After years in the wilderness – much of it running interference for large, rich nations – Australia is finally “back on the field” at the latest UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt, the Climate Council has said in a written statement.
But while Australia improved its standing, the outcomes at COP27 could at best be described as mixed.
Extensive negotiations saw some progress on addressing loss and damage for smaller nations, particularly those in the Pacific who have felt the strongest affects of change change. But the Climate Council says at the same time, there was “woefully inadequate shared outcomes around phasing out fossil fuels and tackling the causes of the climate crisis”.
Positives to come out of COP27
- The establishment of a new global fund to address loss and damage for climate vulnerable countries, with details to be worked out and put to COP28 for agreement in late-2023.
- Agreement to continue striving to limit global warming to 1.5°C, recognising that the severity of impacts will be reduced with every increment of warming avoided.
- Calls for transformation of the financial system, its structures and processes, to direct more funding to tackling the climate crisis.
Where COP27 fell down
- No progress on fossil fuel phase out, which is needed to avoid catastrophic warming.
- Backsliding on adaptation finance.
- Watered down language on human rights.
The ups and down of climate talks
Nicki Hutley, a Climate Councillor and leading Australian economist who’s in Egypt at COP27, said COP27 initially showed promising progress early on, but it turned to “desperation to save the hard-won agreements of COP26”.
“We needed a giant leap forward, but we barely managed a baby step,” Ms Hutley said. “The world’s most vulnerable nations fought long and hard for an outcome that would finally see the establishment of a fund to address loss and damage from climate change, and its inclusion in the final decision is certainly a vital step.
“However, the fact that there is relief that the 1.5°C goal has been kept, rather than seeing much stronger commitments from big emitters on emissions reductions during the past two weeks, tells the real sad tale of COP27.
“Unless we immediately accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, then no amount of funding will be able to address the loss and damage that will result.”
Australia back on track
Dr Simon Bradshaw, the Research Director for the Climate Council said Australia was showing strong leadership on climate change once again, and at a crucial time.
“In bidding to host COP31 in four years’ time, Australia is putting its hand up to lead during a make-or-break period in the world’s response to climate change,” Mr Bardshaw, who’s attended seven COPs, including COP27, said.
“Australia can play a major positive role in helping drive global climate action, at a time when leadership and cooperation has never been needed more.
“It’s time to listen to those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, including First Nations, Pacific Island countries, and survivors of extreme weather disasters, and for Australia to rise to this immense challenge and responsibility.
“In Egypt, Australia helped defend key elements of the Paris Agreement – including that we must constantly strive to limit warming to 1.5°C – and helped ensure loss and damage finance was on the agenda.
“[But] we have some real work to do to match our words with action, and must make far deeper emissions cuts this decade if we are to help avoid catastrophic warming.”
Where to from here
The Climate Council has outlined the steps Australia must take over the next four years, before COP 31.
- Align our policies and actions with the Paris Agreement. We will need to implement strong policies to regulate pollution – from our biggest industrial polluters to vehicles.
- Immediately stop subsidising and approving fossil fuels and accelerate Australia’s move beyond coal and gas to 100 percent renewables.
- Provide more assistance to developing countries with transforming energy systems, coping with increasing climate disasters, and addressing loss and damage from climate change.
Ms Hutley said the Australian Government needed a “clear and ambitious vision for COP31 and work diligently and with every diplomatic tool at its disposal”. She added that fossil fuel companies “must be kicked out of COP”.
“Australia has so much to lose from climate change. The fires and floods we’ve experienced over the last three years are just the start of what’s to come. But we also have so much more to gain from the transition to renewable energy – many billions of dollars in the clean industrial revolution are there for the taking,” she said.
The Climate Council is an independent not-for-profit organisation founded in Australia in 2013, in response to the Abbott Government’s opposition to climate action. You can follow them on social media here on Facebook and here on Twitter.
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