Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has put Australia on notice over what he claims is an inexcusable inaction towards setting strict climate change commitments.
Ban, a strong advocate for climate change efforts and who previously championed the globally-binding Paris Agreement, said he believed the lack of a net-zero target was at odds with an international emissions reduction movement.
“Ethically, the toll of inaction on climate is incalculable,” Ban told the Better Futures Forum on Tuesday.
“Australia’s current goal … and the absence of a national zero emissions target, is out of step with its states, its trading partners, and other comparable nations,” Ban said. “It is insufficient to meet Australia’s Paris Agreement commitments.”
Australia’s pledge to the Paris Agreement outlines the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
This comes as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth report into what it claims is evidence towards rising global temperatures due to man-made emissions.
Ban instead urged the nation to adopt a more timely target and halve emissions by 2030, with the end goal to follow suit alongside Australia’s international partners in reaching net zero by 2050.
“Internationally, Australia’s major trading partners, including Japan, South Korea and China, have mid-century net-zero targets,” Ban said.
However, China is the only Asian country to grant itself a 10-year leverage on its neighbours, setting a net-zero target of 2060.
Ban also pointed to a discrepancy between the goals made by Australia and its constituent states—all of which have, to some extent, promised a 2050 target for reaching net zero.
New South Wales (NSW) Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean joined Ban at the forum, saying that Australia was better suited to developing low-emissions infrastructure.
“Australia should not be a climate laggard,” Kean said. “We should be a climate leader because we can do what other countries can’t.”
Kean—who unveiled NSW’s net-zero plan—which included an $11.6 billion investment over the next 10 years—took a stab at federal leaders to accelerate emissions reduction efforts.
“Complaining that [climate challenge] is too hard is not a solution,” Kean said. “The community expects our leaders to get on with it, or get out of the way.”
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously argued that Australia had accomplished significant emissions reductions that rivalled nations with firm net zero targets.
“Our emissions have fallen by 20 percent since 2005,” Morrison said. “We are the only country to our knowledge that engages in the transparency of reporting our emissions reductions, every sector, every gas, every quarter,” Morrison said.
Morrison noted that the carbon dioxide contribution from most of the world’s developed countries, including Australia, was eclipsed by developing nations’ emissions.
“We cannot ignore the fact that the developing world accounts for two-thirds of global emissions, and those emissions are rising,” Morrison said. “It is also a clear fact that China’s emissions account for more than the OECD combined.”
However, Morrison proposed a “technology, not taxes” approach to addressing the world’s biggest emitters, saying that the only way to address climate concerns globally was to research and develop new low-emissions technologies.
“The emissions keep going up because of the choices that they will necessarily make. And, so, what’s important is that we ensure that the technology breakthroughs that are necessary to transform the world over the next 10, 20 and 30 years are realised,” Morrison said.
In particular, the Australian government has committed $20 billion into its Technology Investment Roadmap, including research and development for clean hydrogen, energy storage, low emissions steel and aluminium production, carbon capture and storage, and soil carbon sequestration.
“These five priority technologies will either eliminate or substantially reduce emissions across sectors responsible for 90 percent of the world’s emissions,” Morrison said.