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Virtual Bunny Hugging: Boasting About Climate Change Goals

He seemed frustrated. While Scott Morrison’s international colleagues at the Leaders Summit on Climate were boastful in what their countries would do in decarbonising the global economy, Australia’s feeble contribution was put on offer. Unable to meet his own vaccination targets, the Australian prime minister has decided to confine the word “target” in other areas of policy to oblivion. Just as the term “climate change” has been avoided in the bowels of Canberra bureaucracy, meeting environmental objectives set in stone will be shunned.

Ahead of the summit, Nobel Prize laureates had added their names to a letter intending to ruffle summit participants. Comprising all fields, the 101 signatories urged countries “to act now to avoid a climate catastrophe by stopping the expansion of oil, gas and coal.” Governments had “lagged, shockingly, behind what science demands and what a growing and powerful people-powered movement knows: urgent action is needed to end the expansion of fossil fuel production; phase out current production; and invest in renewable energy.”

Deficiencies in the current climate change approach were noted: the Paris Agreement, for instance, makes no mention of oil, gas or coal; the fossil fuel industry was intending to expand, with 120% more coal, oil and gas slated for production by 2030. “The solution,” warn the Nobel Laureates, “is clear: fossil fuels must be kept in the ground.”

To Morrison and his cabinet, these voices are mere wiseacres who sip coffee and down the chardonnay with relish, oblivious to dirty realities. His address to the annual dinner of the Business Council of Australia took the view that Australia would “not achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities.” Having treated environmental activism as delusionary, he suggested that industries not be taxed, as they provided “livelihoods for millions of Australians off the planet, as our political opponents sought to do when they were given the chance.”

US President Joe Biden had little appetite for such social distinctions in speaking to summit participants. (Unfortunately for the President, the preceding introduction by Vice President Kamala Harris was echoed on the live stream, one of various glitches marking the meeting.) After four years of a crockery breaking retreat from the subject of climate change, this new administration was hoping to steal back some ground and jump the queue in combating climate change. The new target: cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half from 2005 levels by 2030.

Biden wished to construct “a critical infrastructure to produce and deploy clean energy.” He saw workers in their numbers capping abandoned oil and gas wells and reclaiming abandoned coal mines. He dreamed of autoworkers in their efforts to build “the next generation of electric vehicles” assisted by electricians and the installing of 500,000 charging stations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken laboured the theme of togetherness in his opening remarks: “We’re in this together. And what each of our nations does or does not do will not only impact people of our country, but people everywhere.” But Blinken was also keen, at least in terms of language, to seize some ground for US leadership. “We want every country here to know: We want to work with you to save our planet, and we’re all committed to finding every possible avenue of cooperation on climate change.”

A central part of this policy will involve implementing the Climate Finance Plan, intended to provide and mobilise “financial resources to assist developing countries reduce and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

While solidarity and collaboration were points the Biden administration wished to reiterate, ill-tempered political rivalries were hard to contain. On April 19, Blinken conceded during his address to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that China was “the largest producer and exporter of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric vehicles.” It held, he sulkily noted, almost “a third of the world’s renewable energy patents.”

Environmental policy, in other words, had to become the next terrain of competition; in this, a good degree of naked self-interest would be required. “If we don’t catch up, America will miss the chance to shape the world’s climate future in a way that reflects our interests and values, and we’ll lose out on countless jobs for the American people.” Forget bleeding heart arguments about solidarity and collective worth: the US, if it was to win “the long-term strategic competition with China” needed to “lead the renewable energy revolution.”

Others in attendance also had their share of chest-thumping ambition. The United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson was all self-praise about his country having the “biggest offshore wind capacity of any country in the word, the Saudi Arabia of wind as I never tire of saying.” The country was half-way towards carbon neutrality. He also offered a new target: cutting emissions by 78 per cent under 1990 levels by 2035. Wishing to emphasise his seriousness of it all, Johnson claimed that combating climate change was not “all about some expensive politically correct green act of ‘bunny hugging’.”

Canada also promised a more ambitious emissions reduction target: The Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) would be reduced by 40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. “Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan,” stated Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “puts us on track to not just meet but to exceed our 2030 emissions goal – but we were clearly aware that more must be done.”

Brazil’s President and climate change sceptic Jair Bolsonaro chose to keep up appearances with his peers, aligning the posts to meet emissions neutrality by 2050. This shaved off ten years from the previous objective. He also promised a doubling of funding for environmental enforcement. Fine undertakings from a political figure whose policies towards the Amazon rainforest have been vandalising in their destruction.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also threw in his lot with a goal of securing a 46 percent reduction by 2030. (The previous target had been a more modest 26 percent reduction based on 2013 levels.) This did little to delight Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor. “What Japan needs to do now,” he warned, “is to expand its options for technology.” Any immediate bans on gasoline-powered or diesel cars, for instance, “would limit such options, and could also cause Japan to lose its strengths.”

Toyoda’s sentiments, along with those of Japan’s business lobby Keidanren, would have made much sense to Morrison. In a speech shorn of ambition, the Australian prime minister began to speak with his microphone muted. Then came his own version of ambitiousness, certain that Australia’s record on climate change was replete with “setting, achieving and exceeding our commitments.”

