Morrison Left Behind by UN Climate Ambition Summit

Saturday’s online-only world conference, co-hosted by the UN, UK and France, was dubbed the Climate Ambition Summit. World leaders from 76 countries around the world were invited to make a 45-sec pledge on climate action, which were then spun out into a 6-hour live-streamed event.

Earlier in the week, Morrison had told Parliament he intended to use the summit to walk back the government’s controversial plan to use Kyoto credits – essentially based on reducing the rate of deforestation – to meet future climate commitments. Yet in the final event, Morrison was not invited to speak.

When asked about the perceived snub, Selwyn Hart, special advisor to the UN Secretary-General on climate change, said, “We will not be commenting on the participation of individual leaders,” he said.

“But the three co-hosts – the UN, UK and France – provided all member states with very clear guidance from the outset that speaking slots would go to countries and other actors who show the most ambition right now.”

What climate commitments were made at the UN Climate Ambition Summit?

Actors considered ambitious enough for the summit included Joe Biden, who pledged to rejoin the Paris Climate  Agreement to keep global temperature increase below 2℃. Biden also reiterated his commitment to net zero emissions no later than 2050. 

Xi Jinping reiterated his September pledge to peak China’s emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2060. He also promised a 65 percent reduction of CO2 per unit of GDP by 2030 and a major expansion of forest cover.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week pledged a 68 percent reduction in CO2 by 2030, as part of a “green industrial revolution.” Johnson also pledged to end subsidies for the oil majors overseas, potentially a major shift given the centrality of British oil and gas to their foreign policy for many, many decades.

Even Pakistan, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, announced it will not build any new coal-fired power plants. Khan set a 60 percent renewable energy target for 2030, along with a 30 percent electric vehicles target.

In short, Morrison wasn’t invited because he had nothing ambitious to say. In comparison to the unity shown across as broad an ideological sweep as the US Democrats, the Chinese Communist Party and the UK Conservatives, Scott Morrison and the Federal Liberals are now global outcasts on climate.