Your Government is Gas Lighting You On Climate Change

Mogo township fire

It’s been over a year now since last summers horrific bushfires. Many parts of our country are still blackened and burnt from the unprecedented blazes that tore through rural communities, decimating livestock and livelihoods. Not to mention the three billion animals killed or displaced by the fires.

And yet, despite the fact that climate change was confirmed by scientists to have made the conditions at least 30% worse for fires, despite the fact that firefighters working in the business for decades said they had never seen anything like it, despite the fact the world is now on course for 3C of catastrophic warming, and despite the fact that our Pacific Island neighbors continue to plead with us to change our tune, Australia still remains stubbornly determined to do absolutely nothing on climate change.

The resolute determination of the Government to not only ignore its climate responsibilities but also to mislead the public over the realities of the situation have made Australia an outlier on the world’s stage. With the election of Joe Biden to the Presidency of the United States, Australia is now awkwardly out of touch and out of line amongst our allies and friends.

Last month, Scott Morrison was barred from a speaking role at the latest UN climate summit hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson due to our climate targets lacking in ambition. Fiji also hit out at us for allowing the island nation to continue being swallowed up by rising sea levels. Unless the Government enacts radical changes soon, this kind of international embarrassment will only get worse.


At the forefront of the Government’s gas lighting of its own population is this oft repeated claim that Australia is “meeting and beating” its climate targets. This a message you may have heard spouted by Morrison or Minister for Energy & Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor.

The drum beat of falsehood here is sounded on the basis of some pretty dodgy calculations. For example, this piece in which Taylor claims Australia has “beaten” its 2020 climate target by “459 million tonnes” incorporates emissions from the “overachieving” years of 2008-2012. You know, years when the coalition wasn’t in power. These were also years in which Labor’s carbon pricing scheme was still in play, bringing emissions down, a policy scrapped by the coalition in 2014.

In fairness to the Government, they have since scrapped the reliance on the 2008-2012 years, but only after years of condemnation. The Government told the United Nations on New Years Eve that “Australia is aiming to overachieve on this target, and newly-released emissions projections show Australia is on track to meet and beat its 2030 target without relying on past overachievement.”

Over Christmas, the Government quietly updated its Paris Agreement goals in line with the requested updated from the UN. Every five years, each nation that signed the agreement is expected to increase its targets and produce a roadmap for how it’s going to get there.

The European Union which raised its own goal from a 40 per cent emissions reduction based on 1990 levels, to 55 per cent. The UK also increased its target from 57 per cent to 68 per cent below 1990 levels. And Australia? We’ve stated that we aim to reduce our emissions by 26 per cent, the exact same targets we had five years ago.

In 2015, the Government’s own climate change advisory body recommended an emissions reduction target of 45-65 per cent below 2005 levels. To give us this same watered down objective has been described by the head of research at the Climate Council of Australia as a “disgrace“.

The Guardian questioned the “new” targets set by the Government and a spokesperson for Taylor said in a statement: “On a per capita or emissions intensity basis, Australia’s 2030 target is more ambitious than those adopted by France, Norway, Canada, Japan or South Korea.”

It’s this “per capita” reliance that has so often engaged climate activists. While there are many ways to present facts and figures, doing so in the way the government does ignores the fact that Australia as a nation is the worlds largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas. Add those figures in, and we are far and away some of the highest polluters in the world, on par with Russia.

Divvy that up on a per capita basis and we become the highest carbon emitters on the planet, four times more than America, nine times more than China, and 37 times more than India.


What is often counterbalanced in political rhetoric with the need for decisive climate action is the need to maintain a strong economy. No one is arguing with that, especially given how lightly we have come out of the pandemic when compared to the rest of the world.

Labour’s previous election pledge to reduce carbon emissions to 45 per cent by 2030 was described by Taylor as “reckless” and “a wrecking ball through the economy”.

However, that has already been shown to not only be achiveable, but expected, and without harm to the economy.

The federal government’s own projections show the electricity market exceeding the 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030 as investment in renewable technologies and expansion of energy facilities increases.

Indeed, the transition to renewable energy is not only achievable, and in many ways inevitable, it actually has enourmous economic potential. A recent report by Ernst & Young suggests that investing in renewables produces almost three times as many jobs as investment in fossil fuels.

The report goes on to state that a government focus on renewable energy and climate-friendly projects to drive the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic could create more than 100,000 direct jobs across the country at the same time as cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

This counters the narrative that Scott Morrison has been determined to spin for some time now about natural gas having “chosen itself” as the markets preferred shift to cleaner energy sources. Not only have many investors moved away from fossil fuels, refusing to underwrite insurance policies for big fossil fuel projects, investment in renewables is booming. This has become such a problem for the Government, who receive a lot of support from mining executives, that they are launching a probe into why banks wont fund new fossil fuel projects.

While the tide of public opinion and market forces, not to mention international political pressures, keeps rising against the stubborn Aussie Government, it seems clear that real change has to be coming down the line. Indeed, the government have already announced a plan for long-term carbon emission strategies before the next big climate summit in November of this year. We will have to see what effect the mounting pressure will have and keep our fingers crossed for some new, ambitious targets.

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