“Now we have a chance to reset. This time, Australia has the opportunity to be at the forefront and lead from the front with a strong and tangible commitment to net-zero by 2050 and not one day later. “
Bainimarama’s comments come as speculation rises that the US will soon announce a dramatic increase to its target of 26-28 percent reduction by 2025 from the 2005 baseline. Such a move could increase pressure on Australia to cut its slightly weaker target of 26-28 percent reduction by 2030 .
It is thought the US will announce its targets in the days before the April 22 climate summit called by US President Joe Biden.
Bill Hare, Australian climate scientist and chief executive officer of Climate Analysis – a think tank with a global reach, said he was aware of discussions within the Biden administration suggesting the US could announce reductions of 45 percent or more.
“There is no doubt that this will increase the pressure on Australia,” said Professor Hare, who is the lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paper which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
He said when Australia first set its 26-28 percent target, Australia had fixed it to a relatively low US target. With US ambitions leaping forward, Australia will be increasingly isolated on the world stage, he said.
In January in the first update in five years to the so-called nationally determined contributions (NDC), the Australian government defended its decision to stay on target as an “ambitious, fair and responsible” effort to keep global average temperatures rising to below 2 degrees.
Richie Merzian, a former Australian diplomat and climate negotiator, said a spate of recent announcements suggests the US and UK are taking a coordinated approach in targeting Australia and a group of other big emitters.
He cited Boris Johnson’s decision to invite Australia, South Korea and India to the upcoming G7 talks in Cornwall in June, as well as recent comments by John Kerry, the former US Secretary of State appointed by President Biden to lead US climate efforts, that the US and Australia has a “difference” in terms of climate.
“Australia has some differences with us, we haven’t been able to get to the same page completely,” Kerry said last weekend. “It was one of the problems in Madrid as you can remember, along with Brazil.”
Mr Merzian, now director of the climate and energy program at the Australian Institute, said it was clear the US and Britain “sang the same song” during last week’s UN Security Council meeting on climate change.
On Friday, the spokesman for the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said in response to a new UN report that Australia is reducing emissions faster than many other comparable countries.
Nick O’Malley is the National Environment and Climate Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He is also a senior writer and former US correspondent.
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