The Morrison Government went to the COP26 in Glasgow with one priority above all else: to protect its own interests by supporting the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
These interests can no longer be protected or tolerated, if we’re going to limit warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. But these interests remained front and centre, with a lucky reprieve for the Morrison Government coming from India, when it secured a last-minute word change to the Glasgow climate pact. The words “phasing out” coal changed to “phasing down”.
We needed a plan to end the burning of fossil fuels, as our best hope for keeping the 1.5 limit alive. What we got was another delay that sees such hopes languishing on life support – still alive, but very far from sure survival. Another year hangs in the balance, as countries committed to return to COP with stronger 2030 emissions reductions targets.
That hope will see Australia’s pathetic climate policy remain in full world view – and will ensure it remains the highest election priority with the Federal Election due by May next year.
Australia already earned the proud title of “colossal fossil” at COP26, thanks to Climate Action Network, which noted our “appalling approach to climate change policy”.
But there are other terms we deserve. Terms that highlight the hypocrisy, arrogance and penchant for gaslighting from our own elected officials.
Indeed, within hours of signing the Glasgow Pact – which carries a core declaration for nations to return in November 2023 with stronger 2030 emissions reductions commitments — Australian officials said that actually, our (very unofficial) 2030 ‘target’ for reducing emissions by 26 to 28% would remain “fixed”. Although the joint statement from Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Energy Minister Angus Taylor also added that “we are committed to meeting and beating it”, as if their government has some semblance of ambition over the matter.
Payne, in her other job, is also Australia’s elected lead on responding to and highlighting the concerns of women and girls domestically and abroad. Yet she has never once addressed the impact of climate-related disasters on women and girls globally, and declaring the word “fixed” on the nation’s nothing 2030 target within hours of promising otherwise, shows she’s unwilling to step up to deliver a more ambitious pledge to women and girls internationally.
There were mixed reactions to the success of the pact, even before countries like Australia publicly noted how little they thought of the agreement.
Alok Sharma, who led the talks, was emotional and said “I am deeply sorry” as the deal was agreed.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the planet is “hanging by a threat”. “We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. It is time to go into emergency mode – or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero.”
And developing and vulnerable countries who were pushed to compromise on the pact in order to secure some kind of agreement, saw their concerns about “loss and damage” as a result of more extreme weather events overlooked.
Indeed, as Shauna Aminath, Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, The Maldives, said:
“Please do us the courtesy of acknowledging that this does not bring hope to our hearts, but serves as another conversation in which we put our homes on the line while those who have other options decide how quickly they want to act to save those who don’t.”
The 1.5 degree goal remains at the mercy of countries like Australia that lack the ambition and leadership to do what’s needed. That leadership can change, of course, however we’re still yet to learn the details of the opposition’s own plans here.
Some hope remains at the international level, but also here, domestically.
Climate policy will remain a key – if not the top priority – going into the upcoming 2021 election.
This matters to women and girls in Australia, and internationally.
There is no conversation about gender equality – about women’s empowerment, girls’ education, ending child marriage , gender-based violence and other injustices against girls and women – without discussing climate change.
And we will do everything we can to keep it at the top of the agenda.
“While millions around the world are already in crisis, not enough leaders came to Glasgow with a crisis mindset,” said Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders Group of leaders and former states people and the former president of Ireland.
“People will see this as a historically shameful dereliction of duty. Leaders have extended by a year this window of opportunity to avert the worst of the climate crisis. The world urgently needs them to step up more decisively next year.”