This week, while more than 800,000 hectares of land throughout eastern Australia was ravaged by some of the worst bushfires the country has ever seen—forcing both New South Wales and Queensland to declare a state of emergency—a damning international climate report was released to the public. The Brown to Green report is “the world’s most comprehensive review of G20 climate action,” according to its website, and essentially takes a good hard look at how each of the G20 countries is tracking in terms of their climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Australia—a nation facing both unprecedented wildfires and unprecedented drought—was ranked as one of the worst countries in the world in terms of their response to climate change.
The Brown to Green report found that Australia’s lack of policy, reliance on fossil fuels, and rising emissions leave the country exposed “economically, politically, and environmentally.” The country ranked third worst in terms of progress made towards reaching its Paris climate targets—targets which were already “unambitious”. And although the report doesn’t provide an overall ranking, Australia was consistently among the worst performers in key sectors such as approaches to greenhouse gas emissions, transport emissions, and deforestation.
“Australia is behind [on] climate action in nearly every dimension,” Bill Hare, the chief executive of Climate Analytics and an Australian co-author of the report, told Guardian Australia. “Australia’s emissions are increasing and there’s virtually no policy in place to reduce them.”
The report was compiled by 14 non-governmental groups, think tanks, and research institutes. More generally, it found that extreme weather events such as those currently afflicting Australia were costing G20 countries about $207 billion AUD ($142 billion USD) annually. It further noted that limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees celsius, as opposed to letting global temperatures rise by 3 degrees celsius, would cut negative impacts by 70 percent.
In Hare’s view, Australia’s poor performance can be attributed to the nation’s poor leadership, and the unwillingness of politicians in power to acknowledge the urgency or even existence of the escalating climate crisis.
“The leadership of the country is effectively telling lies about their performance, and contradicting their own government’s information,” he told Guardian Australia. “The country is led by politicians who in one way or another deny either the science or are de facto denying it, and actively and wilfully opposing or obstructing climate policies.”