According to the top American diplomat, the Biden administration is prepared to take on countries that are failing to address the climate crisis, including those that refuse to reduce their dependence on coal.
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Hours after Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison appeared to emphasize the costs of acting on climate change, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for even more efforts to combat global warming over the next decade.
On Monday evening, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the Business Council of Australia that achieving net-zero emissions would not be possible by “taxing our businesses that provide livelihoods for millions of Australians off the earth.”
“We won’t hit net-zero in our inner cities’ cafes, tea parties, and wine bars,” Morrison said, adding that it will be accomplished by the “pioneering entrepreneurialism and creativity of Australia’s industrial workhorses, fishermen, and scientists.”
Morrison is one of 40 world leaders invited to Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit later this week.
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Blinken’s speech is part of a push to get countries to agree to more aggressive climate change goals. The US state department will “weave” climate change into the framework of everything.
“Countries who continue to rely on coal for a large portion of their resources, invest in new coal plants, or encourage substantial deforestation will hear from the US and our allies,” Blinken says.
The US, according to Blinken, will “seize any opportunity we get to discuss these concerns with our allies and partners, as well as through multilateral institutions.”
About the fact that the speech made no overt mention of Australia, the Australian government has continued to support coal’s future, and representatives of the Nationals have pushed for new coal-fired power plants.
A Collaborative Effort
“We need the whole world focused on taking steps now and during this decade to facilitate the achievement of net-zero global emissions by 2050,” Blinken said, noting that the US is set to announce a new 2030 carbon reduction before Biden’s summit.
To date, the Australian government has rejected calls to strengthen its goal of a 26 percent to 28 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels), arguing that the target “is a floor on Australia’s ambition,” implying that it aspires to do more.
On Monday evening, Morrison reiterated his government’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions “as soon as possible, hopefully by 2050.” He hasn’t made a concrete commitment to that target.
Analysts believe Australia will not “go under the radar” as the Morrison government is likely to face intensified international scrutiny over the climate crisis.
Morrison said on Monday night that Australia was “doing its heavy lifting in our area of the world” and that the country was working to increase the feasibility of emerging technology.
“We are leading the way” on carbon emissions reduction, says Morrison. “Don’t let anyone who wants to put Australia down on what we’re doing on carbon say we’re not up to the task,” he added. “It is this pragmatic approach to commercializing emerging technology.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said at a clean technology and employment event that Australia cannot afford “further drift and time-wasting” in the transition to green energy because there is “huge potential” to build hundreds of thousands of safe, well-paid jobs.
John Kerry, Biden’s environment envoy, openly recognized previous “differences” between the US and Australia in addressing the climate crisis in February, thus pushing for a quicker transition away from coal-fired plants.
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Blinken said that the climate crisis is fueling national security challenges. But thinking about the problem solely through the danger lens is an error, she said. Despite the benefits of climate change, “not every American worker will win out in the long term.”
Despite the US and China agreeing to work together to address the climate crisis last weekend, Blinken said the Biden administration would not use “other countries’ gains on climate as a chip to justify poor behavior in other ways that are critical to our national security.”
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