The world’s two biggest polluters, China and the United States, will redouble their efforts to fight climate change this decade, leaving Australia even more isolated on the world stage as a climate laggard.

The surprise joint China/US statement - released overnight at COP26 - coincides with the first draft of the COP26 cover decision which urges countries to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 climate plans by the end of 2022.

Climate Council head of research, Dr Simon Bradshaw, who is in Glasgow at COP26, said this is a big deal.

He said one of the big fears going into Glasgow is China and the US would be at loggerheads, but the statement said they will collaborate, despite their differences.

“The focus on accelerating action this decade - in the 2020s - is significant. That’s what we have to do to keep 1.5°C alive, and that’s the memo the Australian government has missed,” Bradshaw said.

“Right now Australia is being left in the dust as other countries race to embrace renewable energy.

“For the first time, we have a decision text that explicitly calls on countries to phase out coal and phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Meanwhile, Australia’s federal government is forcing its Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in false solutions including carbon capture and storage that serve only to prolong the fossil fuel industry,” Dr Bradshaw added. 

“The draft decision also calls on countries that did not come to Glasgow with a new and stronger 2030 target to do so as soon as possible in advance of COP27 next year - this includes, of course, Australia.”

Australia ranked dead last out of 61 countries on climate policy in this week’s Climate Change Performance Index and the Climate Council’s analysis also placed Australia last on commitments countries took to COP26. 

Climate Councillor, Professor Lesley Hughes, said Australia has never been so alone.

“Net zero by 2050 is meaningless without a plan to cut emissions this decade. It’s this decade that really matters,” Hughes said.

The Climate Council recommends that Australia reduce its emissions by 75 per cent (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035. This is based on rigorous scientific risk assessments.


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