100 Days of Action FACT SHEET #6

COP26: The Issues and the Latest Pledges

In November most of the world’s leaders will assemble in Glasgow to thrash out a new agreement on climate change. It is plain to see how difficult it is for individual countries to decide on the way forward, let alone the entire world. Let’s have a look at some of the challenges facing the negotiators in Glasgow and then consider how the world, not just Australia,  is responding.

“We only contribute a tiny proportion of world emissions; we won’t be sticking our necks out on this”

The problem with this argument is that it applies to most nations. Only 6 countries contribute more than 2% of global emissions. They account for 59% of total emissions between them. They are China (29%), the US (14%), India (7%), Russia (4%), Japan (3%) and Germany (2%). 203 countries emit 2% or less. Their combined total is 41%. The whole world must reach net zero, not just parts of it. Australia is ranked 14th at 1.16% of total emissions and 11th highest for emissions per head of population. We are  a major emitter whether we like to admit it or not [1].

“Ours is a developing economy; we won’t be deprived of the material well-being that advanced economies have enjoyed for so long”

The advanced economies are responsible for the vast majority of the greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the atmosphere since 1751 [2]. China and India have only contributed 16% of historical emissions. Australia has contributed 1.1%.  

“We will not give up our sovereignty to foreign bureaucrats”

This might be a popular sentiment in domestic politics, but it completely ignores the fact that climate change is a shared problem, and the solution must also be shared. The climate doesn’t care about your sovereignty. Neither do the countries that are leading the way on climate change. Their response to the laggards is likely to be a tariff on carbon intensive imports.   

“We can’t afford the capital investment required to decarbonise our economy”

GDP per capita is $64,000 in the US, $10,000 in China and $2,000 in India. In Australia it is $52,000. One of the key reforms at the COP meetings is green funding for poorer nations, but not without controversy. The $100 billion annually promised by wealthy countries through to 2025 has virtually  ground to a halt, putting the progress of low income countries at risk.

The latest pledges

So, how is the world responding to these challenges and the irrefutable evidence of the urgency of climate change? Here is a summary of the most recent pledges made by some of the key players [The Herald Sun 11 October 2021]. Included in the economies heading in the right direction are the US, EU, UK and Canada. They have all pledged to reach net zero by 2050 and have comparatively strong targets for 2030.

Australia, Russia and India are the only ones without a net zero pledge. India is waiting to see how the aid package for green funding unfolds. Australia, China, Russia and Japan have the lowest targets for 2030.

Meantime, the chorus of voices in Australia calling for net zero grows by the day. The most recent and notable addition is the Business Council of Australia, which now seeks a 46% to 50% reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050. In 2019 it described Labor’s target of 45% by 2030 as “economy wrecking”. Now it sees an economic benefit.

There is plenty of progress, but the Federal Government still needs our encouragement.That’s why we must continue to make our voices heard.