Former US Vice President Al Gore has criticized the Morrison government for failing to raise the ambition of Australia’s 2030 emission reduction target and has warned coal workers to be deeply skeptical of the “empty words” of the politicians.
Gore told a virtual conference hosted by Engineers Australia on Tuesday that he was glad Scott Morrison committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, given the Intergovernmental Panel’s most recent assessment of the climate crisis on Climate Change considered the problem. a “code red for humanity”.
But he said a 2050 goal “without a short-term commitment has very little meaning.”
“I was disappointed that the 2030 target was not raised,” Gore said. “I think Australia should do more.”
Australia is the only major developed country that refused to raise its emissions reduction targets for 2030 at Cop26 in Glasgow.
In an effort to mitigate sustained international criticism of his government’s lack of climate ambition, Morrison used his national statement at Cop26 to emphasize that Australia would likely exceed the Abbott-era goal by 2030 of a cut in emissions from between the 26% and 28%. at 2005 levels.
At the conclusion of Cop26, the Morrison government also supported language in the Glasgow communiqué that aims for a revision of the 2030 target ahead of the next United Nations-led climate conference in Egypt.
But in a statement issued in Australia shortly after the Glasgow summit ended, Ministers Marise Payne and Angus Taylor declared that Australia’s 2030 target was “fixed” and that the Coalition had no plans to increase ambition.
A Cop26 spokesperson told Guardian Australia that countries needed to step up their current commitments: “Over the next year, the UK presidency will work hard to push even greater ambition in delivering the Glasgow climate pact to lead the fight against climate change”.
“Working together at the summit we have kept 1.5 alive, although this will only survive if we deliver on our promises and translate commitments into swift action,” they said.
At the final press conference in Glasgow, Cop26 President Alok Sharma was asked what would happen if nations like Australia did not update their targets.
“All countries have signed on to this and at the end of the day it is an international agreement and each country will be judged on whether or not they fulfilled the commitments they made,” Sharma said.
Given the international focus in 2030 and diplomatic pressure on Australia from allies, including Britain and the United States, Morrison attempted in the run-up to Cop26 to secure an agreement within the Coalition to increase the Abbott era goal by 2030. But that effort was vetoed by the National Party.
Nationals leader and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce continues to insist that the Coalition’s junior partner will not support a stronger target by 2030, despite the prime minister saying Australia will likely cut emissions by 35% by 2030 based on current projections.
“The Nationals have clearly stated that they are not changing the 2030 target,” Joyce told ABC on Tuesday. “We have been honest and direct about it … we have told them the truth about where we stand.”
But Joyce did not directly answer a question about whether the Nationals would be prepared to support a new, more ambitious goal by 2035.
Several liberals are urging Morrison to go to the election with a new emissions reduction target for 2035. Liberal supporter Jason Falinski told ABC on Tuesday afternoon that he intended to continue campaigning for that landing point. “I’ll keep trying,” he said.
Falinski said he thought Morrison could have raised the 2030 target to align it with the latest projections showing Australia could achieve a 35% reduction. But he said he understood the prime minister’s arguments that changing the 2030 target would violate a commitment made to voters in the 2019 elections.
The Liberal MP said the most recent government projections opened the opportunity for Australia to adopt a higher emissions reduction target by 2035.
Falinski said he hoped Morrison would make a new commitment to both the upcoming police meeting in Egypt and the Australian people in the upcoming federal elections. “We need to go to the next election with an updated goal: a new plan.”
But Joyce said that Falinski and his liberal colleague Dave Sharma, who has also advocated a higher goal for 2035, were “great people” representing a wealthy metropolitan district.
While avoiding a direct response in 2035, Joyce maintained that the opinion of voters in Sydney was different from the “opinion you get in Singleton or Muswellbrook.” Joyce said Liberals and Nationals should represent their respective constituencies.
Joyce continues to insist that Australia’s coal industry will continue to flourish despite the government’s own model pointing to a significant reduction in the coal sector by 2050.
During his contribution to the engineering summit on Tuesday, Gore warned coal workers to be skeptical of “empty words” about job security from the political class.
He said that politicians who fix the coal industry cannot protect workers from automation or “from market forces that are driving the cost of electricity from renewable sources much lower than the cost of electricity from burning Coal”.
Gore compared politicians like Joyce to King Canute telling the tides to stop.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism