Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Australian missing in action at UN Climate Action Summit



It has been well noted that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not attend the UN Climate Action Summit.

Indeed, the Secretary General made clear that only those nations that brought updated plans would be allowed to speak. But the Australian Prime Minister could still have attended. The Government chose not to, as the Morrison Government has no plan for extra ambition, no speech written, no climate and energy policy of substance.

Australian total emissions continue to rise, with National Greenhouse Gas Inventory to March 2019 showing a 0.6% increase.

Australian Prime Minister missing in action on climate

Instead, Scott Morrison had a state dinner with President Trump, chose to accompany Donald Trump to Ohio to open a cardboard box manufacturing factory owned by Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt.

The Pratt Family has contributed $205,000 in donations to the Liberal Party of Australia during 2017-2018, according to electoral Office donation reports.

I guess $205,000 buys you the Prime Minister at an opening ceremony, while taking action for future generations and the safety of all is ignored.

On the day of the UN Climate Action Summit Scott Morrison used a keynote speech at the Chicago Institute for Global Affairs, to praise China’s “economic maturity”.

“Having achieved this status, it is important that China’s trade arrangements [and] participation in addressing important global environmental challenges, with transparency in their partnerships and support for developing nations, reflect this new status and the responsibilities that go with it as a world power,” Morrison said.

In other words, Morrison was shifting the focus of Australia's expanding coal extraction and LNG exports, to say that China wasn't doing enouth on their decarbonisation. Read more on this by Katharine Murphy at The Guardian: Australian PM says China must step up on climate change as 'newly developed' nation

Passing exchange between Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg

U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration has repeatedly moved to block action to address climate change, unexpectedly entered the summit, but stayed only briefly.

Later, Trump made a mocking comment on twitter which was responded to in Greta updating her twitter profile.





Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne attends Climate Summit

So, if Scott Morrison wasn't attending, who was Australia's head of delegation? That fell to Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

According to Ministerial media release, Payne lead our diplomatic delegation to the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York from 22 September.

"A key objective of my visit will be to ensure that Australia's efforts to promote security and prosperity in our region, the Indo-Pacific, are reflected in the work of the UN.

"By engaging with our partners in the multilateral system, Australia is working to reinforce the international rules and institutions that underpin a free, open, inclusive and prosperous world.

"I will represent Australia at a wide range of events, including the Climate Action Summit, the forum on Sustainable Development Goals, and the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. My address to the first High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage during UNGA will focus on the work Australia is doing to improve global health outcomes, which are critical to building stable and prosperous communities. In particular, better health outcomes boost the social and economic participation of women and girls.

"I will address the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Conference in support of Australia's interests in global security."




Major polluting nations fail to bring ambition

The short speech by Greta Thunberg highlighted the continuing lack of action, although UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres attempted to give a positive spin saying in his concluding remarks "Action by action, the tide is turning" before listing the day’s notable achievements.

Most of the ambitious statements were made by smaller nations. Australians look across the Tasman at the statement by New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern, and wish Australia's political leaders would also step up.




A coalition of 77 smaller countries said they were committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and 70 countries expressed their intention to set a more ambitious climate plan next year, according to Climate Home: The UN asked for climate plans. Major economies failed to answer.

Positive Highlights of the summit included:

  • 77 countries committed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050
  • 70 countries announced they would boost their NDCs by 2020
  • Investors with more than $2 trillion U.S. dollars committed to carbon-neutral portfolios by 2050
  • 130 banks (representing one-third of the global banking sector) agreed to align their investments with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement
  • Leaders announced over 150 nature-based climate solutions
  • Cities put forward more than 1000 bankable, climate-smart urban projects

Guterres noted in his final speech, "I was deeply moved by many examples of inspiring leadership by countries that have done the least to contribute to the climate crisis.” He pointed out that delivering $100 billion in annual climate finance to developing countries, as stipulated by the Paris Agreement, is essential.

Despite the ambitious commitments made, Guterres emphasized that they are still not enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C by the end of the century. He called on all countries to do three things: put a meaningful price on carbon, phase out fossil fuel subsidies, and stop building coal plants.

The last point was important enough to be repeated. “The large number of coal power plants still projected to be built are a looming threat to us all … I repeat my appeal: No new coal power plants should be built after 2020.”

Australia's record:

On Climate finance Australia stopped payments to Green Climate Fund in 2019 with zero money allocated in the budget.

In August 2019 the Morrison Government committed at the Pacific Island Forum $500 million on disaster resilience for Pacific Island nations, but reading closely this is not new money but is just rebranded money from a shrinking Foreign Aid budget, that goes against Australia's national interest.

Under the Abbott Government in 2014, Australia, became the only country that has abolished a carbon pricing scheme.

Both the Labor Party and Liberal and National Parties are silent in phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, with tax subsidies presently presently running at $12.16 billion per year in 2019/2020 according to Market Forces. There are politicians who are still pushing construction of new coal plants in Australia, with support of the Energy Minister Angus Taylor, despite renewables with storage being now cheaper.

The Australia Institute Climate of the Nation Report 2019 (PDF) found that: "70% of Australians support a government plan to ensure their orderly closure and replacement with clean energy. In Queensland, almost three quarters (73%) of respondents think that coal fired power stations should be phased out either as soon as possible (24%) or gradually (49%)"

The report further explains, " 64% of Australians want the Federal Government to stop new coal mines, including 31% who wish to shut down existing mines as quickly as possible and 33% who want to stop new mines but let existing ones operate. There is almost no support (just 4%) for subsiding new coal mines."

At the national level Australia still has no emissions reduction target past 2030. Every State Government in Australia has now set target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and 64% of Australians support a similar target at the national level.

