Demanding Australia abandon its coal production and exports for the good of the climate in the Pacific is akin to asking New Zealand to give up its love affair with sheep. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is naive if she believes such moves would be economically feasible or in the best interests of regional stability.Source: Graham Lloyd, News Corp
Easy for Jacinda Ardern to point the finger
New Zealand under Ardern may be a poster child at this week’s Pacific Islands Forum for setting a 2050 ambition for her country’s carbon neutrality.
But it has only been possible because less than 20 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity comes from fossil fuels and its biggest source of emissions, agriculture, has been given a free pass.
Most New Zealand power comes from hydro, geothermal and, increasingly, wind.
In terms of historic performance, New Zealand just scraped through the first Kyoto round of emissions cuts and failed to sign up to a legally binding target for the second. New Zealand parted company with Europe and Australia and instead joined Japan, Canada and Russia in a non-binding commitment for 2020.
In 2015, after barely securing a surplus in credits for Kyoto’s first period, New Zealand said it would apply the 123.7 million unit excess to its non-binding 2020 emissions reduction target — something it now criticises Australia for wanting to do with the Paris Agreement. Greenhouse gas emissions figures are notoriously difficult to compare because of different treatments of land-use contributions. But without taking these into account it is clear that Australia’s challenge is 10 times bigger than that of New Zealand.
Figures compiled by the European Commission show Australia’s emissions without land use rose to 402 million tonnes in 2017, up from 275 million in 1990. New Zealand’s comparative emissions were 36.8 million tonnes in 2017, up from 24 million tonnes in 1990.
For perspective, China’s emissions were 10.9 billion tonnes.
The UN Green Climate Fund is another case in point. Australia gave the body $200 million between 2015 and last year but has pulled out after a meltdown in governance and confidence.
Climate groups are asking Australia to up its contribution to $400m a year. But Scott Morrison has made clear he would prefer to direct spending through the Pacific region.
New Zealand’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund was a tiny $3m by comparison, but Australia’s $500m contribution to regional projects, through a partial rebadging of foreign aid, did not win it any points.
The hard fact for Australia is that Pacific neighbours represent a potent force in the geopolitics of global climate change negotiations and enjoy a close alliance with non-government groups.
WWF said Australia’s $500m in Pacific funding must be accompanied by a plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050. This means reducing domestic emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 and phasing out thermal coal exports by the same year.
Including a ban on coal exports, the nation’s biggest export earner, would make the challenge all the more difficult for Australia. As a result, Australia’s strategic ambitions in the Pacific region more broadly have been caught up in other concerns.