Almost 200 countries and organisations have agreed to phase out the world’s single biggest contributor to a huge issue. But Australia isn’t there.
Almost 200 countries and organisations have agreed to phase out the world’s single biggest contributor to climate change – coal power.
190 countries signed on to a Global Gola to Clean Power Transition Statement, a pledge to phase out coal power over the next 20 years, at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
While the move is a highly significant step, some of the world’s biggest users of coal, including India, China and the US – were notably missing from the list.
Australia is also a highly coal-dependent country missing.
Those who joined include Canada, Poland, Egypt, Vietnam and Chile and committed to phasing out their use of coal for electricity generation.
In 2020, 54 per cent of Australia’s electricity came from coal.
“Coal is dirtier than you think,” explained independent climate think tank Ember’s methane analyst, Anatoli Smirnov.
It comes as The Grattan Institute this week warned that for Australia to reach its net zero by 2050 goal, some Australian exports, “such as coal and liquefied natural gas, will need to be replaced”.
“Getting to net zero by 2050 will be hard, but there is more to be gained than lost as Australia’s economy transforms,” says the report’s lead author, Grattan Institute Energy and Climate Change Policy Director Tony Wood.
“If we start now and play smart, we can use our vast resources of minerals and renewable energy to more than replace the export revenues – and jobs – that we currently get from fossil fuels.”
The Morrison government is clear in its position that it doesn’t need to cut coal to reach net zero, but the summit’s British hosts see it as crucial to put the world on track to limit global warming.
“The end of coal is in sight. The world is moving in the right direction, standing ready to seal coal’s fate and embrace the environmental and economic benefits of building a future that is powered by clean energy,” British business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said.
When probed in Rome on Scott Morrison’s conversations with UK PM Boris Johnson, Mr Morrison said: “Those matters have been worked through, through the sherpers and through the communique. There’s quite a large group of nations that are, hold similar concerns about this”.
He was again questioned in Rome and reiterated Australia’s stance: “Our policy is very clear. We are not engaged in those sort of mandates and bans. That’s not the Australian Government’s policy, it won’t be the Australian Government’s policy.
“All countries are coming at this task from different places, their economies are different. And as a global community, we’ve got to understand that.
“Developing countries have different challenges to those in Europe. Indeed, Australia’s economy in the shape and form of our economy is very different to many of those as well. So we’ll all get on this path. That’s what we’re doing.
“But we’ve always got to make our own path, and the Australian way is our path and that’s what I’m here to talk about and be faithful to.”
The Australian Climate Council congratulated countries like Poland – which ranks ninth in the world for coal consumption – but said Australia is “nowhere in sight”.
“This is coal’s curtain call,” Climate Councillor, Professor Will Steffen said in a statement.
“It is a major global commitment and the world’s second largest exporter of thermal coal, Australia, is nowhere in sight.
“First, we refused to join more than 100 other countries in the global methane pledge, and now this.
“Australia is so out of step and out of touch with the rest of the world, and that’s going to harm our economy, climate and future prosperity.”
Under Australia’s net zero by 2050 plan, more than $20 billion will be invested in low emissions technologies including carbon capture and storage.
The plan also revealed Australia would reduce its emissions by up to 35 per cent by 2030, up on the 28 per cent projection.
But, the modelling which has shaped the government’s plan will not be released until a “later time”.