Climate facts: Debunking Scott Morrison’s COP26 speech

Nov 7, 2021
Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson at COP26.
Australia risks facing sanctions if it doesn't do better on climate change. (Image: Flickr/Number 10)

Some of Scott Morrison’s claims in his COP26 speech were dubious, so the experts at the Climate Council have done his homework for him.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has addressed world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow with a speech that was light on commitments and credibility, but heavy on spin.

Morrison claimed that his government was acting on climate change “the Australian way”. However, based on the federal government’s track record, its “way” of responding to the climate threat is very unAustralian and includes:

  • Blocking global collaboration on climate action;
  • Promoting the extension and expansion of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas;
  • And refusing to step up and set ambitious climate goals; and

Even with a new net zero by 2050 target, Australia remains dead last on climate. Our actions so far at COP26 have only cemented our global reputation as a climate action blocker.

Here, we’ve unpacked a few of the dubious claims made by the PM in his COP26 address.

The PM claimed…

That Australia’s emissions have dropped by 20 per cent since 2005

The facts…

Three quarters of Australia’s emission reductions since 2005 have come from changes in land management (in other words, not cutting down as many trees). When it comes to reducing emissions from electricity and moving beyond fossil fuels, Australia has made almost no progress. In fact, apart from small declines during the operation of the carbon price, and throughout the pandemic, our total emissions excluding land use have steadily increased since 1990.

The PM claimed…

That Australia’s emissions reduction targets are fit for the world stage

The facts…

Our 2030 emissions reduction target is woeful, weak and well below what the science says is necessary. Other developed countries, and most major economies, have committed to roughly halving their emissions by 2030, while Australia is only committed to reducing emissions by 26–28 per cent below 2005 levels.

There’s no prize for beating the most pathetic targets in the developed world (except runner up for Fossil of the Day…), and as we experience increasingly catastrophic climate-fuelled weather events here on home soil, it’s Australians who ultimately lose.

The PM claimed…

That Australia is doubling its international climate finance between 2020-2025

The facts…

Australia is not fulfilling its full responsibility to help developing countries deal with the impacts of climate change. Plus, providing climate finance to developing nations is no substitute for strong, bold actions to cut emissions this decade.

On an annual basis, Australia’s commitment (of $2 billion between 2020-2025) represents only around 0.3 per cent of the international goal of mobilising $US100bn/year. Independent assessments have placed Australia’s fair share of this goal at around 2.4 per cent — or $2.4 billion every year, instead of over five years. Even with this announcement of increased international climate financing, Australia is well behind where it needs to be.

The PM claimed…

That Australia should be focused on driving down emissions from the developing world

The facts…

Australia’s first responsibility as a developed country is to reduce its own emissions. Moreover, many developing countries are taking more ambitious steps than Australia, even though they bear less historical responsibility for climate change and have far lower emissions per capita.

The PM claimed…

That offsetting will play a role in Australia’s emissions reduction

The facts…

As shown in the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero pathway, meeting the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 means that no new coal, no new oil and no new gas projects of any kind can be built — anywhere! 

Meanwhile, the federal government is still giving the greenlight to fossil fuel projects across the country. Our government cannot keep pulling the wool over Australians’ eyes claiming that offsetting these emissions — either in Australia or overseas — is the solution. The reality is that throwing taxpayers’ money at offsetting schemes will not solve the problem of continued coal, oil and gas consumption.

The PM claimed…

That “technology will have the answers to a decarbonised economy, particularly over time”

The facts…

We already have all the technology needed to replace the vast majority of coal, oil and gas consumption worldwide. What we need now is an effective climate policy to enable existing technologies to drive down emissions this decade. 

With the right mix of renewable energy backed by storage, Australia could have reliable, clean, abundant and affordable energy. But the government seems intent on pouring money into unproven technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) instead of accelerating the transition to renewable energy. CCS is a pipe dream technology that still does not work at scale despite decades of investment, is eye wateringly expensive and is often used as a licence to prolong the use of fossil fuels.

As has been shown in horrifying detail through droughts, fires, coral bleaching and heat waves over the course of recent years, Australia is an unsafe place to be while the world continues to burn coal, oil and gas.

The PM claimed…

“Our researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and most importantly our people are ready. The Australian way is to bet on them — and we think that’s a good bet”

The facts…

The Australian way is not to gamble, cross our fingers and do nothing. We need an effective climate policy to support research, science and investment and accelerate the transition to a decarbonised economy. As our CEO, Amanda McKenzie says, the prime minister has totally missed the mark on what we consider to be the “Australian Way”.

This article was first published by the Climate Council and is reproduced with permission.

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