Australian Prime Minister and noted coal aficionado Scott Morrison on Tuesday delivered a massive speech in response to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Spoiler: it sucks.
The report, which was the first such assessment from the United Nations body since 2014, basically said that we’re fucked as a planet and need to collectively Do Something™ right now. Fucked as in, ‘raising the Earth’s average temperature by 1.5 degrees above preindustrial conditions come 2040’ fucked.
It’s a pretty big deal, and it’s also worth noting that the entire report has been approved by all 195 IPCC member governments, line-by-line. So Morrison had no choice but to address it.
Unfortunately for us, his speech ended up being a whole lot of hot air. That’s why we’ve decided to dissect and annotate this speech to make clear just how pissweak of a response it really is.
Let’s get into it.
Scott Morrison: And on another very serious matter – the IPCC Report. Which, once again, affirms the serious challenge that we face here in Australia, because of the serious implications for Australia of what’s happening globally, but also, for our region and just last week, I met with the Pacific Island leaders, again, and their advocacy on this has been consistent and strong. And it’s something I’ve been very mindful of and listened to carefully.
Are you sure about that, Scott?
Former Tuvaluan Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, whose home country will be among the first to succumb to rising sea levels, said he was “stunned by the un-Pacific tenor” of Morrison’s handling of climate change as recently as 2019.
At least Morrison didn’t laugh too much when Peter Dutton quipped in Papua New Guinea that “time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door,” we guess.
Scott Morrison: A serious challenge, not just for Australia and advanced countries around the world, but all countries around the world. And the IPCC Report affirms to me, again, my fundamental belief about how we must address this global challenge. We must take action as we, indeed are, and continue to take action as we will continue to in developed countries, in advanced economies.
Morrison has not once taken the ample opportunity in Parliament to vote that addressing climate change is an urgent matter. So much for the report addressing his “fundamental belief”.
Scott Morrison: But we cannot ignore the fact that the developing world accounts for two thirds of global emissions and those emissions are rising. That is a stark fact! It is also a clear fact that China’s emissions account for more than the OECD combined. Now, I make that point, not to say that we should be opposing taxes on these countries – quite the contrary. I totally understand and accept that the advanced world, the advanced economies of the world have developed their economies over a long time, principally on the basis of fossil fuel industries. That is accepted. And I think it’s a very fair argument that the developing world makes, which says – why should our economic futures be denied when advanced economies around the world have been able to go forward on that basis of their energy economies over a long period of time? I think that’s a very fair point.
Here Morrison inadvertently makes a decent argument for fossil fuel reparations.
How come Australia and other Western countries were able to plunder and exploit the world’s fossil fuels to develop their own economies, but now other countries like China and India can’t?
It’s a good point, but…
Scott Morrison: But it doesn’t change the calculus of climate change. The Australian approach is not to tax them or deny them the employment and the jobs and the industries that they should have, just as we should have them here in this country, but to enable.
Ahh, so he’s using the legitimate logic of other countries being entitled to similar development trajectories to our own in order to justify selling more coal to, say, Gautam Adani. Very cool!
Surely there’s a more equitable way to redistribute wealth previously derived from consuming fossil fuels without, you know, spewing even more pollution into the atmosphere.
Scott Morrison: World history teaches one thing: Technology changes everything! That is the game changer. Governments, political leaders, can pretend to these things, but I’ll tell you what makes the difference – technology changes on the ground. And that is why our approach is technology and not taxes to solving this problem.
Damn, how good would it be if Morrison had this same enthusiasm about renewables which, you know, also fall under the category of “technology”. Instead he’s consistently voted against them.
Scott Morrison: It’s not enough for the technology to work with a tax in an advanced economy. That doesn’t solve the problem, because it doesn’t solve the problem in India. It doesn’t solve the problem in Vietnam, or in Indonesia, or in China, or in South Africa. It doesn’t solve the problem. The emissions keep going on. So what is important is we ensure the technology breakthroughs that are necessary to transform the world over the next 10, 20, and 30 years are realised.
Look, he’s right about emissions taxes typically being too feeble to have any significant effect in a lot of cases. But, like, that literally means we need to take even more drastic action than allowing giant corporations to pay to pollute.
Also stop trying to absolve yourself of your blatant disregard for climate change by pinning it all on China (and India, and Indonesia, and Vietnam, and South Africa).
Scott Morrison: When I was at the G7 [summit], we spoke about a number of issues. We spoke about this issue but the day before we spoke about COVID. And we talked about how science and technology is helping us, in fact enabling us, to ultimately beat COVID-19.
