World leaders have gathered in Glasgow for the commencement of the UN Climate Conference (COP26) to discuss the urgent global action needed to reduce emissions and avoid climate catastrophe.
The first COP (Conference of Parties) took place in 1995, and aimed to establish international cooperation on climate change.
A milestone was reached at the last climate conference in Paris, COP21, when delegates agreed to limit warming to below two degrees celsius, with the Paris Agreement setting out a framework to achieve this goal.
Despite this focus, experts have warned that warming has accelerated, and there is a massive gap between what leaders have committed to what has come to fruition, with the world currently on track to reach 2.7 degrees celsius.
The focus of COP26 will be to reevaluate strategies to meet emissions reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement, and to discuss climate finance for developing countries.
As one of the world’s worst-performing countries when it comes to mitigating the effects of climate change, Australia is under enormous international pressure to align its climate targets with other developed countries and the requirements set by experts.
Just days before COP26, the Federal Government committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, releasing its long-term strategy to combat climate change.
The strategy hailed new technology, such as carbon capture and storage, and investment in hydrogen gas as the way forward.
While Australia’s current targets are to reduce emissions by 26 – 28 per cent by 2030, this puts it behind many developed countries.
Globally, a 55 per cent reduction is required by the end of the decade in order to keep warming below 1.5 degrees celsius, and major players such as the US have doubled down on their reduction targets since the Paris conference.
What is the energy industry saying?
The Clean Energy Council has said that Australia has the capacity for a 75 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, and could achieve net zero by 2035.
ANU’s Associate Professor at the School of Regulation and Global Governance, Christian Downie, said, “A commitment to net zero emissions is a ticket to entry to the international climate negotiations.
“Yet committing to 2050 targets without immediate actions to get there is simply another form of delay.
“We can’t rely only on future plans or future technologies. We have to act now. Every year we delay means hotter summers, longer droughts, and more bushfires.”
The Clean Energy Council’s Policy Director of Electrification and Hydrogen, Anna Freeman, expects Australia to face pressure at COP26 to move towards strategies that align with global goals.
“We can anticipate Australia’s sizeable delegation of government ministers, advisers, and officials to engage in a marketing and communications blitz showcasing the remarkable roll-out of rooftop solar (much of it driven by state schemes), the significant investment in large-scale generation capacity in recent years, the megaprojects on the horizon, the voluntary corporate action and the money that the Federal Government is pouring into technology partnerships, clean hydrogen and carbon capture and storage,” Ms Freeman said.
ANU’s Associate Professor from the Crawford School of Public Policy, Paul Burke, said, “The key thing at COP26 is to see strong forward momentum in international moves to reduce emissions and embrace low-carbon technologies and practices.
“Australia could make a strong contribution if it wished to, including ideally by setting ambitious interim emissions commitments on the road to net zero.”
Stay tuned for more COP26 developments as they unfold.