This week saw the UK, the US and more.
The U.S. President’s special envoy for climate change, Jonathan Pershing, told the Better Futures Forum on Thursday that our current emissions reduction commitments are not enough.
“It really helps to see Australia move forward in a more ambitious effort,” Mr Pershing said. “I will submit that Australia could have been more aggressive.”
Later in the day, UK Minister of State Alok Sharma, who is chairing an upcoming climate conference in Glasgow, called on Australia to do more.
“I invite Australia to stand up to big and bold commitments before COP26 in November,” he said.
At the same meeting this week, former UN leader Ban Ki-moon said he was not taking more action that threatened Australia’s international status, and NSW Liberal minister Matt Kean said it was necessary of Australia’s climate policy to move beyond just interests.
Australia is tapping it from all sides. Why now?
Ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, the world wants tough targets
In just 70 days, the world is meeting in Glasgow for COP26, as the next round of UN climate talks is known.
At the meeting, countries are expected to announce new and more ambitious emission reduction targets.
As Mr Pershing explained, the UK leads the pack, with a commitment to reduce emissions by 68 per cent by 2030. The EU has promised a 55 per cent reduction and the US 52 per cent.
The world needs to cut emissions by almost half by 2030, and that is expected to lead the way to rich countries like Australia.
But Australia is stuck with the same promise it made in 2015 under Tony Abbott: 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
At the same time, all of our major trading partners are committed to a net zero target, but Australia has so far resisted.
Ban Ki-moon put it blank: “Australia’s current goal of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in 2005 levels to 2030, and the absence of a national zero emissions target, is not in step with its states. , trading partners, and other comparable countries. Not enough to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement with Australia. “
There are other things Australia can do
Many expect Australia to announce net zero by 2050 target ahead of Glasgow.
But without stronger interim targets for 2030, our global friends and neighbors are unlikely to be satisfied.
COP26 will involve important discussions beyond emissions commitments, which could offer room for Australia to build goodwill.
How to mobilize money to help the developing world reduce and adapt to climate change will be an important discussion.
There is a target of moving $ US100 billion ($ 139.5 billion) of global finance by 2020. How this is measured is an issue of some debate, but most agree that the target has not yet been met.
Australia has a checkered history on the issue.
Under the Abbott government, Australia supported the Green Climate Fund, which aims to raise funding to help the developing world.
It was even led by Australia.
When Scott Morrison became Prime Minister, following the leadership of Donald Trump, he removed Australia from the fund, telling talkback radio that he would not “give money to the big climate fund”.
Australia has stood by its commitment to provide climate finance, only through other channels.
Despite this, the move has been condemned by some of our Pacific neighbors, and now that the US has rejoined the fund, Australia is the only developed country that is not part of it.
Australia could win some goodwill by playing a significant role in discussions around finance.
There are other options. Mr Pershing suggested that Australia could help reduce its impact on emissions to other countries by also reducing coal exports. And important negotiations will take place around adaptation targets and carbon markets as well.
What about Australia’s ‘technology, not tax’ approach?
Mr. Morrison is keen on his promotion of “technology, not taxes” as a way of dealing with climate change.
This is a reference to Coalition Technology Investment Roadmap, which guides $ 18 billion in five priority areas: hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, soil carbon, energy storage options and “low-carbon” steel and aluminum production.
The initiative has international support, recognizing technological breakthroughs in these areas could help both developed and developing countries both lower their emissions in the future.
But it doesn’t cut it as a target in reducing emissions.
There is no guarantee these technologies success will happen at all, let alone fast and successful enough to make them competitive with existing methods of electricity generation and manufacturing over the next decade.
The US, UK and others want Australia to commit to targets and time frames. That way, if technological breakthroughs don’t happen, Australia will be forced to look for other ways to reduce emissions.
How is Labor policy laid out?
With a federal election coming sooner rather than later, it is possible that the ALP, rather than the Coalition, could deal with climate change policy.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese is already committed to the net zero 2050 target and Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen acknowledged that a stronger interim target is also needed.
“Net zero emissions by 2050 are needed, but not enough,” he told the Better Futures Forum.
But he declined to outline what was involved here, beyond a vague statement: “Australia should take a higher medium-term target at COP26 in November.”
Labor’s centerpiece energy policy is the $ 20 billion Rewire the Nation plan, which will see direct investment in the energy delivery network.
That investment is needed to accommodate the growth of wind, solar and hydro-power generation scattered around the countryside, not to mention the growth of rooftop solar feeding in the former a one-way grid.
But, like the Coalition’s Technology Investment Roadmap, it does not hold Australia to tackling the emission reduction component in a possible time period to limit global warming.
So how will it play out?
In the next 70 days, we can expect to see the US, UK and other developed countries squeeze the pressure on Australia.
The US and UK are now coaxing and cajoling in Australia, but expect more muscle flexion if Australia doesn’t show it’s ready to ride with stronger action.
The EU is pursuing a “Carbon Limit Adjustment Mechanism”, a bureaucratic name for a tariff on goods produced in countries that do not meet emission reduction benchmarks.
Mr. Biden indicated that the US intends to adhere to a similar trade policy.
If Mr. Morrison has not done enough to convince the world that Australia is serious about contributing to reducing global emissions, as Ban Ki-moon warned, the country’s reputation and trade power will be can break badly.