Australia’s Partners Call for Stronger Targets to Cut Emissions
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. and U.S. are increasing pressure on Australia to strengthen its emissions-reduction targets in the lead up to the Glasgow climate summit, as the nation’s key allies and trading partners decarbonize.
Major economies are “absolutely critical” to cutting global emissions “and I urge Australia to step up with big, bold commitments ahead of COP26 in November,” Alok Sharma, a U.K. lawmaker and president of the upcoming summit, said on Thursday.
The call comes as Australia, the world’s third-biggest per-capita emitter given its resource-based economy, falls behind other developed nations when it comes to climate change. It scrapped a price on carbon in 2013, and hasn’t set a net-zero emissions target.
Australia has only pledged to cut greenhouse gases by as much as 28% by 2030, trailing the U.S. with its 50% reduction bid and the 40% to 45% cut pledged by Canada, another commodity-driven economy.
Organizers of the Glasgow summit are determined it will deliver for communities that have already seen the impacts of climate change and “have done the least to cause the crisis,” Sharma told the Better Futures Forum via video-link. “The clock is ticking, time is running out.”
The U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, Jonathan Pershing, told Thursday’s forum that the world needs to be on a trajectory to halve emissions from the 2005 baseline by decade’s end and Australia will have to explain how it will be more aggressive if it’s not on that path. While Australia’s initial emissions reductions targets were in-line with peers, those numbers have been since overtaken by stronger pledges, he said.
“I would submit Australia could be much more aggressive,” Pershing said. “It would be really helpful to see Australia step forward with a more ambitious effort.”
World leaders are meeting in Glasgow in November to update their emissions-reduction plans following the Paris accord and get consensus on adapting to the extreme weather events caused by rising temperatures and sea levels. Australia was conspicuously absent from the United Nations Climate Action Summit last year after Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to outline an ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gases.
The November meeting follows the world’s top scientists warning last week that the planet will warm by 1.5° Celsius in the next two decades without drastic moves to eliminate greenhouse-gas pollution. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report admonished Paris signatories, calling their pledges so far under the agreement “insufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emission enough” to keep global warming well below 2°C.
Morrison, who famously brandished a lump of coal in parliament, has steadfastly refused to commit to a deadline for net-zero emissions. He’s spent the past 18 months championing the role of politically sensitive fossil-fuel exports in pulling the country out of its pandemic-induced recession.
That contrasts with announcements by his three biggest customers -- China, Japan and South Korea -- that they will pursue targets to effectively eliminate emissions.
Pershing said that although Australia accounts for 1% of global emissions, it’s among the top 20 biggest emitters.
“If a wealthy country like Australia is unable to move forward, it’s very hard for poorer nations to think how they might do it,” he said.
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