Australia, a major producer of fossil fuels that has long been criticized for dragging its feet on climate change, has done little this week to change that perception.
At the Glasgow climate summit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not join an international effort to curb global emissions of methane 30 percent by 2030, a commitment shared by more than 100 nations including the United States. Australia also declined to strengthen its 2030 target for reducing emissions or announce firm plans to transition away from its deep investment in fossil fuel production.
Mr. Morrison did sign on to an agreement to end deforestation by 2030, offered $500 million in new funding to help neighboring countries deal with the effects of climate change and last week committed to getting his country to net zero emissions by 2050. But critics argued that his government was not acting with enough urgency, or that it was making vague commitments.
Addressing the conference on Monday, Mr. Morrison said that Australia’s emissions would fall 35 percent by 2030, exceeding an earlier goal of 26 to 28 percent but still well below the targets set by other industrialized nations. And it is one of the last developed nations to make a zero-emissions commitment.
Mr. Morrison had agreed to attend the summit only after criticism from Queen Elizabeth II and a crowd-funded billboard in Times Square in New York that mocked his reluctance to address climate change, calling him “Coal-o-phile Dundee.”
Australia’s inertia points to a pressing challenge for the world: how to get places that profit from a dangerous product to transition before it is too late. With the threat of even more damaging storms and fires looming if temperatures continue to rise, fossil fuel users and producers both need to kick the habit.
A U.N. report released last month found that coal, oil and gas production will keep growing at least until 2040, reaching levels more than double what is needed to prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures.
Australia is a major contributor to the problem. Coal is still king, and natural gas is celebrated.
The Great Barrier Reef may be bleaching from the heat and acidity caused by climate change, and towns and families burned out by the Black Summer fires of 2019 and 2020 have yet to fully recover. Yet in the last month alone, three new coal mining projects have been approved.