Scott Morrison's irresponsible climate cantering soundbites

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It doesn't matter how much the PM tries to hide our emissions data, we are not going to get to “argue the toss” after failing to “canter it in”, writes Simon Black.

IT IS A SAD FACT that, right now, Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears to be more interested in protecting a soundbite than the county’s future.

That soundbite is a familiar one. Everyone has heard it: We will meet our obligations under the Paris agreement.

This line has been repeated by successive PMs and politicians and was recently modified by Morrison to the variant that we would meet them “in a canter”.

It is completely untrue.

For us to meet our Paris obligations the Department of Environment and Energy clearly outlines that we must reduce our emissions by at least 26% when compared to 2005 levels.

The very same department released Australia’s emissions projections in the week leading up to Christmas last year which showed our

'... emissions in 2030 are projected to be … 5% below 2005 levels.'

Again, the Government’s own figures – sneakily released in the holidays when very few people were paying attention – show we will be nowhere near where we need to be to meet Paris.

Not in a canter. Not a stagger. Not even crawling barely over the line.

Nowhere near it.

The most recent figures, which again were released late on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend and twin NRL and AFL grand finals, found that Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution levels continue to rise — by 1.3% in the year to March 2018.

So despite the data from his own Environment Department and proof that emissions are rising that is so embarrassing the Government held onto it for months, Morrison continues to insist we will meet our Paris commitment.

Journalists have asked him how he can justify that absurd optimism and he has either failed to reply or pointed to previous declines that a cursory glance at the charts can see occurred during the “carbon tax” period.

Again, this ignores figures from the Department of Environment and Energy, and also the fact that his Government has absolutely no legislated instrument to help it get there.

Measures put forward are either staggeringly insufficient or, like the recently touted plan to grow a billion trees, are more suited to an Austin Powers movie than serious policy on one of the greatest threats facing multiple generations in this country.

Pressured on Sunday (30 September), Morrison talked up investment in renewable energy technologies as helping to decrease our emissions, despite experts expressing concerns the lack of legislated instruments will slow investment in the sector. He claimed this, despite having danced around Parliament waving a lump of coal and being responsible for appointing an anti-wind farm activist as Minister for Energy — the second highest source of renewable energy in the country behind hydro.

The point is this Government has repeatedly sought to hide or downplay emissions data, which shows we will miss our Paris obligations, so they can preserve a soundbite.

Last Friday’s (26 September) release is characteristic for the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory — it is often released late and before major events or holidays that distract the public’s attention.

To use the PM’s own language, withholding data that shows the opposite of what you’re claiming is not “fair dinkum”. It fails the “pub test”. It smells. And it is simply a tactic to put off the debate and preserve the use of a soundbite because political parties are finally starting to realise climate change is a mainstream and pivotal electoral issue.

This delaying tactic is also evident in answers the PM has offered when pressed on the subject, such as,

“... we’ll meet up in 2030 and we can argue the toss then.”

Which is all well and good from a man who is incredibly unlikely to be the PM when the time comes to stand up and face the music.

And that’s the problem — the costs are so damn high. They are so well known that I am tired of writing them. Climate change threatens our food supply, it’s hell for firefighters, farmers, surf lifesavers, tourism and public health. The list is both extensive and incomplete and you can add another concern to it as well — it’s going to cost us economically.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron used his UN talk to promise that his country would no longer sign trade deals with countries that do not “respect” the climate accords.

In giving his speech, he urged other countries to do the same.

While it is true Australia is in the Paris Agreement, our respect of it, indeed if we are taking it more seriously than a simple talking point, is up for debate. We are certainly not on track to meet our obligations. And if Macron’s speech is anything to go by, other nations will not tolerate that.

We are not going to get to “argue the toss” after failing to “canter it in”. It doesn’t matter what folksy language we use and how much we try to delay or hide our emissions data. We will be punished for the failures of those who are supposed to represent us.

We cannot allow our politicians to supply soundbites instead of action on climate any longer.

Simon Black is the senior media campaigner for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. You can follow Simon on Twitter @mrsimblaa.

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