Australia Is Effectively Abandoning Its Commitment To The Paris Agreement

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The US remains the only nation to have officially pulled out of the Paris agreement but Australia isn't doing much better. In fact, many of the country's climate scientists are saying the government has turned its back on the agreement in all but name. 

“They’ve walked away from Paris without saying it, hoping no one would notice,” said Lesley Hughes, a climate-change scientist at Macquarie University in Sydney, reports Nature News. She added that with no plans in place to slash CO2 emissions, politicians are essentially abandoning the goals by default.

So, why is the country backtracking on its Paris responsibilities? It is worth noting that only last year, Australia "recommitted" to the agreement in the wake of Trump's withdrawal.

Much of it comes down to political squabbling. Members of the ruling conservative Liberal Party have been very vocal about their objections to a policy enforcing electricity companies to cut their emissions (called the National Energy Guarantee, or the NEG), claiming that it would be better to instead concentrate on reducing energy costs for consumers.

Their plan to scrap the guarantee came to fruition after Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull as the Australian Prime Minister in late August. While Morrison takes a harder line than Turnbull, he has rejected the proposal of party members to walk out of the Paris agreement altogether and claims the country is still on track to meet its targets. That is, to reach emission targets 26 to 28 percent lower than those of 2005 by 2030.

However, the stats seem to stand in stark contrast to this assertion – Australia's emissions have risen every single year since 2014, the year politicians repealed guidelines requiring large industrial companies to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions, Nature News reports. 

Government advisors have warned that without legislation, the electricity sector is highly unlikely to meet the targets laid out in Paris. What's more, there is a noticeable lack of policy that would encourage other major polluters (think: heavy industry, transport, and agriculture groups) to cut down, making Morrison's claim appear optimistic at best and downright untrue at worst. 

But despite their appeals to lower energy costs for consumers, the current government's stance on environmental legislation is not at all representative of the Australian public. A poll conducted by The Australia Institute this month found that 73 percent are worried about climate change (up from 66 percent last year) and 70 percent would like the government to enforce a plan to close down coal plants and replace them with clean energy.

Perhaps this is in response to the erratic weather the country has seen this year, such as dangerous levels of flooding and heatwaves so hot that roads actually melted.  

[H/T: Nature News]

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