Is Australia turning out to be Villain of Climate Change talks?

With its dogmatic response to the climate crisis, Australia is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the globe.

Photo: Getty Images | CNN

If Australia's friends were concerned that the country would cause issues at the next climate conference in Glasgow, the events of the last week should have put their minds at ease. It certainly will.

On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison all but confirmed a story that his country had pushed the UK into removing major climate obligations from their bilateral trade deal, displaying no remorse or shame at being caught off guard.

And, after a top UN official warned that Australia's climate inaction will eventually "wreak havoc" on its economy, the country's resources minister, Keith Pitt, described the UN as a "foreign body" that should mind its own business.

He further boasted about Australia's ambitions to continue mining coal "far beyond 2030," even though much of the industrialized world is well on its way to phase out the fossil fuel.

With its stubborn response to the climate catastrophe, Australia is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the globe. Leaders such as US climate envoy John Kerry and COP26 President Alok Sharma have recently focused on China's climate problem, while Australia is emerging as the true misfit of the COP26 negotiations.

"Of all the developed countries, Australia has the poorest standing on climate. Australia will just be absent, basically, from the talks," Bas Eickhout, member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands said.

"They were quite happy with the role the United States played until last year, and now, of course, they seem to be the last-man-standing from the Western countries to block progress," he said while talking to CNN, referring to the US' absence in global climate efforts during the Trump years.

The UK has also been chastised for capitulating to Australia in their bilateral trade deal, in which an explicit reference to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius appears to have been removed. However, a British official close to the COP26 discussions claimed that the UK has otherwise been consistent in its signal to the Australian government to take the situation more seriously.

Part of that messaging includes denying Morrison a speaking slot at the Climate Ambition Summit last December, an event coordinated by the UK's COP26 Presidency, the UN, and France.

More than 70 leaders came and spoke, with several announcing improved emissions-cutting promises known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) (NDCs). Australia had no new NDC to declare, and it still does not have failed the Paris Agreement's July 31 deadline.

"Last December, we had a little bit more run time, so we were holding the bar very, very high, and you really had to earn your stripes to be able to speak," the UK official said.

"They're a developed country, they've got a huge amount of capacity, and they're being devastated by climate change, quite frankly, and we've been pretty strict on that. They haven't come forward with a long-term strategy."

Some participants are concerned that Australia would impede progress in crucial areas at the COP26 meetings. Sharma, a British MP, has stated that he wants the world to put an end date on coal at the summit and to refocus nations' pledges to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The Paris Agreement obligated signatories to attempt to limit temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, with a preference for closer to 1.5 ° C, but many nations are increasingly accepting that the world should aim for 1.5 ° C. Scientists consider 2 degrees Centigrade to be a crucial threshold for many of Earth's ecosystems.

"We should increase the pressure on partners like Australia," Peter Liese, an EU Member of Parliament from Germany said.


He also stated that he will raise the "challenge" of Australia's climate inaction as a concern in the European Parliament.

He also stated that the rationale underlying Australia's approach was difficult to grasp.

"There's a general hesitation in Australia to commit to ambitious climate targets, which really is pretty humiliating for that nation because they already suffer from climate change," Liese told CNN.

Australia experienced devastating wildfires in 2019-20, an event that scientists said was made more likely by human-induced climate change.

According to a recent United Nations state-of-the-science climate report, Australia is already suffering greater heat extremes and higher sea level increases than the world average as a result of climate change. Heat, sea-level rise, and drought are all expected to worsen in Australia as the planet warms.


Publish : 2021-09-13 10:19:00

Give Your Comments