02 November 2020

Net-zero emissions by 2050: Leadership or climate colonialism?

A boy rides his bike through floodwaters near the airport in Funafuti, Tuvalu. The low-lying nation has been classified as extremely vulnerable to climate change. Picture: Getty Images/Canberra Times

by Ian Dunlop and David Spratt, first published by The Canberra Times

How fast does Australia need to reduce greenhouse emissions to play its fair part in responding to the global climate emergency?

One answer jumps out: "net-zero emissions by 2050". Suddenly almost everybody is clambering aboard this train: state governments, big business, investors, mining companies such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Shell, and community advocacy organisations.

But there is a problem: what if this target is just another bit of the colonialism we rejected long ago? A sense of entitlement in this rich, developed country to keep on polluting for another three decades, a country whose leaders insist its wealth must continue to be built on a high output of greenhouse emissions, in the process denying some of the poorest and least developed nations their very survival? Particularly our neighbours in the Pacific.