Nations subject to widespread international criticism tend to be defensive; sometimes aggressively so.
Take Israel and its policies towards the Palestinian question, take Russia and its response to sports cheating convictions, take Myanmar and its response to allegations of Rohingya genocide…take Australia and its official response to international criticism over its response to climate change.
The Morrison government is both miffed and defensive about the United Nations’ view of its response to global climate change after the release of the latest UN Climate Summit in Madrid (COP25).
The Climate Change Performance Index which assesses the performance of 57 nations and the European Union in their efforts to meet the requirements of the 2015 Paris climate agreement shows that our nation ranks in the bottom five nations in terms of emission trajectories.
Despite this unfavourable assessment Australia’s delegate at the conference, Energy Minister Angus Taylor, was insistent that, with the help of carried over credits, Australia would exceed its target set for 2030 of an emissions cut of 26 per cent below 2005 levels.
International analysts, however, believe that by using its ‘bank’ of credits, Australia is picking up about 16 percentage points when its overall emission reduction program could do more in terms of emissions cuts and renewable energy progress.
The report is critical of Australia for its continuing growth in coal extraction and export.
In the overall assessment Australia ranked 44th on emissions, 50th on renewable energy, 52nd on energy use and 61st on climate policy.
To be fair, the UN report does note that the international community is making some progress on emission reductions, but the rate of progress is at a level which will not prevent a continuing trend to higher global temperatures.
For the world to stop the acceleration of climate change a global cutback of 7.5 per cent a year is required.
In relative terms Australia is a small net contributor to the global problem.
The big problem countries are the U.S., China, Saudi Arabia and Russia. These nations show few signs that the responses from this quarter will be either timely or adequate.
Meanwhile, the NSW Energy Minister, Matt Kean, this week jarred some in his party at the State and Federal levels, by strongly linking climate change to Australia’s extreme drought and bushfire conditions.
‘‘This is not normal and doing nothing is not a solution,” he said at the Smart Energy Summit.
But Australia’s national leadership continues to waver and prevaricate when it is clear that it should be developing and implementing a clear staged program of transition to a functional energy system which reduces carbon dependence to zero over the next decade while preserving our economic and social well-being.
Such a transition will not be an overnight miracle but it must begin without further delay.