COP26 in Glasgow was to be a watershed moment in climate action. But as Sarah Hanson-Young explains, it was an opportunity completely wasted by the morrison government – but it doesn’t mean we can’t take action today.
By Sarah Hanson-Young
I went to COP26 Glasgow to be the voice of the millions of Australians that want real action on climate change. The global conference was to be a watershed moment in climate action but after much internal fighting – and being dragged to a net-zero by 2050 target and indeed to showing up at COP – it was obvious Scott Morrison would squib the opportunity.
The ‘plan’ announced in the days leading up to COP left Australia with the least ambitious emissions target of any developed country in the world. Morrison has no plan to get out of coal and gas or make the rapid transition we need to a net-zero economy.
From the moment I set eyes on the Australian pavilion inside the COP the agenda was clear. Australia had come to spruik fossil fuels and failed carbon capture technologies. The pavilion was an advertisement for Santos, not for climate action like the pavilions of so many other countries.
On the day world leaders were asked to increase ambitions to cut pollution, countries from across the world rose to the challenge – but not Australia. At Glasgow, I watched on as Scott Morrison delivered his climate wrecking speech. It was underwhelming and cringeworthy.
He snarled at the world and lectured that Australia is already doing enough – when of course that is a lie. Australia continues to be the world’s largest exporter of coal and around the country there are 72 new coal projects and 44 new gas projects in the pipeline.
Listening to his speech, which sounded like it was written by coal and gas executives, it’s clear that he has no interest in our future or our kids' future. He’s happy to keep backing in and propping up fossil fuels forever and pushing the planet towards irreversible climate catastrophes.
He even lied about his own terrible 2030 climate targets, telling the world Australia had pledged to more than Tony Abbott’s terrible 26 percent cut, when his own documents clearly say otherwise.
Morrison left on day two and so-called Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor left a few days later – before the real negotiations had even started. The Australian negotiators who remained were given a strict mandate with no room to move on ending coal or fossil fuel subsidies. The writing was well and truly on the wall.
The summit wrapped up a day overtime with a dramatic last-minute watering down of the ‘Glasgow Pact’. The conference should have been the end for coal, with a solid plan to transition out of fossil fuels. Instead, all that could be managed is a so-called ‘phase down’.
This is not good enough, and the Morrison Government shares the blame for this disappointing outcome after spending weeks trying to water down the agreement. While it is historic to have fossil fuels mentioned in the agreement, it was clear many countries were left disappointed and the upset was written all over the face of COP President Alok Sharma.
Once again, the Morrison Government let us down on the global stage. They have let down our young people, like the school strikers that have been fighting for change. They have let down our Pacific neighbours who will be some of the first to bear the brunt of climate change, and they have let down all of the communities around Australia who are already feeling the impacts of climate change from bushfires to drought and flood to extreme heat.
For two weeks, I witnessed the shameful and embarrassing role the Morrison Government played in reducing action on the climate crisis. I marched alongside Greta Thunberg, met with civil society groups and heard world leaders speak – all with desperation to get the action truly needed to keep warming to 1.5 degrees.
Though it’s hard to see how the Glasgow Pact will be enough, it certainly will not be without action. As Greta has said, enough with the ‘blah blah blah’, reminding us all that: “the people in power don’t need conferences, treaties or agreements to start taking real climate action. They can start today. When enough people come together then change will come and we can achieve almost anything. So instead of looking for hope – start creating it.”