Australia must pull its weight in the Pacific and go harder on cutting emissions, according to international climate leaders.
South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations, told a forum in Canberra on Tuesday that the clean energy race has already begun and Australia needs to keep up.
Mr Ban says Asia’s direction in electrifying economies is clear, and it will change Australia’s economic prospects.
“The region will continue to want Australia’s exports, but they now want and expect clean energy alternatives,” he warned.
He also called for Australia to rejoin the Green Climate Fund and “pull its weight” in providing funding for poorer nations in the Pacific to respond to the impact of more severe and frequent disasters.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison scrapped Australia’s involvement in the fund, opting instead for a Pacific “step up” policy that critics say did little to help Pacific neighbours adapt and respond.
Mr Ban said the 2022 election result indicated voters of all stripes supported action on climate change.
The former diplomat encouraged all sides of politics to “step up and ensure Australia is a leader on climate action”.
Australia’s Climate Change Bill currently before parliament locks in tougher emissions reduction targets.
“This is a positive first step, and the step-up that the world has long been waiting for,” Mr Ban said.
French economist Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris Agreement on climate change, said she was pleased to see the new national commitment from the Albanese government.
“It’s a very positive first step, especially so early into the new term,” she told the forum.
“But we all have a long way to go and little time to ramp up. Australia too has a long way to go.”
Australia’s new contribution “remains insufficiently aligned with 1.5 degree and with its fair share”, she said.
Warning that the next UN climate summit will be difficult, with the world in the grips of an energy crisis, she said Australia could help by sending signals that will help protect climate diplomacy.
“Australia’s friends want to see a whole-of-Australia plan, one that eliminates harmful subsidies, that fully embraces renewables solutions for energy and transport, starting now, through 2030, and to your 2050 target,” she said.
Mr Ban urged Australia to match the level of ambition of the United States, the United Kingdom, European Union and Japan, by at least halving net emissions this decade.
That would mean building ambition into the Climate Change Bill 2022 so that the current floor of 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 can be steadily revised upwards.
(Australian Associated Press)