Climate: Australia aims for carbon neutrality by 2050

It is for the moment a declaration of intention, nothing more. Australia announced Tuesday, October 26, to target net zero emissions for 2050. But, a few days before the United Nations (UN) climate conference, the world’s largest coal exporter has no intention of to strengthen its short-term goals.

“Australians want a 2050 net zero emissions plan that tackles climate change and secures their future in a changing world”, said Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, announcing the decision.

Few details have been released on how Australia plans to achieve carbon neutrality. The plan announced by Mr. Morrison certainly provides for the equivalent of 13 billion euros in investments, but it is largely based on purchases of rights to pollute and technologies considered by experts as not yet having been proven.

In addition, Mr Morrison has refused to significantly boost Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets, seen as crucial to significantly tackling climate change.

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Support for the mining and gas industry

Australia has already agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from 26% to 28% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Morrisson simply said on Tuesday that his country “Will reach[it] and will beat[it] » this objective, now predicting a reduction of 30% to 35%.

The Australian Prime Minister also reaffirmed his support for the mining and gas industry. The goal of carbon neutrality for 2050 “Will not stop our production of coal or gas, nor our exports”, he said at a press conference. “It will not cost any jobs in agriculture, mining or gas”, he assured. “We will not be lectured by others who do not understand Australia. The Australian way is how you do things, not if you are going to do them. It’s about getting there ”, he had previously written in a text made public by his office.

Widely regarded as a climate laggard, Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, on which much of its electricity generation relies, and has long resisted adopting a carbon neutral goal. The 2050 pledge comes just days before Mr Morrison leaves for the UN climate summit COP26, to be held next month in Glasgow.

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Canberra has come under increasing criticism for failing to act sooner, including from close allies the United States and Britain, as well as its Pacific island neighbors, who are highly vulnerable to the effects. of climate change. Morrison did not disclose the details of the plan or the concessions made to his partners within his governing coalition, long dominated by climate skeptics and coal industry interests, after weeks of tense internal negotiations.

Faced with repeated droughts, fires and floods in recent years, Australians are increasingly aware of the dangers of global warming. According to a poll released earlier this year by the Lowy Institute, 78% support a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and 63% would approve of a ban on new coal mines in their country.

Pressure from public opinion and the international community has “Made it less and less viable for the coalition to cling to its position of denial” global warming, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Mark Kenny, a professor at the Institute for Australian Studies in Canberra. But, according to Kenny, the commitments announced on Tuesday by Australia “Are insignificant in reality. I think that if the world takes it seriously, it will have swallowed a beautiful snake ”.

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Filing of a lawsuit against indigenous Australians

On the same day, indigenous people living on isolated islands in northern Australia filed a lawsuit to try to force the government to protect their land by further reducing its carbon emissions. In their collective legal action, these residents of the islands of Boigu and Saibai in the Torres Strait argue that rising sea levels due to global warming pose an existential threat to their land and to their culture.

They ask Australian federal court to order Canberra “Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will prevent Torres Strait Islanders from becoming climate refugees”. This is the first time that such a global warming lawsuit has been launched by indigenous Australians. About 5,000 people inhabit Australia’s 274 islands in the Torres Strait, which separates Australia from Papua New Guinea. Several of these islands, low in elevation, will become uninhabitable if the global average temperature increases by more than 1.5 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era, argue the carriers of the legal action. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that this increase could occur by 2030.

The World with AFP

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Climate: Australia aims for carbon neutrality by 2050