Australia’s climate action: Together we can make a difference

BY: Gregory Andrews
Gregory Andrews - The writer is the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana
Gregory Andrews - The writer is the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana

2020 was a year that tested the strength of our communities and the resilience of our countries.

It was a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Australians, 2020 started with the most devastating bushfires in our history.

More than 300 firefighters from countries near and far stood side-by-side with us as we battled infernos on numerous fronts.

People around the world raised funds to assist with our rebuilding, recovery and future resilience. The messages of support from Ghanaians was overwhelming.

The generosity of friends in our hour of need was humbling. And it will never be forgotten.

2020 demonstrated the importance of marshalling collective will, innovation, resources and leadership to protect and support our communities and countries.

While reducing emissions will remain crucial to ensuring global average temperatures stay well below 2 degrees, increased efforts will be required to adapt and build resilience to the climate change already occurring.

I know the push for climate action is a priority for Ghana’s government.

This week’s virtual Climate Adaptation Summit hosted by the Netherlands provides a valuable opportunity for the international community to work together towards a more climate-resilient future.

At the summit, Australia will reaffirm our commitment to ambitious and practical action to combat the impacts of climate change at home, in our region, and around the world.

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. It has the oldest living cultures and some of the richest biodiversity in the world.

We are fortunate to be able to learn from the continuing connection of the First Australians, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, to their country.

For more than 65,000 years their traditional knowledge and practices have preserved and protected Australia’s natural environment.

The recent bushfires demonstrated the importance of bringing together traditional Indigenous knowledge about the land with modern science.

Indigenous Rangers are on the frontline of this work, preserving and protecting Australia’s natural and cultural heritage. For example, using traditional fire management practices, through cool and controlled burns.

During my recent visit to Mole National Park I saw how Ghana’s rangers are using traditional practices to conserve and manage the savannah and I was struck by the similarities with the practices used by Indigenous Australians including the use of fire management as a conservation and greenhouse gas abatement tool. I see opportunities to share expertise and knowledge in support of climate action.

In Australia we are working to make our natural resources, environment and water infrastructure more resilient to drought and climate disasters including by supporting local communities to design their own economic, social and environmental recovery.

Australia is also committed to supporting global climate finance to help neighbouring and global communities to tackle climate change through deployment of renewable energy, and improved climate change and disaster resilience.

We’re also sharing our climate adaptation expertise, experiences and skills through our development program.

And Australia is getting on with the job of reducing emissions.

We remain resolutely committed to the Paris Agreement and are on track to meet and beat our 2030 target, having reduced emissions by almost 17 per cent since 2005.

Our emissions have fallen faster than many other advanced economies or the OECD average.

Australians are also adopting renewables at record levels.

On a per person basis, Australia is building new wind and solar at 10 times the global average and four times faster than Europe and the US.

Almost one in four Australian homes have solar—the highest uptake in the world—and we expect renewables will contribute at least 50 per cent of our electricity by 2030.

The need to get to net zero emissions is not in dispute—the global community needs to focus on ‘how’.

Australia is focussed on accelerating technologies like hydrogen, carbon capture use and storage, soil carbon, energy storage to backup renewables and decarbonise transport, and low or zero emissions steel and aluminium.

Widespread global deployment of those technologies will reduce emissions or eliminate them in sectors responsible for 90 per cent of the world's emissions—45 billion tonnes.

Our goal is to get the cost of deploying these new technologies to parity with existing, higher-emitting alternatives.

As the world recovers from the economic impact of COVID-19, we need investments that can both accelerate emissions reductions and support jobs and communities.

Building partnerships to enable collaboration and cooperation, like Australia has with Japan, Singapore, Germany and the Republic of Korea, will be important.

In taking climate action, we need to embrace innovation and strengthen global partnerships. We need to consider those most in need, engage all stakeholders equally and respect indigenous culture and knowledge.

Practical actions that help us adapt to changes in our climate over coming decades and strengthen the resilience of our local environments are critical.

Together, we will make a difference.

The writer is the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana