Morrison’s summit: ‘Hydrogen Valley’ or more hot air?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, audio problems notwithstanding, addresses the White House climate summit.

US President Joe Biden walked out of his global climate summit on Thursday before Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a chance to speak. Cold shoulder or not, it symbolised how Australia is being left behind on greenhouse gas emissions.

Those who remained were, for the most part, underwhelmed by the PM’s failure to commit to net zero emissions; an undertaking made by other summit participants, including climate pariah Brazil.

“We are well on the way to meet our Paris Climate Agreement commitments,” Morrison told the summit. “We’ll update our long-term emissions reduction strategy for Glasgow”, he said, referring to the climate action conference scheduled for Scotland in November.

That leaves Australia aiming, by 2030, for a less than 30 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from its 2005 levels. That’s about half the size of the revised US goal.

The contents of his speech aside, Morrison faced a string of embarrassing moments as he struggled to communicate his point of view. The PM’s microphone was on mute when he began his speech, prompting US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, to intervene: “Mr Prime Minister, I’m not sure we’re hearing you here”.

Once unmuted, he told the meeting Australia aspired to produce the cheapest green hydrogen in the world. “Mr President in the United States, you have the Silicon Valley. Here in Australia, we are creating our own hydrogen valley,” Morrison said.

Aside from ignoring the environmental and greenhouse impacts of extracting coal seam hydrogen and sequestering the remains, Morrison’s “hydrogen valley” line was easy fodder for Twitter wags:

Morrison announces a major gaslighting initiative the “Hydrogen Valley”

— H.MacAonghais (@MAonghais) April 22, 2021

Here’s a peek at @ScottMorrisonMP‘s “hydrogen valley”.

that’s as good as it’s going to get.

— scottp (@scottp1964) April 23, 2021

Perhaps the PM’s greatest embarrassment came on Thursday when Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro announced the country would strive for net zero emissions by 2050. Bolsonaro, a climate pariah who could face charges in the international criminal court (ICC) over “ecocide”, has dismantled his country’s environmental policies amid widespread logging of the Amazon rainforest.

That’s right – Bolsonaro, a man widely reviled as an ecological terrorist, has announced emissions goals far more ambitious than Scott Morrison. In recent months, three of Australia’s biggest trading partners – China, Japan and South Korea – have likewise promised to go “carbon-neutral” by 2050 or shortly after.

There has been no such net zero commitment from Morrison, the leader of a developed economy far better placed to absorb its costs than, say, Brazil.


Biden’s walkout aside, Morrison was further humiliated when he was called on as the 21st of 27 speakers at the video summit. The PM spoke after the leaders of countries where it was the middle of the day; by the time his turn arrived, it was late at night in Canberra.

It seemed like a snub, but shouldn’t come as a surprise. His gas pivot notwithstanding, Morrison has long insisted that coal mining will continue to generate export wealth for decades to come.

But the International Energy Agency has forecast surging demand for renewable energy at the expense of coal and gas.

“Liberal and Labor are selling out coal workers by refusing to tell them the truth about the future of exports and domestic use,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said.

So why is the PM so attached to coal and gas? Perhaps the answer can be found in the issue’s usefulness as a “wedge” between the Labor Opposition and its normally reliable supporters, coal miners, at the 2019 election.

The millions of dollars in donations from fossil fuel interests in the lead-up to that election can’t have hurt, either. Nor would the $89 million poured by mining billionaire Clive Palmer into a campaign dominated by attack ads against Labor.

Australia is going to continue to do major self-harm on jobs, energy prices and the environment just to hang on to a handful of coal jobs because our governments are owned by miners and the reactionary right-wing media, aren’t we? #SameOldSameOld

— Seano (@SeanBradbery) April 23, 2021

Perhaps former Liberal leader John Hewson nailed it when he suggested Morrison’s reluctance to make a commitment on net zero might be a case of election timing:

Morrison told the Biden Climate Summit that he will “update our long-term emissions reduction strategy for Glasgow” due November. Very odd he wouldn’t do it now given the thrust of this Summit. Could he be pushing the decision out beyond an early election?

— John Hewson (@JohnRHewson) April 23, 2021

In an increasingly familiar rhetorical two-step last week, Morrison, in a speech to the Business Council of Australia, seemed to commit Australia to net zero emissions by 2050. Just days later, he conspicuously dodged that goal at the Biden summit.

One hopes Morrison’s “commitment” to ending rampant misogyny inside Parliament House, or sorting out the botched Covid19 vaccine rollout, is a lot more solid than that. Otherwise, Australians might conclude he’s more hot air than hydrogen.

The post Morrison’s summit: ‘Hydrogen Valley’ or more hot air? first appeared on Footyology.

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