The Guardian • Issue #1986

Incompetent: Scott Morrison at the COP26 Summit

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was initially hesitant to personally represent Australia at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26.

Nevertheless, in the face of public and media backlash, Morrison committed to attending. Unfortunately, his sheer incompetence has been placed front-and-centre for all the world to see, severely damaging Australia’s diplomatic standing and credibility.

Amongst world leaders who have come together to discuss ways to prevent what UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres called a “calamitous” projected 2.7°C rise in global temperatures, Morrison sticks out like a sore thumb.

After weeks of long negotiations between the Liberal and National Parties resulted in only in a weak and non-committal net-zero by 2050 target devoid of 2030 targets, combined with a poor performance at the G20 Summit, Morrison has exposed himself both nationally and internationally as a fierce opponent of climate change policy.

The G20 pledge was watered down after Morrison opposed the phasing-out of coal and coal-fired power in developed economies by 2030.

“Our policy is very clear: we’re not engaged in those sorts of mandates and bans, that’s not the Australian government’s policy, it won’t be the Australian government’s policy,” Morrison said.

Similarly, opposition to a 2030 methane reduction deadline and a carbon-pricing scheme placed Morrison at odds with other G20 and COP26 attendees. 

A senior UK environmental adviser said that Morrison’s public support of coal mere hours before COP26 begun meant that Australia had “placed a spotlight on itself.”

“[The position on coal] is revealing Australia is tending to come in with an oppositional approach rather than a constructive approach. It is setting redlines but not saying what it might agree to.

“The feeling I get speaking with diplomats is that they’re getting frustrated with Australia’s approach,” he said.

Morrison ended his disastrous COP26 performance by refusing to join eighty other nations in signing COP26’s pledge to reduce methane emissions by thirty per cent by 2030. 

In fact, despite methane being the second-largest contributor to global warming, with a large part of methane emissions being the result of oil and gas production, the Morrison Government announced the launch of community consultations for the exploration of new off-shore oil and gas reserves in Australia.

Despite nominally pledging to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the non-committal plan relies on unproven technology to reduce future emissions is transparent. Furthermore, it includes 2030 reductions of only 26-28 per cent, despite international calls for 2030 reductions of 50 per cent.

But not only does the Morrison Government’s refusal to commit to climate action threaten human security, Morrison’s incompetence has destroyed Australia’s international standing and credibility.

“It’s very obvious that the Australian government doesn’t really want to be announcing a net zero target but that it’s been forced into doing so by a combination of US pressure, the threat of an EU carbon border tax and the utter horror with which it’s being regarded by its Pacific neighbours,” said Richard Black, honorary research fellow at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.

“The plan just put forward isn’t realistic from either a climate change or economic point of view. It doesn’t even try to halve emissions this decade, which the science indicates is necessary.”

Lord Deben, the UK’s Climate Change Committee Chair offered a similar inditement, stating that there was “no indication” that Morrison, had a plan to deliver on the net zero commitment that was “squeezed out of him”.

Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan told The Sydney Morning Herald that for the Glasgow climate talks to be successful “the likes of Australia and Saudi Arabia need to be marginalised”.

“Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a stain on global efforts to achieve a clean, sustainable future,” she said.

Remarkably, Morrison’s performance at COP26 has damaged not only Australia’s standing in regards to climate policy, but our entire diplomatic credibility.

In response to accusations by French President Emmanuel Macron that Morrison is lying about informing France that the submarine deal would be scrapped, Morrison set an unprecedented and hostile precedent by leaking the personal text messages of the French President and backgrounding against him to the media.

Australia can be a world-leader in climate policy and renewable energies. Morrison’s tarnishing of Australia’s diplomatic and environmental standing must be opposed.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More