Fossil fuel support means Australia still flunks on climate: Report

Australia's reliance on coal and gas has left it in 55th spot on a climate change index.

Australia's reliance on coal and gas has left it in 55th spot on a climate change index. Photo: AAP

Australia remains at the back of the pack on climate protection, thanks in part to the new government’s ongoing support for fossil fuels.

The Albanese government’s relatively weak 2030 emissions target and its backing for coal and gas, have left the nation languishing in 55th spot on the respected Climate Change Performance Index.

That’s behind the world’s biggest polluters China and the United States, which finished 51st and 52nd in a ranking of 59 countries and the European Union.

And it is only four spots higher than last year, when the Morrison government’s policies saw Australia branded a climate laggard.

“It remains among the very low-performing countries and trails many other developed economies,” say the authors of the annual index, which has been released at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

“It has no policies or national plan on phasing out coal and gas mining … and plans to increase coal and gas production by over 5 per cent by 2030. The increase is not compatible with the global 1.5 degrees Celsius target.”

The authors noted the government’s commitment to cut emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, but said the target was relatively weak.

Other measures on industrial emissions, electric vehicle incentives and energy use were also noted, but the authors said much of that was early-stage action and it wasn’t clear how effective they would be.

Significantly more ambitious action was needed to align Australia with the Paris pact target of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, they said.

That must include halting gas and coal mining for domestic use and export, ending fossil fuel subsidies and backing higher emissions cuts.

The index has been around for almost 20 years and is published by Germanwatch, the NewClimate Institute and the Climate Action Network, with input from 450 climate and energy experts worldwide.

It ranks countries on four fronts: Emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy, with each deemed to be very high, high, medium, low or very low.

Australia got the worst possible rating of “very low” for everything but climate policy, which was ranked as “low”.

No country was strong enough in all four categories to be given an overall very high rating, so the top three places remained empty, as they have previously.

The top 10 were Denmark, Sweden, Chile, Morocco, India, Estonia, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

The bottom 10 were Poland, Australia, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei, Canada, Russia, Korea, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and last of all, in 63rd position, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“Rather than decreasing fossil fuel production, governments are planning to, by 2030, produce twice the amount of fossil fuels globally than what is consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees,” the authors say.

“To keep the Paris agreement promises in reach, no new permits for fossil fuel extraction should be handed out, and no new fossil fuel infrastructure switched on.”

COP27 observer Dr Simon Bradshaw, from the Climate Council, says Australia’s 2030 emissions target remains one of the weakest in the developed world.

“If we want to keep moving up the rankings, we need to get serious about moving beyond coal and gas,” he said.

A spokesperson for Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen, who is at COP27, said the very low ranking was due to Morrison government inaction.

“We are finally back at the international table, after updating and legislating the nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement,” he said.


Topics: Australia, Climate Change
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