Australia’s climate inaction embarrassment

April 23, 2015
More than a hundred thousand people marched for climate action in New York last year.

Politicians, both Labor and Liberal, have spent years defending this county’s pitiful efforts on tackling climate change with the excuse that Australia “can’t go it alone” — it has to wait for other countries to commit to action on climate change. The same excuse was often echoed in the media.

In particular, the lack of action by the US and China were cited as the reasons why Australia should commit to doing little or nothing.

Some, such as Green Left Weekly, have pointed out the hypocrisy in this. Wealthy countries such as Australia are responsible for the vast bulk of the increase in greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution.

Calls for the US to do more were justified, but expecting poorer countries to have a similar responsibility to wealthier ones was not. They lack both the same resources to tackle climate change and the same historic responsibility for existing carbon levels.

Even China, which is no longer among the poorest of countries, still has only around a quarter of the per capita GDP of Australia on a purchasing power parity basis.

UN figures show Australia’s 2010 annual carbon emissions at 16.75 tonnes per capita and China’s at 6.18. Australia fudged a commitment to anything more than a 5% reduction, but it would need to make a 63% reduction to bring it down to par with China.

On April 20 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that “The world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, including China and the US, have questioned the credibility of Australia’s climate change targets and Direct Action policy in a list of questions to the government.

“China accused Australia of doing less to cut emissions than it is demanding of other developed countries, and asked it to explain why this was fair.”

Among a number of questions to Australia lodged with the United Nations for December’s climate summit in Paris, “Brazil accused Australia of having a ‘low level of ambition’, and asked if it would boost its targets to cut emissions more quickly.”

The excuse that Australia might be “going it alone” on climate action has now evaporated but Australia’s efforts on carbon emissions reduction have only grown weaker.

As has been reported in GLW over a number of years, science has been consistently pointing out that even the emissions’ reduction targets of 15 or 25%, which are being thrown around by less recalcitrant members of the UN, are not sufficient to stop the Earth passing serious climate tipping points.

Also reported in GLW is that much more serious climate action is absolutely achievable. For instance, GLW highlighted the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan launched in 2010.

The report, produced by think tank Beyond Zero Emissions, showed that it is perfectly feasible technically and economically to move to 100% renewable energy within a decade using existing commercially available technology.

To keep GLW reporting the facts on climate change and calling out our politicians’ miserable excuses for ignoring it, we are calling on readers and supporters to help us by making a pledge to the GLW 2015 Fighting Fund to be paid either now or during the year.

You can help us keep the struggle going by sending your pledge to or by calling the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

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