Scott Morrison's climate plan slammed by world media: 'Weakest link'

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·News and Video Producer
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  • Conservation group calls net zero plan 'half baked'

  • Plan slammed as 'last minute' in international press

  • Boris Johnson hails Australia's government as 'heroic'

Australia’s long-awaited plan for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 has been slammed by international media overnight as "hard to believe" and the "weakest link" in the developed world.

Local conservation groups called yesterday's announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison a “scam” rather than a “plan”, while global media outlets were quick to add their voices to the climate of frustration.

“Australia pledges ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050. Its plan makes that hard to believe” is how the The New York Times headlined its coverage.

"The country’s last-minute commitment before next week’s climate summit is built on hope for new technology, and little else."

Critics have called Australia's net zero plan
Critics have called Australia's net zero plan "half baked". Source: AAP

Over in the UK, The Telegraph described the plan as "vague", saying it "pointedly dodged thorny details or near-term goals", with the newspaper also noting Scott Morrison’s longtime support for the fossil fuel industry.

"Widely seen as a climate laggard, Australia is one of the world's largest coal and gas exporters," it remarked.

CNN warned Australia will be the "weakest link" among wealthy nations at the United Nations' COP26 climate talks in November, calling the country's 2050 pledge "hollow". 

Pointing out that the commitment should be a "moment to celebrate", the US broadcaster said Australia's policy still lags behind that of the US and Italy, the only other advanced G20 nations not to have enshrined their net zero goals into law. 

'Won't be lectured': Morrison defiant with new carbon plan

The criticism follows Mr Morrison’s defiant opinion piece published in News Corp papers ahead of the offical net zero commitment which appeared to defy international critics of Australia’s climate record.

“We won’t be lectured by others who do not understand Australia,” he wrote.

The government later announced investment in solar energy, hydrogen and unproven carbon capture will be key to cutting emissions, however the target will also rely on technology that has not yet been invented.

As part of the plan, $20 billion will be invested into the clean energy sector, and 62,000 jobs in mining and heavy industry were also promised.

United Nations report warns planet on track to warm to 2.7 degrees

Prior to the government’s announcement, conservation broadcaster Sir David Attenborough warned the world must "act now" to tackle climate change and singled out skeptics in Australia and North America for ignoring the science.

"There are still people in North America, there are still people in Australia who say 'no, no, no, no, of course it's very unfortunate that there was that forest fire that absolutely demolished, incinerated that village, but it's a one-off", he told the BBC.

Sir David Attenborough and Prime minister Boris Johnson met at the launch of COP26 in February. Source: Getty
Sir David Attenborough and Prime minister Boris Johnson met at the launch of COP26 in February. Source: Getty

Overnight the United Nations released an interim report which warned mitigation measures and national pledges to cut emissions will still see the world warm by 2.7 degrees by the end of the century, an amount scientist agree will be catastrophic.

They authors warned that to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees this century, the world will need to halve greenhouse gas emissions in just eight years.

Australia has committed to an emissions cut of 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, with an expected reduction of 30 to 35 per cent.

'Heroic': UK PM praises Australia's net zero commitment

Despite the widespread criticism, Australia did receive some praise, with Britain’s conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling Australia’s commitment "heroic".

Speaking yesterday with a group of school children, Mr Johnson said it had been "difficult" for Australia to finally commit, but world leaders are "really starting to listen".

"Australia is very heavily dependent on coal, on lots of carbon-producing industries and they’ve done a heroic thing, the Australians, in getting to that commitment," he said.

Australia's net zero plan will create more jobs in the mining sector. Source: Getty
Australia's net zero plan will create more jobs in the mining sector. Source: Getty

Australia's miners also welcomed the government's plan, with the Minerals Council of Australia praising it for ensuring "stability and certainty". 

The industry advocate's CEO Tania Constable said she believes the plan will "help" the country meet its target. 

Renewable energy sector advocates were not as kind, with the Smart Energy Council CEO John Grimes calling the plan an "absolute travesty".

"This is a scam it's not a plan," he told Yahoo News yesterday.

'Not worth the paper it's written on': Plan derided at home

Australian tech entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes took to Twitter last night to decry the government’s net zero plan, calling it "ridiculously embarrassing".

"I read all 129 pages of the pamphlet. Its not worth the paper I didn’t print it on," he said.

"I understand technology damn well. This isn’t a 'technology driven approach'. It’s inaction, misdirection & avoiding choices."

On Tuesday, local conservation groups mostly slammed the plan’s lack of detail, ongoing commitment to fossil fuels, and lack of strong 2030 targets, but welcomed news that Australia had finally committed to net zero by 2050.

WWF-Australia’s CEO Dermot O’Gorman said "failure to act" before 2030 would see Australia exposed to increased extreme weather events including droughts, mega fires and storms.

"Half baked" is how the Climate Council described the announcement, with CEO, Amanda McKenzie, saying without rapid emissions cuts, net zero by 2050 is "a joke."

Greenpeace Australia Pacific called the plan a "fantasy" which contained "unverified projections" with CEO David Ritter adding it would "not stand up" on the global stage.

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