Along with a number of other world leaders, prime minister Scott Morrison received an official invitation on 22 October 2020, asking him to join an online global climate summit, as the usual UN climate conference – the COP – has been postponed until this time next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UN secretary general António Guterres and UK prime minister Boris Johnston announced the special meeting in September 2020. And along with their signatures, the invitation is signed by French president Emmanuel Macron, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera and Italian PM Giuseppe Conte.
The letter states that the 12 December meeting aims to charter a “greener” and more “sustainable” future post-pandemic. And the conference will only allow leaders to attend if they’re willing to “announce ambitious new commitments under the Paris Agreement”.
“There will be no space for general statements,” the letter then warns.
So, while it’s rather pleasant that these world leaders have included our PM within the scope of the invitation, it’s quite doubtful that he’ll be RSVPing a yes, and it’s also doubtful those other heads of state will be expecting him to show, given his track record and the stipulations they’ve made.
A vision of the past
Scott Morrison refused to commit to a 2050 net zero emissions target during an interview with the ABC on 20 September 2020.
Indeed, our PM said he isn’t going to commit because he’s “more interested in the doing” – whatever that means.
And our leader is continuing down this path despite more than 70 other countries having committed to the 2050 target, along with 823 cities worldwide, every Australian state, and a local roundtable that includes the ACTU, the National Farmers’ Federation and the Business Council of Australia.
“I know people get very focused on the politics of these commitments,” the prime minister further told the ABC Insiders’ David Speers, “but what I’m focused on is the technology that delivers lower emissions, lower cost and more jobs.”
Morrison was on the television outlining his interest in technologies that lower emissions only a week after he announced that his government’s plan to pull the country out of its COVID-19 recession is a “gas-led recovery”, involving opening up five gas fields and constructing new pipelines.
Of course, when other nations are talking about “ambitious new commitments”, they’re not suggesting a simple switch to another fossil fuel, especially when the greenhouse effect of the methane involved in gas extraction is 80 times more potent than carbon emissions.
A recognised climate criminal
And it’s not as if the Morrison government is flying under the international radar when it comes to its climate inaction.
UK high commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell held meetings with Australian energy minister Angus Taylor and foreign minister Marise Payne last year, urging them to act on climate.
While in March this year, renowned MIT Institute Professor Noam Chomsky rated “Morrison’s Australia” as one of the top three climate criminals in the world, along with “Trump’s United States” and “Bolsonaro’s Brazil”.
However, that could be set to change according to Queensland University Professor John Quiggin. The academic made this assertion as he recently picked holes in the federal government’s budget over its lack of any action on climate.
“Assuming that we see a Biden victory in the November election, Australia will be right at the back of the developed world – of all the countries in the world, really,” Professor Quiggin told Sydney Criminal Lawyers last month.
“China has committed to a 2050 target for decarbonisation. So, we’ll find ourselves with Saudi Arabia at the very back of the pack.”
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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.