Like cramming the night before a big exam, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rushed out a last-minute net zero plan five days before this critical climate conference.

It is a plan to have a plan: there’s no new policy and no accountability. Mr Morrison calls this the ‘Australian way’.

But over here in Glasgow, at the 26th global climate conference, the Australian way is not something to boast about.

Australia is known as the country that tries to water down ambition, or to block or delay meaningful solutions to a global threat.

When the Prime Minister jets in for the conference’s World Leaders Summit, Australia’s 2050 net zero commitment will be welcomed.

And so it should, it’s a shift in the right direction, if a decade overdue.

But as soon as world leaders dig a little deeper, un-Australian ways will be revealed – this plan short changes us now and in the future.

Most of our international partners, such as the US, UK and France – have already doubled their commitment to fight climate change this decade.

The PM is about to commit to making climate change worse by digging up and burning more coal and gas.

Australia has opened three new coal mines in the past month and, in NSW alone, there are at least 20 new coal projects in the pipeline.

Internationally, the end of coal and gas is coming, and quickly.

It would be the Australian way to help our coal communities transition into the clean energy future. But that’s not in this plan.

The success of these critical negotiations in Glasgow is hugely reliant on climate laggards putting aside their tricks and committing to real action.

Australia could commit to halving emissions this decade and turbo-charge that transition and all the jobs that flow from it.

We could sign up to the US-driven Global Methane Pledge and we could re-join the Green Climate Fund to empower developing countries to take action.

We could open our eyes to the world around us and consign coal to history. Australia could very easily be a global renewables superpower.

We could open our eyes to the world around us and consign coal to history. Australia could very easily be a global renewables superpower.

The nation’s biggest climate survey was recently carried out by the Australian Conservation Foundation and it found a majority of people, in every federal electorate, want stronger climate action. And nowhere is there a majority that supports new coal and gas-fired power.

So, the time has come for a new Australian way. One that uses the country's brainpower and proven technology that's here and ready to go.

Let's not turn our backs on our mates here in Glasgow.

Let's grasp the new opportunities and join them.

Freya Cole, ACF media and investigations manager, is in Glasgow for COP26.

This piece was published by the Canberra Times.


Susan Cole

Media and Investigations Manager, Australian Conservation Foundation