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Biden Climate Summit: Australia Fails to Deliver, remains a global outsider and climate laggard

Here is a quick summary in graphic and point form where the main countries line up on climate commitments at the end of the Climate leaders summit organised by USA President Joe Biden in his first 100 days of leadership:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made:

  • no change in Australia’s low targets.
  • no commitment to net zero by 2050 target.
  • produced meaningless statistics that don’t stack up
  • slagged off the work of other countries
  • talked up hydrogen without explaining much of this will be blue hydrogen from coal and gas
  • thanked some of Australia’s highest emitting companies, part of the problem
  • tried to carve out emissions from our fossil fuel exports (Australia is 3rd largest carbon exporter)
  • talked up the hired help: Allan Finkel and his contribution (including to the gas led recovery)

Scott Morrison on Canadian Prime Minister J.Trudeau:
“..I noticed 1 large economy last night who made a big commitment – very big commitment – 45% reduction by 2030 – they’ve also announced a $170 per tonne carbon price. I won’t be doing that in Australia. I will be getting there by technology. Not taxes.”
So what else happened at the summit? 
There were some substantial targets announced. These included:
  • USA President Biden announced new 2030 target of 50-52% below 2005 levels,
  • Japan pledged to cut emissions 46% below 2013 levels by 2030, up from its existing 26% goal. The target would be equivalent to 40% below 1990 & 39% below 2018 levels.
  • Canada revises its 2030 target to 40-45% below 2005 CO2_eq emissions level by 2030. Paris 2015 NDC was set at 30%.
  • UK govt revises target to 78% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, relative to 1990 levels. For the 1st time, it will formally include international aviation & shipping
  • Europe agrees to cut CO2 emissions 55% by 2030
  • South Korea announces an end to its international coal financing. Will increase target from 24.4% cut by 2017 levels but hasn’t said what. Emissions peaked in 2018.
  • China says will join the Kigali Amendment, strengthen control of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, and phase down coal consumption.
  • Chile advances proposal to fully protect an area of the High Seas, following a call to urgently protect Antarctic waters. Also commits to renewables based green hydrogen 
  • Argentina will strengthen its NDC, deploy more renewables, reduce methane emissions, and end illegal deforestation.
  • South Africa announces will strengthen NDC, shift emissions peak year ten years earlier to 2025. South African President Ramaphosa committs to 17 gigabytes of renewable energy by 2030.
  • New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden articulated 4 clear actions: 1) Price carbon, 2) Mandate financial carbon disclosures, 3) End fossil fuel subsidies, 4) finance adaptation
  • Republic of Marshall Islands first to strengthen NDC’s in 2018, currently developing a national adaptation plan, calling for 50% of Climate Finance to go toward adaptation. Also pushing for a carbon levy at International Martime Organisation
  • Gabon & the DRC’s commits to green recovery & nature based solutions
  • USA announces International Climate Finance Plan, including promise to double US climate finance by 2024 & triple funding to help vulnerable nations cope with climate impacts in a bid to showcase US commitment to climate action.
Here are the laggards, Australia first among them. 
A number of G20 countries are still missing in action or have even backtracked on commitments:
  • Australia did not announce stronger 2030 targets, referencing only a preference to reach to net zero at an unspecified date depending upon technology development.
  • Brazil’s President Bolsonaro did not announce a stronger 2030 target, but brought forward the country’s climate neutrality goal by 10 years from 2060 to 2050. Changes in the baseline of the Brazilian 2030 target made earlier this year, which effectively weakens the target, casting a shadow over the sincerity of this revised climate neutrality pledge.
  • Mexico has weakened its target and promised to continue oil exploration.
  • India also did not announce any new target, but rather reiterated its 2030 renewable energy target.
  • Turkey reiterated its old target and has yet to ratify the Paris Agreement.

Former Australian diplomat Richie Merzian, Climate and Energy director from the Australia Institute, dissects the Biden Climate Summit from an Australian perspective in this video:

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