Scott Morrison has defended Australia’s coal industry and pushed back against calls for tougher emissions reduction targets in an opinion piece for The Daily Telegraph.
It comes as Swedish activist Greta Thunberg called out the country’s bushfire “catastrophes”, saying the failure to make the connection between the climate crisis and increased weather events would lead to more such natural disasters.
Not even catastrophes like these seem to bring any political action. How is this possible?
Because we still fail to make the connection between the climate crisis and increased extreme weather events and nature disasters like the #AustraliaFires
That's what has to change.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 22, 2019
While Ms Thunberg again pushed for urgent change on Sunday night, the Prime Minister later insisted that ending coal exports would merely risk Australian jobs and setting stricter goals to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions would be reckless.
He went so far as to rule out Australia ever welcoming such moves, saying they would have “no meaningful impact on the global climate”.
Mr Morrison did, however, acknowledge the need for real action on climate change across all state and federal levels.
“There is no disagreement and there has not been any denial of this critical factor, either by the federal government or any state or territory government,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph.
“But to suggest that increasing Australia’s climate targets would have prevented these fires or extreme weather events, in Australia or anywhere else, is simply false.”
He listed current policies around preventing bushfires, such as hazard reduction and land-clearing laws, as well as ” how we can best sustain our extensive volunteer firefighting effort”, saying they would be reviewed after the present emergency ends.
Meanwhile, residents from the small village of Balmoral, south-west of Sydney, are expecting the worst when they return home.
A bushfire that is thought to have all but wiped out the NSW town of some 400 people has decimated the community, said Matthew Deeth, the mayor of the neighbouring Wollondilly Shire Council.
“Most people were pulled out of their houses and if there was nobody defending houses they kind of just all lit up,” he said.
Hoping residents would be able to get home as soon as safely possible, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said damage assessment teams had relayed the devastating news that “there’s not much left in the town of Balmoral”.
“Even if people have lost their properties, they still want to go back to see what’s left and if there is anything I can salvage. We know that’s part of the recovery,” she said.
“We want people to have access to their land, to their property as soon as they can. But it has to be safe as well, and the expert teams will make sure that happens as soon as possible.”
The bushfires in NSW, as well as in Victoria’s East Gippsland region, will bring hazardous air quality to Melbourne and other parts of the state.
Environment Protection Authority Victoria has advised people who are sensitive to air pollution to avoid being outside in the smoke or dust.
While two watch and act warnings remain active in south-west and south-eastern Victoria, other blazes continue to to burn across the state following days of record-breaking temperatures.
“We have had more than 2200 CFA deployments into NSW and Queensland since September and many more thousands of CFA members responding to fires back here in Victoria,” CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said.
“We are just days from Christmas, when most Victorians are winding down and going on leave, but in Gippsland and many other areas of the state, CFA and other emergency service agencies continue to work in gruelling conditions.”
Out-of-control blaze threaten homes in SA
Firefighters in South Australia are battling to gain control of a blaze in the Adelaide Hills that has so far destroyed 86 homes, nearly 500 other buildings and 227 vehicles.
More horrifying vision taken from the air last night shows the extent of the Adelaide Hills Bushfire disaster. Fire crews continue to battle blazes today. Full team coverage @7NewsAdelaide 6pm. pic.twitter.com/xBkQJj71e9
— Tim Hatfield (@timhatfield87) December 20, 2019
Rising temperatures and winds on Monday, ahead of a looming heatwave later in the week, have authorities concerned.
Adelaide is expected to have a top of 34 degrees, before the mercury climbs close to 40 degrees by Saturday.
The Bureau of Meteorology said there was no chance of any rain in the coming week.
South Australia’s Country Fire Service said coming days would be challenging, with a total fire ban in place for the Hills district.
“There are still a lot of pockets of bush burning, there are a lot of trees that are hot and smouldering and it’s a very dangerous place to be,” Deputy chief officer Andrew Stark said.
“If we see very hot and windy conditions, unfortunately, we may see the fire break out.
“People again need to be listening for the messaging that will come from the CFS and we ask people to be diligent in responding to the advice.”