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Green anger as G7 goes easy on Australian emissions

26 June 2021

9:00 AM

26 June 2021

9:00 AM

Thanks, Premier Xi. Had it not been for your bellicose behaviour, including your economic bullying of Australia, as evidenced by the ludicrous list of 14 Chinese ‘grievances’ that Prime Minister Scott Morrison circulated to his appalled fellow G7 summit participants in Cornwall this month, Australia may have faced a drubbing for not falling into line with the G7’s climate change zero-emissions dogma. That was what Labor, the Greens and the environmental lobbyists had eagerly anticipated. But despite all the pre-summit threats from climate true-believers like President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson that non-performers in the race to zero could face reprisals, such as emissions tariffs on their exports, Morrison stood his ground and rather than being a pariah, was rewarded with the listing in the meeting’s summary of his mantra that technology is paramount in resolving the emissions ‘crisis’. The biggest single cause of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the G7 (United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan) is coal-powered generation, adding that ‘continued global investment in unabated coalpowered generation is incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C’.

But, in contrast to the powerful G7 rhetoric, climate ended up not being the summit’s main issue; a tougher test for Morrison may be at November’s UN’s COP26 Climate change meeting in Glasgow. Of the 70 agreed points in the G7’s final communiqué only five related to climate; the rest were, one way or another, about China — the Wuhan Covid pandemic and its economic consequences, along with Chinese hegemonic ambitions. So Europe rediscovered the Far East as Britain, France and Germany sent some gunboats — and aircraft carriers and submarines — to provide a morale boost to those in the front line facing the visibly hardening soft power of the world’s second largest economy.

As is to be expected from a government-funded media outlet, Morrison was portrayed by SBS as emerging from the G7 summit leaving Australia, ‘even more isolated on climate change after the heads of the world’s largest economies agreed to end government support for coal-fired power stations by the end of the year’. Note the (repeated) omission by SBS from the G7 leaders’ joint statement of the key word ‘unabated’ before ‘coal-fired’. SBS went on, in an opinion piece masquerading as news, that, ‘The statement was not designed to single out Australia but highlighted Scott Morrison’s outsider status on climate change. It also made it more difficult for the Prime Minister to continue resisting calls to commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The climate statement is likely to enrage strident coal supporters in the Liberal and National parties’.

But Morrison’s aspiration already is ‘to achieve zero net omissions as soon as possible, preferably by 2050’. And, as Dennis  Shanahan pointed out in the Weekend Australian, the inclusion of ‘unabated’, at the insistence of Japan (which takes almost half of our total exports of coal and LNG) ‘guarantees the future of coal-fired power, particularly in developing nations where coal will continue to be the affordable, reliable energy source for decades to come’ — and where Japan has plans to finance high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power stations in the Asian region, many of them likely customers of Australian coal. And unsurprisingly, a post-summit Japanese-Australian joint prime ministerial statement not only endorsed Morrison’s view that a technology-led response is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also ensuring economic growth and job creation, but also emphasised ‘supporting clean, pragmatic and realistic energy transitions in the region’. The words pragmatic and realistic are in contrast to the G7’s ideological approach.

But while greenies lament the ‘loophole allowing for investment in coal plants that utilise controversial carbon capture and storage technology which is yet to be proven economically or environmentally viable on a large scale‘, it is only part of their serious worry about the G7 summit’s failure to perform as a rich nations’ curtain raiser to November’s UN COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow.

According to the Japan Times, November’s meeting is widely seen as the most important climate summit since the one that sealed the Paris Agreement. Nations are expected to deliver updated pledges on their carbon emissions reduction targets, with the aim of reaching a global peak in emissions as soon as possible and achieving a carbon neutral world by mid-century. While the G7 members only contribute about 20 percent of the world’s emissions, according to Boris Johnson, their leadership (and financial support) is vital if the UN meeting is to succeed. The omens do not look good.

G7 members could not even agree to set a deadline to phase out their domestic coal use as internal political tensions and funding shortfalls blocked key proposals, with the Japan Times listing US President Joe Biden and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi falling short as other G7 leaders pushed for more ambitious goals. Biden had, at the 11th hour, blocked the phasing out of domestic coal. It was also the US that blocked a G7 initiative to make the majority of new passenger car sales zero-emission vehicles by 2030. And Biden, a pre-meeting lion turned pussycat when the action started, was unable to commit as to how much the US will contribute to the $100 billion a year that is considered central to convincing poorer nations to undergo the costs of achieving zero emissions — and without which November’s meeting will be jeopardised.

There is one group of self-appointed ‘stakeholders’ in the coal debate whose attention needs to be drawn to the G7’s exemption from its ban on financing new coal-fired power stations where abatement technology is employed, resulting in zero net emissions to damage the atmosphere, create global warming and all its alleged consequences. It follows that the mining of the coal burned in such power stations makes no contribution (provided the emissions involved in the act of mining itself are also offset) towards the global warming that activist judges, usurping the role of governments, have found must inevitably follow the granting of a coal-mining licence. Of course any judge worth his wig would be aware that for years the Australian government Clean Energy Regulator has run a carbon abatement scheme involving the ‘removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere’, and that the government is also funding a carbon capture utilisation and storage program (and has joined with Japan in supporting this initiative). Nevertheless a senior Victorian judge was recently able to find, as reported on this page, that coal, through global warming, kills kids. These judge-made laws need revisiting —and their substance abated.

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