Australia sought to amend a major international report on climate change to promote a future of coal power and downplay the influence of fossil fuel lobbyists, says environmental group Greenpeace.
- The leaked documents show that Australia was trying to change a draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Japan and Argentina were also reported to have attempted to dilute languages in the report
- The federal government says the leaked parts “mischaracterized” Australia’s position and the process itself
Documents leaked to Greenpeace’s Unearthed study project and seen by ABC describe Australia’s comments and criticisms of a draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has yet to be published.
Although the government’s feedback is a normal part of the IPCC process, Greenpeace’s UK chief executive John Sauven said the leak provided an insight into the “secret world of what governments really think about the climate case”.
In one case, an Australian official protested against a section calling for a halt to the construction of new coal-fired power plants and the retirement of existing coal-fired power plants.
According to the documents, the official from the Australian Ministry of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources said that coal power still had a future thanks to carbon capture and storage.
“These remarks confuse the objective (elimination of emissions) with the means to” withdraw the existing coal power “,” the official wrote.
They added that carbon capture and storage “is still relevant for zero emissions”.
Australia also protested against a section claiming that campaigns from the fossil fuel industries had slowed progress on climate action.
But the Australian official called for the section to be deleted, calling it a “political point of view”.
The Minerals Council of Australia has long promoted the role of the ball in providing cheap energy and jobs, and it has run national advertising campaigns about the virtues of the “little black stone”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who once swung a lump of coal in parliament, has previously hired leading mineral council staff as his trusted advisers.
Sauven said Australia’s objection was “ridiculous”.
Australia rejects ‘interference’
ABC has only seen three comments attributed to Australian officials.
A spokesman for the Minister of Energy and Emission Reduction, Angus Taylor, said the leaked parts mistakenly characterized Australia’s position and the process itself.
“All governments are encouraged to comment on draft IPCC reports as a process,” the spokesman said.
“All comments received by the IPCC will be published with their reports as they are completed.
“This ensures complete transparency.
The Australian Government’s feedback was published as part of a much larger leak of 32,000 responses from governments and other interested parties, which was shared with the BBC
Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Japan and Argentina were among the other countries trying to dilute the language, the BBC reported.
Joeri Rogelj, an IPCC author and research director at the Grantham Institute, told the BBC that the contents of the leak were not surprising.
“The review process and receiving comments from governments, industry groups, other scientists or sometimes even science deniers is a central part of the review process of how these reports are written,” said Dr. Rogelj.
He said the proposed changes will not be adopted if they are not backed by science.
“If we have comments that challenge us and ask us to remove something, it only motivates us to take a closer look at the evidence and ensure that what we write is fully accurate and fully supported,” he said. .
Documents suggest that Australia also asked to be removed from a list of major coal-consuming countries.
The draft report states that “large coal-consuming countries are still far from phasing out coal”.
The Canberra official noted that Australia’s consumption was “an order of magnitude lower” than the other countries listed.
Analysis from research firm Ember ranks Australia as the world’s 10th largest coal-fired generator.
Australia remains one of the world’s largest coal producers and exporters.
Australia’s position is ‘tragic’, says Greenpeace
This is not the first time that Australian officials have tried to influence the language on climate change commitments.
Earlier this month, a leaked email suggested that the UK government dropped a reference to the temperature agreements in the Paris Agreement to get a free trade agreement with Australia across the border.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison later defended Australia’s position.
“It was not a climate agreement, it was a trade agreement,” he told reporters.
“In trade agreements, I deal with trade issues.
“In climate agreements, I deal with climate issues.”
Greenpeace said the Australian government lacked ambition ahead of the COP26 climate summit, which was “tragic” given the aftermath of recent natural disasters.
“We really need to act now if we are to prevent catastrophic damage in the short and medium term,” Sauven told ABC.
“And I think that’s what we would expect a country like Australia to do.
“It’s very rich in renewable resources, it’s a prosperous country – it can really be an important part of the solution.”