Thinktank report deems Morrison government ‘an increasingly regressive force’
Australia is the worst-performing country on climate change policy, according to a new international ranking of 57 countries. The report also criticises the Morrison government for being a “regressive force” internationally.
Australia and the Morrison government scored the lowest possible rating of 0.0 for climate policy. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index, prepared by a group of thinktanks comprising the NewClimate Institute, the Climate Action Network and Germanwatch, looks at national climate action across the categories of emissions, renewable energy, energy use and policy.
Across all four categories, Australia was ranked as the sixth-worst performing of the 57 countries assessed.
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On the assessment of national and international climate policy, Australia is singled out as the worst-performing, with the report saying the re-elected Morrison government “has continued to worsen performance at both national and international levels.”
“Experts note that the new government is an increasingly regressive force in negotiations and has been criticised for its lack of ambition by several Pacific Island nations in the context of this year’s Pacific Island Forum,” the report says.
“The dismissal of recent IPCC reports, the government not attending the UN Climate Action Summit in September, and the withdrawal from funding the Green Climate Fund (GCF) underpin the overall very low performance in the climate policy category.”
Australia scored the lowest possible rating of 0.0, compared with the highest-scoring country, Portugal, which was ranked best for its climate policy at 97.8%. The report praised Portugal for its ambitious target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and a 55% emissions reduction by 2030.
The report says that the Australian government has also failed to clarify how it will meet the country’s 2030 emission reduction target and has failed to develop a long-term mitigation strategy.
“While the government is not proposing any further targets for renewable energy beyond 2020, it continues to promote the expansion of fossil fuels and in April 2019 approved the opening of the highly controversial Adani coalmine,” the report notes.
The damning assessment of Australia’s position comes as the energy minister, Angus Taylor, argues the case at UN climate talks for Australia to use carryover credits to meet its international emissions reduction targets against resistance from 100 other countries.
The government is also facing pressure on the domestic front about its inaction on climate change policy, with the NSW Liberal environment minister, Matt Kean, the latest to call for more ambitious emissions reduction targets.
The former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has also urged the government to do more about the national security threat of climate change, which has been thrust into the national spotlight by the early, devastating bushfire season and the prolonged drought.
The CCPI report points to the bushfires and Australia’s “destructive” pre-summer heatwave as an example of a number of extreme weather events that have become increasingly severe in 2019, as it argues the impacts of climate change are already being felt.
“The unfolding impacts of 1°C of global warming observed in 2019 emphasise the urgency required to act,” the report says.
Labor’s shadow energy minister, Mark Butler, said the ranking showed the government’s action on climate change was “pathetic”, and hit out at the Coalition’s push to use carryover credits.
“When it comes to climate action Australia’s lack of climate policy has become an international embarrassment,” Butler said.
“Meanwhile, to avoid real climate action all this government wants to
do is use dodgy accounting tricks to cook the books and fake meeting
their inadequate Paris agreement targets.”
When asked about Australia’s climate change policy in response to the unfolding bushfire crisis, the agriculture minister, Bridget McKenzie, said it was “misleading” to link the fires with “coal-fired power generation right now”.
“Our government has strong action to address climate change,” she said.
“As an emitter of 1.7% of the globe’s carbon emissions, I think Australia is really taking strong action to address that and we need to be proud of that instead of beating ourselves up about it and our regional communities.
“We are taking strong action. People might not like the way we are doing it … but to say that we are not actually taking action because we don’t have some sort of market mechanism that certain sides of politics prefer, we are actually getting the job done.”
But she said there was “no question” that climate change was affecting regional areas and had exacerbated the drought.
The deputy prime minister Michael McCormack also defended the government’s climate change position, saying the government was doing “important things”, while acknowledging there was community anxiety.
“As it gets drier, the fact is that many Australians are worried, but we don’t need to catastrophise things either,” McCormack said.
First published at the Guardian Australia, Wednesday 11 December 2019. See; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/11/australia-ranked-worst-of-57-countries-on-climate-change-policy