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By the time the PM gets to Glasgow, his glossy plan will already be out of date.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