Richie Merzian and Fergus Green highlight in an editorial article in the Guardian, Australia has dodged global attention on fossil fuels because of assiduous diplomatic efforts, that supply side of fossil fuels needs to be tackled comparing it to the fight to restrict tobacco to improve health outcomes. Australia has a big role to play in reducing supply of fossil fuels with "Australia’s coal and gas exports total over 1.1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide – more than double its domestic emissions – making it the world’s third largest exporter of fossil carbon, behind only Saudi Arabia and Russia."

the countries that are subsidising and facilitating the expansion of coal, oil and gas production merit just as much critical scrutiny as those that are burning these fuels. Just as it would be wrong to tackle smoking by focusing only on smokers and ignoring the efforts of Big Tobacco, it is wrong to tackle the global fossil fuel addiction by ignoring the countries that deal heavily in the product. It’s wrong to tackle the global fossil fuel addiction by ignoring the countries that deal heavily in the product.

You can read an independant assessment of Australia's climate policies and targets, last updated 19 September, by the Climate Action Tracker. Australia is rated as 'insufficient':

Australia’s climate policy is further deteriorating, as it focusses on propping up the coal industry and ditches efforts to reduce emissions, ignoring the record uptake of solar PV and storage, and other climate action at state level.

The Australian government has turned its back on global climate action by dismissing the findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and announcing it would no longer provide funds to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).It will also continue to subsidise fossil fuel extraction and export, against the need to phase out fossil fuels, in particular coal, globally. There are no signs from the recently re-elected government that they intend to scale up climate action.

Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels and industry continue to rise, and are now 7% above 2005 levels. These emissions have increased by around 1% per year on average since 2014, the year in which Australia’s national carbon pricing scheme was repealed. Under current polices, these emissions are headed for an increase of 8% above 2005 levels by 2030, rather than the 14-17% decrease in these emissions required to meet Australia’s Paris Agreement target (excluding LULUCF). This means Australia’s emissions are set to far outpace its “Insufficient” 2030 target.

The Government has stated it intends to “carry over” surplus emission units from the Kyoto Protocol towards its Paris Agreement target. This would significantly lower the actual emission reductions.

The so-called “Climate Solutions Package” announced in February 2019 confirms that the Government is not intending to implement any serious policy efforts. Instead, it wants to rely on carry over units, and the inadequate instrument, the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) now re-named the “Climate Solutions Fund”.

The government continues to plan to underwrite a new coal power plant - completely inconsistent with the need to phase out coal globally by 2050 and in OECD countries by 2030. If all other countries were to follow Australia’s current policy trajectory that we rate “Highly Insufficient”, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C.

Comment by Civil Society on the Climate Action Summit

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director for Greenpeace International, said:

“This is a moment unlike anything we have ever seen before in the climate movement, and it’s just the beginning.

Despite Greta’s raw, unvarnished opening plea, and millions of people in the streets on Friday, world leaders did not deliver what was needed in New York.

It’s time to address corporate power and the hold it has over politics, challenge the suffocating omnipresence of the fossil fuel industry and demand they take responsibility for the human rights impacts of the climate crisis.

This summit is a springboard for 2020, when all countries signed on to the Paris Agreement must pledge to increase the ambition in their nationally determined contribution. It was leaders that agreed to that, and leaders that commissioned the latest science for the IPCC. The difference is, now millions of people are watching to make sure they follow through. We will not stop, and we will keep going, until we see a sustainable 1.5 pathway and a just transition to a cleaner and fairer future for us all.”

Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists, said:

“In her blunt and powerful speech at the Climate Action Summit this morning, Greta Thunberg laid down a clear line in the sand, separating those countries and leaders who are united behind the science from those who continue to place the profits of fossil fuel polluters above the safety of their citizens. Sadly, most leaders from the world’s largest emitting countries failed this litmus test, dodging their responsibility to step up action as is essential to address the climate emergency we now face.

“In sharp contrast, many vulnerable nations on the frontlines of climate change joined a growing number of state and local governments, business leaders, investors and others—both in the United States and around the world—by announcing transformational commitments to achieve net zero emissions by no later than 2050, shift investments from dirty to clean energy, get 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources and boost support for climate action by developing countries.

“While these announcements are welcome, their collective impact on global emissions falls well short of what is needed. The science is clear: staving off the worst impacts of climate change requires ALL countries to implement bold actions across all economic sectors to urgently reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases, including by immediately halting the construction of new coal plants and eliminating the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual subsidies for production and consumption of fossil fuels.

“History has demonstrated that such a transformation can happen quickly, if there is sufficient political will. It is long past time for so-called ‘world leaders’ to lead—or make room for those who will.”

Genevieve Jiva, Coordinator, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, said:

"Throughout the UNSG Climate Action Summit, the Marshall Islands, Fiji and Palau showed the ambitious and continued leadership of Pacific large ocean states.

Through the High Ambition Coalition statement “Uniting Behind the Science to Step Up Ambition by 2020”, the Marshall Islands called for all countries to sign the statement and commit to stronger ambition and action.

Fiji showed that they are leading by example, highlighting specific actions including a revised NDC, issuing a Green Bond, relocating vulnerable communities and committing to achieve 100% renewable by 2030.

Palau emphasized the importance of partnerships and that we can all be part of the solution. We look forward to seeing this in action when Palau hosts the Our Oceans Conference in 2020.

In the lead up to the Climate Summit, the UN held a Youth Summit which was attended by a number of Pacific Youth representatives, climate warriors who brought the voices of their communities to the international arena. Young leaders are calling on all of us to work together to address the climate crisis.

Save the Pacific, save the world."

More Information:
WRI Liveblog of the Climate Summit: https://www.wri.org/events/2019/09/liveblog-un-climate-action-summit

Attribution:
Lead Photo: by UN Climatechange - UN Climate Action Summit 2019 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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