28 October 2021

Morrison's way to Glasgow is still paved with coal

| Ian Bushnell
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Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison should have net-zero credibility after this. Photo: file

For just a microsecond, Scott Morrison gave the nation hope that the climate wars were over, that his government finally accepted the science and acknowledged the peril the world was in due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels.

But it seems the only peril the Prime Minister sees is the loss of Queensland seats in the coming federal election and Australia being punished by the international financial markets for not acting to decarbonise the economy.

The pundits have already noted that his path to net zero emissions by 2050 has zero new policies or funding and that its reliance on offsets, soil carbon measures and carbon capture and storage means it has zero credibility.

This is the climate plan you have when you really don’t want to have one.

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You have got to hand to Scotty from Marketing – who else would cobble together a raft of existing policies into a glossy booklet, wave it around at a press conference and have the chutzpah to call it the Australian Way?

It seems the only existential crisis this government wants to tackle is its own, because the plan is nothing more than an election pamphlet to placate city voters and reassure those in Queensland regional seats that rely on the coal and gas industries that it will be business as usual.

For all the urgency generated by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg about the looming capital crunch if Australia didn’t commit to net-zero by 2050, it is doubtful that the financial markets will be taken in by such a shonky exercise.

As warnings from scientists become more strident that time is running out to keep global temperature rises to a level that might avert catastrophic climate impacts, the game is already shifting to making deeper emission cuts by 2030 and accelerating the transition to renewably sourced electricity and zero-emission vehicles.

By the time the PM gets to Glasgow, his glossy plan will already be out of date.

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The PM says his way relies on technology but carbon capture and storage – injecting CO2 into the ground – is still unproven after billions of dollars of research and if ever adopted at scale will be immensely costly.

It is attractive only because it helps justify not confronting the reality that fossil fuels need to be phased out. It is based more in hope than fact.

Mr Morrison continues cruelly to offer false hope to those regions where coal and gas is prominent. There is still no industry transition plan for those workers likely to be left high and dry as demand dwindles and assets are stranded.

The irony is that global markets are racking up record prices for fossil fuels, like some sort of danse macabre at the end of the world, which only spurs on their advocates.

You would think that fossil fuels are the only industries besides agriculture in the regions. National Party members who say there are sticking up for the bush might like to consider the impact coal mines and gas drilling have on its most precious commodity – water.

What kind of tourism industry will there be in Queensland if the Great Barrier Reef is bleached white?

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If technology is the answer, where are the billions for renewable generation, battery storage and grid stabilisation, and incentives for EVs and the development of a national charging infrastructure?

Mr Morrison can hold up a phone and praise technology all he likes, but without real policies and support for our research powerhouses in the university sector, which his government abandoned during the pandemic, it is just empty rhetoric.

Even the claim about ultra-cheap solar power is based on existing take-up driven mainly by the states and territories which have done almost all of the heavy lifting in cutting emissions.

It’s as if technology is a magic word that just needs to be repeated often enough to make the problem go away, without a legislative and tax framework that provides certainty for business and reflects the cost fossil fuels are having on the environment and helps pay for the solutions.

And the great hope, hydrogen, is predicated on using natural gas to generate it, helping to prolong a fossil fuel that is neither clean nor the transition fuel it is sold as.

The last two weeks in Canberra have been farcical, with the Nationals engaged in hostage diplomacy and doing what it does best, extorting billions of taxpayer dollars for Barnaby’s boondoggles, and Mr Morrison taking the electorate and the world for mugs.

Is that the Australian Way?

Australia can be a clean energy powerhouse, it can be a role model, it can help the region adapt, and it can play a role on the world stage. But not Scott Morrison’s Way.

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Not hearing much in the way of complaints from the extractive fossil fuel industries, this is telling. LNP are beholden to fossil fuel corporate interests. Our government is @ COP
protecting corporate interests, not Australians.

Capital Retro2:41 pm 03 Nov 21

Like it or not we are all beholden to fossil fuels: https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/how-would-life-without-fossil-fuels-impact-society so what you are saying is rubbish.

