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Australia on a different course to the rest of the world when it comes to tackling climate change

By Dr Anthony Horton

An Australian delegation was questioned for an hour at the latest United Nations climate meeting at Bonn in Germany overnight Australian time. The Bonn meeting is essentially an assessment of nations’ climate change commitments in the lead up to Paris in December.

A number of countries including China and Brazil questioned Australia’s move to scrap the carbon tax introduced under the previous Labor Government, and whether the current Government’s $2.55 billion Direct Action Policy and its flagship Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) will be sufficient to meet its 5% reduction by 2020.

In addition to Australia’s pledge is to reduce emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 and they have also committed to limit the average yearly emissions to 99.5% of 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (2013-2020).

The carbon reduction pledges made by 31 economies will mean that by 2030, they will only achieve approximately 30% of what is required. According to a Climate Action Tracker (CAT) initiative report which was issued on the sidelines of the Bonn meeting, much more work is needed in order to strengthen the commitments.

The CAT initiative assessment of Australia’s commitment revealed that Australia’s 2020 targets are inadequate, and that Australia is unlikely to meet its target. It noted that the current Abbott Government had repealed many of the instruments of the National Climate Policy and legislation which was introduced by the previous Labor Government’s Clean Energy Future package, including the Carbon Pricing Initiative.

The assessment pointed to the substantial turnaround in Australian climate policy which implies a shift away from a targeted climate policy which is designed to meet set goals that are aligned to international climate policy targets and to meet the emissions reductions that climate scientists are calling for. Further, the CAT assessment highlighted Australia’s cumulative abatement challenge as 507 Million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalents until 2020 (equivalent to one year of Australia’s emissions in the early 1990s). When the potential abatement from the ERF until 2020 was taken into account, the assessment found that there was a shortfall of 440 Million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalents.

The 195 nations that comprise the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are charged with sealing a deal to ensure that global warming is limited to 2°C. To date, finger pointing between rich and poor nations over the burden for reducing carbon emissions has been the dominant action.

I can’t help but wonder what other governments would think and say about Australia’s commitments if they didn’t have to play the diplomatic game. I also can’t help wondering when the collective patience of these governments is going to completely run out. I don’t think it will be very long if Australia continues down this path for much longer – and after all, December is only six months away. In recent blogs I’ve highlighted potential actions that are being considered by some governments towards nations who are deemed not to be acting in the best interests of the rest of the world, and for them to be considering this shows how serious they are in wanting to act on behalf of their constituents and that they won’t tolerate inaction any longer. The number of large corporations that are also wanting a seat around the table when it comes to climate change discussions and policy/decision making would suggest that these corporations also know that inaction can (or should) no longer be tolerated.

Anthony Horton blogs on his own site: The Climate Change Guy


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  1. David

    Dr Horton, do I take from your very interesting post, this conference of some 195 nations is a sham, a fraud, waste of time. There will be no decision binding on Abbott, not that he would take any notice if there was.
    Thanks for the observations though.

  2. crypt0

    No, abbott takes no notice of anyone with whom he disagrees.
    And why should he?
    Recent opinion polls suggest he has 48% of the vote, 2PP, at which level he says he can win an election.
    I wonder what he would think if the Australian voters miraculously woke up, and had the LNP at about 43% ?
    Who knows, he might start listening more attentively until he was thrown out.
    Then he could be replaced by ScoMo, and on we go.

  3. kerri

    The world is involved in a real life version of that old party game lifeboat!
    It won’t be long before Australia is tossed overboard.

  4. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    PK by me as long as most of us float and only the idiots drown!

  5. stephentardrew

    Bloody hell Australia is not on a different course it is on no course, zilch three fifths of five eighths, good old bloody SFA.

    Tony dumb dumb and his incompetent mates do not care a wink how we look internationally as long as Gina does not have to disclose her tax contributions.

    Oh shit look over there Rohingars in a boat.

    Good God the sky is falling in we are all going to hell if we don’t follow the devil’s advocate.

    Tony Abbott’s theme song: “Pleas allow me to Introduce myself I am a man of wealth and taste.” Thanks Mick.

    Just feel free to fill in the rest.

  6. Richard Schmidt

    Sad, but apparently, Australia’s right wing is, like the US, captured entirely by industrial big money interests. The Koch brothers here, aided and abetted by the little shit Rupert Murdoch, have managed to buy the entire republican party, and any hope of defending against global climate change.

  7. Anomander

    Nations have imposed sanctions on other nations for far less than this.

  8. kerri

    Anomander, Australia or that is Qantas had to pay a fee for landing at european airports once the carbon tax was removed! I don’t know if you noticed but the leprechaun was pretty lukewarm about the repeal until Abbott and Hockey reminded him of loosening foreign ownership, then he was all “oh! Yeah! Carbon tax bad! “

  9. Keith

    The measure of IQ has been extended I gather to include social IQ. If there was an IQ for environmental awareness; then Abbott and Co, would obtain an extremely low score.
    There are objective factors indicating climate change is happening; stressed trees being attacked by pests, changing growing seasons, warm water fish moving North and South moving from their normal habitats e.g. tropical fish off Sydney, generally nights are showing greater variation in temperature than day, and there are many further examples.

    Not taking into account objective data through discounting what scientists are saying at best might be considered to be flawed thinking; at worst it is negligence of the highest order.

    President Obama has already given Abbott a metaphoric black eye in relation to climate change, let’s hope that there is an International push to do the same by a number of other world leaders. It would appear that there are no COALition MPs who are willing to tackle Abbott about climate change; it makes them culpable as well.

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