Abbott takes Australia to last place on global climate change leadership

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Australia has plummeted alarmingly down Global Green Economy Index under the Abbott Government, reports Alan Austin.

AUSTRALIA HAS BEEN EMBARRASSED ABROAD by the Abbott Government yet again on the environment.

This time on clean energy, by the annual survey from US-based green economy consultancy Dual Citizen.

In its fourth Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) released yesterday, Dual Citizen places Australia at 37th out of 60 countries on clean energy performance. And last on global leadership.

The top ten this year were Sweden, Norway, Costa Rica, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Finland and Iceland.

The research assesses how 60 countries and 70 cities are performing in the global green economy and how expert practitioners rank this performance.

Some consolation for Australia could be that, according to the report, it is not this year’s only laggard:

‘There are concerning results related to more developed countries as well – notably Australia, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States – where perceptions of their green economic performance dramatically exceed their actual performance on the GGEI.’

Nevertheless, Australia has the ignominy of being easily bettered by Colombia (ranked 14), Peru (16), Kenya (17), Zambia (24), Ethiopia (26), Rwanda (27) and the Philippines (32).

The previous GGEI released in 2012 showed Australia ranked 10th on performance, out of 27 nations then evaluated. In 2011, for which only the top ten were shown, Australia was outside that elite.

Data available from the four GGEI reports issued so far suggests Australia’s performance peaked in 2012 and has fallen badly since. (There was no report in 2013.)

On global leadership on green energy, Australia in 2012 was ranked equal third with Sweden, behind Germany and South Africa. This year Australia ranked last.

The report states:

‘Australia is a rare case where its perception score significantly exceeds its performance one. The main driver is the Leadership and Climate Change dimension where despite relatively strong recognition in the survey, Australia ranks last on the performance measure. This poor result is due to negative media coverage, unconstructive behaviour in international forums and poor climate change performance, despite its reduction in the carbon intensity of its economy over the last year.’

On clean technology investment, Australia ranked seventh in 2011, then rose to fourth in 2012 behind Denmark, Germany and Italy. This year, Australia was not in the top ten. The top five were Denmark, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Spain.

This latest humiliation for Australia follows more than nine earlier embarrassments on the world stage caused by inept decisions, actions or inactions by the Abbott Government on environmental issues.

These include:

  • Obstructing the UN climate meeting in Warsaw last November with damaging  ‘bad behaviour’.
  • Allowing three million cubic metres of dredged seabed to be dumped in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to make way for the Abbot Point coal export facility. 
  • Logging Tasmania’s endangered  forests.
  • Repealing Australia’s modest carbon tax/price.
  • Abbott’s call for an alliance with Canada and others in June to oppose the global climate initiatives of US President Obama. The Canadian Star ridiculed this folly with the heading, ‘Climate disdainers Canada and Australia form Axis of Weasels'.
  • Abbott’s refusal to attend UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon’s climate summit in New York in September.
  • Recalcitrance at that UN climate summit in New York by the Australian representatives who did attend.
  • Earning Australia the title ‘world’s dirtiest nation’ in The Slate. The influential US journal headlined its analysis: ‘The Saudi Arabia of the South Pacific: How Australia became the dirtiest polluter in the developed world’.
  • Cutting the renewable energy targets.

Those episodes created the strong impression worldwide that the Abbott Government was failing Australia’s people, their local environment, the global community and the planet. This report shows with rigorous research that this highly negative impression is indeed sound.

This further undermines Australia’s once proud reputation as a good global citizen. The GGEI report has received prominent media coverage worldwide, including in Denmark, the USA, Brazil, Spain and Argentina.

According to Dual Citizen, the information in the GGEI is intended to signal

‘… to policy makers, international organizations, the private sector and citizens which countries are successfully orienting their economies toward greener growth pathways and which ones are not.’

Australia today, it is now confirmed, is definitely not.

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