Make Australia part of the solution

March 31, 2023
School students in Sydney understand the climate emergency is here. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

The latest United Nations-supported Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is sobering reading.

It confirms that unless we act now to challenge the power of fossil fuel capital and force governments to take drastic action to cut emissions, it is likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century and it will be harder to limit warming below 2°C.

In the words of the AR6 Synthesis Report: “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.

“The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.”

The IPCC insists that: “Limiting human-caused global warming requires net zero CO2 emissions.

“Cumulative carbon emissions until the time of reaching net-zero CO2 emissions and the level of greenhouse gas emission reductions this decade largely determine whether warming can be limited to 1.5°C or 2°C.”

Yet, for capitalist governments, achieving “net zero” emissions this decade means exploiting loopholes through emissions trading and carbon credit schemes, all the while approving new fossil fuel projects.

The Labor government is currently weighing up 116 new coal, oil and gas projects which, if allowed to proceed, will emit an extra $1.4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually by 2030, according to The Australia Institute (TAI).

Australia’s total domestic greenhouse gas emissions over 2021–22 was 490 million tonnes. TAI’s Richard Denniss likened it to starting up 215 new coal-fired power stations.

Australia looks better than it actually is, because only onshore emissions are counted in the international measurements. Scope 3 emissions produced “downstream” — in countries importing fossil fuels — are not counted as part of the country totals.

This is a major problem and allows rich countries, such as Australia, to continue avoiding accountability for the global climate catastrophe — which more drastically impacts poorer countries.

According to Denniss, almost all the coal, oil and gas from these new projects would be exported.

The future looks bleak unless governments like Australia’s change course. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “Every country must be part of the solution. Demanding others move first only ensures humanity comes last.”

To stay below 1.5°C, the IPCC has said that governments have to change course and leave carbon in the ground.

Unless there is serious action taken now, we are on track to exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C (50%), based on the projected CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure.

Those who bear the least responsibility for the crisis are feeling its impacts disproportionately.

“Finance, technology and international cooperation are critical enablers for accelerated climate action,” the IPCC report said.

However, rich nations are blocking meaningful climate financing to the Global South and meaningful action to mitigate the risk of catastrophic climate change.

The IPCC report puts it mildly when it says: “There is sufficient global capital to close the global investment gaps but there are barriers to redirect capital to climate action.”

That is why Green Left has, since 1991, sought to work with social and ecological movements to build the pressure on the government to change course and act on the science.

We need to ensure that justice remains a central part of the movement — listening to First Nations peoples who are saying no, as well as the countries of the Global South, including in the Pacific, which do not have the resources to deal with the catastrophic weather events caused by a rapidly changing climate.

If you, like Green Left, know that the only way to arrest and reverse global warming, repair the environment and guarantee a safe climate for all is to focus on stopping new fossil fuel projects on the drawing board, please become a supporter and consider making a donation to our Fighting Fund.

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