Australia stands out as a striking exception in an environment where the world is trying to lower pollution.
This country has a high level of global fossil fuel supplies and is among the worst. It still uses coal to generate most of its electricity, which is unusual for such a wealthy nation.
Australia’s 2030 emissions goal – which represents a 26% decrease on 2005 levels — is half of the US and UK targets.
Canberra is also refusing to be part of the two thirds of other countries which have committed to net zero emissions by 2020.
It’s not going to phase out coal, which is the worst fossil fuel. Instead it will continue digging.
According to analysts, Australia is seen as a “bad man” at the COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow.
Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Canada is feeling immense pressure to achieve more.
Australia’s economy has been driven by mining over the past decades. Today, coal is Australia’s second-largest export.
Australia sells less coal worldwide than Indonesia.
Many analysts disagree with this assertion.
Coal exports totalled A$55bn (£29bn; $40bn) last year, but most of this wealth was kept by mining companies. Only 1% went directly to Australia, which is less than one tenth of total national revenue.
About half of Australia’s McDonald’s workforce is coal-related. But coal jobs do sustain some rural communities.
Canberra’s mining industry has been a major influence.
While most voters support tougher climate action and want to see more, certain coal towns are located in swing areas that can help you win elections.
Professor Samantha Hepburn at Deakin University says that the mining lobby “distorted” many policies over time.
After winning control of the country in an election heavily supported by mining interests, Australia’s current government demolished Australia’s emissions trading system in 2014.
The government has never tried again to set a carbon price or limit the emissions of fossil fuel-producers.
It’s been an additional source of support for coal. It includes:
- Approval of new mines or extensionsOver 80 proposals have been submitted, which includes plant upgrades
- Tax subsidies: Only last year, about A$10bn was spent on fossil fuel companies
- Clear coal investmentsSchemes like carbon capture and stored, are often criticized as being ineffective.
Australia believes coal will be a major source of national wealth in the future.
This speaks volumes about the demand for Asia’s industrializing economies.
China and India account for 64% each of the global coal consumption. The demand for coal in Indonesia has increased as well.
Analysts say that there is no market for long-term solutions as nations race to achieve their emissions targets.
Australia’s top coal buyers are South Korea, China and Japan. They have each pledged net zero goals by the middle of this century.
North America and Europe have seen a drop in coal consumption. China and the G7 richest nations, along with many banks, committed to stop funding overseas coal projects.
“Australia knows that it’s over. The police have not yet been summoned. They’ll keep partying on until they are stopped,” Richie Merzian of the Australia Institute, climate expert.
Experts say Australia may be able to end its toxic relationship with coal very quickly.
It has a stable economy that can absorb losses from coal exports.
Australia, however, sees liquified gas as its next source of domestic energy.
In defiance of global demands for an end the new fossil fuel projects, the government already has pledged to invest half a million dollars in new gas basins.
People who think Australia should become a global renewables power have been frustrated by this.
Australia, one of the most sunniest and windiest continents, is uniquely placed to reap the economic benefits from the abundance of its natural resources. This according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental organization.
They are well-positioned for new markets, such as the green steel market and aluminum market.
Supporters suggest that coal miners could mine rare minerals for magnets and batteries to power the renewable energy grids.
Although Canberra has invested money in renewables some of it has also come from the state and business governments.
Critics say that the country’s loyalty to fossil fuels has hindered progress.
Recent years have seen a reduction in government spending on renewables, while there are no targets for national clean energy.
Also, it pulled out of the UN Green Climate Fund and attempted to alter one local fund’s mandate to ensure taxpayer money went to projects involving coal.
According to the Climate Council (a group made up of scientists), “The rest is moving past coal”.
“Australia has the option of choosing to either reap the benefits or remain poorer and less secure.”
The November COP26 climate summit, held in Glasgow, is crucial if we are to stop climate change. Nearly 200 countries will be asked about their plans for reducing emissions. This could have major implications on our lives every day.
- The importance and significance of the COP26 Climate Summit
- Climate change: A guideline for the everyday
- Climate change and extreme weather
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