After over a decade, Australia is finally starting to act on climate change…

November 18, 2022

Australia’s parliament has finally passed the country’s first climate change law in over a decade. The bill’s goal is to cut carbon emissions by 43% by 2030 with the aim of achieving zero carbon emissions by 2050. While it is a good step forward, it is not enough and definitely not consistent with a 1.5 C warming scenario.

Over the last couple of years, Australia has suffered massive bushfires, severe droughts, record-breaking floods, and six mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef. With the possibility of such climate disasters repeating themselves, and on a much larger scale, Australia’s climate change law was long overdue!

Our colleagues in Australia also recently launched “Australia funding only one-tenth of its global fair share on climate: report,” which mentions that Australia’s current international climate funding makes up only a tenth of the international fair share, which is A.U. $4 billion per year (and part of the $100 billion goal each year by 2025). Yet Australia’s average contributions total only A.U. $400 million annually between 2020-2025. This report by the IPCC gives more detailed statistics about the GHG emissions produced by each country. According to UNEP’s State of the climate report, Australia also accounted for one of the highest per capita GHG emissions, at 23.49 tonnes in 2018.

All that said, the Australian government is still falling far behind in improving the climate condition. Australia has been responsible for a huge amount of GHG emissions, which only makes it fair if it now takes steps to address its carbon footprint. 

The question, though, goes way beyond what is fair and unfair. It eventually comes down to each country’s responsibility to ensure that their surroundings are being protected. This means focusing on the “common international effort to stabilize the global climate system” – climate fair share.

 The “U.S. Climate Fair Share project” comes to mind, which aims to create more concrete and specific demands for climate action. Over the last decade and the years before, the Climate Equity Reference Project has devised a methodology for quantifying the fair share of global climate action for individual countries. The project is a “long-term initiative designed to provide scholarship, tools, and analysis to advance global climate equity.” The process of applying this methodology within our country has been practiced by various organizations within the U.S. Climate Action Network (USCAN). ActionAid USA is proudly one of them. 

The U.S. Climate Fair Share project aims to address the dual challenges of global inequality and climate change, and also that U.S. climate action is apposite in this sense. The project also aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 195% below 2005 levels by 2030, 70% within the U.S. and the rest in developing countries that need international help through financial and technological support. 

Climate change has been a topic of concern for as long as I can remember. When I think of those who were born during the last couple of years, during the peak of climate change, I find it hard to believe that these children will never know a life with the Great Barrier Reef still blooming, national parks still evergreen or get to breathe the same fresh air. Thoughts like these constantly make me question whether we are doing enough today to address the potential climate impacts of tomorrow. 

Many countries like the U.S. and Australia still have a long way to go in achieving their climate goals, and it has become clear that every country will be left struggling to cope with climate change if they do not act collectively. Climate catastrophes are a global problem. They impact not just a few or the majority, but all countries, no matter the scale. And so addressing it should be a global responsibility as well.