Sydney has been lit up green to mark the beginning of COP26, the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow this week.
Sydney joins other global cities in lighting up its civic buildings green to signal a desire for decisive international action. This year’s conference is seen as the most important meeting since the Paris Agreement was developed in 2015, with environmental experts and spokespeople pleading for cooperation between the world’s leaders.
“COP26 is tasked with addressing dangerous global warming and is seen by many as our last, best hope at securing vital commitments to reduce emissions by 2030,” City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said via Facebook.
“The climate emergency requires strong leadership, transparent policies and urgent action.”
In his address to world leaders at COP26, Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke about Australia’s 20 per cent emissions reductions since 2005, shifting an emissions focus to the developing world and the doubling of international climate finances from 2020-2025, with many environmental commentators calling the speech full of “spin” and light on commitment.
“Our PM stood up in front of the world and effectively promised to do nothing,” Tim Flannery, Chief Climate Councillor, Professor Tim Flannerysaid.
Morrison came under particular scrutiny ahead of COP26, with his wavering and vague climate targets, as well as continued investments in coal, defying the general rhetoric of the rest of the world’s leaders.
In August this year, the United Nation’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released and signalled that the next decade of environmental policy and activity will be integral to avoiding climate catastrophe. While stating that global emissions need to be halved by 2030, it also estimated that – at the current pace – emissions would rise by 16 per cent come 2030.
“We are a country on the front line of climate change – recent devastating drought, catastrophic bushfires, and severe storms [have] proven that,” Lord Mayor Moore said.
“We need the Morrison Government to recognise the global consensus and urgency, match the action of other leaders in Glasgow, and commit to legislation that will halve Australia’s emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero sooner than 2050.”
After offering no clear target for net-zero emissions, the Morrison Government officially announced a “practical, responsible way” to deliver net-zero by 2050 last month, days ahead of COP26.
The plan is based on five principles that aim to preserve existing industries, establish Australia as a leader in low emission technologies and position regional areas for continued prosperity. The principles are technology, not taxes; expand choices, not mandates; drive down the cost of a range of new technologies; keep energy prices down with affordable and reliable power; and be accountable for progress.
Morrison’s commitment to net-zero largely came under fire for failing to produce new policies and legislation to support the new plan, as well as for a refusal to update its 2030 emissions reduction target (26-28 per cent of 2005 levels), despite emissions over the next decade being the primary focus of the Glasgow conference. Instead, updated projections have been released that account for a 30-35 per cent emission reduction compared to 2005 levels.
The ‘technology, not taxes’ framework came under particular scrutiny, with climate advocates labelling the approach incomplete and misdirecting attention.
Closer to Home
In the City, Lord Mayoral candidate Yvonne Weldon has proposed a hybrid approach to carbon pricing. f elected, she will “review feasible mechanisms to encourage [the] use of less carbon-intensive products, materials and services”.
The plan, as detailed by Unite for Sydney candidate Dr Meead Saberi, would introduce an internal carbon fee (from $50-$100 AUD per tonne) to meet the City’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 70 per cent by 2030, while also representing the costs and benefits of new projects more accurately to council.
“Where federal and state governments lag behind, local authorities like [the] City of Sydney can be leading the way,” Ms Weldon said via Facebook.
“By counting the cost of carbon emissions in its decision-making process, the City of Sydney could meaningfully reduce its emissions, without having to rely on (sometimes questionable) carbon offset credits. A policy like this would be an Australian first – but it’s already been successful in cities all over the world, including Tokyo and Barcelona.”
In early October, the NSW Government announced their decision to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent from 2005 levels in 2030, rather than the 35 per cent target declared 18 months earlier. This target most notably received the backing of then Nationals leader John Barilaro, whose party at a federal level has stalled the discussion of renewed climate targets.
The revised NSW target is the most ambitious climate plan of any state in the country and is only bettered by the ACT, which has set a goal of 65 to 75 per cent by 2030.
The City has joined 1000 other cities in bringing science-based solutions to COP26 as part of the UN-backed C40 Cities’ Race to Zero project, targeting a 50 per cent carbon emissions reduction by 2030 and net-zero carbon by 2050.
“If we are to limit global warming and halt dangerous runaway climate change, we need large-scale, rapid and sustained emission reductions and we must reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible,” Lord Mayor Moore said.
“Successive Federal Governments have shamefully presided over failed climate policies, but COP26 is an opportunity to work with the rest of the world to mitigate this.”
In the City’s Green Environmental Sustainability Progress Report for January to June 2021, it was revealed that natural gas use has quadrupled since the baseline year of 2006. The increased use of gas was accounted for in the report due to “pool heating and the installation of gas-fired co and trigeneration”.