Morrison mute on targets at Biden climate summit

April 23, 2021
Used with permission of Alan Moir,

Friends of the Earth Victoria (FOE) slammed the federal government’s refusal to state Australia’s climate targets at the US-initiated World Leaders Climate Summit on April 22–23.

The transmission technology initially failed when it was Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s turn to speak, which seemed apt as he continued to refuse to put a carbon emissions target for 2030.

Called by United States President Joe Biden, the summit was aimed at raising emissions reduction targets in the lead-up to COP26 in Glasgow in November.

The US used the summit to announce its decision to raise its emissions reduction target to 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

US climate campaigners want for a target well above 50%. Karen Orenstein, Climate and Energy Program Director at Friends of the Earth, US, said Biden’s commitment may seem ambitious, but it is “sharply inadequate and deeply unjust for the billions living in the Global South”.

“It stands in stark contrast to his expressed commitment to centre environmental justice in his approach to government.”

The Paris Agreement, drafted in 2015, aimed to strengthen the lacklustre global response to human induced climate change. But because it works on a voluntary basis, governments in the pockets of the fossil fuel corporations, like Australia’s, can ignore it.

Each country is supposed to cut emissions in line with keeping the global temperature rise this century to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Former US president Donald Trump, who regularly disputed climate science, declared in 2017 that he was pulling the US out the Paris Agreement.

While Australia hasn’t left the Paris Accords, Morrison has ignored, even ridiculed, the protocols. He downplayed the summit, probably because he had nothing new to propose. He was given a speaker’s spot close to the end.

FOE climate spokesperson Leigh Ewbank said the Federal government had wasted an opportunity to make a “course correction” on climate and energy policy.

“The increased ambition we’re seeing from the US and other counties shows that momentum is building to take the climate crisis seriously,” Ewbank said on April 23.

“While a heavier lift is needed to align current emissions reduction targets with climate science, these announcements are a welcome step forward and give communities hope.”

Britain announced a 78% emissions reduction by 2030. China will cut carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Japan will cut emissions by 46% by 2030 compared with 2013 levels, up from 26%. Canada pledged to cut emissions by 46% by 2030.

Along with India and Russia, Morrison did not spell out a specific 2030 target. He said Australia’s “goal” was to achieve net zero emissions “preferably by 2050”.

“For Australia, it is not a question of if or even by when for net zero, but importantly how,” Morrison told the summit.

“In Australia, our journey to net zero is being led by world class pioneering Australian companies like Fortescue, led by Dr Andrew Forrest, Visy, BHP, Rio Tinto, AGL and so many more of all sizes.”

“The Morrison government’s inaction threatens the economy and puts jobs at risk,” Ewbank said, adding the country would be “exposed to carbon-border tariffs and will cost jobs”.

University of Melbourne modelling, commissioned by FOE, shows an emissions reduction of 75% by 2030 could create at least 50,000 jobs.

Dipti Bhatnagar, FOE international program coordinator on climate justice and energy, from Mozambique, said the US climate target is still “magnitudes below the US’ fair share of climate action.” She said the US should also be providing finance and other assistance for communities in the global South “as they reel from a climate crisis they did not create”.

“Droughts are destroying crops, cyclones are levelling homes, and whole nations are literally disappearing,” Bhatnagar said.

“This climate goal is neither driven by justice and equity nor by science, and that is not acceptable. The United States must accept and address its high level of responsibility for the climate crisis and encouragement of high-carbon lifestyles the world over, for which planet and peoples are severely paying the price.”

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