Australia wants to be climate neutral by 2050 and not emit more greenhouse gases than is removed from the air. This was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the run-up to the climate summit in Glasgow starting Sunday.
Australia is one of the biggest polluters in the world and has been criticized for its meagre ambitions. However, the government also does not want to affect the extraction of fossil fuels in Australia with the new plan.
Australia was unwilling to hear about ambitious promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically for a long time. But in the run-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow (from October 31 to November 12), the pressure from other countries became great. More than 100 countries pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
So now comes Australia, one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a significant exporter of fossil fuels, such as coal and gas. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has always championed the interests of his country’s coal industry and has struggled to find support for climate neutrality in his government. Its coalition partner, the National Party, has its power base in rural areas where there is also a lot of mining.
Nevertheless, the coal and gas industry will also be spared in this climate plan, says Prime Minister Morrison. He mainly wants to invest in green technologies and not raise new taxes: “The plan will not shut down our coal or gas production or exports. It will not impose new taxes on households, companies or the wider economy. It will not cost jobs in the agriculture, mining, or gas sectors because we want to do with this plan are positive things, making things possible.”
Prime Minister Morrison wants to invest around 13 billion euros in green technologies over the next 20 years: for example, removing CO2 from the air or lowering solar energy prices. But Australia will also use more gas, at least in the short term.
Australia can hardly deny the consequences of climate change. The country has been hit by devastating forest fires, floods and droughts in recent years. “Australians want action on climate change,” Prime Minister Morrison said, “but they also want to protect their jobs and incomes. I also want to protect the Australian way of life, especially in rural and regional areas. The Australian way of life is unique.”
The plan to be carbon neutral by 2050 is welcomed. But the details of the plan – or lack thereof – have been criticized a lot. According to the Australian NGO Climate Council, the plan is “a joke without major emissions reductions this century”. According to executive director Amanda McKenzie, Australia “is in dire need of a dramatic increase in renewable energy, a phase-out of coal and gas and an electrification of our transport systems.”
By 2030, Australia will not come up with official, more ambitious targets, as many other countries have already done in the run-up to the climate summit in Glasgow.