AMCS and Climate Council respond to Australia’s contribution at COP26

While the final declaration from the COP26 conference gives some hope for our oceans and reefs, the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Climate Council highlight that Australia urgently needs to take action to ensure climate warming is limited to 1.5°C – recognised as a critical threshold for coral reefs around the world. The Australian Government’s recently released net zero modelling locks in warming of 2°C which scientists say could devastate our Reef.

Darren Kindleysides, AMCS Chief Executive said although COP26 won’t be remembered as the summit that delivered a safe climate, significant progress was made and there is now momentum and a renewed sense of urgency for the action needed. To the shame of Australians however, it will also be remembered as the summit where our government firmly cemented its status as a climate laggard.

The Glasgow Climate Pact requires countries to strengthen their 2030 climate targets in 2022, recognising global emissions must fall 45% by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C – a matter of survival for many vulnerable communities.  

For the first time in 26 years of COP summits, there is a specific call to move beyond coal power and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

Kindleysides notes “there is now agreement on the urgent need to slash emissions by 45% by 2030, but Australia was not one of the 140 countries that lifted its 2030 target.

“As custodians of the Reef, Australia must take more responsibility on the global stage to tackle the climate crisis. We still don’t have the commitments needed to limit warming to 1.5C.”

Climate Council Head of Research Dr Simon Bradshaw highlighted the Australian Government “showed up empty-handed to a pivotal moment in the fight for our future. They’ve let down our Pacific neighbours, as well as Australians who do not deserve to endure more frequent and severe bushfires, floods, droughts and heatwaves.  

“As our allies and trading partners rise to the climate challenge, we’re stuck in a polluting past with a handful of countries including Russia and Saudi Arabia. The Government’s own Net Zero modelling, released two days ago, predicts Australia will still be a major coal and gas exporter in 2050.”  

Kindleysides continued “the majority of Australians would support the government phasing out fossil fuel mining – we want cheap, clean and safe electricity, and we’re putting our money where our mouths are by supporting the booming renewable energy industry.

“Its failure to sign commitments at COP to slash methane pollution, to lift its 2030 climate reduction targets, and continuing to back coal as other countries have committed to phasing it out, is astonishing when you consider how much we have to lose.

“Australia is getting left behind to the detriment of our economy, our people, our environment and our Reef. It is a failure of Australian politics that we are even in a position where the future of the Reef and the jobs it supports might be sacrificed for the fossil fuel industry.

Kindleysides adds “But, with an election looming, next year’s COP27 deadline for countries to come back with proper 2030 targets piles the pressure on the government and the opposition to commit to slashing emissions by 2030.

“Australia must go further faster and voters expect our government to at least match the ambition of our allies – the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, the EU and others.

“Australia’s current lack of climate ambition could also be critical when the World Heritage Committee meets in eight months to assess whether to add the Reef to the list of World Heritage sites in danger. When the Committee met earlier this year, the Australian Government claimed it was managing threats to the Reef sufficiently. But on the world stage at COP26, our government has been exposed for failing to act more strongly on the climate crisis, the Reef’s biggest threat. This will not go unnoticed by the World Heritage Committee.”

About the author

Karen Sweaney

Editor, Australasian Leisure Management

Artist, geoscientist and specialist writer on the leisure industry, Karen Sweaney is Editor of Australasian Leisure Management. Based in Sydney, Australia, her specific areas of interest include the arts, entertainment, the environment, fitness, tourism and wellness.

She has degrees in Fine Arts from the University of Sydney and Geological Oceanography from UNSW.

Read more from this author

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