Hmm, says the guy who’s overseen what’s possibly the worst vaccine rollout in the developed world.
Despite being extremely rich and almost unscathed by the pandemic compared to the rest of the world, Morrison couldn’t organise enough vaccine doses in time to stop Delta talking a hold and plunging most of the east coast of Australia back into lockdown. What does he know about “technology helping us” when the only thing his government has been able to do semi-successfully is slam the borders shut to an inhumane extent.
Scott Morrison: It’s no different when it comes to addressing the challenge of global climate change. Unless we can get the change in the developing countries of the world, then what we’re seeing in these IPCC reports will occur. And so we need to take a different approach, we need to focus on the technological breakthroughs that are necessary to change the world, and how we operate. And make sure that is done across the world, not just in advanced countries.
Hopefully he misspoke when he said “advanced countries”. Also, he needs to stop pinning the current climate crisis – which was literally created by the industrialisation and violent expansion of the West – on developing countries, almost all of which were invaded by the West at some point.
Scott Morrison: It’s not enough, Australia is, must and will continue to do its part, and Australia has a strong track record of performance, and we intend for that to increase in the years ahead. Australia is part of the solution.
A recent analysis of the climate policies of G20 nations found Australia to be towards the back of the pack in most areas.
“When measured up against other G20 nations, the Australian government’s record is simply embarrassing,” senior policy advisor at Climate Analytics Dr Ursula Fuentes-Hutfilter said at the time.
Scott Morrison: Our emissions have fallen by 20% since 2005
This statistic is true, but not necessarily thanks to the government.
The fall in our emissions has largely been attributed to an uptick in renewables that has occurred in spite of the government, as well as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which brought transport to a halt for a hot second.
When Energy Minister Angus Taylor gloated about this 20% reduction in May, Greens leader Adam Bandt told Guardian Australia that it was actually thanks to a “renewables transition he’s trying to slow, a COVID-related transport shift that he cannot prolong and a coal production drop that he’s trying to reverse”
Scott Morrison: We are the only country, to our knowledge, that engages in the transparency of reporting our emissions reductions [in] every sector, [for] every gas, every quarter. No other country, to our knowledge, does that. They may do it on this one, or that one. But not every emission – not every sector, every gas and every quarter.
The release of this data has previously been delayed well beyond local and international deadlines. It’s probs not something worth gloating about.
Scott Morrison: Australia’s record of reducing emissions stands above those who are claiming to achieve bigger things in the future but haven’t achieved it today. They haven’t achieved it to the extent that Australia has.
Literally what countries is he referring to? This feels like deliberately vague language!!!
Scott Morrison: They can’t claim the highest solar uptake on households in the world. They can’t claim a rate of renewable uptake eight times the global average per capita, like Australia can. Australia is part of the solution. Australia is doing its part as part of the solution, and Australia will continue to do more as part of that solution, because we understand what it means for our own country.
Australia does lead the world in household solar capacity per capita, but that’s hardly thanks to any initiatives of the current government. We also are expanding renewable energy capacity way faster than the world average. So he is right on these points.
Scott Morrison: Our commitments are backed up by plans, and we don’t make them lightly. We consider them carefully. Australians deserve to know the implications and the costs and what the plans are. I did that before the last election. I said what our 2030 commitment was. I explained how I thought we would get there. I explained the costs to Australians, and Australians supported us. I will do that again as we go into the commitments later this year. I’ll do it again before the next election. I won’t be signing a blank cheque on behalf of Australians to targets without plans. We will set out a clear plan, as we have been working to do. Australians deserve to know, and they will from us.
Here, Morrison went on a bit of a Trump-esque rant about having fantastic “plans”. Of course, he doesn’t articulate what those supposed plans actually entail.
He may be referring to Australia’s ‘gas-led recovery’ outlined in 2020’s Budget. Of course, the ‘gas-led recovery’ is really just a diversion from investing in renewable energy and attacking climate change head-on.
At the end of the day, gas is still a fossil fuel, and one where extraction methods such as fracking cause additional environment harm on top of the emissions.
The supposedly-green technologies which the government has dangled in front of us, such as hydrogen hubs and carbon capture, are either unproven, inefficient, or both. Neither technology is renewable, and both exist mainly to prolong the lifespan of the fossil fuel industry.
When Morrison talks about plans and technologies, it’s code for ‘business as usual’.
Scott Morrison: Regional communities should not be forced to carry the national burden, and I won’t let them. I will ensure that we have a plan that addresses the need for jobs and industries that can be supported by new energy technologies, both now and into the future. I will not be asking people in the regions of this country to carry the burden for the country alone. I’ll be ensuring that we have a plan that addresses their, their critical needs, that addresses their anxieties, and seeks to bring the whole country with us on this very important task that we have together.
