Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the regular UN climate conference – COP26 – was postponed. But rather than simply forget about the ever-intensifying impacts of the climate crisis, the UK, France and the United Nations teamed up to run an alternative online forum.
Involving over 70 world leaders, including representatives from the incoming US Biden administration, the 2020 Climate Ambition Summit had just one proviso for heads of state being allocated timeslots to address the forum, which was bring “new and ambitious commitments”.
Of course, this proved too difficult for Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, who’s currently spruiking a gas-driven post-pandemic economic recovery.
Indeed, despite asserting in parliament just days prior to the conference that he’d be appearing at the international summit, when the final speaking schedule was released, our PM was noticeably left off it.
Morrison had presumed that he’d be able to turn up and announce that his government is no longer aiming to get away with using late 1990s Kyoto carryover credits in order to smooth over any inconsistencies in achieving our Paris Agreement 2030 emissions target.
But, somewhat unsurprisingly, those organising the online summit saw no bold new commitment in Morrison’s get-out-of-gaol-free Kyoto clause, as not only does it lack logic, but it had already been widely derided across the planet.
Under the fossil fuel-driven Morrison government, Australia is fast becoming the world’s greatest climate pariah. And this is saying something, given that Paris Agreement targets that nations are now scrambling to adhere to are fast becoming null and void as climate impacts accelerate.
The 2018 IPCC report warned that the Earth’s temperature is set to rise by 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels sometime between 2030 and 2052. And this has caused global anxiety.
However, the recently released Climate Reality Check (CRC) 2020 makes drastic updates on those two-year-old predictions.
Produced in Australia, the CRC report outlines that the IPCC estimates were “too conservative”. The unsafe 1.5°C rise on pre-industrial levels is set to happen prior to 2030, while the “very dangerous” 2°C increase will happen way before 2050 given our current trajectory.
According to the report, predicted rising temperatures are an existential threat to organised society, as well as nature itself as the planet enters its sixth mass extinction.
The likely 3 to 5°C warming by 2100 means our children’s grandchildren don’t have much of a future.
No longer fit for purpose
Writing in the Age, European Climate Foundation chief executive Laurence Tubiana just suggested that Australia could be at the fore of global transitions to renewables, as this continent is bestowed with prime weather conditions, as well as the resources to make that happen.
But the starker truth is Morrison is incapable of changing our fossil fuel-driven direction, as so intimately linked are the industry and government that the borders between them blur if one gets up too close. And this applies equally to Labor.
So, this leaves the nation in a no-way-out position, as a green new deal is desperately needed, but our leaders – like Morrison – are not only incapable of envisioning such a change, but they’re proactively trying to derail any attempt at progressing towards a sustainable future.
Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.