It was not long before he was speaking, not to the leaders of the world, but a domestic audience breast fed by the fossil fuel industries. Australia was “on the pathway to net zero” and intent on getting “there as soon as we possibly can, through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support and create, especially in our regions.” His own slew of promises: Australia would invest in clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture. The US might well have Silicon Valley, but Australia would, in time, create “Hydrogen Valleys”.

With such unremarkable, even pitiable undertakings, critics could only marvel at a list of initiatives that risk disappearing in the frothy stew. “Targets on their own, won’t lead to emission cuts,” reflected Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic. “That takes real policy and money. And that’s where the whole world is still way off course.” Ahead of COP26 at Glasgow, Morrison will be hoping that the world remains divided and very much off course.

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  1. pierre wilkinson

    “technology not targets”
    quotes our prime minister for non sequitur,
    the amazing minister for announceables,
    the proven apologist for photo ops
    failed deliverer of follow ups
    minister for avoidance, obfuscation and incompetence
    he of the empathy lessons that have failed as dismally as his government
    promises a PLAN, a plan so cunning it is not in fact a plan at all, but just the intention of formulating a plan, a great plan, the best plan, the plan to end all plans, after due consideration and photo shoots it will be announced and then sent for review and placed in committee and dragged back into focus only when “asked what are you doing?”
    and the best thing is that he is doing it for us, to save our common wealth and jobs
    despite giving the wealth to the wealthy and freezing wages whilst cutting services across the board
    what a guy

  2. Harry Lime

    We can only look forward to the day countries like ours aren’t controlled by the media maggots,the fossil fuel wallahs and the obscenely wealthy misanthropes.Might be a whole lot of avoidable grief to materialise in the meantime.
    The Liar is not without his admirers,chief among them himself.More photo ops and jingoistic horseshit beckons for our country’s chief marketing failure.Perhaps he’ll turn up at the War Memorial and tell us why they’re pissing half a billion dollars on a theme park glorifying war,whilst being dragged kicking and screaming into a Royal Commission into veteran suicides.Transcendent hypocrisy and heartlessness …stock in trade for these execrable humanoids.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Scott Morrison today:

    “It is the industrialist and pioneers and entrepreneurs that will be making the way forward with new technologies. We will reach our commitments through technology. We won’t be doing it through taxing our industries and jobs out of our country.”

    Actually, it was the Coalition’s free trade agreements and outsourcing that sent many industries and jobs out of the country – and look at how nebulous those FTAs actually are. So much for ChAFTA.

    Scientists in this country must get REALLY pissed off at Morrison and his band of corporate lapdogs.

  4. Terence Mills

    A couple of questions :

    The coalition made it very clear in the run-up to the last election that they were opposed to electric vehicles :

    Morrison – “An electric vehicle] won’t tow your trailer. It’s not going to tow your boat. It’s not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family.”

    And our new Attorney General, Michaelia Cah who warned that Labor would take away tradies’ favourite utes.

    Matt Canvan who would have us believe that carbon capture is all done and dusted and we should plough on with new coal mines and coalfired power stations.

    Did Morrison mention that to the world climate forum or was he on mute for that bit ?

  5. GL

    If Scotty was seriously considering emissions and its control all it would take is for Gina and Twiggy and Clive and others to get straight through to him on the phone and just rattle a tin money box and he would fold immediately and beg their forgiveness for such heinous thoughts.

  6. Peter F

    Listen carefully to the discussion in Australia and you will often hear mention of the change which happened around the time Abbott replaced Turnbull as leader of the Coalition. It has been downhill since that day, and the media have convinced more than 50% of voters that this has been in their own interest. Poor fellow…..

  7. Harry

    It will be critical that coal and gas industry workers, who are usually relatively well paid, are able to see a future for themselves and their families. This was not clear enough at the last election when a slightly less neoliberal Labor government should have won,

    Labor and the greens or other independents need a credible transition plan to ensure well paid jobs are created or workers are able to retire or get equivalent pay in other industries but as coal stations close. This will not be easy. Australia needs to rely less on digging things up and instead foster and even subsidise manufacturing and other industry. Reliance on market forces will not cut it!

  8. New England Cocky

    No R&D No Future

  9. Max Gross

    Scotty from Events Management has not the slightest interest in reducing pollution emissions or winding back the causes exacerbating lethal climate change. He is not only a Liebral he is a Pentecostal death cult acolyte. In his mind the world MUST be destroyed in order for “Jesus” to reappear and for him and his fellow nutters to “Rapture”.

  10. Brozza

    Terence Mills – I wonder if scummo has seen the latest JuiceMedia video about electric vehicles?
    Max Gross – Perhaps it’s best if the psychopathic hillsong and it’s ilk be declared terrorist organizations then for wanting to murder the planet and it’s inhabitants.

  11. Jon Chesterson

    Bunny hugging handshakes and lies – That’s why no-one wants to shake Morrison’s hand, whether it be a bushfire, Covid-19, women or national leaders at a world summit, not even China – funny that! What then when Biden and Boris say no, not even our closest ally and neighbour, New Zealand want to, despite their humble patience and diplomacy.

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