I thought my comment was clear. By beholden I specifically mean LNP are bound, as in influenced by lobby groups like Minerals Council and APPEA, not obliged like you or I to use our gas BBQ’s. Lobby groups have disproportionate influence on how governments decide to act on climate emergency. How much fun would it be to see this issue decided like our marriage equality vote. Given just under 80% want more done on climate emergency.

Capital Retro1:28 pm 05 Nov 21

How many of that 80% would be prepared to forego the standard of living we have been accustomed to?

No one is saying that we are not beholden to fossil fuels & that they underwrite our standard of living however if we dont reduce the earth heating up you wont have much of a living standard anyway. Even without any scientific evidence any fool can observe the changes & warming.

Capital Retro6:06 pm 05 Nov 21

Well, I’m not a fool because I’ve been around almost 80 years and I haven’t noticed any changes and warming.

There is a world of things out there you have not noticed. What is your point? Your failure to notice/understand does not mean it does not occur. Consider that you are way out of step with most of society and the world on this point. If you are so sure, please publish what you have and disprove anthropogenic climate change. You know, there is a considerable cash prize with the Nobel you will undoubtably receive. You can use the cash to pay your subscription to Heartland Institute.

I don’t know. Again you miss my point, there is no use engaging with you.

CR, over a lifetime by the coast, my late mother described clear changes, and she lived about 20 years longer than you say you have to date. You may conclude either that you are wholly refuted by her greater experience, or that a single person’s opinion is not reliable evidence. Which of these options do you choose, or is your view especially special?

Capital Retro7:46 am 06 Nov 21

If you are referring to Broulee Island at Moruya I concede there has been a change there namely it is no longer an island:

But this sort of disproves the claim that sea levels are rising so you won’t want to know about it.

Could we have some information about the clear changes your grandmother described?

No, l do not refer to Broulee, and no, pub level opinions are useless for reliable knowledge, as many people understand although that insight appears permanently lost to you given you appear to have gone for the “especially special” escape hatch.

Capital Retro2:40 pm 06 Nov 21

So, you can’t give examples of what your “greater experienced” mother’s observations are and you accuse me of going for the “especially special” (whatever that means) escape hatch?

What do you mean by “pub level”? I am talking about “sea level”.

Capital Retro8:36 pm 06 Nov 21

There is nothing to prove and nothing to publish. It’s all happened before and it’s natural.

The Nobel people are, like the UN’s IPCC, a joke.

Capital Retro doesn’t do facts or evidence.

He expects you to understand the “vibe”.

Apparently that’s more important than facts.

Personally I’m 150 years old and have experienced massive climate change. Therefore CR is wrong.

Did you read past the first couple of tweets Capital Retro to the link that quite clearly showed the original tweet to be utter nonsense?

I somehow doubt you did.

Capital Retro10:41 am 03 Nov 21


I thought you would have looked past Twitter too.

Capital Retro,
That doesn’t show anything other than that Tesla has a charging station there.

So what?

It doesn’t back up the original claim which is clearly refuted in the Twitter feed you’ve linked to.

Capital Retro2:43 pm 03 Nov 21

“ONE” charging station for Teslas. Are you on the same planet as I am?

We live on earth. not sure what one you live on:

As per the link further down in the twitter – they don’t have teslas at all…

Of all the things you could actually find wrong with Cop26 (and there’s plenty), you pick one that isn’t even an issue and has been debunked.

Whatever planet you’re on, I’m glad to not be there.

HiddenDragon8:10 pm 29 Oct 21

“For just a microsecond, Scott Morrison gave the nation hope that the climate wars were over…..”

They’re not over in the US, either. That’s why Joe Biden had to delay his trip to Europe to negotiate a last minute “framework” which he hopes his fractured Congressional Democrat ranks will unite to support – with substantial, but somewhat less than hoped for, funding for climate-related policies.

