The United States’ deputy climate chief has said Australia’s current climate goals are insufficient in tackling the climate crisis.
Dr Jonathan Pershing, who has served in various governmental roles, spoke about the climate crisis during the Better Futures Forum last Thursday.
Australia pledged to cut 28 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, a commitment the country made during the Paris agreement in 2015. Other countries have set their sites higher. The US aims to cut 50 per cent by 2030, and Canada is targeting 40 to 45 per cent in reductions.
“I would submit Australia could be much more aggressive,” Dr Pershing said. “It would be really helpful to see Australia step forward with a more ambitious effort.”
He made his comments as a landmark United Nations report came out this month, which said countries reducing greenhouse gas emissions could prevent rising temperatures. While the report said 1.5 degrees of warming by 2040 is impossible, drastically cutting emissions would stop the planet from warming 2 degrees.
Rather than the goal to reduce gas emissions 28 per cent by 2030, “50% seems like a pretty reasonable scientific estimate,” Dr Pershing said about Australia.
Australia is a member of the G20, a group of countries with the largest economies that address a variety of issues, including climate change.
A Climate Transparency report, published in 2020, found that Australia had no policies that would require more use of renewable energy, getting rid of coal use, reducing deforestation, or making buildings more environmentally friendly. Compared to other G20 countries, Australia landed in the bottom bracket in the majority of climate policies, the report said.
Beyond the lack of policies addressing climate change, Australia plays a huge role in exporting coal.
Australia and Indonesia are the biggest exporters of coal, with the countries accounting for 59 per cent of the world’s seaborne coal market. Ember, a pro-renewables think tank, also found that Australia released 895Mt of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from coal burned overseas.
Dr Pershing put pressure on Australia ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November 2021, which is a meeting hosted by the United Nations where countries agree on how to handle the climate crisis.