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Morrison at the G20 in Rome – blocking coal phaseout and deflecting climate ambition


G20: Macron and Merkel sit talking while Morrison alone

Before COP26 in Glasgow leaders of the G20 countries will be meeting in Rome on 30-31 October. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will attend both high level leaders meetings.

While there is a block of countries working on phaseout of coal, Australia joins India and China in resisting G20 call to phase out coal.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) on 20 October issued a statement saying COP26 must consign coal power to history. Since its creation in 2017 by the United Kingdom and Canadian governments, the PPCA has grown to more than 130 members, including countries, cities, regions and businesses around the world. This includes 41 national Governments. In Australia subnational governments of The ACT, Cityof Sydney and  City of Melbourne have endorsed the PPCA.

In a phone Conversation between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Macron from France on Thursday, Macron said Australia “broke the relationship of trust” regarding the cancelling of the Naval Group submarine order and the new AUKUS pact. 

On climate, the French President “encouraged the Australian Prime Minister to adopt ambitious measures to meet the climate challenge, in particular the increase of the determined contribution at the national level, the commitment to cease production and the coal consumption at home and abroad, strengthening Australian support for the international solar alliance, ” according to the Élysée Palace. 

When Morrison’s RAAF plane landed in Rome, he said: 

“Our policy is very clear: we’re not engaged in those sorts of mandates and bans, that’s not the Australian government’s policy, it won’t be the Australian government’s policy,” he said.

“All countries are coming at this task from different places, their economies are different and as a global community we’ve got to understand that.”

So a key part of the Australian Way plan is to keep opening more coal mines and gas extraction (3 new mines approved in October, another 20 in the pipeline, 3 new gas basins proceeding) even though there is a (non-legislated) commitment to net zero emissions in 2050?

Morrison said in September, “We will keep mining the resources that we’re able to sell on the world market, “

But his spin in Italy is being accompanied by a full-page ad in Italy’s business daily Il Sole 24 Ore featuring a photograph of him in parliament with a lump of coal.

The ad, in English and Italian, bears the slogan: “Don’t let Australia cheat on climate change”.

“Australia is not transitioning away from fossil fuels – it is increasing its dependence on them,” the Australia Institute ad says.

So rather than talk climate ambition, Morrison will be deflecting to other subjects. He is down to speak at a G20 session on the dangers of social media for children. He will ask other leaders to follow Australia in holding social media platforms to account. 

We all hope other countries will hold Morrison to account on expanding fossil fuel production enhancing global warming and threatening the future of children around the world.

Mr Morrison also met with Indonesian leader Joko Widodo. Indonesia is concerned Australian  nuclear submarines could raise tensions in the region and undermine the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

A draft of the G20 Communique has been seen by Reuters which highlights need for net zero emissions or carbon neutrality, phaseout of fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, and meeting commitments on climate finance. Several countries, including Australia, are likely to block any strong statement on phaseout of coal.

Another irony of the situation is Matthias Cormann, now head of the OECD calling for Australia to adopt a carbon price. If you remember, Matthias was part of the cabal in the Abbott Government that abolished carbon pricing introduced by the Guillard Government that saw Australian emissions falling for two years.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor explains why Australia has no updated 2030 target for COP26

Energy Minister Angus Taylor was the featured guest Sunday morning on the ABC Insiders program, joining from Rome.

David Speers on ABC Insiders: Finally, the Glasgow summit that you’re heading to, it is all about the 2030 target. Most developed countries are increasing their 2030 ambition. Australia is taking the same target, the 26-28%. Why won’t you budge on this? And why won’t you even take to the next election a promise for a higher target?

Taylor: Well, we went to the last election and we said to the Australian people we had a 26-28% target. Labor had a 45% target without a plan as to how they were going to achieve it, and the Australian people put us back into government for another term.”

“They [the Australian voters] made it very clear – well, this is our policy. We’ve got absolutely no plan to change it, none, whatsoever.

Speers: Why not? Why won’t you go to the next election with a higher target?

