Australian government was not offered a speaking slot at UN climate ambition summit in New York after it did not put forward a significant new pledge to act
Australian engineers and technology scientists have urged the Albanese government to “make up for lost time” and set itself a “monumental challenge” by setting a target to wipe out the country’s climate footprint by 2035 – 15 years earlier than currently proposed.
The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, representing nearly 900 leading engineers and scientists, called on the government to set a goal of reaching net zero emissions in just 12 years, arguing it could be achieved with existing mature, low-carbon technology.
The Australian government did not have a speaking slot in a “first movers and doers” leaders session at a UN climate ambition summit in New York overnight on Wednesday as it did not put forward a significant new pledge to act on the issue. Thirty-four countries were listed to address the first movers part of the summit, but leaders of some of the world’s biggest polluting countries skipped the event.
The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, and assistant climate change minister, Jenny McAllister, spoke at later sessions on adaptation and decarbonisation.
The director of Solutions for Climate Australia, Dr Barry Traill, said dozens of countries had put up new pledges but Australia was missing from that list.
“We are the world’s second largest exporter of coal and the second largest exporter of liquified gas. Since the federal election the Albanese government has approved four new mines and there are 100-plus new projects in the approval line,” he said.
“In order for Australians to face a less dangerous climate we need every nation on Earth to do their share. Why would they do theirs if we do not do ours?”
Wong told CNN that Australia had a fossil fuel intensive economy and the government’s message was that it was “genuinely motivated to change that, and that’s what we’re working on”.
“We have a very ambitious set of targets. We will be, by 2030, in excess of 80% renewable energy … that’s a big transition in a short space of time,” she said.
The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering statement said immediate and substantial action was needed to keep alive the chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
It said setting a more ambitious target – the current goal is to reach net zero by 2050 – would drive technological change and spur a massive boost in clean investment across the country.
The academy’s president, Dr Katherine Woodthorpe, said there was an economic opportunity that Australia was not doing enough to grasp.
“That’s really how I see this. There is an opportunity, let’s make the most of it, let’s not squander it,” she said. “Meeting this target will be a monumental challenge, but with immediate and large-scale action to invest in skills and infrastructure, as well as political, policy and regulatory support at all levels, it is achievable.”
The Climate Council made a similar call this week, arguing Australia playing its part in limiting heating to 1.5C demanded a 75% cut by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, up from the current minimum 43% reduction target, and reaching net zero by 2035.
The academy statement said Australia’s existing targets aligned with other countries, but as a wealthy developed nation with a large carbon footprint it should be doing more.
It called on federal and state governments to prioritise removing waste and emissions from production, supporting electrification of transport networks including sea and air freight and travel and reducing human impact on biodiversity.
Woodthorpe said the warning from climate scientists was “unequivocal” and climate-induced catastrophes “irrefutable”.
“We congratulate the federal government on the significant progress to date. However, we are making up for lost time,” Woodthorpe said. “Setting an ambitious target based on science… is a no regrets step toward a net zero future.”
A spokesperson for the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, this week said the government was delivering “strong and urgent action on climate change and the massive economic reforms to get there”, including legislating targets and reforms to the safeguard mechanism that required action from large coal and gas facilities and heavy industry. “Our plans are ambitious but, importantly, they are also achievable,” the spokesperson said.
The Australian government announced on Thursday it was a founding signatory of a global treaty to protect the high seas that will enable the establishment of marine protected areas in parts of the ocean outside national boundaries.
Wong said Australia had “worked alongside our Pacific partners to make this treaty a reality – safeguarding our blue Pacific for future generations”.
The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, said the high seas covered 60% of the world’s surface and only about 1% of those oceans were protected. “This treaty will enable us to meet our global goal of protecting 30% of our earth’s oceans,” she said.
Conservation groups praised Australia for taking a “leading role in ensuring this crucial treaty enters into force rapidly”.


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