Australia's recommitment to fossil fuels sounds a shaky start to COP24

Our first day of COP, as part of the Global Voices Scholarship Program, comes after a contentious week of negotiations. Perhaps most notable in last week’s negotiations was the IPCC 1.5 degrees report with the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocking other countries from ‘welcoming’ the report, only accepting to ‘note’ the findings. The EU, and many African, American and Pacific island nations all pushed for the report to be ‘welcomed’, while Australia notably stayed silent on the issue. This will likely delay negotiations in the middle of next year.

Day one saw the US host a side event on ‘Oil and Gas Technologies to address Climate Change Challenges’, in which US and Australian representatives signalled their intentions to continue investment in fossil fuels. Both countries cited their abundant natural resources, while the US claimed it ‘would not choose between economic prosperity and environmental protection’. These claims are in stark contrast to IPCC findings, especially the most recent 1.5 degrees report that advises States commit to a 45% emissions reduction by 2030 from 2010 levels.

Despite this, their words it did not go unchallenged. Prior to the session starting, there was a long line down the hallway of people trying to gain access to the room. Security closed the doors when all seating was taken, leaving the overflow room with many people listening closely. Protestors quickly disrupted the discussion with chants ‘Keep it in the ground’ and ‘Shame on you’, which were echoed by a number of individuals in the overflow room.

Later that afternoon, in an almost empty press conference room, Kevin Anderson and Hugh Hunt argued for the need to focus on the largest emitters globally - the top 10% of the population regarding wealth - to achieve the most rapid emissions cuts possible in the next five years, if we are to have a chance at meeting the Paris Agreement targets. Although a fascinating and vital conversation, their concerns may have fallen largely on deaf ears.

By: Alia Armistead, RMIT University Scholar