Meanwhile, in the world’s No. 1 (by a very long way) carbon dioxide emitter, we have the news that coal production and consumption is going gangbusters (in spite of the spin we’ve been fed for years about it being a “stranded asset”) –


The TV version of that story included the truly fascinating detail that China’s 2060 carbon neutral “pledge” includes the ambition to reduce coal usage to “only” 20% of power production by that date – but if Australian doesn’t stop coal mining forthwith, we’ll all be rooned.

The real battle going on behind the group hugs and saccharine rhetoric at Glasgow may well be which nuclear export industry (will it be the Anglo-Americans? will it be the French?) gets the most orders from countries which face up to the reality that renewables ain’t gonna do the job.

Capital Retro7:28 am 30 Oct 21

Xi is too busy building more coal fired electrical generators to keep his people warm because the unelected UN has given China eternal concessions to emit greenhouse gasses which may or may not have potential to increase global temperatures.

Capital Retro6:10 pm 29 Oct 21

Remember what Tim Flannery said about rain wouldn’t fall again and our dams would be empty?


Why do you confuse long term climate change with weather?

Bizi Kat – and why do you claim climate change is man made? The climate on this little, blue sphere has been evolving and changing for millions of years – humans have only been around a couple a hundred or so.

People who believe that mere mortals can change the climate are either egotistical or morons..!!

Bizi Kat, why do you deny the Medieaval Warming Period, or the end of the Ice Age?

How many temperature records need to be broken before you wake up. Will 50 degrees in Adelaide convince u ? Or maybe 55 ? Give it another 15 years.

Capital Retro7:34 pm 05 Nov 21

Meanwhile, Antarctica is having its coldest winter on record. I said coldest.

Stephen Saunders8:12 am 29 Oct 21

The “Australian Way” is not peculiar to Morrison – or Albanese.

The Potemkin Facade for the whole Australian elite is that the least water-secure continent on earth can meet and greet a “Net Zero 2050” while also increasing its population by 40-50%.

I know of no Australian press that would probe politicians on these stark contradictions. Everyone stays in their silos.


The constant push to rapidly increase Australia’s popultion seems to be an ecological disaster in the making.

However perhaps it’s not. The Greens don’t seem to think it’s a problem.

Lazy comment: The current level of population, population growth and the way we produce and consume are outstripping environmental capacity. Australia must contribute to achieving a globally sustainable population and encourage and support other nations to do the same.
I particualrly like : Population policy should not be primarily driven by economic goals or to counter the effects of an ageing population.

Capital Retro1:31 pm 05 Nov 21

Thank Gaia that The Greens aren’t running the country.

I think it’s hilarious that the same people who’ve been constantly criticising the government for not committing to net zero have now instantly pivoted to saying its not enough and the plan won’t work anyway.

It’s almost like this is more about politics and ideology rather than any true wish to actually address climate change.

The activists are never happy and particularly so when their favourite political parties don’t hold power.

To be fair Chewy, I’ve seen more developed plans written on the back of a beer coaster at the local pub then Morrison’s idea of a ‘plan’.

But one step at a time I guess – some commitment is better than zero commitment… especially given the absolute stone age, dinosaur element that parts of the National Party are.

I’m not saying it’s currently a well developed plan.

But nor is it worse than what the ALP or Greens have put forward in recent times with very little thought given to overall consideration of the impacts of what’s proposed to the Australian economy and society in the short to medium term.

It just seems ironic that those who constantly complained about the lack of commitment aren’t celebrating what should be a good thing.

It’s also something tangible to hold the government to account on in the future. And that applies no matter which party is in power either.

So you agree Chewy its not a well developed plan, but at the same time ‘its tangible’ and will hold governments to account. I would of thought those states are mutually exclusive?

If it is built on by future governments, then yes that outcome can be achieved. But it is nowhere near that at this point in time – and there is zero evidence that either side of politics has any genuine will to fill in the gaps, although I suspect the ALP might at least pretend to try to have a go at doing so.

The plan has a set outcome to be achieved that can be measured and tracked.

