The Biden administration’s ‘Leaders’ Summit on Climate’ took place on 22-23 April 2021, with the virtual summit underscoring the urgency of stronger climate action.
Reportedly, the summit was a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be held this November in Glasgow.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was one of 40 world leaders invited to speak at the summit; however, reports indicate that rather than take this opportunity to join the world in declaring war on climate change, the summit largely exposed Australia’s weak climate record and, according to the Climate Council, it “serves to further isolate us internationally”.
While, reportedly, countries like the US announced they would “cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030”, Australia remains committed to its original targets set in 2015 – a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030.
According to the Climate Council’s acting CEO, Dr Martin Rice, while other “strategic allies and trading partners are strengthening their climate commitments for this decade, or intend to do so, the Australian government is standing still and alone by sticking with its weak and stale 2030 target”.
“The US government has ushered in a new era of international cooperation on climate change,” says Dr Rice.
“All commitments must be scaled up, and the pace of action must accelerate if we are to avoid the worst climate consequences.
“For Australia, this means reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2035.”
Surely, with the recent devastating bushfires and floods, and even the ongoing battle with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Morrison government can see that climate change is real, it’s here, and that more action is required if humanity is to survive in the long term.
“Bold and transformative action this decade is not only fundamental to protecting us all,” continues Dr Rice, “but would also secure Australia’s long-term economic prosperity.”
“We are the land of sun and wind – and there are significant opportunities from us capitalising on the clean energy revolution,” says Dr Rice.
The lack of commitment by the Prime Minister at the summit is even more astounding, given that according to Climate Council spokesperson, Professor Lesley Hughes, “Australis is in the top 20 climate polluting countries in the world”.
“We are also the world’s largest exporter of liquefied gas and second largest exporter of coal, two of the fossil fuels driving climate change,” says Professor Hughes.
“For too long Australia has been focused on protecting the interests of the fossil fuel industry rather than protecting our citizens from the ravages of climate change.
“The international community is judging us, and won’t tolerate further inaction.”
“Big words and little action”
Responding to the climate summit and to mark Earth Day (22 April 2021), in an exclusive letter for Vogue, 18-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg looks beyond the climate targets and explains “we must do more to tackle the climate crisis”.
“Of course, we welcome all efforts to safeguard future and present living conditions,” says Ms Thunberg, “and these targets could be a great start if it wasn’t for the tiny fact that they are full of gaps and loopholes.”
Ms Thunberg explains that the said “gaps and loopholes” include the omission of “emissions from imported goods, international aviation and shipping, as well as the burning of biomass”.
“If you call these pledges and commitments ‘bold’ or ‘ambitious’, then you clearly haven’t fully understood the emergency we are in,” continues Ms Thunberg.
Speaking to the role of politics, Ms Thunberg says that the role of politicians “is to fulfill the wishes of voters, and if voters are not demanding real climate action, then of course no real changes will happen”.
So, perhaps Australia, it’s time for us to speak up with our votes if we’re serious about reducing the impacts of climate change that we’ve had to endure so far. Just a thought.
While some will say that the targets are “better than nothing”, Ms Thunberg argues that there is no time for being “satisfied with something just because it’s better than nothing”.
“We have to go further than that. We must believe that we can do this, because we can,” urges Ms Thunberg.
“When humans come together and decide to fulfill something, we can achieve almost anything.”
To read Ms Thunberg’s full letter, visit: vogue.com/article/greta-thunberg-letter-climate-change-earth-day