The Australian government appears conflicted in its efforts to adopt environmentally progressive policies following the country’s recent bushfires and record temperatures. A recent Australian Institute survey shows that private sector leaders and the general public favor a comprehensive climate policy with renewable energy investments. However, Prime minister Scott Morrison and his administration remain tied to the fossil fuel industry, making it hard for the country to progress.
Currently, Australia is one of the heaviest greenhouse gas emitters. The country continues lagging behind Paris Agreement goals that aimed to reduce fossil fuel pollution by at least 26% come mid-century. Even these goals are now outdated, though, with several other countries having signed onto updated agreements.
Australia contributes three times more greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere than the G20 average emissions. To make matters worse, Australia is one of the global leaders that has not committed to a clear climate change policy; the U.K., U.S., Japan and China have all committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
While the Australian government slowly finds its way to green energy, the public sector and individual states are keen to lead the way. As CNN reports, “In November, New South Wales announced a plan to support 12 gigawatts of wind and solar and 2 gigawatts of energy storage through the construction of renewable energy zone to replace its aging coal plants.” Additionally, the two richest people in Australia are backing a project to create the world’s largest solar farm. The private sector and individual states see green energy as an economic opportunity.
“Australia has a plan to put the technology in place to reduce emissions and ensure we achieve the Kyoto commitments, as we already have demonstrated, and, importantly, the Paris commitments before us. What matters is what you get done, and Australia is getting it done on emissions reduction,” Morrison said while addressing parliament on December 10.
However, his words and actions are a complete contrast. Morrison’s government has already announced a gas-based economic recovery plan post-COVID-19. His government also authorized the exploration of Carmichael mines in Queensland. Climate experts view these coal mines as a threat to the Great Barrier Reef due to carbon pollution.
Experts advise phasing out coal power in all countries by 2040 to avoid catastrophic climate change. In contrast, Australia is set to experience a 4% increase in coal mining by 2030 — unless actions are taken to stop current and new explorations. No matter how hard the private sector and individual states try to cut emissions, they can’t succeed on a large scale without proper government policy.
Image via John Englart