If the government (whoever is in power) is not progressing to that outcome then their opponents can rightly attack them on performance.

At present, I think we have one side of politics not wanting to do much actively, assuming the outcome will occur naturally.

And on the other side, we have big proposals for significant action with very little thought as to the costs or impacts to Australia, our economy and our society of what they want to do.

Along with the fact that Australia can and should only act in line with global agreements because anything we do unilaterally will make almost zero difference.

And both sides of politics just want to whinge that the other side is wrong, more interested in keeping or gaining power rather than the actual desired outcome.

You put too much faith Chewy in this document ever being retrieved from whatever draw/shredder it ends up in for mine ha 😛

We have an outcome that is considered desirable – its a start. But that is effectively it – the ad nauseum repeating by the marketing man of the word ‘plan’ does not really make it worthy of that descriptor.

“Along with the fact that Australia can and should only act in line with global agreements because anything we do unilaterally will make almost zero difference.”

Not arguing with the premise – at the fundamental level its true (although I’d suggest it does underplay the fact that leadership from the developed world invariably can have a significant positive impact on the actions of the developing world – and that is critical here).

But it shows everything that baffles me about how we are approaching this issue. Yes we need to act in line with global agreements on emissions reductions – of course.

But likewise, we should recognise that this represents a massive opportunity for Australia to develop a massive competitive and comparative advantage in the ‘post-coal’ world (for want of a better term) – its a golden opportunity in that sense and the inertia created around ‘we can only do our bit’ has really eroded the focus that should be put on the opportunities this will create, if we move fast enough to be at the front of the queue.

I find this curious – not because there is anything fundamentally wrong with the statement – but because it neatly sums up why there is such inertia in this space, and the fact that Australia as a collective is likely to miss out on a massive opportunity as a result.

“You put too much faith Chewy in this document ever being retrieved from whatever draw/shredder it ends up in for mine ha ?”

Probably similar to most long term government led plans then, LOL.

And I don’t think that both taking advantage of our natural resources as well as developing new low carbon industries or technologies are incompatible and can’t happen at the same time.

We should dig up and sell as much coal as we can to other countries whilst building the technologies and industries that allow us to pivot away from it when necessary.

Too many people want Australia to shoot ourselves in the foot to be seen to be “doing something” or “showing global leadership”.

Because if you have little faith in our own government plans, how much faith do you really put in statements or plans from the biggest overall emission countries like China?

The top 4 countries for global CO2 emissions account for over half the total.

Which is why I say that enforceable global agreements are the only thing that will achieve the outcomes necessary to effect real change.

Market economics are likely to kill off the coal industry in Australia a lot quicker then many suspect I think, in particular China’s pivot to internal and other sources continues (and no sign it won’t over medium term despite current challenges). I agree that we should not just turn off the tap in that regard overnight – but likewise, I think we should strongly consider drawing draw a line in the sand fairly soon (i.e. no more mine approvals after X). There are still of plenty of mines to supply plenty of coal in the interim and beyond – and noting that Australian demand will decline as the electricity generation mix continues to change, which will open up more for export per say.

I don’t agree that showing global leadership equates necessarily to shooting ourselves in the foot. They are not mutually exclusive states – the key components of what will drive ‘what is next’ are areas in which Australia’s natural endowments are likely to provide a massive comparative advantage compared to many other nations. But to maximise their value, we should strive to be a first mover not a Johnny come lately (within reason of course). Far too much of this ‘plan’ relies on Australia freeloading, when we should strive to help solve that gap.

Global agreements are critical of course to global efforts to reduce emissions – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing a lot to exploit the opportunities that the transition will present. This government has had 3 terms now to deliver something far more sophisticated then a single target in 30 years time and a Homer Simpson ‘Can’t someone else do it’ narrative, which in essence is what we got.


I don’t usually like Waleed Ali’s pieces but he is 100% on the money here.

And he outlines exactly why I think showing global leadership on this issue is fraught with danger from a purely Australian perspective.

Being a “first mover” in this space will almost certainly cost us more than we would benefit.

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