Saturday, October 16

I wrote to other countries about Australia’s obstinacy on climate change. Your pressure could save us | Climate change

Australia ends the year as one of the only developed countries countries not committed to net zero emissions by 2050.

To this, Prime Minister Scott Morrison adds another distinction. Australia is on the verge of becoming the only developed country with a parliamentary committee tasked with persuading companies not to go beyond carbon.

The work will be constant, not to say relentless. The committee may need to be in permanent session, like the National Assembly during the most exciting phases of the French Revolution.

With a stream of corporate decisions this year, starting with BlackRock in January, major global investors are targeting net zero emissions by 2050, or sooner. At last count, 100 of the world’s reserve banks can be added to this list.

But Australia now says investors and regulators will be held accountable in parliament and required to justify decisions on carbon exposure. This is an important statement of Australian climate policy and the world community will have to consider it as such.

Why the heck, and with what level of consideration, did the prime minister and treasurer adhere to the agenda of National Congressman George Christensen? In a long career of opposition to climate policy, Christensen has spoken at a conference in Las Vegas of US climate deniers. poke fun at climate science as comparable to horror and disaster movies. You have just obtained the license to get away with banks and insurers, both domestic and foreign.

This week I published Australia’s latest stance to roll back private sector climate initiatives. Writing to the Pacific Island States, Western Europe and the United Kingdom, and advisers to the incoming Biden administration, I pointed out that Australia will become the only developed country in which corporations that adhere to the international consensus on climate will be challenged to justify their actions in the national parliament.

They deserve to know that Australia’s leaders are messing with climate politics, launching a nationalist and populist message to their base. I concluded my letter by inviting you to mark our effort accordingly. We deserve it. If they mark us, they could educate us.

Our partners have gone beyond these political games. Boris Johnson is redesigning the UK’s international character around climate. Japan and South Korea announced their commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 two months ago. China in September made a commitment to 2060, which would appear to require the abandonment of plans for more coal-fired power when the fourteenth five-year plan comes out next March. India is wildly embracing renewable energy.

At noon on January 20, the US pledges a new president to re-enter the Paris accord on his first day in office, hitting the carbon sector with new regulations, no carbon on the power grid for 2035, phasing out coal and gas from the power grid. system quickly and net zero emissions by 2050.

What investor is going to resist a trend line as unequivocal? And because of pressure from climate-skeptical MPs in the Australian parliament?

Any commercial bank will still be obliged to anticipate a post-carbon world: an Australian entity like Macquarie, for example, the world’s largest investor in renewables, committed two weeks ago to net zero emissions by 2040. A large investor in the US, you could see yourself happily moving in accordance, as it happens, with Biden’s policies.

So would the New York State Retirement Fund with funds of $ 260 billion that also adopted the 2040 target two weeks ago, and that any Australian state could reasonably seek to recruit as an investor.

But not so fast! Its executives must now anticipate being summoned to explain themselves in Canberra before Queensland nationals breathe fiery indignation on behalf of the mines in the Galilee basin.

The heads of the Big Four banks could be ordered to appear, huddled like the Hollywood 10 before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, facing tremors from climate deniers. In vain they could argue that their policies have been conformed with reference to statements by the country’s own regulators – Apra, Asix, ASX and the Reserve Bank – about the advisability of weighing the financial risk of climate change. Or that its shareholders, for sound business reasons, insist on reducing exposure to thermal coal.

Expect your adversaries to be relentless and unflappable as they try to impose the tidal force of market flows.

BHP certainly deserves a beating from Christensen for stating this year that Paris’s track record is good for business because in a world that complies with Paris there are higher profits in minerals other than coal. And while BHP is not operating in Canberra, how could the committee not question them about their decision to sell Australia’s largest coal mine, Mount Arthur in Muswellbrook?

If Christensen’s committee goes after the Greater Australian, then Anglo American cannot be neglected, with a decision just three days ago. exit thermal coal by 2023 concentrate on copper.

And Morrison can really launch a populist rocket at big investors by having his committee control the leadership of asset manager BlackRock.

Christensen can scold them for one morning at least about BlackRock becoming a signatory to Climate Action 100+, an alliance of 545 investors with 52 trillion assets under management.

BlackRock Chairman Laurence D Fink may soon notice the take off of economic nationalism in the Greater Southland and let Wall Street colleagues know that Australia seemed to be taking a curiously opposite path, compared to the policies of Biden and Johnson. , Brussels and Tokyo.

Assembling a committee to go after companies that embrace decarbonisation contradicts Morrison’s recent attempts to soften government opposition to a 2050 promise. Morrison appeared to be taking into account Johnson’s decision not to give Australia a space to speak at the summit of last weekend. He would also be aware of the importance of climate policy in the campaign for Mathias Cormann to be selected as Secretary General of the OECD.

Obeying this spirit, Frydenberg could have downgraded the research and talked about the audacity with which Australian capitalism and the market system were creating jobs in new sectors. A prime minister, Bob Hawke, would have told insurance companies to quickly resolve any unwanted effects of their climate policies on small businesses, a Paul Keating would have forced them to do so, but in private calls or one-on-one talks.

Instead, Frydenberg publicly endorsed the investigation and without qualifications.

The question arises as to whether the Prime Minister’s Department and the Cabinet are up to the task of the political traffic police, which, after all, is their fundamental role.

A part of the government seems to want to shift towards consensus on the developed world climate. I’m sure Cormann wants that as he struggles to live a 12-year history as a whip for the most stubborn weather resistance of the Coalition.

But the bet our partners should make – Pacific island states that see their peoples and reefs threatened or Europeans embark on ecological recoveries or the United States organize summits to go beyond Paris – is that Canberra is doubling down, running a populist nationalist agenda on climate. destined for central Queensland seats in an early election next year.

In Australia, domestic politics trumps everything.

In my letter I quoted Morrison as saying: “Our policies will not be set in the UK. They will not be established in Brussels. They will not be established anywhere in the world other than here. “

Our partners deserve attention to this disregard for world opinion.

In the end, it is their pressure that could save us from the most backward and unworthy instincts of our government.

• Bob Carr is a former Prime Minister of New South Wales and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia. He is a professor of business and climate change at the Sydney University of Technology.

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