SCott Morrison has a lot to defend at the G7 in the UK this weekend, and a lot to ignore: He has announced, from the relative safety of Perth, that he will not support countries demanding greater climate ambition from Australia.
At the same time, it has taken the lead and made claims that Australia leads the world in climate action, arguing that it has done more than the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and others since 2005.
The data tells a different story.
Australia has relied heavily on its choice of the base year in 2005, when emissions from land use were very high, to “achieve” emission reductions relative to that year. In round terms, due to the drop in land use change emissions since 2005, the country’s emissions decreased by about 17% by 2020. If one looks at this to reveal the actual source of the underlying emissions growth, the panorama is very different.
Excluding land use change and forestry, emissions increased between 2005 and 2019 (before the Covid-19 emissions drop) to about 5% above 2005 levels. During this period, Canada practically saw no change in these emissions, the US and Japan had a 10% drop, the EU27 a 17% reduction and the UK a 33% reduction.
An even clearer picture emerges when emissions from the power sector are eliminated. The renewable energy sector, which now accounts for 24% of energy production, has only grown by virtue of the renewable energy target, which the Coalition tried and failed to eliminate, state government policies, and rapidly declining cost. of renewable energy and battery storage that displaces fossils. fuel generation. It has happened despite the policies of the Coalition.
So if emissions from the electricity and land use sector are eliminated, emissions from all other sectors are projected to increase by about 14% by 2030 above 2005 levels. Why? Because there are simply no policies in Australia to address emissions outside of the energy sector. Nothing. Zipper.
There is a very high expectation from the host UK and the US and other countries that Australia should step up its overall ambition by 2030.
While Morrison may attempt to claim that we are ahead of our goals, once again the actual data tells us otherwise. If the countries’ goals for 2030 are compared, again, the picture is truly remarkable.
Australia’s ambition for 2030 is less than half the average reduction of the other developed countries attending the G7. Including emissions from land use, Australia’s proposed 2030 reduction below 2018 levels is about 17%. The reductions by 2030 for the other developed countries attending the G7 are in the range of 39 to 50%.
The Australian government loves to talk about trends in per capita emissions, selecting data that would put it in a bright light. But the atmosphere doesn’t really care about emissions per capita, it only cares about absolute emissions reductions.
But let’s take one more look at the data that really matters: how does Australia’s per capita emissions reduction compare to its counterparts between 2018 and 2030? It’s only about 50% of the average for the other developed countries attending the G7 – only about a 24% reduction compared to an average of 47%.
Arriving in Cornwall, Scott Morrison will participate in a meeting of the major economies that are taking important steps to curb climate change, while all of his major energy steps have been to shore up the fossil fuel industry, with only a vague nod to network. zero sometime in the future, “preferably by 2050.”
He refused to raise the 2030 target and refused to commit to net zero. His companions in this meeting will know, despite the bragging that he will make. They have all committed to deeper goals for 2030 and to achieve net zero by 2050. In this scenario, Morrison will be the strange man, and perhaps the best the rest of us in Australia can hope for is that he will leave his piece of parliamentary coal at home for the occasion.
You are entering a meeting where your host, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has made climate change the top priority and almost everyone in the room will ask Morrison what he is doing.
What will the G7 leaders make of their claims that Australia is a world leader in per capita terms in renewable electricity deployment, pointing to the massive rate of rooftop solar installation? Again, it is the big numbers at the level of the economy as a whole that matter, not the anecdotes: Australia’s five-year renewable energy deployment rate in the power sector is roughly in the middle of the range. developed countries in the G7.
The bigger issue is what is happening with the decarbonisation of our entire energy sector, and the data points to a very slow level of major change. For 20 years or more, renewables have settled at about 6-7% of our total primary energy supply, and this has now skyrocketed to about 8.5% due to the rise of renewables in our sector energetic.
Morrison says he will argue that no one has the right to tell Australia to set targets and timetables for reducing emissions, even though Australia agreed to do just that when it signed the Paris agreement. And in Paris, Australia agreed with everyone else to update its 2030 target with high ambition in 2020, a process now deferred until Glasgow later this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This will be seen for what it is: in terms of courtesy, “free use”; Back home in Australia we call it “bludging”.
It will have to continue to ignore 1.5 ° C energy scenarios consistent with the Paris agreement, the most recent from the International Energy Agency, which says the world has to phase out the use of coal by 2040 at the latest, and phase out gas by around 2050. The IEA also has no new investments in fossil fuels this year if we want to meet the 1.5 ° C cap. However, the Morrison government is driving a gas-driven recovery , both nationally and internationally. The IEA Net Zero Report shows that Australian LNG exports peaked in the mid-2020s and declined by 2030 to lows in the next decade or so. If Paris is implemented properly, the gas and coal export industry will simply dry up.
Morrison will argue against any carbon border adjustment mechanism like the one proposed by the European Parliament, knowing that without a national carbon price, all Australian exports will be vulnerable to such a tax.
You will also have to pretend you didn’t see the Dutch court’s decision that global oil giant Shell has to cut its emissions by 45% by 2030, the same company that is Australia’s second-largest gas exporter. This is likely to have significant and adverse impacts on investor appetite in fossil fuel-intensive companies and projects.
By going to the G7 and protesting against greater ambition on climate change, Morrison is going against the grain of history and science and, consciously or not, will be seen as undermining an essential global movement towards real, lasting and ambitious action on climate change. climate change. America’s climate envoy John Kerry has said, and I strongly agree with him, that this is our last best time to take sufficient action to limit warming to 1.5 ° C and the targets we adopt to 2030 will be decisive.
For Australia to emerge at this point in history as a nation so obsessed with its internal climate wars that its leader will step into action at the G7 on behalf of the coal and gas industries whose time has come is beyond embarrassing. You need to read the room.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism