Federal government to sign international climate resilience commitments but real action remains elusive

Federal government to sign international climate resilience commitments but real action remains elusive


Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley will sign Australia to two international climate resilience agreements that aim to integrate climate risk into investment decision-making.

Ley is set to tell the 2021 Climate Adaption Summit that Australia will sign on to the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, as well as the Call for Action: Raising Ambition for Climate Adaptation and Resilience.

The Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment is an international initiative of the upcoming Cop26 UN climate conference in Glasgow in November, while the Call for Action initiative has been spearheaded by the UK and signed by 118 countries.

These new climate resilience commitments from the federal government come as Australia faces increasing isolation on the world stage when it comes to combating the climate crisis.

Australia has not yet committed to a target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison instead saying it would be achievable sometime in the second half of this century. More than 120 countries have committed to a net zero by 2050 target, including Joe Biden’s administration in the US and other world leaders like Germany and the UK.

Australia continues to pursue a gas-led economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis rather than focusing on renewable energy and continues to signal its support for the fossil fuel industry through subsidies and approving new coal projects. Meanwhile, investment in renewable energy suffers from uncertainty when it comes to federal climate policy.

With a Biden led US government, it’s expected Australia will face increasing pressure from the international community to do more on climate. Biden has said he will be happy to “level with any world leader about what must be done” to fight the crisis. Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry recently said it was necessary for coal to be phased out five times faster than it currently is, and there needed to be a “wholesale transformation of the global economy”.

“We need to all move together, because today very few are on a trajectory of the steep reductions needed to meet even current goals, let alone the targets we need to avert catastrophic damage,” Kerry said in his first speech as US climate envoy.

In December 2020, the French and UK government rejected Morrison’s push to be given a speaking position at a global leaders’ climate ambition summit, after it was made clear only leaders offering substantial new climate commitments would be given the opportunity to speak. This rejection placed Australia on the sidelines of the summit, next to countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia.

In July 2020, an interim report of Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act found Australia’s environment was in an unsustainable state of decline, and laws to protect unique species and habitats are ineffective. Meanwhile, Australia is not among the more than 50 countries that have pledged to protect 30 per cent of the planet’s land and sea by 2030 to prevent species extinction and conserve biodiversity.

And Morrison has also not signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, which committed more than 60 countries, including New Zealand, Germany, France, Canada and the UK to putting biodiversity and the climate at the centre of COVID-19 recovery strategies.

We are now coming up to five years since Australia signed on to the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international commitment to limit global warming to below 2 degrees (preferably 1.5 degrees), compared to pre-industrial levels. The global Climate Action Tracker currently labels Australia as ‘insufficient’, meaning its policies are not compatible with the Paris agreement.

In November, Australia’s climate record will be put on display on the world stage in Glasgow. Concrete action from the federal government is sorely needed.

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