Regardless of who wins the election, fossil fuels will continue to burn.
PHOTO BY BRENDON THORNE / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has categorically ruled out signing the UN’s pledge to end coal fire power if he wins at the federal election on May 21, even as Australia comes under renewed pressure from world leaders to commit to deeper emissions reduction targets.
In doing so, the opposition leader has joined the Morrison government in softening the edge of the climate change policies on offer to Australian voters at the upcoming federal election, and all to paint themselves as allies to the nation’s coal and gas sector.
Speaking at a press conference in Queensland on Wednesday, Albanese said Australia would refuse to sign alongside some of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gas if Labor wins the federal election, because “coal is a part of our energy mix”.
The pledge was first negotiated at the UN’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year, where more than 40 heavily coal-dependent countries like Poland, Vietnam, South Korea and Chile pledged to steer away from the resource.
Unsurprisingly, Australia was among some of the more notable absentees, joined by the US, and even the UK, which brokered the deal. Since then, the Morrison government hasn’t signalled whether it has any intention to change course.
Under the agreement, governments – and even some private institutions like banks and hedge funds – committed to ending all investment in new coal power generation projects, both domestically and abroad.
Major economies, according to the pledge, would have to do so by the 2030s, while poorer nations would have until the 2040s.
Despite turning his cheek to the pledge, and endorsing fossil fuels, Albanese is confident Australia is in with a shot to secure the rights to hosting the UN’s next COP26 summit, in a bid to rebrand Australia’s reputation on climate change, even if only marginally.
If successful, Albanese would want to co-host the event with other nations across the pacific.
“If you go to Kiribati, or Tuvalu, or any of those Pacific island nations, what you will find, if you ask them what’s their priority, they will talk about climate change,” Albanese said on Wednesday.
“So, it is an opportunity for us – together with the Pacific – to embrace them. It’s the sort of constructive relationship building that has been missing from this government.”
Since the beginning of the election campaign, Albanese’s outlook on climate change and his plan for vast investment in renewable technologies has been nothing but “optimistic”.
Just yesterday he blamed the Morrison government for giving up Australia’s “first-mover advantage” on green technology, before promising a more prosperous renewable sector under him, and then blaming the Coalition for landing Australia in the “naughty corner” on the global stage.
“What we see at international conferences is Australia going along and being put in the naughty corner with Saudi Arabia, with Brazil, with a couple of countries, trying to oppose the tide that is occurring in terms of the transformation of the global economy,” Albanese said on Tuesday.
Labor’s climate bona fides, however, aren’t much of an improvement, and would by no means render Albanese a shoo-in to host the UN’s premier climate summit.
Albanese’s refusal to sign the pledge comes just a day after the assistant US secretary of state for environmental affairs, Monica Medina, called on every country that didn’t increase their 2030 emissions reductions targets in Glasgow late last year to raise their ambition.
“We’re calling on every country that didn’t increase their target to raise it,” Medina told The Guardian.
“We have to stay within 1.5 degrees [of heating]. Every tenth of a degree above that leads to greater disruption, greater destruction, and we can’t get those back.”
Australia, of course, is one of the nations that refused to improve upon its Abbott-era pledge to cut between 26 and 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, against 2005 levels.
The federal Labor party hasn’t offered much of an improvement. Should Albanese win at the upcoming federal election, Labor would move to cut emissions by 43 percent on 2005 levels, still well below the 50 to 75 percent target band recommended by experts, while still giving the go-ahead to new and existing coal and gas projects.
This week, the message has been clear: the major parties are both pro-coal. By comparison, the Greens say they would reduce Australia’s by 75 percent on 2005 levels and phase out coal and gas completely.
Greens leader Adam Bandt told VICE he thinks voters will remember when they head to the polls on May 21.
“With Liberal and Labor backing 114 new coal and gas projects, Australia’s climate crimes are being called out by its closest allies,” Bandt said.
“Australia sides with Russia and Saudi Arabia in sabotaging global climate negotiations and it's clear the rest of the world has had enough,” he said.
“Even though Liberal and Labor are desperately trying not to talk climate this election, climate action is already front of mind for the public, and I expect on election night we'll see many seats in both houses ofirepowersignaled, firepower Parliament decided on climate.”