Leading article Australia

Scott, don’t go to Poland

13 October 2018

9:00 AM

13 October 2018

9:00 AM

This week’s IPCC report, with yet another deadline for action to avert climate ‘catastrophe’, deserves push-back from Australia. Instead of paying the usual lip service to this drivel, Prime Minister Scott Morrison should cancel Australia’s involvement in the climate conference to be held in the Polish city of Katowice in early December.

As typically tens of thousands of government representatives and activists jet in from around the world to attend these talkfests any cut in the number of delegates would reduce aircraft emissions and environmental strain on the conference facilities. In addition, a principled decision by Australia to stay away may help shock those who do turn up into the realisation that the old climate game of grim warnings followed by claims that green energy is the answer, is growing cold.

For if the IPCC report, Global Warming of 1.5° C, has any basis in reality, and the commission has been warning of looming global catastrophe for nearly 30 years with little seeming to happen, this supposed crisis will occur no matter what Australia may do.

As was noted in our September 29 issue, No Real Pain in Paris, the Paris Agreement does not require two of the three biggest emitters, China and India, to do anything at all, while the other member of the top three, the US, has withdrawn from the agreement altogether. Other major emitters, such as Indonesia and Brazil, gave commitments to continue long-standing efforts to crack down on the use of the slash and burn method of agriculture, as a major source of emissions. They may do this but let’s not hold our breath. On top of which, Brazil’s front-runner for the presidential election has said he might pull out of Paris. China, meanwhile, may not even meet the trivial goals set in Paris, where it promised to reduce the amount of energy the country requires to grow. As was noted in a report by coal watch group CoalSwarm in September, attempts by China’s central authorities to rein in the number of coal plants being built have come to nothing. The regional governments, which frequently go their own way in industrial matters, now have an astonishing 259 gigawatts of coal power plants in various stages of development. That amounts to a 25 per cent increase in the country’s coal-powered base and is about the same as the total US coal power capacity.

To further confound China observers, the CoalSwarm report notes that most of this additional capacity is probably unnecessary, as the country’s existing plants are only in use about half the time. However, China has previously declared that it will be doubling its emissions by 2030, while still keeping within the Paris Agreement.

As for India, the Institute for Energy Research has estimated that the country plans to build 38 gigawatts worth of coal power plants in India and neighbouring Bangladesh, which is far more than Australia’s existing, installed coal-powered capacity of about 23 gigawatts.

By ordering Australia’s over-active climate diplomats to stay away from Katowice, Scott Morrison would at least draw attention to the vast discrepancy between what activists claim the Paris Agreement is supposed to mean and the harsh reality. Such a move might also ram home the point that Australia is a bit player in the emissions game, at best, and the major powers are not making the effort required to avoid the doom set out in the IPCC report, for what that report is worth.

Deadlines for action have been issued frequently since the climate debate began in the late 1980s. In 2009, Australia’s chief scientist of the time Professor Penny Sackett declared that we had just five years to save the world, saying that Australians were ‘better placed than others to do something about it’.

Australia is in no such position and a boycott of Katowice might help the voting public realise that.

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