OPINION

Australia a climate lagger not a world leader

CLIMATE CALL: Australia's youth will participate in another School Strike 4 Climate on September 20. Photo: MARK JESSER

CLIMATE CALL: Australia's youth will participate in another School Strike 4 Climate on September 20. Photo: MARK JESSER

It is disturbing that Australia does not have a climate action plan for a transition to a low carbon society by 2050.

My Fightback package of the early 90s called for a 20 per cent cut in emissions by 2000. If that policy had been pursued by pricing carbon and then repeated for each subsequent decade, we would have easily passed our Paris targets, and been well on the way to net-zero emissions by 2050, having created tens of thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars of investment.

Moreover, and most importantly, we would have done so with a much lower carbon price than what has (implicitly) prevailed to push our gas and electricity prices to such ridiculously high levels, we would be more advanced towards electric vehicles, and our soils would be much more resilient to drought through carbon farming.

Despite claims to the contrary, our national emissions have increased since 1990 apart from a couple of early years due to recession. We have become the second-largest exporter of fossil fuels, coal and LNG.

Inaction represents the greatest example of inter-generational theft, leaving the problem to our children and grandchildren.

All we have seen is 30 years of political point-scoring. This has been despite widespread electoral and business support for government-led, action on climate. Most polls put electoral support at 60-80 per cent, with miners like BHP, Rio, Glencore and Woodside in support.

In what will probably be another vain attempt to influence global governments and decision-makers, there will be a global student strike on September 20.

This week, I joined with all the crossbenchers in the House to launch a parliamentary motion calling for the climate challenge to be recognised as an emergency. The UK, France, and Canada have done so.

It is time our political masters are flushed out. I suggested a conscience vote by all members and senators. Climate is the greatest economic, social, political, and moral challenge of this century.

Hewson is a professor at ANU and former Liberal Party leader.