'DEAD LAST': Federal government lashes out over 'rubbish' climate rank

"Dead last" is how Australia has been ranked by the authors of a new report which examined the emissions reduction performance of developed nations.

The Climate Council findings were released on Thursday as the Commonwealth grapples to form a decisive plan to tackle carbon pollution ahead of the United Nations COP26 talks in Glasgow next month.

Thirty-one countries had their dependence on fossil fuels analysed by the climate advocacy group, and pledges and record in reducing emissions were also compared.

Left - A smoke choked Sydney harbour bridge. Right - a surfer in Melbourne water wearing a gas mask due to the smoke.
Australia experienced its worst bushfires last year, with conditions made more severe due to climate change. Source: Getty

The UK was found to have performed best in terms of performance and pledges, with Switzerland, Sweden, Latvia and Denmark making up the top five.

On the issue of fossil fuel extraction and use, it was the Czech Republic who ranked highest, with Australia ranking equal last beside Canada.

The importance of 2030 emissions reductions targets was highlighted by the report’s authors, who do not believe Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s expected announcement that the Coalition will commit to net zero by 2050 will change Australia’s ranking.

The government's energy minister Angus Taylor dismissed the report's findings, characterising them as "complete rubbish".

"Excluding sources of emissions reductions to suit a politically-motivated narrative, as the Climate Council does, shows a lack of respect for the Paris Agreement or climate science," he said in a statement.

Emissions reduction performance and pledges rankings:

  • 1.UK

  • 2.Switzerland

  • 3.Sweden

  • 4.Latvia

  • 5. Denmark

  • 31 Australia

Fossil Fuel extraction and use rankings:

  • 1. Czech Republic

  • 2. Sweden

  • 2. Switzerland

  • 4. Italy

  • 5. Lituania

  • 30. Canada

  • 30. Australia

Only one nation increased emissions more than Australia

Australia has suffered worsening droughts, bushfires and flooding as the effects of human-induced climate change continue to be felt.

Report author Professor Lesley Hughes urged Australia to lift its 2030 emissions reduction target, adding doing so is key to ensuring “our children and grandchildren can not only survive, but thrive”.

“Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of fossil fuels as well as being heavily reliant on them at home,” he said.

“By strengthening our climate commitments and actions this decade, we can have a huge impact on the future of our planet.”

Australia remains a major exporter of fossil fuels. Source: Getty
Australia remains a major exporter of fossil fuels. Source: Getty

The report found Australia is in a minority of countries which have actually grown their emissions since 1990, concluding only Turkey had faired worse, although New Zealand and Iceland had similarly poor results.

Primary drivers of the increase since 1990 are electricity emissions which have surged by a third and transport emissions which have grown by more than half.

With Australia's major trading partners, the US, European Union, UK, India, China and Japan all setting 2030 emissions reductions targets of between 33 and 68 per cent, there are concerns the nation's exports could suffer a blow as other economies modernise towards a greener future.

‘So much is in play’: COP26 most important in memory

The Climate Council’s Professor Tim Flannery said while there have been a string of global climate talks in previous years, COP26 is “special” because it is occurring during a time of “enormously rapid change” in terms of both public and investor sentiment as well as technology advancement.

He hopes Australia will play a positive role during COP26, saying the summit will change the world “for better or for worse”.

“I can’t remember a previous COP where so much is in play as the meeting begins,” he said.

“In previous years a lot of the key decisions were being made months in advance, this isn’t that kind of meeting.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed he will attend the COP26 talks in Glasgow this year. Source: AAP
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed he will attend the COP26 talks in Glasgow this year. Source: AAP

Characterising Australia as a “carbon giant”, Prof Flannery has called it out for being the developed nation not to have called “time out on fossil fuels", noting when exports are taken into consideration, the country is the fifth largest generator of greenhouse gases driving climate change.

With the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicting the world has a narrow window of opportunity to avoid triggering tipping points which will result in catastrophic weather events, Prof Flannery is urging leaders attending COP26 to “move very fast” on reducing emissions.

Professor Flannery said what we do in the next 15 years will be “critically important to our survival".

“We effectively have to be decarbonised by about 2035 in order to give ourselves a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.”

“All eyes are going to be on the real meaningful actions that are going to be taken in the here and now, not out in 2040 or 2050.”

With AAP

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