When Australia backs down on climate change

Image copyright AFP Image caption Australia is struggling to keep its sloughing off of global warming on track Image caption The Melanesian Islands of Vanuatu were ravaged by flooding earlier this year

Warning that Australia’s participation at the UN climate summit in Bonn would have “deep and serious ramifications” for global leaders, a mass exodus of campaigners has caused the government to back down.

Part of that flight was down to a dramatic change in Australian attitudes to climate change.

The ABC reported the gap between the government’s rhetoric and reality had opened up due to changes in environmental legislation and windfall revenues from the country’s carbon price.

But the federal government also stands accused of contributing to the situation by siding with fossil fuel-driven companies.

This was highlighted recently when Australia refused to ratify the landmark Paris climate agreement.

That kind of inaction has raised doubts about the extent to which Australia is taking the lead on tackling climate change.

This morning, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison threw in the towel, saying the country’s participation was necessary “for the security of our people, the security of our nation”.

Image copyright AFP Image caption An Australian government delegation claims to be working to try to unlock the meeting of nations

“It’s [our participation] been about reliability of supply, it’s been about the security of our assets, our dollar value, our future, but in the end, it’s had to be a decision about our national interest.”

He said Australia had been involved in several attempts to ratify the Paris agreement but that agreements had fallen through.

The prime minister has a claim to be successful in defending Australia’s interests, but that doesn’t mean the country is ready to tighten the emissions-cutting goals that other global leaders have laid out.

For example, the UK has promised to cut its emissions by 40% by 2030.

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 are already at its lowest level in five years.

But this is because the government has pledged to halve its carbon pollution by 2030 through a direct action policy, arguing that the reductions would have to come from elsewhere.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has bowed down in the face of the movement

Some of those reductions are expected to come from carbon capture technology that would put pressure on the coal industry.

We also know Australia has committed to leading efforts on renewable energy because of its big push to install wind and solar energy, and only recently began to buy more carbon credits to fulfil its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The reduction in emissions is due to a combination of a decline in emissions from other parts of the world and the fact that Australia is a far smaller country than it was even a decade ago.

Does all of this make you think it is reasonable for Australia to say it is the sovereign nation that should decide how Australia should reduce its carbon pollution? Take our poll to find out.

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