When Prime Minister Scott Morrison commenced his virtual address to Joe Biden’s White House climate summit, it took a few moments before he realised he was speaking while on mute.
So what did we miss during these technical glitches? Not much.
Morrison did not use the opportunity to set any new targets or establish a date for Australia for achieving net zero emissions – as other countries did, including a game-changing commitment from the Biden Administration in the United States to halve emissions by 2030. As well as Canada, which committed to reducing 2005 emission levels by 50 per cent by 2030. And Brazil, which committed to climate neutrality by 2050. And China, which is pushing to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
Instead, Morrison pushed his “new technology solutions”, declaring that Australia is spending $20 billion to address the costs of carbon capture and clean hydrogen.
And he shared a curious mix of companies to name and celebrate during the session: saying that it is major companies like BHP and Rio Tinto that are leading us on the “journey to net zero”.
Morrison’s speech and his avoidance of any clear commitments and targets was embarrassing. Especially in the face of passionate remarks from other world leaders. It was a speech that — particularly now with the end of the Trump Administration — demonstrated again how increasingly isolated Australia is becoming on failing to address climate action.
Indeed, Morrison’s speech was very different to what we heard from Biden, who declared “the science is undeniable”.
“The cost of inaction just keep mounting,” Biden said. “All of us, and particularly those of us who represent the world’s largest economies, we have to step up.”
“Those that do take action and make bold investments in their people, and the clean energy future, will win the good jobs of tomorrow, and make their economies more resilient, more competitive.
Biden also spoke about how scientists are calling this the “decisive decade”. “This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”
He said that by working together, “we will breath easier, literally and figuratively.”.
For Biden, taking significant actions to address climate change is both a moral and economic imperative – but also an opportunity for “extraordinary possibilities”.
Unfortunately, under Morrison’s leadership and many of those before him, Australia continues to ignore the possibilities. Morrison’s also continuing to ignore the need to work together.
On Monday night, to a business audience in Australia, Morrison said Australia would chart its “own course” on addressing climate change – that it would use capitalism over taxes and further push for the commercialisation of low emissions technology.
Indeed, he took a jab at those living in metropolitan areas.
“We’re not going to achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities,” he said.
“It will be won in places like the Pilbara, the Hunter, Gladstone, Portland, Whyalla, Bell Bay, the Riverina. In the factories of our regional towns and outer suburbs.”
Most likely, it will be won in the commitments and action plans committed to by leaders. Scott Morrison has long had the opportunity, but still doesn’t have the words or the courage to get on the winning team.