Tuesday 26 October 2021

Is Shtraya Aiming to Wreck COP26?

I think so. In fact, I fear so.


I go one step further: Australia may try to sabotage COP26. Let me explain.

Today at 12:00 AEDT, Scotty from Marketing (aka Prime Minister Scott Morrison) announced with great fanfare the plan his Government concocted to achieve Australia’s new goal of net zero GHG emissions for 2050. With federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor as sidekick, the whole affair took a little less than an hour (video), half of it for the presentation, the rest for the Q&A session.

Although what I found disturbing surfaced during the Q&A session, I’ll go briefly into the presentation, which caught the most attention from the journos.

After Scotty’s introduction (during which he made a point of showing a number of times a rather slim, unimpressive document, calling it “Our Plan”), Taylor went into the contents of the let’s say technical – for lack of a better word – details of the plan.

To defend Australia’s unsatisfactory performance, it was remarked that underdeveloped countries had increased their emissions, without acknowledging that this was not a failure of the process; it was a concession underdeveloped countries got for the fact developed countries – like Australia – had created the problem in the first place.

In other words, the COALition’s trademark attempts at obfuscation (it may work at Glasgow, too, for no journo present seemed to notice that, let alone challenge it).

To reduce its GHG emissions, Australia will not use a carbon pricing mechanism, instead it will rely on technology:
  1. 85% of the GHG emissions cut is to come from soil carbon sequestration, carbon capture and storage, low-emissions metallurgy, hydrogen made using renewables and fossil fuels;
  2. the remaining 15% is to come from still non-existenting technologies
In other words, every single tonne of GHG emitted by Australia is to be offset by either (1) as yet unproven (and even self-defeating, like so-called “blue” hydrogen) technologies, or by (2) non-existing technologies (for some reason, the words a wise old woman once told me come to mind: “it’s bad luck to count the chicks before they hatch”).

To her credit, Katharine Murphy, from The Guardian-Oz, did notice that (see video opening).

In fact, Australia is considering selling those offsets to its Pacific neighbours.

In general, professional journalists, not only at home, but abroad as well, seem unsatisfied. Andrew Probyn speculates, and I for one suspect he may be right, that this document is the same document Taylor presented to the National caucus last week. The deniers were not persuaded. They may have been right on that.
One of journos’ observations is that the ransom the Nationals extorted still remains a secret (only Keith Pitt’s promotion to cabinet member, presumably as payment for his support to “Our Plan” in recognition of his bright idea of saddling the Commonwealth with $250 billion of stranded assets has been revealed).

The modelling behind the plan is also another secret. No enhanced targets were advanced, so Australia will indeed go to Glasgow with the 26%-28% targets, as I said last time.
All of that predictable. Indeed, Scotty acknowledged that and claimed it as a virtue: “Our Plan” involves nothing new.

It was however, during the Q&A when Scotty dropped this bomb – which journos apparently missed altogether:
You know the challenges that we face here in Australia, particularly with the nature of our economy are not that dissimilar to those being faced in Indonesia or in Vietnam or in India or places like that, or indeed China.
You know, if you really want to deal with this problem, it is not good enough to just tax people in developed countries and think that fixes the problem. Because I can tell you, China’s emissions will keep going up. John Kerry said this himself in one of his first press conferences, America could reduce their emissions to zero and if China’s emissions keep going up we don’t solve the problem.
We want to solve the problem. If you want to solve the problem then you need scaled, affordable, low-emissions technologies running industries, creating jobs, not just here in Australia but in Indonesia, Vietnam, China, India and other countries and, if you don’t do that, that won’t change.
I am wary of pollies and that is particularly true of Scotty. Readers are free to disagree, but that suggests to me Scotty may attempt to sell his “technology not taxes” approach to underdeveloped countries “or places like that” – Indonesia, Vietnam, India, even China.

If my suspicion is right – and I hope to be mistaken; so please, reader, persuade me to the contrary – that is irresponsible to the level of madness: technology alone will not work for “places like that” any more than it will work for Shtraya.

But to freeload – which is what Australia wants to do – may be as tempting to the ruling classes of “places like that” as it is to Scotty: while rich countries producers are encumbered by an additional cost (the carbon price), their own and our producers are free to compete with artificially cheaper goods. So far, that seems to be targeting the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, or CBAM; if successful, it may well dissuade other rich nations from applying any carbon pricing mechanism.

Last month Dan Tehan, federal Minister for Trade, went on a tour (among others, to Indonesia and India, in fact) on an “anti-protectionism” crusade. Tehan calls the CBAM a “carbon tariff”.

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