Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is unlikely to attend the COP26 conference in Glasgow because he will have “a lot of issues to manage” in November when Australia opens up.
However, domestic “issues” — including Sydney and Melbourne’s COVID-19 Delta variant outbreaks — didn’t stop Morrison from flying to the United States for a week to secure AUKUS, the new military pact with the US and Britain.
Climate action has never been a priority for Morrison, who would rather conspire with imperialist powers against China than tackle climate change.
His failure to address the climate crisis is a direct result of the government’s kowtowing to the fossil fuel industry. The Liberal National Coalition government receives huge donations from the fossil fuel sector and in return supports new coal, gas and oil projects.
Meanwhile, a blatant disregard for climate science is promoted by pro-mining climate change sceptics within the National Party, notably by its leader, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, and National Party senator Matt Canavan who recently announced he is “dead set” against net zero emissions.
Attendance at COP26 would expose Morrison to significant pressure: even by conservative standards the government’s failure to reduce emissions lags far behind other developed nations. Australia ranks last on climate sustainability goals, according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Report 2021, released in June.
International leaders are calling for Morrison to commit to a target of net zero emissions by 2050, which would mean Australia would at least be keeping up with a commitment made by 130 countries.
But, according to a recent Climate Council report, net zero by 2050 is not enough to address the crisis: Australia needs to be at net zero before 2035 to alleviate climate change. The report stated, “Australia is spending public money in ways that exacerbate climate change, including handing out billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsides”, and recommended “shifting from fossil fuel exports to clean exports” and “ending all support for fossil fuels”.
The Climate Council said Australia’s failure to act would exacerbate the impact of climate change on countries in the Asia-Pacific, which is already experiencing rising sea levels, water and food insecurity, and severe weather events. Worsening conditions would “increase displacement and forced migration”, the report said.
Pacific Island nations have repeatedly tried — and failed — to get Australian governments to take emissions reduction seriously, most notably at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu in 2019, where Morrison, notoriously, insulted and bullied Pacific Nations leaders by obstructing an agreement on climate action.
During this year’s Pacific Island Forum (held online), Fijian President Frank Bainimarama tweeted that there were “zero excuses” for countries like Australia not to commit to a zero emissions target by 2050. “The Pacific and the planet depend on it”, he said.
Meanwhile, Morrison is also facing pressure from within. The NSW Coalition government on September 29 announced a plan to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030. Even NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, like other capitalists who can see the economic opportunities from going “green”, said she is “serious” about “helping the world decarbonise”.
Berejiklian’s announcement followed a report by the Beyond Zero Emissions think tank suggesting that climate action will be good for business. The think tank said, “Australia could grow a new green export mix worth $333 billion per annum, almost triple the value of existing fossil fuel exports”.
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