A last-minute switch at an international conference left some leaders in tears, but Australian politicians are praising the change.
The Nationals have welcomed the watered down COP26 agreement, which ruled out a global phase out of coal in favour of “phasing down” fossil fuel emissions, citing this decision will mean Australians will not lose their quality of life.
The global climate conference drew to a close over the weekend, with nearly 200 nations signing an agreement to work towards keeping global warming at less than 1.5C.
But a last-minute intervention from India watered down language on cutting coal, with signees agreeing to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal burning, which drew complaints from vulnerable nations who wanted stronger action on phasing out fossil fuels.
Nationals senator Matt Canavan said the communique, which left COP26 president Alok Sharma in tears and apologising, was a “green light” for Australians to build more coalmines and continue to provide coal to the global economy because there had “never been a higher demand”.
“(This communique) is a great result for Australia and our coal industry, which people like to say is dead and buried, but it keeps resurrecting and going strong,” he told the Nine Network on Monday, with a sign behind him that read “Glasgow a win for coal”.
“There has never been stronger demand for our coal, and given the fact that the agreement did not say that coal needs to be phased out or taken down, it is a green light for us to build more coalmines, supply the world more coal because that’s what brings people out of poverty.
“That’s why countries like India wouldn’t sign up to coal being consigned to history because what we take for granted, they want reliable power, growth and development, and our coal and gas and other industries help do that, so we should do that for the world.
“We have got the best quality coal in the world, and we should be supplying that to the world because it is good for the environment to do that, and it’s of course good for people’s growth, development and getting people out of poverty.”
It was a sentiment shared by Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
“We have to be very mindful that our exports of fossil fuels are the reason that we support the pension and the health system and the police system,” he told Seven’s Sunrise.
“We have done our part, we have always done our part (and) met every single target set for us.
“Australia has been an honourable citizen in the process, and other countries with less to lose than Australia can be more righteous, but we have to balance the books, pay for everything, and we do that with export dollars.
“Otherwise, the currency would be worth nothing.
“ If you start shutting it down, you are going to shut down your standard of living in Australia.”
Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon said the world should be spending “more time celebrating” the progress at Glasgow rather than lamenting the “perfect” outcome being achieved.
“I think it is a good outcome … for those developing countries who will need a relatively efficient fossil fuel over many decades to bring them out of poverty and to build their own clean economy,” he said.
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor refused to be drawn on Monday morning as to whether the government would take any concrete steps to phase down coalmining or coal-fired power.
When asked by RN’s Fran Kelly, Mr Taylor said supply would change to grow with demand.
“Our (coal) exports will be driven by customer demand. They always are,” he said.
“That’s what good businesses do. That’s what good countries do.”
The communique also outlined that countries needed to increase their formal 2030 targets by COP27 next year.
Australia has the weakest 2030 target in the developed world of 26 to 28 per cent.
The government expects emissions to have reached a 35 per cent reduction by 2030, but that is not binding or legislated.
Mr Taylor said the government would “update projections each year” but “absolutely support” the Paris Agreement goals to limit warming to 1.5C.
“We set our targets at the beginning of the appropriate decade, and we update our projections each year,” he said.
“And we deliver, and we deliver with an extraordinary level of transparency.”