By H.E. Adrian Morrison, the Australian High Commissioner to Tonga
Last week, Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, attended the Pacific Islands Forum High Level Roundtable on climate change. This was an important virtual meeting where Pacific countries, including Australia and Tonga, came together to discuss our response to one of the key challenges of our time: climate change.
2020 has been an extraordinary year. It has tested all of our resolve to tackle global challenges.
But we can’t afford to allow COVID-19 to disrupt global climate action. In fact, climate action, like emissions reduction, can be a central part of the world’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
Targets are critical. But they must go hand in hand with practical action and a clear pathway to their achievement, or they risk becoming symbolic. Australia, alongside many other countries, is pursuing technological innovation to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible.
We are also building partnerships with countries like Japan, Singapore, Germany and Republic of Korea so that we can each access the necessary technology-led practical solutions.
Our newly announced Special Adviser to the Australian Government on Low Emissions Technologies, Dr Alan Finkel, will spearhead these efforts from 2021 onwards.
And we remain a steadfast partner in supporting the Indo-Pacific region, particularly Pacific Island countries, to respond to climate change.
How we’re tackling climate change
Australia’s focus on the ‘how’ is working: we’re meeting and beating our emission reduction targets.
We beat our 2020 targets by 459 million tonnes—almost 90 per cent of a full year of Australia’s emissions.
We are resolutely committed to the Paris Agreement, and are on track to meet and beat our 2030 target, having reduced emissions by almost 17 per cent since 2005. And as announced by Prime Minister Morrison at the PIF High-Level Roundtable on 11 December, we are confident we won’t need to use carryover credits to do so.
Australia is also building and investing in renewables at record levels. We expect renewables will contribute to 27 per cent of our electricity this year, growing to 48 per cent by 2030.
In 2019, Australia deployed new renewable energy ten times faster per capita than the global average. One in four Australian homes have solar—the highest uptake in the world.
A low-emissions technology roadmap
Australia is committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement, including to achieve net zero emissions globally in the second half of the century.
The Australian Government has launched a Technology Roadmap to accelerate uptake of low-emissions technologies across our economy.
The Australian Government is investing $18 billion in low-emissions technologies over the next decade. This includes boosting the use of hydrogen, electric and bio-fuelled vehicles and piloting carbon capture and storage projects that can dramatically cut emissions.
We want to enable businesses to produce the materials the world needs every day—but with far less environmental impact.
Adapting to a changing climate
But it’s not enough to just focus on reducing emissions. The world is already dealing with the effects of climate change. Australia suffered devastating bushfires during our Black Summer over 2019-20, just as Tonga has suffered more frequent, severe cyclones over the past few years.
Our scientists tell us that, even with the most ambitious global emissions reductions, we will continue to experience climate impacts like these over the coming decades.
So Australia is also building climate resilience both at home and internationally.
We are establishing a National Resilience, Relief and Recovery Agency to coordinate adaptation and resilience efforts across all sectors of our economy. We are bringing together the expertise of our world-leading scientific organisations in a new climate and disaster risk information service, ensuring our efforts are informed by the best available evidence.
And to support others around the world, at the PIF High-Level Roundtable in December, Prime Minister Morrison announced Australia’s new global climate finance pledge of at least $1.5 billion over the period 2020 to 2025. This includes a $500 million investment in the Pacific to support renewable energy deployment and climate and disaster resilience.
This is a 50 per cent increase on Australia’s previous pledge, reflecting our steadfast commitment to help our Indo-Pacific neighbours respond and adapt to a changing climate.
A goal we can achieve – together
Emissions don't have nationalities and they don't carry passports. Climate change doesn't differentiate where the emissions come from. We are all dealing with the impacts—in Australia, in Tonga and everywhere else in the world.
In the wake of COVID-19, we must all grow our economies again. Our economies’ growth will depend on low cost, affordable, reliable energy. For this to be sustainable, we will need global cooperation and partnerships to develop low emissions technology that are scalable and commercially viable.
With global collaboration, we believe this can be achieved.