions and another to phase out coal.
Morrison set a tone at the G20 meeting held in Rome, days before Australia joined China and India in Glasgow. blockingA phase-out of coal. Minister for Resources Keith Pitt has since made the government’s position clear: Australia will continue to export its coal for many decades.
Australia already had a bad reputation
Australia already had a reputation for “gaming” the processes of carbon accounting. But Morrison took creative carbon accounting to a new level at US President Joe Biden’s climate summit in April.
Seasoned climate analysts were shockedAt the metrics used, such exclusion of emissions from extracting fossil fuels for their export. This breaks with the official methodology for measuring all emissions produced within a country’s territory.
Take heart at what’s unfolded at COP26 in Glasgow – the world can still hold global heating to 1.5℃
The Morrison government was present at COP26. enhanced the size of its climate finance – to help Pacific and Southeast Asian neighbours with the effects of climate change – from A$500 million to A$2 billion over the next five years. However, this is well below Australia’s fair shareBased on population, responsibility, economic capacity, and population, the annual cost is US$2.9billion (A$3.96billion).
Apart from the Trump administration (2018), Australia is the only developed country that has refused to channel its climate finance through multilateral Green Climate Fund. According to Donor Tracker, in recent years, Australia’s climate-related aid has had “cross-cutting objectives” and none of it went to projects that address climate change as a “principal goal”.
The annual climate COPs are, among other things, a global “show and tell”. Australia has a problem. It had nothing to demonstrate, and no amount telling can make up for this. As Lord John Deben, the UK’s chief climate advisor told the ABC this week, “it was just a whole series of words”, with no understanding of “the urgency of what we have to do”.
Frank Bainimarama, Fijian Prime Minister, tried a new tactic. At COP26, after urging Morrison to halve Australia’s emissions by 2030, he handed him a copy of Fiji’s Climate Change Act “as a guide – it is our uniquely Fijian way of following the science to keep faith with future generations”.
The rise of “scorecard diplomacy” based on ratings and rankings of national climate performance has also made marketing cover-ups impossible.
Key examples include Climate Action Tracker, which has rated Australia’s overall performance as “highly insufficient”, and the Climate Performance IndexAustralia was ranked seventh overall and behind Russia in the most recent assessment at COP26 this Wednesday.
The “Fossil of the Day” awards go to those parties “doing the most to achieve the least” at the annual climate negotiations. Climate Action Network International is a group of over 1,500 environmental groups representing 140 countries. These awards are a popular topic with negotiators. Australia has won five fossil awards at COP26 so far, more than any other country.
This includes the award for “aiming low” on the first day of COP26.
Australia, we’ve come to expect some unconscionable behaviour from you on climate change but this time you’ve truly outdone yourself.
Flying in Paris
The Morrison government’s stubbornness on its 2030 target flies in the face of not only the goals and rules but also the core equity principles In the Paris Agreement.
These principles require developed nations to take the lead on climate mitigation in line their greater historical and economic responsibility. They must also mobilize climate finance to support mitigation and adaptation in countries with low emissions, high vulnerability, and weak capacities.
The Morrison government lives in a parallel universe to the Paris Agreement in its defence of the “Australian way”. This signalling can only signify one thing.
The first is that the rest of the world, including poor countries, must compensate by carrying most of Australia’s burden if we are to hold warming to the necessary 1.5℃ this century. The second is that the government has no interest in “keeping 1.5℃ alive,” on the assumption Australia can adapt to a hotter world and never mind the enormous suffering elsewhere.
Performance and commitments (not branding)
In international climate politics, a country’s reputation is determined by the credibility of commitments and performance over time in relation to the collective goals, principles and rules negotiated by the parties.
It is not a brand or an image that can be created in Canberra, and then marketed around the world as Vegemite.
Australia’s COP26 diplomacy is damaging its reputation further. There is rising anger from developing countries, which constitute the majority of world’s states.
We also feel deep anxiety among our Pacific nations, which are increasingly uncomfortable with Australia. Tuvalu’s foreign minister Simon Kofe filmed his COP26 speechStanding thigh-deep in water.
Even Australia’s closest allies, the United StatesThe United Kingdom, are frustrated about our the government’s stubbornness.
The free ride will come to an end
Australia’s free ride will come to end sooner or later, as our trading partners consider imposing carbon tariffsThe export market for coal- and gas-derived products shrinks.
Australia is undermining the Paris Agreement, no matter what Morrison says – we need new laws to stop this
However, the reputational damage arising from Australia’s great refusal may come to haunt us when we seek the cooperation of others. It should also haunt Australians that Fiji is rising as the oceans rise. sent military engineersDuring the Black Summer Fires of 2019-2020.
It is possible that we will not be able rely on such help in the future.