By Wendy Williams
Australia has come under fire for its “unambitious climate policies” and been ranked among the worst developed countries for climate change action.
The latest climate change performance index, released overnight at the UN climate talks in Marrakech, placed Australia in the group of “very poor performing” countries, ahead of only Kazakhstan, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
The index, which is put together by Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, evaluates and rates the climate protection performance of 58 countries that are responsible for 90 per cent of global energy-related carbon pollution.
The countries are ranked according to their emissions level, the trend in emissions, the deployment of renewable energy, the energy intensity of the economy and climate policies.
According to the report Australia “slightly improved” in the categories of emission development and renewable energy but dropped in energy efficiency.
Of most concern the report highlighted a “wide gap” between federal and state climate policies.
“While the former were rather unambitious and uninspired; the latter managed to some extent to take independent action,” the report said.
Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said the government spruiked its climate credentials but Australia remained a “laggard” on cutting climate pollution.
“The world is watching as our pollution rises and governments support new mega polluting coal mines,” O’Shanassy said.
“Australia has so much to lose from more heatwaves, droughts and bushfires – and we have some of the best renewable energy resources in the world – so we should be a leader on this list, not bumping around near the bottom.
“ACF commends the government for last week ratifying the Paris Agreement, the global agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees celsius.
“But Australia cannot meet its Paris commitments unless we systematically close coal fired power plants and replace them with clean renewable power.
“If Adani’s proposed giant Carmichael mine is ever built, it will wipe out Australia’s efforts to reduce pollution under the Paris Agreement.”
Jan Burck from Germanwatch, a key author of the index, said it was time for all countries to implement long-term decarbonisation plans.
“The global transition to a low carbon economy is clearly undergoing and gaining speed,” Burck said.
“However, some countries are still performing badly and even going backwards.
“As we now move to the implementation phase of the Paris Agreement, all countries must translate its objectives into ambitious national policies and long-term decarbonisation plans.”
Overall this year’s index confirmed a boost globally for renewable energy and positive developments in energy efficiency.
The best performing nations were France, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Burck said the conditions for a global energy revolution had never been better.
“Due to the falling costs of renewable energy and efficiency technologies, national governments have no more excuses not to enshrine the Paris Agreement into national law,” Burck said.
“Besides the vast development of renewable energy, we see positive signals that fossil fuels increasingly are put on the defence.
“So far, falling oil prices did not cause an increase in demand for the energy source while a growing number of countries are starting to turn their backs on coal.”
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