Margaret Blakers, Green Institute
It’s not even summer and huge bushfires have broken out along Australia’s east coast, especially in the blue mountains near Sydney where hundreds of houses have burnt down. The Greens are pointing out that climate change means we can expect larger, more frequent and more terrifying wildfires. The new conservative government doesn’t want to talk about the connection; instead it’s winding back climate action.
On November 12 they will introduce legislation to repeal Australia’s globally acclaimed package of climate and clean energy policies introduced by the previous Greens-supported government. Their proposed replacement is a so-called ‘direct action’ scheme that pays polluters to reduce emissions and is unlikely to meet even the minimal 2020 target Australia has committed to. Whether the government succeeds in repealing the climate laws will depend on a drawn-out political battle in the Senate where the Greens and other parties have a majority.
Meanwhile in central Queensland’s Galilee Basin region, between six and 10 massive new coal mines are waiting approval, every one bigger than any coal mine currently operating in Australia. The implications for climate change and for the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef are globally important. Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and governments of both persuasions put the economic interests of the coal miners a long way ahead of the environment.
In December 2013 Australia becomes President of the G20, self-described as the world’s premier economic forum. Next year’s G20 Leaders meeting in Brisbane Australia in November 2014 falls in the middle of the critical negotiating period to reach a global agreement on climate action by the end of 2015. With coal exports rising and domestic action lagging, Australia cannot offer credible leadership.
UNFCCC Secretary Christina Figueres comments on the Australian fires