/ 07 November 2022

Another COP for the environment

Image source: Getty
Image source: Getty

The United Nations latest conference on climate change began overnight in Egypt, promising to bring some big names to Sharm El-Sheikh, beside the Red Sea. They might be gathering at a swanky resort, but it’s far from a holiday with world leaders from more than 120 nations participating, including US President Joe Biden and UK PM Rishi Sunak. Aussie PM Anthony Albanese will not be there – he’s sending Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen in his place. The attendees of the summit – COP27 – have a big job ahead of them over the next fortnight. They are under pressure to address what the UN has described as “woefully inadequate” global efforts to cut emissions.

These COP meetings – standing for ‘conference of the parties’ – are always big, but every 5th meeting is set aside for reviewing nations’ emissions reduction targets. That happened last year at COP26 in Glasgow, resulting in new commitments to short (2030) and long-term (2050) goals. This time, COP27 is about delivering on those commitments. The UN worries that war in Ukraine and economic issues have been a distraction for wealthy nations. There is no time to waste – a UN report released last month found global temperatures are on track to increase by 2.5C, well above the goal of 1.5–2C. And UN chief Antonio Guterres says the world is on track for “catastrophe” if big-emitting wealthy nations do not do more with developing countries to tackle climate change ASAP.

Great question. Australia’s approach has changed since COP26, and that’s down to 2 things… The change of federal government at the election has resulted in a new 43% emissions reduction target by 2030 – and the Albanese Government passed legislation backing that ambition in September. They’re still working on the ‘Safeguard Mechanism’, which will pressure our big polluters to reduce emissions. Nationals leader David Littleproud isn’t onboard – yesterday, he said he wants Team Albanese to explain how the country will reach its targets “and who pays for it”. One thing to keep an eye on as the conference continues: Australia is launching a bid with our Pacific neighbours to host the 2026 summit.

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