Australia is rejecting the latest U.N. report on climate change, insisting coal remains critical to energy security and lowering household power bills.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its report released Monday that global greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero by the middle of the century to stop global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The authors warned that if warming was allowed to reach two degrees, the world would be on course toward uncontrollable temperatures.
They made special mention of coal, insisting that its use for power generation would have to fall to between zero and two percent of current usage.
The report has received a lukewarm response by Australia’s center-right government. It has said it has no intention of scaling back fossil fuel production because without coal, household power bills would soar.
Canberra also insists it is on target to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement, which attempts to unite every nation under a single accord to tackle climate change for the first time ever.
Australia earns billions of dollars exporting coal to China and other parts of Asia, while it generates more than 60 percent of domestic electricity.
Australia’s Environment Minister Melissa Price believes the IPCC report exaggerates the threat posed by fossil fuel.
“Coal does form a very important part of the Australian energy mixer and we make no apology for the fact that our focus at the moment is on getting electricity prices down,” Price said. “Every year, there is new technology with respect to coal and what its contribution is to emissions. So, you know, to say that it has got to be phased out by 2050 is drawing a very long bow.”
Australia has some of the world’s highest per capita rates of greenhouse gas pollution. A recent government report showed a failure to reduce levels of greenhouse gas pollution. The survey said that between January and March this year, Australia had its most elevated levels of carbon pollution since 2011.
Conservationists argue Australia is doing too little to protect itself from the predicted ravages of a shifting climate.
Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Scientists warn that droughts, floods, heat waves, brush fires and storms will become more intense as temperatures rise, with potentially disastrous consequences for human health and the environment, including the Great Barrier Reef. (VOA)
With its wooden walls and posters on protecting forests and fauna, Brazil’s pavilion at the U.N. climate talks in Poland offers no hint of the angst at home and abroad over mixed messages on global warming from its president-elect.
But campaign promises made by Jair Bolsonaro that could weaken protection for the Amazon rainforest are a hot topic of conversation among visitors, said Caio Henrique Scarmocin, one of three hosts on the stand.
At the conference, whose outcome will be key to implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, scientists and environmental activists said they were laying the groundwork should calls for Bolsonaro to protect Brazil’s forests fail.
Campaign statements from Bolsonaro, who takes power in January, suggested indigenous lands could be opened up to economic exploitation, including agribusiness and mining, and environmental fines eased.
The ability of Ibama, Brazil’s environmental protection agency, to fine those who break environmental laws is one of the government’s best defenses against the destruction of forests, stoking fears of a deforestation spike under the new government.
Bolsonaro, who campaigned on a far-right platform, also pushed the Brazilian government to withdraw its offer to host next year’s U.N. climate conference.
“He has a hostile approach over environmental issues,” said Paulo Barreto, a researcher with Imazon, a Brazilian institute monitoring deforestation in the Amazon.
Brazil is home to about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, considered by many as nature’s best weapon against global warming, because trees absorb and store carbon from the air.
Alfredo Sirkis, executive secretary of the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change, said he thought dialogue with the incoming government was still possible.
But if environmental roll-backs proceed, there was a “contingency plan,” he told journalists.
A coalition would assemble regional governments committed to respecting Brazil’s emissions reduction goals set under the Paris pact, said Sirkis.
Governors in as many as seven Brazilian states, including Amazonas, Pernambuco, the Federal District, Espirito Santo, Parana and Rio Grande do Sul, had already expressed interest in joining, he said.
“This is for starters,” said the former congressman.
A spokesman for the presidency of Brazil at the climate talks declined to comment.
U.S. shows the way
The plan has similarities with “We Are Still In,” a U.S. group of more than 3,500 mayors, governors and business leaders who have promised they will not retreat from the Paris deal.
Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump gave notice the United States would leave the accord — although it cannot formally withdraw until 2020 — arguing it was bad for the economy.
Mauricio Voivodic, executive director of WWF-Brazil, said his group had been in touch with the U.S. campaign through WWF-US, which is part of the “We Are Still In” secretariat.
The American coalition has its own pavilion at the U.N. climate talks.
“We are learning from ‘We Are Still In’ the importance of sub-national (governments) and companies enhancing commitments for the implementation of the Paris Agreement,” Voivodic said.
But WWF-Brazil is not yet trying to emulate the model because it wants to prioritize dialogue already under way with the transition government, he added.
“It could be an option, but we are not going in the direction of starting planning this,” said Voivodic.
Brazil’s future environment minister told Reuters on Monday his “inclination” was not to leave the Paris Agreement, after Bolsonaro said on the campaign trail he might quit the deal, under which countries set their own targets to cut emissions.
Marcio Astrini, public policy coordinator for Greenpeace Brazil, said he also looked to the United States as a vague blueprint to build a similar “resistance movement.”
A Brazilian version would draw on linkages between about 150 civil society groups who worked closely over the last year to oppose Bolsonaro’s campaign, he said.