Australia isn’t known as the Colossal Fossil for no reason – we win the award on a regular basis due to our determined efforts to stymie any global action on climate change.
If we go back to the beginning of this journey, unlike other countries, we negotiated Kyoto Protocol concessions that allowed Australia to increase emissions and count reductions due to stopping land clearing, and then refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol for 13 years.
Despite increasing international awareness of the danger we are facing, between 2000 and 2007, our GHG emissions increased by 16.3%.
When we finally got rid of the “lying rodent”, the ensuing seven years until the repeal of the carbon price in 2014 saw a decline in emissions of 15%.
We were hailed as world leaders for introducing carbon pricing and policies to promote the transition to a carbon neutral economy.
Then along came the Mad Monk.
UN Climate Change Conference, Warsaw, November 2013
This year’s Colossal Fossil goes to Australia. The new Australian Government has won its first major international award – the Colossal Fossil. The delegation came here with legislation in its back pocket to repeal the carbon price, failed to take independent advice to increase its carbon pollution reduction target and has been blocking progress in the loss and damage negotiations. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!
As Lima talks splutter to an end, Australia has gathered 5 Fossil of the Day Awards and been dishonoured with the Colossal Fossil of the year award, just as it was in Warsaw in 2013. Way to go Australia!
In the annual update to the Climate Change Performance Index released at Lima, Australia slipped to 60th in a list of 61 countries. Our ranking on the policy component of the index dropped a startling 21 places since the previous edition released in 2013.
The five years from 2014 to 2019 saw us decrease our emissions by a paltry 1.6%.
We did a little better in 2020. It only took a crippling drought, a global pandemic closing down the economy and international travel, and ignoring the emissions from the catastrophic bushfires. Even so, Australia’s annual emissions for the year to June 2020 were only 5.7% below emissions in the year to June 2000. Very little improvement to show for 20 years.
In December last year, the Climate Action Network did a five-year review of the Paris Agreement and we, once again, earned dishonourable mention.
Before Scott Morrison became Australian Prime Minister, he once brandished a lump of coal in parliament. That was in 2017, when he accused his opponents of having a “pathological fear of coal”. A few short years later, the only pathological behaviour remains his government’s ongoing infatuation with fossil fuels when the rest of the world has moved on. As the largest exporter of coal and gas, Australia’s federal government has done virtually nothing over the past five years to tackle the climate emergency. The government’s woefully inadequate 2030 Paris Agreement target is in line with a catastrophic 3°C rise. And it has tried to cheat by using carryover credits from the Kyoto Protocol to meet around half of it. The Australian government has refused to set a national long term target (net zero by 2050) despite every State and Territory of Australia having now set a long term net zero climate target. Australia’s current emission reduction trend will reach net-zero in 300 years! And to top it all, Australia has withdrawn funding entirely from the Green Climate Fund.
The world watched swathes of Australia’s bush burn last summer contributing to significant biodiversity loss and impacting the most vulnerable people. Besides stinking up the planet, Australia appears to be reneging on a commitment to net zero emissions made to Pacific Island Neighbours in October 2019. How does Australia face its Pacific Island neighbours, many of whom will be displaced in the next two-to-three decades unless we scale up efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C? Australia must get sensible fast otherwise the Morrison government is staring at a dark legacy of climate inaction. Will future generations have to view plastic replicas of the Great Barrier Reef in a museum of climate horrors alongside stuffed mounts of the critically endangered Mountain Pygmy Possum?
In the context of all this, we have a government refusing to stop fossil fuel subsidies, insisting on a gas-led recovery, subsidising oil production, and persistently toying with the idea of building new coal-fired power stations. They are pinning their hopes on carbon capture and storage in order to prolong fossil fuel burning despite its lack of success and commercial unviability. They won’t even do anything to promote or facilitate the uptake of electric vehicles.
And the excuse for this inaction? We won’t commit to any target until we know how we will get there and how much it will cost.
If anyone can tell me what technology will be available in 2050 and how much anything will cost in 30 years’ time, I’d be interested to hear it.
We listen to health experts about the pandemic. It’s similarly crucial that we listen to the warnings and advice from experts about the health of the planet.
And Scotty – Matt Canavan, Keith Pitt, George Christensen, Craig Kelly and Jim Molan do not qualify as experts.
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