Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in Washington for a series of meetings on security and terrorism. But equating Climate Change as a security threat? That is a question to be evaded and instead put out some untruthful spin on the Government's climate change 'good story'.
Bishop was invited to attend President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address by House of Representatives speaker John Boehner.
In his 6th State of the Union Speech to the Republican controlled Congress, Obama continued his strong stance on tackling climate change. This is the excerpt on climate change from the full transcript of the prepared speech available from CNN.
"In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules -- in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge -- no challenge -- poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.
2014 was the planet's warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn't make a trend, but this does -- 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
I've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists; that we don't have enough information to act. Well, I'm not a scientist, either. But you know what -- I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
That's why, over the past six years, we've done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That's why we've set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that's why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement -- the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world's two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we've got.
Julie Bishop on climate change and risk to security
So what was Julie Bishop's response? She answered several questions in a 11.00pm doorstop interview, mostly focussing on security and terrorism, Abbott's leadership and whether he is toxic with the electorate.
So after Obama's strong statement on climate change what was Bishop's view? Here is the single question on climate change put to the minister:
JOURNALIST The President spoke about climate change at length and in particular how it poses a risk to security. Does the Australian government agree with the sentiment that climate change poses a big risk to security?
JULIE BISHOP We have a very good story to tell in our actions to deal with climate change. Not only have we committed $200 million to the Green Climate Fund but through our Direct Action Plan we are on track to meet our 2020 targets. It’s commensurate with what the United States is doing and I believe that our focus on climate change through direct action, through incentive rather than punishment with an economy-wide carbon tax is a process that is being appreciated, as we explain it to countries around the world.
Did you notice that first Bishop does not answer the direct question: 'Does the Australian government agree with the sentiment that climate change poses a big risk to security?'
Ms Bishop fails to mention security risk and climate change at all. She should read US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on the ‘Threat Multiplier’ of Climate Change, or perhaps this overview from the Climate Council: Is climate change a security threat? The Pentagon thinks so
Then Ms Bishop attempts to put a positive spin: "We have a very good story to tell..."
So let us examine this 'very good story'.
Green Climate Fund and Foreign Aid
Yes, Australia committed $200million to the Green Climate Fund at the Lima UNFCCC climate negotiations in December. We were one of the last OECD countries to commit to the fund, even behind Canada. But there is more to this story. This money will come out of her Department's Foreign Aid Budget. While she was announcing the $200 million to the Green Climate Fund, Treasurer Joe Hockey announced $3.7 billion slashed from the current Foreign Aid budget in the mid-year economic review. This is on top of $7.6 billion already cut from this budget. Much of this Foreign Aid is used to support programs in south east Asia and the Pacific region including climate adaptation and mitigation.
Australia's emission target
But the Government has got the carbon tax repealed and their Direct Action Plan through for a $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund to ensure they meet 2020 targets.
So how ambitious is this target? It is 5 per cent reduction of emissions on 2000 levels by 2020, which was an unconditional offer as part of a target range made at Copenhagen in 2009. The Climate Change Authority in their March 2014 report said the international conditions had been met to lift our target to 19 per cent. This would not make us a climate leader, merely keep us at our fair share of international climate action. This was ignored by the Abbott Government.
Ms Bishop says the carbon tax was 'economy-wide' and was punishment, yet on both grounds this is untrue. The carbon pricing mechanism was aimed at a few hundred high carbon intensive large corporations including the high coal dependancy electricity sector. Some sectors and specific industries were excluded or given substantial credits. The carbon pricing mechanism was specifically targeted to reducing carbon intensity and emissions - it was far from economy wide. Since the repeal of carbon pricing we have seen a surge in coal generated power while demand is still falling. This strongly indicates that carbon pricing was being effective according to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory June quarter update report which I reported on in late December: Australian emissions set to soar: new report shows carbontax was working.
Both the Climate Change Authority and the International Carbon Tracker team of Climate Analytics and Ecofys say that Australia is unlikely to meet even our present low target.
A Reputex report released January 2015 says that Australia will struggle to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions by just 15 per cent on 2000 levels by 2030 – or 300 million tonnes of CO2e – at a cost of A$10.6 billion. Modelling done in 2008 found that found that Australia could reduce emissions by up to 60 per cent by 2030.
"The new data indicates that a significant portion of Australia’s earlier 2030 emissions reduction potential has been lost due to delayed investment, due largely to policy uncertainty around the carbon tax, and more recently, the renewable energy target” said RepuTex Executive Director, Hugh Grossman.
So Australia is on track, Ms Bishop?
How does Australia compare to the USA and other nations on climate action?
So is Australia's climate action really comensurate with what the US is doing? The Carbon Tracker team has compared per-capita emissions of the USA and Australia under current policies and found a growing divergence. Australia is proving to be much more a climate laggard than the leadership being displayed under the Obama administration.
Last year there was significant climate action from most of our trading partners including the USA, China and Europe. Martin Rice, Research Manager at The Climate Council of Australia and Honorary Associate, Department of Environment and Geography at Macquarie University, detailed that Australia is losing ground as the climate policy race gains pace in a November 2014 article at The Conversation
According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, Australia ranked worst-performing developed nation on climate performance. Ranking second last on the list, only Saudi Arabia was ranked worse at number 58.
In terms of renewables investment, funding has all tried up due to the Abbott Government threat to cut the Renewable Energy Target and other climate policies. “Australia is dead,” said Edgare Kerkwijk, the head of Singapore-based Asia Green Capital, to the general agreement of all at the World Future Energy Conference meeting at Abu Ghabi, according to Giles Parkinson from RenewEconomy in the article: “Dead” Australian renewables market faces train-crash.
How Australia is viewed
So are the climate policies of the current Abbott Government really being 'appreciated' as they are being explained? Well at the September 2014 UN Climate Summit Julie Bishop was shunned. I wrote at the time:
Australia's climate stance has been savagely condemned at New York summit, not least by our neighbours, Pacific Island nations who accuse us of abandoning them to the plight of more extreme weather and rising seas.
Australia is being viewed internationally as a dead weight on climate action. The Abbott Government weak climate policies have sidelined our international diplomatic influence. We talk strong on security and international terrorism but fail to address climate change as the biggest security threat and risk multiplier in international affairs.
Thanks Julie Bishop for lying to us again on climate change.