The Climate Change Performance Index, put together by Climate Action Network Europe and NGO, Germanwatch, evaluates and ranks the climate protection performance of 58 countries that together are responsible for more than 90 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions.

The fact that Australia has been rated third last out of the 58 countries assessed reveals the extent of the Turnbull Government’s climate hypocrisy.

Last week the Prime Minister himself was in Paris championing Australia’s efforts at meeting our climate change targets early. And this week Minister Hunt has gone out of his way to talk up the positive response that Australia’s representatives have received at Paris. “We’re meeting and beating our targets,” he said.

Australia has been using every trick in the book to make our targets sound good – but this kind of rhetoric has now been shown up to be duplicitous. If you look a little deeper you will see that our emissions are in fact rising. And that’s before you take into account plans to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in the Galilee Basin. 

Australia has been using every trick in the book to make our targets sound good – but this kind of rhetoric has now been shown up to be duplicitous.

This month’s CEDEX report shows emissions from energy generation are up 3.5%, driven by emissions from brown and black coal fired power plants. This translates over to a 2% rise in total emissions in just the last 15 months. A far cry from the emissions reductions claimed by Prime Minister Turnbull and others in Paris. 

Looking ahead at plans to build the Carmichael mine in the Galilee basin, and our targets become irrelevant. If it goes ahead, the mine will pollute over 100 million tonnes a year, enough to cancel out the emissions reductions claimed in our 2020 and 2030 targets. 

On top of conveniently airbrushing out Australia’s proposed coal expansion, Minister Hunt also failed to mention the Government’s continued attack on climate and renewable energy policies at home. 

Since the last federal election the government has repealed the price on pollution, effectively cut the Renewable Energy Target and now plans to axe the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA.

But the hypocrisy doesn’t end there. In Paris Australia has joined the International Solar Alliance, but at home the government continues to fund $6 billion in fossil fuel subsidies every year. And we will defend our right to do so. One of the announcements Malcolm Turnbull made on Day 1 in Paris was to block Australia signing onto an international communique on phasing out inefficient government subsidies for coal, oil and gas.

If Australia is serious about our climate change policy we must stop being the climate hypocrite. We have world class solar and wind resources, and a booming international renewable energy industry ready to invest in countries with the right policy setting. We have recently seen 150,000 Australians marching on the streets in 50 cities and towns from Darwin to Hobart, and Sydney to Broome for stronger climate action. 

In the face of popular public support, many will be asking why the Turnbull Government seems set on saying one thing and doing the opposite with regard climate policy. 

In the face of popular public support, many will be asking why the Turnbull Government seems set on saying one thing and doing the opposite with regard climate policy.

They will be asking why aren’t our elected leaders taking advantage of the climate, health, economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy in a land blessed with such abundance of sun and wind? 

A good question indeed. The short answer is money. And it’s influence on politics. The big polluting fossil fuel companies spend billions on lobbyists and political donations to make sure the public support for climate action is not heard in the halls of Canberra. Some of these same lobbyists are now in Paris with vested interests in profiting from oil and coal, try to slow down progress toward strong action. 

Australia can and should lift its game. Listen to the Australian public and the international community, not the big polluters. Set stronger targets, and start transitioning our economy from coal to renewables. Stop being a climate hypocrite and start leading the charge.


Hannah Aulby

Clean Energy Campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation.