European, British and American diplomats have met up to three times in Canberra in recent months to discuss how to encourage Australia to consider stronger cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions.
Guardian Australia may reveal that diplomats from like-minded countries have been talking about how they could dialogue with Australia, with the aim of raising their level of climate ambition ahead of a crucial international conference in November.
In addition to pursuing commitment to the Australian government, possible options include outreach to business associations and agricultural groups.
The most recent meeting, held on Thursday last week, brought together ambassadors, high commissioners or deputy heads of mission from the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland. .
Talks come as the Morrison government faces growing calls, both in Australia and internationally, to formally commit to net zero in 2050 and strengthen its 2030 target, which remains at the level of emission reduction of 26-28% in the Abbott government era compared to 2005.
Diplomatic sources in Canberra described the meetings as “dissemination and outreach events” between countries with similar ideas.
A source said participants were looking for ways to “push” Australia towards strengthening its promises, including the medium-term goal, as the next decade is seen as vital to achieving Paris’ goal of limiting heating. at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
But another source familiar with the talks said they aimed to encourage dialogue with Australia.
The meetings have been organized by the United Kingdom, which as host of Cop26 in Glasgow in November seeks to bring together all countries to strengthen their commitments.
British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell tweeted vaguely on Friday night about the last meeting, saying it was “a pleasure to gather like-minded colleagues to compare notes” on climate action, but until the purpose of the conversations has not been reported. .
When he addressed comments on the Canberra meetings, a UK government spokesman said: “As President of Cop26 … the UK continues to work with all parties in our shared ambition of Cop in less of 100 days.
“Accelerating collaboration is a key goal of Cop26 and ensuring a successful outcome is our shared responsibility.”
It is also understood that the US – which under the Biden administration promised to weave the climate crisis into the fabric of all its diplomatic commitments – plays an active role in the talks.
A spokesman for the US embassy said: “We meet regularly with our diplomatic and Australian contacts on our shared ambition to tackle climate change.”
The US spokesman added: “None of us can do this alone. Working together to develop and invest in green technologies will play an important role in fighting the climate crisis, as well as setting more ambitious new climate targets.”
An EU spokesman said he was “involved in regular discussions with many stakeholders on the need for all nations to take more ambitious climate action”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said on several occasions that his government wants to achieve zero net emissions as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050, but has so far failed to make a firm commitment. He faces the backlash of his junior Coalition member, the Nationals.
“Well, we are working on a plan on how to do it [net zero] it could be achieved, because in Australia people like to know what it will cost and how you will get there, ”Morrison said on Triple J’s Hack program last week.
The Australian government has repeatedly promoted a “technology not taxes” approach to climate policy. On the sidelines of the G7 summit in Cornwall last month, Morrison signed agreements with Japan and Germany to develop technology to help achieve “a clean zero-emissions future.”
But the Biden administration had already expressed public concern about the trajectory of Australia’s emissions reduction promises and hinted that technological development, while important, was insufficient in itself.
Mike Goldman, business manager of the U.S. embassy, has indicated that both Australia and the U.S. need to set “more ambitious climate targets.”
In February, Joe Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, publicly acknowledged past “differences” between the United States and Australia in the fight against the climate crisis, calling for a faster exit from coal power.
Earlier this week, UK President-designate for the Cop26 summit, Alok Sharma, expressed disappointment that a two-day meeting in London had not reached the agreement of all countries to phase out the power of coal.
Ministers in more than 50 countries agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C, but Sharma said: “If we do not get all countries to subscribe to a phasing out of coal, keep a range of 1.5 ° C. C will be extremely difficult. “
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