Culture

Australia, Prepare To Be Humiliated On Climate Change At The G20

It's not a good week when you're being embarrassed by America, the EU and China.

While the increasingly absurd preparations for the Brisbane G20 summit gather pace – 6000 police! No buses in the CBD! Bans on eggs, cans, surfboards and, for some reason, reptiles! – the Abbott Government is continuing in its dinky-di efforts to showcase Australia as a land beyond time and reason, where those crippling droughts, devastating cyclones and lethal heatwaves we’ve been enjoying are just part the miracle that is this great sunburnt land of ours.

As opposed to, say, harbingers of an onrushing climate disaster that could wipe out entire ecosystems, flood low-lying cities (*cough* Brisbane *cough*) and reduce our agricultural output by 40% in the next 50 years. You say potato…

Yes, yes, nothing to see here.

Yes, yes, nothing to see here.

As the Guardian revealed on Friday, Australia has been fighting the rest of the summit’s attendees tooth-and-nail to avoid having to acknowledge climate change’s clear and present danger. This includes: a) reducing any mention of climate change down to a single sentence in the official summit communique; b) refusing to contribute any money to the international Green Climate Fund to help developing nations deal with the global warming problem; and c) rejecting calls to unveil updated emissions reductions targets before next year’s pivotal climate change summit in Paris.

What’s particularly fascinating/galling about all of this is that the US is pushing harder than anybody to get action on all three of the above points, but for one of the first times in living memory Australia is actually standing up to Uncle Sam. Yes, this is the glorious battle that we have chosen. Bomb some Syrians? JUST TAKE OUR MILITARY. Work together to try and combat humanity’s greatest shared threat? BEGONE WITH YOUR VILE WITCHERY.

The degree to which Australia now seems out of step with global opinion on how to tackle climate change would be comical, if it weren’t so terrifying. Just last week we had Greg Hunt, a Wikipedia-quoting Minister for the Environment who probably believes we should bring back Agent Orange, claiming the IPCC’s latest report vindicated the Government’s Direct Action Plan. This despite that exact same report talking extensively about the benefits of carbon pricing and the need to invest in renewable energy. As The Saturday Paper puts it, this makes him a straight-up liar. Nonetheless Hunt was dutifully followed to the podium by Tony Abbott, who actually said coal is “good for humanity” and somehow kept a straight face the whole time.

Pictured: dignity.

Pictured: dignity.

Meanwhile, the EU, China and ten separate American states – including California, the world’s ninth largest economy – are instituting carbon pricing mechanisms as we speak. Just last year China installed 378GW of renewable power, more than all its non-renewable additions put together and some seven times the entire electrical grid capacity of Australia. By contrast, here we have witnessed a 70% plunge in renewable investment in the past 12 months alone, thanks to the Abbott Government’s ongoing attempts to brutalise the Renewable Energy Target. That job-creating, economy-boosting money is, unsurprisingly, going to China, Europe and America. Sure hope that coal industry doesn’t dry up, eh, Tone?

And now the Climate Institute has released a report suggesting that if Australia is to shoulder its fair share of the climate change burden, it will need to cut its overall emissions by 40% by 2025. This is actually at the lower end of the range suggested by the independent Climate Change Authority, which declared we’d need to hit reductions of 40-60% by 2030 if we were to contribute meaningfully. By way of contrast, our current target is 5% by 2020 and even that seems unlikely given the almost inevitable failure of Abbott and Co’s widely condemned Direct Action Plan.

But hey, at least environmental wreckage is one election promise old friend Tony is still sticking to. And at a time when he’s so broadly reviled that people will boo him at a funeral, it’s nice to know that he still actually stands for something.