Taylor: Because the Australian people told us two and a half years ago what they thought the right answer was and we are sticking with it. The good news is we are going to meet and beat that target. We will reach up to 35% reduction in emissions. We have improved on our position versus 2030 as we did with 2020, every year, and our goal is always to meet and beat our targets, but we set a target and we will keep faith with the Australian people on that target. – Source: Guardian

Comment: During the interview Speers attempts to get Taylor to outline the cost of the net zero plan and Taylor admits that the government has only planned how much it is going to spend over the next decade ($20 billion), with no new policies. See Guardian Report: Australia’s net zero plan could cost far more than the $20bn allocated, Angus Taylor suggests

Taylor’s comment on the target is despite consistent polling showing high concern on climate change and strong preference for climate action. 53% wanted a more ambitous 2030 climate target, 60% of Australians support Australia following the IEA pathway and not approving new gas, coal or oil projects. See Blog: More ambitious climate action needed say Australians in 2021 Climate of the Nation Poll

Outside the G20 on the streets of Rome

‘We’re asking #G20 leaders to stop playing games among themselves and finally listen to the people and #actforclimate, as science has been asking for years,’ said Fridays For Furture activist Simone Ficicchia in Rome.

Day 1: Every picture tells a story: Morrison at the G20 in Rome

Morrison has his personal photographer to capture those moments for marketing. That is why he is called #SCottyfromMarketing. Of course forcing a handshake is what our Prime Minister did when visiting Bushfire stricken people at Cobargo – the Cobargo clutch – in early 2020.

Adults in the room, Morrison by himself.

President Jokowi held a bilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Rome, Italy, before attending the G20 Summit. Indonesia concerned Australian purchase of USA/UK nuclear submarine and AUKUS pact could escalate nuclear and security tensions in Asia Pacific.

Waking up to read Australian citizens informing Italy on Morrison’s true attitude to climate action

Scott Morrison at the gala dinner in Quirinale Palace in Rome with other heads of state including Emmanuel Macron, Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Prince Charles. – see Internewscast report

Meanwhile in Melbourne, Climate Angels were seen walking the streets.

Day 2 of G20 Rome

Tensions between President Macron and Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the Submarine deal cancellation. Journalists stage a corridor interview with Emmanuelle Macron which highlights the lack of trust with Morrison.

 Transcript:

Macron: I think it’s very bad news for the credibility of Australia and very bad news. Great partnership we could have had with Australia. I had a direct discussion with prime minister Scott Morrison about this issue…

I mean, we have to unearth this common path and common values. But I think you can have disagreement. I do respect sovereign choices. But you have to respect allies and partners. And it was not the case with this dealing…

Reporter: Do you think he lied to you?

Macron: I don’t think. I know.

Connie Hedegaard on the G20 outcome

On Radio National breakfast, Connie Hedegaard, head of COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, tells Fran Kelly “I think that it is disappointing that the G20 leaders could not make a better statement, a strong statement this weekend in Rome”

“China and Russia are amongst those who have tried to change the text (G20 communique). It sends a signal that they couldn’t even say that there should be an end date for coal. When you say ‘as soon as possible’ that is also a substantial way of not committing”

“The G20 did not help the COP in Glasgow. It didn’t make it easier than before to reach an agreement that we can stay within what was pledged in Paris”

“I think it is crucial that we see some of the big developing countries put something more at the table… I’m not giving up hope.” 

“I think the rest of the world was a bit disappointed that the Australian plan doesn’t say a lot about how you are going to achieve it (net zero emissions by 2050)” 

Mary Robinson critical of Australia’s climate stance

Meanwhile, The Project TV interview former President of Ireland and Chair of The Elders at COP26, Mary Robinson, on Scott Morrison and what he is bringing to COP26 for Australia.

