Politics

Morrison prepares to address COP26 summit


A former UN climate chief who negotiated the Paris pact six years ago has condemned Australia’s “suicidal” plan to limit global warming as Scott Morrison prepares to address world leaders in Glasgow.

The prime minister is expected to deliver Australia’s national statement at the COP26 climate summit early on Tuesday, Australian time.

His refusal to adopt ambitious new targets to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, a headline objective of the conference, has been heavily criticised by some.

But possibly the harshest criticism has come just ahead of his address to the World Leaders’ Forum, from former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who helped unite nations behind 2015’s Paris climate agreement.

She says she cannot reconcile Australia’s failure to ramp up its 2030 target beyond what was set six years ago, when the science has come so far.

“I struggle to find an adjective that is politically correct, to be honest. What Australia continues to do is so irresponsible,” she told the ABC on the sidelines of the summit.

Australian observers have echoed that assessment.

Richie Merzian is the director of climate and energy at the The Australia Institute. Before he joined the think tank he spent 10 years as a climate negotiator, serving under Coalition and Labor governments.

He says it appears the government is trying to “do as little as possible” and has praised Ms Figueres for using challenging language to describe Australia’s approach.

“The purpose of the Paris Agreement is to ensure a safe climate for all Australians. They are failing to ensure that, and therefore they must revisit their contribution and encourage others to do the same,” he told AAP from Glasgow.

Tim Baxter is a senior researcher for climate solutions at the Climate Council.

He says it was always incumbent on Australia, as a party to the Paris pact, to come back to key climate talks with ambitious targets to reduce emissions.

“With each new report we get out of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is this additional degree of certainty,” he told AAP.

He says that if the world warms by 2C, tropical coral reefs like the Great Barrier Reef, and low-lying Pacific nations, will be lost along with challenges such as more intense and more frequent heatwaves and more erratic rainfall patterns.

But what is evolving alongside the science, he says, are the solutions that mean 1.5C is still possible, and Australia is one of the richest nations on earth in that regard.

“We have so many ducks in a row. We’re the sunniest continent on the planet, the windiest inhabited continent on the planet,” he said.

“We have massive reserves of new economy minerals like lithium, that underpin what’s needed for a zero-emissions future.

“All of these things, these chess pieces, are on the board to ensure Australia can successfully navigate this.

“The one thing that’s very very clear is the absence of leadership at the federal level.”

Mr Morrison has said he cannot change Australia’s 2030 target because voters elected the Coalition in 2019, and in doing so rejected Labor’s promise to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by the decade’s end.

But he has said Australia will exceed its promise to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030, and will provide projections at COP26 indicating the figure will settle at about 35 per cent.

He has promised his plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 will get the job done by aiding the development of low-emissions technologies, without killing off industries including coal and gas exports.

“It is not OK … to say to developing countries that they somehow have to settle for less, that they can’t have the same growth to their own economies, and the jobs and the lifting of living standards that developed countries have been appreciating,” he said before leaving the G20 summit in Rome and heading to Glasgow.

“The way that is achieved for them is ensuring that we can get those technology costs as low as possible.”



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