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How Scott Morrison's climate action wishlist was cobbled together

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The man with a plan, Scott Morrison's climate strategies are receiving a great deal of backlash (Screenshot via YouTube)

Having faced criticism over lack of climate action, Scott Morrison unveiled an emissions reduction plan containing passages written at the last minute, writes Steve Bishop.

PRIME MINISTER Scott Morrison’s emissions reduction wishlist was cobbled together in such haste that it contains three passages allegedly obtained on 26 October, the day the PM waved it Chamberlain-style in triumph.

Like Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement, the wishlist has been roundly condemned.

Three passages, used to shore up the Government’s projections of reducing emissions, were obtained from a similarly-rushed government publication, ‘Australia’s Emissions Projections 2021’, published on the same day, 26 October.

The last four emissions projections documents (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019) were published in the December of those years.

How fortunate it was for the wishlist that this year’s rushed copy says on its opening page:

‘The projected emissions in this report are lower than all previous year’s projections.’

Page 45 of the wishlist is headlined:

‘Unlocking the critical pathways to net zero by 2050 for Australia’s economic sectors.’

A quote from the 26 October projections report is used to support progress:

‘Solar, wind and other renewable technologies are being installed at a world-leading rate. These technologies are projected to provide over half of Australia’s total generation by 2030.’

Page 51 of the wishlist comments:

‘Cheap, clean electricity is integral to lowering emissions in the electricity sector and other industries in Australia.’

It uses this projection from that day’s projections report:

‘Solar contributed almost 10% of Australia’s electricity generation in 2020 and is projected to contribute 27% in 2030.’

Page 64 of the wishlist deals with getting rid of coal-fired power, saying:

‘Ultra-low emissions electricity generation is central to Australia achieving net zero emissions by 2050.’

A supportive passage is taken from that day’s report:

‘Australia’s latest emissions projections estimate the share of renewable generation will increase from 23% of total generation in 2020 to 61% by 2030.’

There has been no explanation of how Scott Morrison was holding a copy of the wishlist which was, according to references in its appendices, still being written.

The wishlist was so rushed that appendix C says more than half the supporting documents with access dates were accessed on 7 October and that references to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports came from summaries rather than the full reports.

There is also some mystery about agreements on climate action made by Morrison, U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan after their “Quad” meeting on 24 September.

A Fact Sheet issued by President Biden on behalf of the four leaders, says:

‘Quad countries will focus their efforts on the themes of climate ambition, including working on 2030 targets for national emissions... Quad countries commit to pursue enhanced actions in the 2020s to meet anticipated energy demand and decarbonise at pace and scale to keep our climate goals within reach in the Indo-Pacific.’

On the same date, Morrison published a different statement headed ‘Quad Leaders’ Summit Communique’ which included :

‘We have joined forces to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the urgency it demands... with the intent to pursue enhanced actions during the 2020s...’

This version omits ‘working on 2030 targets’.

On 26 October, Morrison reneged on the pledges to do more in the 2020s and the 2030s targets, saying:

‘We will also not be breaking the pledge we made at the last election by changing our 2030 emission reductions targets.’

It appears that on the road to Glasgow, Morrison has not experienced a conversion or new insight about the warnings of 11,000 scientists that:

‘Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points and nature's reinforcing feedbacks (atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial) that could lead to a catastrophic “hothouse Earth,” well beyond the control of humans.’

Instead of advocating the need to accept the scientific evidence that there is a looming climate catastrophe, the wishlist says:

‘We have adopted this net zero by 2050 goal because practical global action on climate change is in Australia’s national interest and we must play our part.’

The Executive Summary of the wishlist says the plan:

  • will create the enabling environment for investment in Australia;
  • is the best economic choice for Australia; and
  • recognises that acting to reduce emissions is in our national interest. If we don’t act, decisions by customer countries will impact our traditional exports, costing jobs and exports. Failing to act increases the risk Australian businesses will face a higher cost of capital.

Nowhere does it say that we need a plan of strong and immediate action if we are to avoid catastrophic overheating.

Steve Bishop is a journalist and author. You can read more from Steve at stevebishop.net

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