Australia’s dependence on fossil fuel exports means we are stuck in a polluting past while other nations rise to the challenge of repairing the world’s atmosphere, according to climate action campaigners analysing the outcome of Glasgow’s UN summit.
COP26 talks ended with a global agreement that keeps alive the goal of capping warming at 1.5C to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Dr Simon Bradshaw, head of research at the Climate Council, says 140 countries lifted their game at COP26 but Australia wasn’t one of them.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier told the conference Australia would stick to its six-year-old pledge to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030, noting a 35 per cent drop is expected by then.
“The federal government showed up empty-handed to a pivotal moment in the fight for our future,” Dr Bradshaw said on Sunday.
“As our allies and trading partners rise to the climate challenge, we’re stuck in a polluting past with a handful of countries including Russia and Saudi Arabia.”
The UN agreement has called on all countries to return to the negotiation table in 2022 to set stronger 2030 targets.
Australia’s coal profits
“The government’s own net zero modelling, released two days ago, predicts Australia will still be a major coal and gas exporter in 2050,” Dr Bradshaw said.
“It’s time to slash carbon pollution this decade, as if our futures depended on it – because they do.”
Federal cabinet minister Greg Hunt has refused to be drawn on whether the government, which has committed to a net zero by 2050 goal, would update its 2030 target.
Neville Nicholls, professor at Monash University’s School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, said COP26 talks showed the world is serious about dealing with climate change.
“This has left Australia in a challenging position,” he said.
“We are vulnerable to climate change, dependent on fossil fuels, seen as recalcitrant by the rest of the world.
“(We are) likely to face punitive action from our friends and enemies unless we adopt a serious and credible strategy to reduce our emissions.”
Chief executive of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, Kylie Walker, said the federal government needs to invest in existing mature low-carbon technology
“It’s time for a credible and robust plan which maximises Australia’s global leadership position in … technologies like solar, wind and energy storage (batteries and pumped hydro), combined with electrification of transport and sustainably designed buildings.”
Wording of the COP26 agreement around the use of coal power was changed at the last minute at the insistence of India, with “phase out” replaced with “phase down”.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive David Ritter said while the final agreement was far from perfect, momentum was in the “right direction”.