Australia ranks third-last in worst climate change performance among 58 countries

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COP21 rally
Protester Amy Walburn holds a butterfly-shaped placard in front of the Sydney Opera House during a rally held ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, known as the COP21 summit, in Sydney's central business district, Australia November 29, 2015. Reuters/Jason Reed

Australia ranked third-last in the assessment of the climate change performance of 58 countries, following Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. The 2016 Climate Change Performance Index released at the Paris Climate Summit shows that the country scores poorly in its actions against climate change, including its renewable energy deployment.

The 2016 CCPI was released a day after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop claimed Australia was meeting and beating its climate targets while transforming its energy production, the Guardian reports.  

The climate policies of each of the 58 countries, their deployment of renewable energy, the energy intensity of the economy and the actual emission levels per capita or the trend in emissions projections were assessed for the CCPI.

Kelly O’Shannassy, chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the report indicates the difference between Australia’s efforts to mitigate climate change and what it was saying at the Paris conference. The foundation also worked as one of the expert advisers for the assessment.  

“This report cuts through the government’s spin to show that we are a climate laggard,” O’Shannassy said. Australia reportedly has high per capita emissions, making it score very badly in the assessment for its emissions levels. It also scores poorly on national and international climate policy. However, the country had an improvement, although not enough, in its projected future emissions. 

The Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe, which released the assessment, reportedly considered comments from experts for the 2016 CCPI.

Australia’s current policy framework has been evaluated as inadequate to meet its minimum 5 percent target below 2000 level by 2020. The country’s renewable energy target also declined from 41,000 GWh to 33,000 GWh due to legislative amendments in June.

The new definition of renewable energy to include burning of biomass from native forests was criticised to potentially drive deforestation, deliver more carbon emissions, reduce sequestration and especially prevent the uptake of real renewable energy.

Policies like the Emission Reduction Fund were also criticised as weak, poorly designed and not covering the major emitters of the country. The 2016 CCPI was finalised before Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sat in office, and it does not appear to reflect the idea of many negotiators of a more positive attitude by Australia in Paris.

The report says “experts criticise that Australia’s attitude appeared to be to try to avoid making any substantive commitments, and to do the absolute minimum that it has to. There appeared to be no recognition of Australia’s national interest in minimising climate change; rather, the focus seems to be on protecting domestic energy and resource exporters (coal and gas industry).”

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