G20 communique maintains climate momentum for COP26

Some excerpts below from: G20 Rome Leaders Declaration

  • On Sustainable Development: commitment is reaffirmed “to a global response to accelerate progress on the implementation of the SDGs and to support a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery across the world, able to promote equity and accelerate progress on all SDGs, recognizing the importance of nationally owned strategies, SDG localization, women and youth empowerment, sustainable production and responsible consumption patterns, and access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all….”
  • On Environment: commitment “to strengthen actions to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and call on CBD Parties to adopt an ambitious, balanced, practical, effective, robust and transformative post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework at COP15 in Kunming. …”
  • On Climate and Energy: “commitment to the full and effective implementation of the UNFCCC and of the Paris Agreement, taking action across mitigation, adaptation and finance during this critical decade, on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge, reflecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances. We remain committed to the Paris Agreement goal to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, also as a means to enable the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.”
  • “We recognize that the impacts of climate change at 1.5°C are much lower than at 2°C. Keeping 1.5°C within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries, taking into account different approaches, through the development of clear national pathways that align long-term ambition with short- and medium-term goals, and with international cooperation and support, including finance and technology, sustainable and responsible consumption and production as critical enablers, in the context of sustainable development. We look forward to a successful COP26.”
  • “collaborate to accelerate the development and deployment of the most efficient and effective solutions and help them rapidly achieve cost parity and commercial viability, including to ensure access to clean energy for all, especially in developing countries. 
  • “We commit to scale up public Research, Development and Deployment. 
  • “We recall and reaffirm the commitment made by developed countries, to the goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020 and annually through 2025 to address the needs of developing countries.
  • “We commit to significantly reduce our collective greenhouse gas emissions, taking into account national circumstances and respecting our NDCs. 
  • “We acknowledge that methane emissions represent a significant contribution to climate change and recognize, according to national circumstances, that its reduction can be one of the quickest, most feasible and most cost-effective ways to limit climate change and its impacts. 
  • “We will increase our efforts to implement the commitment made in 2009 in Pittsburgh to phase out and rationalize, over the medium term, inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and commit to achieve this objective, while providing targeted support for the poorest and the most vulnerable.
  • “commit to reduce emission intensity, as part of mitigation efforts, in the energy sector to meet timeframes aligned with the Paris temperature goal.
  • “We will cooperate on deployment and dissemination of zero or low carbon emission and renewable technologies, including sustainable bioenergy, to enable a transition towards low-emission power systems. This will also enable those countries that commit to phasing out investment in new unabated coal power generation capacity to do so as soon as possible.
  • “we will put an end to the provision of international public finance for new unabated coal power generation abroad by the end of 2021.
  • “We emphasize the importance of maintaining undisrupted flows of energy from various sources, suppliers and routes, exploring paths to enhanced energy security and markets stability, while promoting open, competitive and free international energy markets.

Comment: fossil fuels only mentioned once, in the paragrpgh to phase down fossil fuel subsidies. Good that there is still active languarge on ambition and 1.5C target going into the UNFCCC COP26. Use of ‘in light of different national circumstances” is a loophole for countries to except themselves, such as Australia with its coal and gas sectors. Overall, it still maintains momentum going into COP26.

Commentary on G20 Communique

UN boss Antonio Guterres’ take on the Summit :”While I welcome the G20’s recommitment to global solutions, I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled — but at least they are not buried.” 

Jennifer Morgan, head of Greenpeace International: “If the G20 was a dress rehearsal for COP26, then world leaders fluffed their lines.”

Journalist Ed King commented: “Rome scored some wins. The G20 reaffirmed 1.5C as a common goal, locked in a ban on funding of overseas coal while Italy announced it was hiking climate finance. However, “barely half of us have submitted improved plans,” lamented UK PM Johnson post meet, while France’s Macron claimed he had wanted to push 1.5C harder only for others (Australia, Saudi Arabia, India and China) to push back. Meanwhile the squabbling pair look set to bring their fish fight to Glasgow. 

Patrick Wintour in the Guardian highlighted there was some advancement in some areas and not so much in others. G20 pledge to take climate action criticised for ‘lacking ambition’

“G20 failed to reach agreement on a crucial deadline for the phase-out of fossil fuels, due to opposition from Australia, China and India, which prevented any language being included in the G20 communique that would suggest countries would commit to ending their use of coal, gas and oil altogether.” says Michael Marzengarb in Renew Economy

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