In Avoiding the UN Climate Summit, Morrison Betrays Us All

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Morrison and Ashes

Scott Morrison is well known for his ability to handle the press. The “fair go” PM excels in skirting around questions, and when he does deliberate directly upon a subject it may sound like he’s providing a reasonable answer, until further perusal finds he’s said nothing of substance.

This occurred during his recent war talk trip in the US, where he was repeatedly asked about whether our nation would commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the COP26 (the annual UN climate change conference), which is set to be held in Glasgow early next month.

On being questioned repeatedly by the US press on net zero, the prime minister stated that in Australia you need a plan before a commitment, and since he had no plan, he couldn’t commit. Although he did state, our country would be unveiling its plan to achieve this prior to COP26.

However, soon after his dalliance with American reporters, Morrison began casting doubt on his attending the climate conference, and then, last Friday, he told the local press that he doesn’t think he can make it as he can’t afford the time to undertake 14 days of COVID quarantining.

Mind you, he did manage to avoid quarantine requirements in order to leave Canberra and enter Sydney to spend time with his family over the Father’s Day weekend.

Forsaking the future

Of course, the Morrison government is made up of the Coalition, which includes the PM’s party, the Liberals, as well as the minor party in the arrangement, the Nationals. And Nationals MPs have been quite vocal of late about their resistance to net zero by 2050.

But Morrison’s reluctance to commit cannot simply be put down to recalcitrant Nationals.

The PM notoriously showed up in parliament with a lump of coal, spruiking its virtues, in early 2017, while, as head of state, he’s refused to attend or not been invited to several recent global climate meetings.

With the fall of climate denier Donald Trump, and with current US president Joe Biden and UK PM Boris Johnson now championing net zero by 2050, Scott Morrison is fast turning our nation into the globe’s chief climate criminal, except for, perhaps, Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

For the sake of his short-term votes, the PM is also betraying the public, as multiple surveys show that the majority of Australians want the nation to act on climate. And this bad faith positioning on the part of Morrison sees Australia, as a whole, forsaking the entire planet for short-term profit.

Hide and forgo

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Climate Change 2021 report in August, which outlines that the 2015 Paris Agreement target to keep temperature below 1.5°C is now unlikely, as this level will be surpassed in the 2030s, even with rapid mitigation.

The IPCC researchers outlined a best-case scenario for reaching net zero globally by 2050, which should keep the rise to 1.6°C. However, this would require emissions to peak within the next couple of years.

So, with such urgency around the need to take climate action, our PM’s reluctance to treat reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the gravity it deserves is only serving to condemn future generations to an uninhabitable planet.

But Morrison is well aware of this. And that’s why he’s again using one of his favourite strategies to avoid taking responsibility, that being playing hide and go seek.

Indeed, the PM attempted to disappear to Hawaii during the peak of the unprecedented bushfire season of 2019/20.

And in much the same way, he seems to now be banking on the idea that if he doesn’t turn up to COP26, no one will notice that his country hasn’t come to the table with an adequate response to climate.

Image: “Lewes Bonfire Night 2007 – Wall of Flame” by Dominic’s pics is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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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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