He may not see the light, but no doubt he’ll feel the heat at COP26 in Glasgow next month.
Incoherent yabbering about plans and pathways, vague thoughts on targets. “Technology not taxes”, or is it “Technology not targets”? Hard to pin him down on a revised concrete emissions reduction target, much less a date.
Australia’s ambitions haven’t budged from its Paris Agreement Commitments made in 2015 (26-28% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030), apart from a vague proposal to reach net zero “as soon as possible and preferably by 2050”, although exactly how is unclear, and a pledge to support the production and export of coal “well beyond 2030”.
With the imminent climate talks in Glasgow, Australia is being cast as a climate pariah, a villain, as it stubbornly continues to produce and export more fossil fuel. We are regarded as one of the worst climate performers among developed countries. Under the Paris Agreement countries are to submit National Adaptation Plans. Over 100 countries have done so; Australia has not. Our flimsy National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy (https://www.awe.gov.au/science-research/climate-change/adaptation/strategy) has been rated last among 54 comparable strategies.
The Morrison Government’s unspoken plan for Australia is very clear. We will keep the fossil fuel industries alive and well, even if we have to use taxpayers’ money to do so.
We should all be alarmed by the UN Environment Program 2021 Production Gap Report that finds projected government planned fossil fuel production to be inconsistent with achieving a 1.5C or 2C cap on global warming; by 2030 this ‘production gap’ translates to 240% more coal, 57% more oil, and 71% more gas than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C (more than twice the amount required to close the gap). The graph below illustrates the fossil fuel production gap.
Inger Andersen, UN Environment Program executive director, puts the global problem in a nutshell.
“At COP26 and beyond, the world’s governments must take immediate steps to address the production gap, while ensuring that this transition occurs in a just and equitable manner.”
Australia is a major source of the fossil fuel production gap, being the world’s second largest exporter of coal and third largest exporter of CO2 emissions embodied in fossil fuels.
The Australian Government does not have a climate policy that addresses global warming. While Governments of other developed countries are designing green solutions to move their economies forward from the Covid-19 pandemic, with the inevitable employment gains associated with the new technologies, our government is promoting gas as a go-between fuel while renewable energies get established, willfully ignorant of the powerful warming effects of methane, a key component of natural gas and, according to the IPCC, more than 80 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time frame. As the second-largest driver of global warming, anthropogenic methane emissions are responsible for around 30% of the temperature increase from preindustrial levels. The welfare of the planet is clearly not a top priority of the Morrison Government.
The true cost of fossil fuels has never been paid in Australia. A series of Coalition Governments has refused to countenance carbon pricing. Private profits of fossil fuel companies are possible only at the expense of the rest of us. The enormous external costs of fossil fuel production are nowhere on the industry’s balance sheets. They use their ill-gotten wealth to shamefully and loudly lobby the Australian Government to steer climate policy for their benefit.
Fortunately, in the yawning vacuum left by the Morrison government, Australian States and Business leaders are already a long way down the renewable energy pathway. Despite the neanderthal think tank operating in federal government, dragging on us like an anchor, Australia has seen the renewable energies wave coming, has got on board and is riding it to a sustainable future. A very current and exciting example is the green hydrogen energy project happening in Central Queensland.
Mining billionaire, Andrew Forrest (Twiggy), known for his successful Fortesque iron ore company, is investing in green iron ore and steel. He knows the risks are real, but he wants Fortesque to be a first mover to test green hydrogen at a global, industrial scale. Green hydrogen can be fed into a fuel cell to make electricity or burnt to produce heat.
This month Mr Forrest announced that Fortesque Future Industries (FFI) will build the world’s largest hydrogen manufacturing facility in Central Queensland. There are 6 steps planned for this $1 billion-plus operation; the first stage, expected to be completed in 2022, will build the infrastructure and equipment and manufacture electrolysers required to split hydrogen from water to produce emission-free energy. Employment projections for this first stage include 120 construction jobs and 53 operational jobs.
The FFI hydrogen-equipment manufacturing facility will be built on Queensland government-owned land in Aldoga, near Gladstone. One of the draw cards for locating here is that Queensland Premier Ms Annastacia Palaszczuk had already been steering her state toward a green hydrogen future by establishing a $25 million hydrogen investment fund (last year $10 million was added to an earlier pledge of $15 million).
If Scott Morrison fails to see the light on his road to Glasgow, he risks becoming irrelevant to Australians and the world. He will be a legendary failure. He came along at the right time to seize the opportunity and take Australia along the path to a renewable energy SUPERPOWER (the title of a recent book by Professor Ross Garnaut, consultant to the Australian Government on climate change). But Scott Morrison is the wrong leader for the challenges of our time.
(This blog post is a collaboration between Julie and Knox Lovell)
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-20/united-nations-fossil-fuel-gap-report-australia-data/100551662 Michael Slezak and Lori Youmshajekian