OPINION: Scott Morrison Will Only Commit Australia to Net Zero If He’s Backed Into a Corner

Net Zero Australia

Our dear leader has famously been reticent to commit Australia to any climate change targets. Much like the vaccines, targets seem to be getting in the way of progress and it appears a far better strategy, apparently, to just go with the flow and hope it all works out in the end.

In fact, Australia is still working off of climate targets set over five years ago while other major economies have been radically upping their emissions targets. Australia’s ambition is for just a 26% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels while the UK is striving for up to 68% of 1990 levels and the EU is aiming for 40%.

While the Morrison government loves to claim that we are “meeting and beating” our emissions targets, the truth is that this is all based on dodgy calculations that do not take our exports into account. Doing so would make us one of the top carbon emitters on the planet.

Simultaneously, the government is forging ahead with a $600 million investment in a brand new gas-fired power station in NSW and 21 new exploratory drilling sites for off-shore gas, one of which is just 5kms from the iconic 12 Apostles in Victoria.

It’s beyond stupid to be considering new investments in fossil fuels when renewables are already cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable than the old tech. Only ideological commitment to squeezing every last cent from our natural resources is keeping us on this path.

The market itself has already rejected fossil fuels, with a recent report from the Queensland Conservation Council stating that some coal power stations will never again be profitable adding further condemnation.

So, what could possibly sway Scotty from this course of needless planetary destruction? Perhaps it’s the tried and true method of school-yard peer pressure that we need.

The G7 Summit

World leaders have been meeting in Cornwall, England, for an international gathering of policy setting and discussion.

The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States plus representatives from the EU, India, South Korea, and Australia this time around.

The meeting, held between June 11 to June 13, saw climate change as a top priority. The official communique from the conference described it as “an existential threat to people, prosperity, security, and nature.”

“Through global action and concerted leadership, 2021 should be a turning point for our planet as we commit to a green transition that cuts emissions, increases adaptation action worldwide, halts and reverses biodiversity loss, and, through policy and technological transformation, creates new high quality jobs and increases prosperity and wellbeing,” continued the declaration.

At a post-conference briefing, Morrison was at pains to point out that Australia was not a signatory to the communique.

Responding to the communique, Morrison said “The wording that was used in that statement about unabated, I think talks of a level of scale and Australia has no plans or is not pursuing anything that could be described in that way”.

Effectively, we’re not going to be swayed by international pressure. Or so he says.

The man is not for turning

The British commentator and radio host James O’Brien made the assessment of Boris Johnson’s approach to governance as one of delay before choosing the only option available to him.

Similar analysis can be applied to Morrison. The man lacks decisive leadership qualities and appears only to act when all other options are closed off to him. Think the Tamil family, who it seems will inevitably be released back to their hometown of Biloela after their horrendous ordeal.

Morrison needs to be backed into a corner before taking the only path available to him and subsequently claiming it as a proactive move later on. Perhaps this strategy could work in the world’s favour when it comes to climate change.

Morrison went into the G7 meeting preparing to be an outlier on the world’s stage when it comes to climate change, determined to ‘stare down’ the G7 and warning them not to add climate tariffs to trade negotiations.

While his dogged determination to do very little has been characteristic of Morrison’s approach to global pressure, there is suggestion that the diplomatic nudging could be working.

Morrison was unable to get a one-on-one meeting with Biden, who insisted that Boris Johnson was also present in the room when they met. This could be because Biden has not forgotten Morrison’s embarrassingly cosy relationship with his predecessor, or it could be that the leader of the free world doesn’t want to waste his time on heel-draggers.

Morrison was already blocked from speaking at the previous UN climate summit for lacking ambition, something Morrison was reportedly furious at Boris Johnson, who hosted the conference.

However, in last night’s joint press conference, Johnson and Morrison appeared to demonstrate that no love had been lost between the pair as they announced one of the most expansive free trade agreements our country has ever signed.

Johnson, in addressing questions over climate change, made the error of committing Australia to net zero emissions by 2050, something Morrison has gone to great lengths to avoid doing whenever asked. (“We’re on the road to net zero emissions…” etc etc.)

The misspeak was swiftly corrected, though Johnson pressed the point that he would be expecting much more from Australia at the upcoming Cop26 conference in Glasgow in November.

As Johnson has made climate something of a flagship policy during his term as PM, he’s hopeful he’ll be able to get world leaders to commit to serious emissions reductions targets at his big, upcoming conference.

Could the recent free trade agreement and buddy-buddy nudging of Morrison into line and out of the cold signal big shifts on the horizon?

It’s hard to imagine Morrison embracing the “inner-city” elites he loves to dunk on whenever possible, but when you can dress it up as a renewable industrial revolution replete with jobs and high wages, as Johnson did, it might appear more appealing to the arch ditherer.

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