- by Eileen Whitehead
- The Guardian
- Issue #1983
Most people are bewailing the lack of leadership we’re experiencing at the moment, with many believing our politicians are “thick.” I prefer the word “devious,” which implies cunning, scheming, underhanded, Machiavellian, and sly – all inadequate insofar as Morrison is concerned.
Morrison’s deviousness sees him currently creating the illusion that he alone is battling his party colleagues, dragging them to a net-zero commitment: their recalcitrance explaining his leadership deficiency. He is using more weasel words than usual to create the impression that he and his colleagues are moving closer to a firm commitment. His repeated comments downplaying the need for targets and his suggestion that we need policies internationally demonstrate his duplicity. His argument that a target cannot be achieved without a policy is facile – he has neither a target nor a policy!
The less said about his infantile deputy, the better. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce shows his ignorance every time he opens his mouth. Rattling on about job losses in regions, he shows he has never read any scientifically-oriented solutions to the problem of climate change. A knowledgeable government would now be considering effective, fair jobs and community transitions, but all this mob thinks about is the next election. An effective transition is about regional development and opportunities to turn all forms of waste – household, industrial, farm or animal – into electricity and fuels. This requires government policies now! It should be looking at regenerative agriculture, which would achieve net-negative emissions and would also be financially beneficial to farmers.
The Nationals have a disproportionate influence on the government of this country and have also lost touch with their own constituencies. Their attitudes date back to early colonialism, when perhaps the country owed its prosperity to the farmers. But, as Mark McGowan can avow – it’s now mining and the powerful fossil fuel companies, which is why we’re having such a battle getting carbon emissions to net-zero. The old argument still heard in the Nationals board room that unless China reduces its emissions we should do nothing, ignores what the Chinese are actually doing with regard to climate change – pricing carbon in major industrial centres; accelerating electric vehicles; and divesting from new coal-fired power projects in the developing world, under their Belt and Road Initiative.
Even the National Farmers’ Federation and other farm groups have committed to net-zero emissions. Miners are moving away from thermal coal. Both farmers and miners are crying out for strong government leadership on climate change. Yet out-of-touch National MPs, Matt Canavan and George Christensen are still pressing for a new coal-fired power station in far north Queensland. They’re completely ignoring reality – Far North Queensland doesn’t need more power, and renewables are far more efficient and cheaper – there’s lots of sun and wind up there!
Fortunately, what is happening is the big banks are no longer keen to finance coal mining, and global insurers won’t insure it. Unfortunately, whilst our “Nero” fiddles, emissions are accumulating and we now need to factor this into a rational time frame to even be able to reach a net-zero 2050 target, which science is telling us is already way too late. We can forget 1.5 degrees because of our kowtowing to the fossil fuel industry. The Climate Targets Panel’s recent report said that the government’s stated 2030 target will be inadequate to achieve net-zero by 2050. All the evidence shows that policy adjustments need drastic revision if goals are to be achieved. The panel’s analysis clearly demonstrated that if the reductions in emissions are inadequate by 2030, the yearly adjustments after 2030 would need to be between three and ten times as much as achieved in the 2020s to then reach net-zero by 2050. Even that target is risky and it’s in our national interest to achieve net-zero before 2050. By 2040 at the latest.
To even stay within its two degrees Celsius carbon budget, we need to hit net-zero emissions by 2037, which currently appears unachievable with this government. Once again, Morrison’s words – a target is nothing without a plan – shows how vacuous he is. He has neither. He’s too busy praying to his lump of coal.
He should be closing coal-fired power stations and refusing any new fossil fuel development, which includes gas. National strategies should now be put in place for regenerative agriculture and electrification of vehicles. Whatever happened to our fast trains? China is way ahead. Morrison is a laggard, devoid of ideas, always reactive rather than proactive. He has no respect for our global and regional responsibilities and seems to have no grasp of the magnitude and urgency of Australia’s climate challenge.
Instead of spending a trillion dollars on nuclear submarines and other war preparations, and tying us to America’s apron strings Morrison needs a policy which puts infrastructure in place to support transitioning away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy.