Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was rising to give his budget speech Tuesday night. Lismore residents were once more preparing for floods. United Nations scientists had just finished an inspection of the Great Barrier Reef that had been subject to mass bleaching.
The speech was given days after the collapse of an Antarctic ice shelf which disappeared into the Southern Ocean after an unprecedented heat wave struck the continent, alarming scientists not only for the temperature that was reached – about 40 degrees above average – but because it coincided with another heatwave on the other side of the world in the Arctic.
This context meant that many people involved in climate science and activism were disappointed at how little Mr Frydenberg spoke about climate in his speech. It was a section that made up around 100 words of his 3500-word address.
“Australia is on the pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 and playing its part in responding to the critical global challenge of climate change. Technology, not taxes, will get us there,” the Treasurer said, reiterating the government’s longstanding position that decarbonisation was not a project for the public purse.
Mr Frydenberg boasted that the nation has the highest uptake of rooftop solar in the world and emphasised spending on “clean hydrogen”, carbon capture and storage, batteries and large-scale solar.
Amanda McKenzie was the chief executive officer of Climate Council.
“I don’t buy it,” she said of the Treasurer’s claims. She noted that hydrogen investments do not necessarily have to be carbon-free, and that carbon storage has not yet been successful at capturing or storing carbon at commercial scale.
However, her main concerns were that none the spending proposals are targeted at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in this decade. Scientists agree that Australia must do this if it wants to keep up with the rest of world in its efforts to combat climate change.