In global climate circles, Australia has often been lumped into the global “ugly corner” with traditional allies that include the United States, Canada and Japan.
But Australia’s recent reluctance to climate change sees it associated with a new, more powerful group of climate action antagonists – China, Brazil and Russia – who are accused of pushing the world towards catastrophic levels of global warming.
Last week, the environment, climate and energy ministers of the G20 countries gathered in Naples, under the chairmanship of the Italian government, for a meeting that some hoped could be a platform for commitments more significant ahead of the COP26 climate summit to be held in Glasgow in November.
While the meeting of environment ministers approved a series of statements on biodiversity, resource use and public finance measures, climate and energy ministers failed to reach consensus on important issues related to long-term climate efforts.
The main points of contention are the failure to reach an agreement to set dates for the phase-out of fossil fuel use, as well as a failure to agree on a specific timeframe to achieve emissions. net zero. It is understood that these proposals have been blocked by Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and China.
Also missing from the meeting’s draft communiqué were commitments by G20 ministers to increase their interim emission reduction targets, nor any commitment that would see countries reduce their use of fossil fuels.
Australian Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor attended the online meeting, but it is not clear if Taylor was active in discussions on whether G20 members ” commit to phasing out fossil fuels or achieving a zero emission target.
Confirmation was sought from Taylor’s office on the positions taken by Australia at the meeting, but it is understood that Taylor presented the current line which focuses on a “tech, not tax” approach to energy policy and a preference to achieve zero emissions by 2050..
This follows a substantial diplomatic effort on the part of Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, who succeeded in convincing enough members of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to delay the inscription of the Great Barrier Reef. Coral as “endangered”.
The UNESCO committee appeared ready to adopt the recommendations of the scientists, who argued that the reef is at significant risk due to the impacts of climate change.
Australia’s diplomatic corps was able to enlist the support of members including Russia, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to delay listing on the “endangered” list and avoid major international embarrassment for the Morrison government.
During international climate and environment negotiations, Australia has aligned itself with its traditional allies – including Japan, Canada and the United States – in a group that is part of the so-called “Umbrella Group”. “.
Australia has often conducted negotiations on behalf of this ‘umbrella group’, which has generally been viewed as a group of industrialized countries that recognized the need to act on climate change, but often hesitated to lead efforts to reduce climate change. emissions.
But Australia’s traditional allies are advancing and Prime Minister Scott Morrison now finds himself in the company of leaders of countries such as China’s Xi Jinping, Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro and Russian Vladimir Putin in terms of active resistance to global action. against climate change.
Like was recently highlighted by the Guardian – peer-reviewed research from the Paris equity control showed Australia is one of four G20 members – with Brazil, China and Russia as countries undermining global efforts to limit global warming to safe levels.
The initiative, supported by the Australian-German College for Climate and Energy at the University of Melbourne, assessed the emission reduction targets adopted by countries and determined the likely level of global warming with which each target was. compatible.
The assessment found that more than 40 countries have set targets consistent with global warming of more than five degrees, including Brazil, Russia and China, and a dozen countries, including Australia, have joined. currently committed to meeting emission targets that would cause more than four degrees of warming.
Scientific consensus suggests that global warming beyond 4 ° C would be catastrophic for most parts of the world, leading to an increase in the frequency and intensity of severe heat waves, destructive levels of the world rise. sea level and extensive levels of species extinction.
While many countries have announced that they will formally adopt commitments to greater decarbonization efforts in the next round of international climate change negotiations – to be held in Glasgow at the end of the year – the Australia has firmly refused to step up its emission reduction targets.
Following the failure of agreement on key points at the G20 meeting, Italy’s Minister for Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani said proposals for limits on the use of fossil fuels will now be discussed at the meeting. ‘a meeting of G20 national leaders later in the year, and will remain a priority for countries hoping to use year-end climate talks to secure a victory for climate action.
Despite the lack of agreement from G20 ministers, the Australia-based Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC) released a new report which showed that the fossil fuel industries was still exposed to global decarbonization efforts and that investors encourage governments to provide greater certainty on the path to decarbonization.
“We know the transition is underway. It’s predictable. So it should be manageable, ”said IGCC CEO Rebecca Mikula-Wright.
“Investors and governments have an opportunity to act today to prioritize a just and orderly transition if we want Australia to emerge as a winner in the global race for net zero.”
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist at RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Prior to joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy industry for over a decade.
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