COP-OUT-27 Albanese: The Flipside to Morrison on the Pro-Fossil Fuel Coin

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Albanese climate change conference

COP27, or the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, is currently taking place in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh. And guess who’s not going to make it, our prime minister Anthony Albanese. Why? Because he’s got more important matters to see to.

This scenario may sound familiar: an Australian prime minister determines that attending the international conference, where heads of state the world over meet to discuss how they might solve the climate crisis, is not necessary.

And, of course, the reason why it’s got that similar ring to it is that former PM Scott Morrison made the same decision last year, and he was crucified for doing so, which was kind of fitting considering he believes he has been chosen.

But after he copped a nationwide wave of public outrage, Morrison reluctantly turned up to the COP to spruik some local fossil fuel companies at the nation’s expo stand and then delivered a half-arsed speech committing to net zero by 2050, with no tangible plan – just a wing and a prayer.

Keeping up appearances

But with the issue of climate change, for the rich nations that are propagating the destruction of life on Earth as we know it, it’s all about appearing to be doing something. And Albanese knows this all too well, as headlines around the world hailed him as a new climate-minded leader on his election.

Indeed, since becoming PM, Albanese’s spent half a year projecting a proactive climate image on the domestic and global stage. In every speech Albanese makes internationally, he prominently raises climate. And our nation is no longer perceived as one of the planet’s chief climate culprits.

But unlike other busy world leaders, Albanese is sending his climate change minister Chris Bowen to COP27 in his place, while US president Joe Biden, UK PM Rishi Sunak, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and French president Emmanuel Macron are all turning up to represent their nations.

So, what does Albanese’s decision not to make an appearance at COP27 tell us? Does it indicate that he considers his flagging of climate change at every possible occasion means he’s done his bit, or is it that his first act in parliament, the passing of an emissions reduction bill, absolves him of the need?

Another likely reason still could be that the fossil fuel lobby want him to pull his head in a bit.

End of days

A fortnight ago, the UN Environment Programme released its Emissions Gap Report 2022 that outlines that there’s no way the Earth’s temperature can remain below 1.5°C any longer, and under current policies, it’s likely the planet is looking at a 2.8°C hike in heat by the end of the century.

This determination includes all of the post-COP26 climate action policies that have been set in place by 17 nations around the globe, including the Albanese government’s Climate Change Bill 2022, which was passed in mid-September.

The goal that legislation set in place for our nation is a 43 percent reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by the end of this decade. It was a significant rise compared to the Coalition’s commitment of 26 to 28 percent, but a far cry from the Greens target of 75 percent by 2030.

And after the recent drought, the burning of 20 percent of mainland forest to the ground, and the subsequent floods that at present are simply an everyday part of life, the only people continuing to deny climate change on the ground are those who continue to spread COVID conspiracies.

The agenda continues regardless

But in the end, perhaps Albanese is just being a pragmatist. He knows that COP27 is a huge greenwashing event, where politicians are merely seen to be doing something, so when they go back to their constituencies, they can say everything’s alright and get on with fossil fuel extraction.

Let’s stick with the example of Albanese. On the way to the ballot box in May, Greens leader Adam Bandt constantly pointed out that along with solving the heating planet, slight-of-hand Anthony was also committed to greenlighting 114 new coal and gas projects.

And a fortnight before Albanese passed his fabled climate bill, resources minister Madeline King announced a massive expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, and in keeping with Morrison, she suggested gas as a key transition fuel and carbon capture technology as another vital solution.

So, in the end, it’s a flip of the coin, with Labor on one side and the Liberals on the other. And either way that coin lands, Australian fossil fuel companies win, and people like the residents of Lismore, those living in downtown Maputo, Mozambique, or the population of shrinking Kiribati all lose.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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