Hold on… people in regional communities are literally begging for renewable energy investment to rejuvenate their economies. Towns which rely on fossil fuel extraction are facing a severe economic collapse as the international market evaporates, unless they pivot to something, well, renewable.
It’s also worth noting that these “people in the regions” who Morrison is referring to are workers. They’re the workers whose careers and livelihoods are set to be eviscerated because the government has been too inept and ideologically bankrupt to coordinate a just transition to other industries. Propping up the fossil fuel industry won’t help the people in the regions (not to mention, many of those workers a FIFO workers, anyway). Instead, it’ll only help make city-dwelling shareholders even more grotesquely rich than they already are. Gina Rinehart is not the voice of “people in the regions”.
Scott Morrison: So we have an Australian way to deal with this challenge and it’s being put into place. I tell you what the Australian way isn’t, the Australian way is not what we have seen with the vandalism in our capital today.
This is a reference to the graffiti that Extinction Rebellion protesters spray-painted on the front of Parliament House ahead of this exact speech. But what about the climate vandalism that happens day-in, day-out under Morrison’s own watch?
Scott Morrison: I don’t associate in any way, shape or form that foolishness with the good-hearted nature of Australians who care deeply about this issue, as I do. And my government does. I don’t associate them with this. They have no part with that foolishness today. Any more than we have seen in other selfish protests around this country. Australians care deeply about this issue and so does our government. Action will be taken against those who have committed those offences in our capital today, as they should. And I think Australians who regardless of what their position on this issue would agree with that. That is not the way we go forward.
Sure, Extinction Rebellion can come off a bit lame or as a bit of a nuisance at times. But Morrison is being very cheeky by positing a legitimate and widespread desire to avert climate catastrophe as ~un-Australian~.
You what’s actually “un-Australian” in a more literal sense? Being complicit in the end of the world.
???? BREAKING ????
Rebels are targeting Parliament House, Canberra, right now.
They’ve superglued themselves to doors, set off flares and left an incinerated pram by the forecourt fountain, symbolic of a Government that wants to cook our kids!
Thread ????⬇️ pic.twitter.com/81vLkHf0XX
— Extinction Rebellion Australia (@XRebellionAus) August 9, 2021
Scott Morrison: There is a woman that I waved to almost every morning when I come into this building, as I drive up, and there is often people as you all know who will be putting their point across peacefully and calmly down there on the ramp coming up into Parliament House. She’s there almost every morning, and she makes this point every day, and she gives me a wave and she gives me a smile.
What?! Who is this random woman? What does this have to do with ANYTHING?
Scott Morrison: I tell you what, I’m listening to her. I’m listening to Australians about this issue.
He’s literally not, though.
In May this year, the Lowy Institute found that six in 10 Aussies reckon we should be taking drastic steps to address climate change right now, even if it involves significant cost. Seven in 10 Aussies want the government to increase its commitments to take action on climate change in line with the rest of the world. Eight in 10 Aussies want a net-zero emissions target by 2050. Nine in 10 Aussies want the government to fund the development of renewables.
The fact that Morrison’s government opposes literally all of these things to varying extents shows just how out of touch he and the Liberals are with ~most Australians~.
He’s so keen to fabricate consent for unprecedented and willful environmental destruction, in fact, that he even claimed that the phrase “How good is coal?” is a famous proverb down in the Shire, where he’s from. Who, Scott. Literally who the fuck is saying this? Clive Palmer doesn’t count.
Scott Morrison: And more than that, we are taking action that I think will actually make the difference. We need the technological changes that will transform the global energy economy of the world. It is not good enough for it just happening to Australia and the United States and in Europe. It must happen in these other countries and they must have prosperity otherwise we will not fix this. That is the Australian way.
Ahh yes, place the burden on other, poorer countries. Meanwhile, Australia is one of the world’s worst polluters of carbon dioxide per capita, according to the World Bank.
If you take into account exported emissions such as coal and gas, the figures put us yonks ahead of the rest of the world. This is some real Seymour Skinner “it’s the children who are wrong” energy on a global scale.
Everything Morrison talked about is local yokel politicking. The IPCC report doesn’t mention anything about taxes, technology or the anonymous woman who allegedly greets the PM as he approaches Parliament House every day.
What it does talk about is the urgent need to divest from all polluting technologies and shift to renewable energy.
It would’ve been better for everyone if he just read the report verbatim during his press conference today. Better for everyone, except his own political career.Image: Getty Images / David Gray & Stefan Postles