This week we took another spin on the deranged carousel that is Australian climate change policy as the government announced it will fund a gas-fired power station at the very moment an international report detailed the need to do the exact opposite.
I wish this was a new development, but it just felt like a repeat of late 2018, when less than a year before the federal election, the IPCC released a report stating that if nations acted together we could limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
We had to get to net zero emissions by 2050 and achieve a global 45% cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 if we started straight away.
Australia, led then as now by those who profess not to be climate change deniers but who are able to pull off the most astonishing imitation, set about undermining attempts to limit emissions.
In the 2019 election Scott Morrison declared that Labor was going to end the weekend because it had a policy of achieving a target of 50% of new car sales being electric by 2030.
It didn’t matter that the Coalition’s own policy at the time had a similar (if undefined) target. Reality is not something that ever gets in the way of an electoral con.
The ALP was also relentlessly asked to cost its target of a 45% cut in emissions by 2030 while the Coalition was able to skate by saying theirs would be cheaper (because theirs only involved a 26% cut).
Now, alas, nothing has improved – that target still remains; but the ALP’s is gone, yet to be replaced.
Thus it felt very familiar when this week, again within a year of the next election, a major international climate change report was released announcing a path to net zero emissions by 2050.
It noted, for example, that by 2030 60% of new car sales should be electric, with no internal combustion cars being sold after 2035.
I suppose the weekend will just be abolished at that point …
The roadmap also calls for an end to new oil and gas fields or coalmines and that “unabated natural gas‐fired generation peaks by 2030 and is 90% lower by 2040.”
So it was oddly in keeping with the climate change policy farce that is the Coalition that it chose the same day the report was released to announce it was going to spend $600m on a gas fired power-plant in the Hunter region.
When the science and economics of climate change demand transition to renewables, of course this government would invest in an asset no private investors would touch with a 10-foot carbon rod.
The report suggests by 2030 we need to cut emissions to 38% below 2020 levels. By contrast, it argues if nations barely co-operate we will likely achieve a mere 13% cut over the next decade and will only reach net zero emissions by 2087.
By that time the world will almost definitely be 2C warmer than pre-industrial levels and there would be a 50% chance of reaching 2.7C by 2100.
Australia, of course, is doing worse than that. Currently we are on track to emit only 7% less in 2030 than we did last year.
We are not the world’s leader but its anchor.
There is little hope that the next election will have any focus on climate change other than to sow fear, and yet it should be the number one issue.
The report notes that the move to net zero emissions will “affect multiple aspects of people’s lives – from transport, heating and cooking to urban planning and jobs”.
The choice is whether we act in a manner that will manage that change with the least social and economic damage to people’s lives, or as is currently the case under the Morrison government, we put off paying the cost until it is much greater.
And worse, it will be at a time when action will be forced on us by other nations and by the climate itself.