Bleached magnificent sea anemone (Heteractis magnifica) with clownfish (Amphiprion percula). Lizard Island, March 2017 © CoralWatch / WWF-Aus

Bleached magnificent sea anemone (Heteractis magnifica) with clownfish (Amphiprion percula). Lizard Island, March 2017 © CoralWatch / WWF-Aus

COP26: We need to talk about Australia’s climate change issues

01 Nov 2021

Keywords
  • biodiversity
  • carbon pollution
  • climate change
  • greenhouse gas emission
  • renewable energy
  • sustainable development goals
  • technology

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The greatest challenge for a liveable future? Climate change. Globally, the devastating impact of unpredictable weather and the resulting disasters from bushfires, flooding, erosion, unhealthy air and drought continue to present challenges to our survival. 


In Australia, animal and insect habitats are shrinking with accelerating frequency, impacting food production and disrupting natural ecosystems.

While we urgently need to combat the damage we’ve caused, Australia lags woefully behind the rest of the world when it comes to committing resources and taking action.

Out of 193 UN Member States, Australia ranked last for climate action in 2021’s Sustainable Development Report. Despite all of our major trading partners stepping up with a net-zero target, we currently claim the highest per-capita emissions of any OECD Member country.

This will all be centre stage at this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP26) from 31 October - 12 November.

 

Small islands press conference, Copenhagen, Denmark © WWF / Richard Stonehouse

 

What is COP26?

Every year, world leaders of United Nations Member States attend the UN Climate Change Conference. It’s a chance for nations to demonstrate their commitment and publicly declare their intentions to do their part in climate change action.

Kicking off on the 31 October, this year’s conference is hosted in Glasgow.

In an environment fundamentally altered by COVID-19, COP26 will assemble governments to recommit to climate change relief and to amplify their efforts.

 

What key items are on the agenda this year?

With last year’s COP being cancelled due to COVID-19, at COP26 it’s essential we compensate for lost time.

 

Additionally, the 196 signatories of the 2015 Paris Agreement are due to submit their latest pledges toward reducing national emissions.

 

Securing global net-zero by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5oC

A key aim of the 2015 Paris Agreement was to limit global temperature increases to 1.5o C above pre-industrial levels.

 

Why 1.5o C? A special United Nations (UN) report found that if global warming were to surpass 1.5o C it would lead to “irreversible loss of the most fragile ecosystems, and crisis after crisis for the most vulnerable people and societies.”

The problem is we are not currently on track to limit global warming to 1.5o C. It’s why more and more countries have started to announce commitments to significantly cut carbon emissions to reach ‘net-zero’.

Essentially, ‘net-zero’ means that any human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by removing them from the atmosphere through nature-based solutions and technology 

At COP26, “countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net-zero by the middle of the century.”

After mounting pressure, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has finally announced plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

 

Protecting people and nature from the impacts of climate change
Given the disastrous effects of climate change, as we saw in our own backyard with the catastrophic bushfires of 2019-2020, countries at COP26 will be asked to make climate change adaptation strategies a political priority.

 

Mobilising finance
In 2009, the international community set a goal for developed countries to contribute $100 billion a year until 2020 to help developing countries combat climate change. The Paris Climate Summit extended this goal to the end of 2025.

At COP26, countries will discuss how they can build confidence that the $100bn per year goal can be met and what the plan is for future financing after 2025.

 

Finalising Article 6 in the Paris Rulebook
The Paris Agreement has its own rulebook guiding countries on how to implement agreements. Article 6 of the rulebook covers how to set up a new international carbon market for trading emissions reductions. But, this article has caused some disagreement and has never been finalised.

In addition, some specific technical details of the rules for tracking and reporting progress on national climate action plans still need to be finalised at COP26. The timeframes for achieving the goals of each country’s new climate action plans will also be discussed as there is currently no international agreement on what these should be.

 

Why does COP26 matter?

When global leaders gather, the world pays attention. Australia’s lukewarm climate accountability obligations are putting our global reputation in serious jeopardy.

“Australia’s current goal of a 26 to 28% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030, and the absence of a national zero emissions target is out of step with its states, its trading partners, and other comparable nations. It is insufficient to meet Australia’s Paris Agreement commitments,” said Ban Ki-moon, former UN chief.

COP26 is a much-needed call to action. It’s Australia’s opportunity to address the impacts of climate change while strengthening our relationships with other nations.

It’s time for us to be ambitious and step forward with big, bold commitments to protect the planet we all call home from impending and irreversible damage.

 

Business champions ad - Renewables Nation

 

WWF-Australia is advocating for policy change
Renewables Nation

The COP26 in Glasgow in November is Australia’s chance to step up and invest in a renewable export future.

The world is racing to grow their renewable industries. The ambition has never been greater. Australia has some of the best renewable resources in the world but other global economies are investing at a rate far greater than us.

In the lead up to COP26, we are continuing to call on our leaders to make Australia the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy by 2030. With our endless sunshine, powerful winds, world-class expertise and strong trade relationships, it’s clear that Australia should take the lead as a renewable energy export superpower.
Learn more about how we can make Australia a Renewable Energy Superpower.

 

The Convention on Biological Diversity
We are also supporting the objectives of another UN Conference of the Parties (COP15), the first phase of which has just been held in Kunming, China. It’s a COP focused on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international treaty to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity. The COP is split into two phases, the first in October 2021, is a high-level opening involving government ministers and the second in April-May 2022 will see the final negotiations and agreements on the Global Biodiversity Framework.

The Framework is an international agreement that countries will commit to, putting in place action plans to build a future where nature and people can thrive. In July 2021, a new draft agreement was released by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) with a plan to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and 30% of the world’s sea areas and to stop the species extinction rate from accelerating.

It’s not too late for us to rewrite history for Australia’s biodiversity – specifically, to reverse the loss by 2030 – but strong and ambitious leadership has never been more important. WWF-Australia has launched Regenerate Australia, our vision and program of action to ensure our environment, people and wildlife thrive. In the lead up to COP15 in April-May 2022, we need our Australian Government to take a stand for people and nature. It will take us all working together over the coming decades to recover what has been lost.

We’re calling on the Australian Government to show leadership, as Australia is one of 17 mega biodiverse countries committing to strong targets and action to ensure nature and people thrive by 2030. This includes protecting 30% of Australia’s land and 30% of oceans by 2030, increasing investment for Indigenous ranger programs and committing to a national target to halt human-induced extinctions including uplisting east coast koalas to Endangered under national environment law.

In the wild, koalas serve as ambassadors for the many other species that also inhabit the Australian bush. Protecting bushland areas in an effort to save koala populations also protects the habitat of a wide range of animal and plant species, which helps conserve biodiversity.

 

Pushing for policy change
We are advocating for the strengthening and enforcement of environment protection laws as a key lever to help stop biodiversity loss.

In Australia, recent research has found that our national nature laws, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999, have failed to tackle habitat destruction and the extinction emergency.

In fact, Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate of any country in the world. To add to that, the catastrophic bushfires of 2019-20 impacted nearly 3 billion animals and have pushed many more of our precious wildlife on the fast track towards extinction.

Through our advocacy work and the Regenerate Australia program, we are working to future-proof our continent against further destruction, but we can’t do it alone.

 

How you can help

Every one of us can make small changes that form a tidal wave of collective action. How empowering is that?

Learn more about what how we’re to future-proof Australia and tell your network about COP26 and COP15.

Interested in donating? Join us in protecting our unique natural world and become a Regenerate Australia Champion today.

Our oceans need urgent protection. 

Send an urgent message to the Australian Government to demand protection of Australia nature.

 

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