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The Lost Years: Counting Australia’s Climate Inaction Costs

The Lost Years: Counting Australia’s Climate Inaction Costs

Lost years scorecard

The eight-year-old leadership failure to take climate action at the national level has been a key factor in the lack of progress. This is a problem that Australians have to live with every day. We must quickly address it in order to avoid catastrophe. 

The Climate Council’s new report “The Lost Years: Counting the costs of climate inaction in Australia” provides a detailed overview of the Federal Government’s approach to climate change since the election of the Liberal-National Coalition in 2013. The Climate Council has assessed the Federal Government’s climate performance over the past eight years in detail and finds there’s been a complete and catastrophic failure to act on the climate crisis. 

When asked to rate the government’s performance on climate change and response to worsening extreme weather events, Everyday Australians gave a 3/10 overall. One in four (26%) surveyed rated the Morrison Government a 0 for ‘not doing anything at all’. 

The past eight years have been characterised by cuts to climate-related funding and effective programs, the rejection of advice from scientists and both national and international expert bodies, a lack of credible climate policy and claims that mislead the public on what’s being done as well as what’s possible.

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Australians deserve better. Australia’s next Federal Government must adopt credible climate policies as a matter of extreme urgency.

Key Findings

1. The Climate Council has assessed the Federal Government’s climate performance over the past eight years in detail and finds there’s been a complete and catastrophic failure to act on the climate crisis.

  • The Liberal-National Government’s attacks on science have been frequent, wide ranging and debilitating, including on our premier national science agency. Starting in 2014, significant cuts were made to CSIRO, reducing Australia’s climate science capacity, crippling our ability to understand the risks and impacts of climate change to Australia, and diminishing our contribution to the global climate science effort.
  • The Coalition has cut or scaled back effective climate change programs and agencies throughout its terms of government. It has also failed to provide any effective alternatives. Around 2 percent of the $180 billion Australia spent on COVID Recovery efforts will be used to reduce emissions. France and Germany both allocated half of their COVID Recovery spending to climate solutions. 
  • This Government seems to be against expert advice and credible climate information. It has repeatedly rejected the advice from domestic and foreign bodies and has consistently covered up poor performance. Federal Ministers have made misleading claims and offered false solutions.
  • This Government has shunned its international obligations by setting weak targets, refusing raise them, undermining collaboration between countries and obstructing United Nations negotiation. This pattern of behaviour has cemented Australia’s reputation as a global climate pariah.

2. A failure to act on climate change at the national level is the most significant leadership failure of the last eight years. The everyday consequences of this are being felt by Australians, and we must act quickly to prevent catastrophe.

  • Climate change is accelerating, and Australia’s overall contribution to this crisis has substantially increased under this Government. With a negligible decrease in our national emissions, fossil fuel production has increased 19% since 2013. The problem is not solved by delaying action. It has only made it more difficult to reduce emissions and prevented catastrophic outcomes. 
  • Australia missed earlier opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emission and decarbonize our economy in the most cost-effective, gradual and effective manner. The country with the most renewable energy resources is more well-positioned than any other country to thrive in a world without fossil fuels.
  • It is being tested whether first responders and communities in Australia can cope with the worsening and compounding effects of extreme weather events. Our country is woefully unprepared for what’s here and coming, with the conditions that drove the 2019-20 bushfire disaster likely to be “average” by 2040.

3. The Federal Government has covered up poor performance by misleading claims, dubious accounting, and censorship.

  • Australia is one of the worst performing countries in terms reducing emissions and moving beyond fossil-fuels. The Liberal-National Government has made misleading statements and used data selectively to convince Australians, and the international community, that it is doing more.
  • The Government uses its influence and power to prevent an accurate assessment on the Great Barrier Reef from being made public. Instead of focusing on effective measures to protect it, For example, by lobbying to delay the World Heritage-listed icon from officially being declared ‘in danger’ when scientists agree all coral reefs are in mortal danger from climate change. 
  • The Government spends more than $30 million on public advertising campaigns that make false claims like our national emissions have dropped by 20%, when federally there is no effective mechanism to eliminate coal, oil, and gas.

4. Australia’s next government must adopt credible climate policies as a matter of extreme urgency. This includes transparent and accurate reporting of Australia’s climate performance. 

  • Australia is yet not to start reducing its emissions as other nations have already made significant progress. The economics of doing it are now just as compelling as the science. Our next Australian government must immediately reset our national approach. 
  • Australia can be proactive and help the global effort, rather than being one of the few laggards. Australia, as a signatory of the Glasgow Climate Pact is bound to increase its 2030 emissions reduction target prior to the UN climate summit in Egypt in Nov 2022. 
  • The climate challenge has been met with a lot of support from the state and local governments of all political affiliations, business, industry, and the community. Federal leadership will boost their efforts and help drive new investments, jobs and economic development. 
  • The Climate Council has established a climate action scorecard to monitor the Federal Government’s climate performance over time, specifically around emissions pledges, accountability, transparency, timeliness, accuracy, and the provision of adequate funding and support.
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