Today’s fossil award goes to Australia, Brazil and Japan. They managed to be as bad as each other!
Prime Minister Scott Morrison enjoying a game of cricket as fires rage in Australia
As Australia has been on fire in recent weeks – literally - with an astounding 6000-kilometre front of flaming destruction killing six people, wiping out homes, forests, precious habitat and farmland. Experts, one after another, connected the dots to climate change.
But not Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He made his view known on national radio, declaring that Australia’s unprecedented bushfires were unconnected to climate change. He said he doesn’t think that Australia doing more on climate would have changed fire outcomes this season, despite Australia being the world’s third biggest fossil fuel exporter.
Instead of taking responsible action on climate change, the Prime Minister made clear he was sending his thoughts and prayers to those who had suffered loss. Forget climate action, just thoughts and prayers.
The same day as fires busily destroyed people’s lives, Prime Minister Morrison went to a cricket game, and happily posed with cricketers tweeting: “Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer for.” Deputy PM Michael McCormack chimed in for good measure, declaring that even raising the issue of climate change while fires were burning is a ‘disgrace’.
Students have taken to the streets by the thousands calling for stronger climate action. The country has faced record breaking heat, extreme drought, the driest spring ever recorded and unseasonal bushfires. Yet, Australia’s Prime Minister has rejected climate as a driving force, rejected calls for stronger ambition, and instead pointed to thoughts, prayers and cricket as the answer.
NGO’s are the scapegoats, Brazil has no one else to blame for the destruction of the Amazon
Imagine the following scene: a man with a gun breaks in a bank. Pointing at the manager, he says he is in deep debt, and demands his credit limits to be raised, because he used to be a good payer before he had that account. That scene is playing out right now at COP25. The baffled manager is the international community. The desperate assailant is Brazil, who came to Madrid demanding to be paid for burning down the Amazon forest.
Yes, you've read it right: Brazil, the former climate champion who cut emissions from deforestation in 80% in the past. Brazil, of samba, caipirinhas and savvy diplomats who brokered difficult deals in past COPs. Under the far-right, Trump-loving government of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil is telling the world here in Madrid that it will not negotiate until it gets paid to dump more CO2 into the atmosphere. That creative negotiation tactic has earned Brazil the first Fossil of the Day of COP25.
President Bolsonaro's special envoy to Madrid is Environment minister Ricardo Salles, who will no doubt update your definitions of "honest broker". Salles was convicted for environmental fraud days before he took office. He lied to the media about having a master's degree at Yale. He was sued for suggesting that Greenpeace was behind the massive oil spill in the Brazilian coast that he failed to respond to. And, the icing on the cake, he is a climate denier who famously said that COPs are nothing but luxury vacations to civil servants to debate the state of the world 500 years from now. One wonders what the heck are you are doing here, minister? Did you fly business? How about coming back in 500 years?
In only 11 months, Salles and his boss have dismantled Brazil's environmental governance, grounded enforcement agencies and frozen the world's biggest REDD+ program, the celebrated Amazon Fund. The results have been an appalling increase in violence against Indigenous peoples, an unprecedented surge in illegal logging, and a 30% increase in deforestation this year – the highest in a decade. As a consequence, Brazil is sure to miss its 2020 deforestation reduction target and is totally off track on its NDC.
Several studies have indicated that deforestation rates in Brazil in a weak governance scenario can triple, with yearly emissions of up to 1.3 billion tonnes in the Amazon alone. That is not only a blow to Brazil's Paris targets, but also to the 1.5C degree goal.
All that Mr. Salles has to say about this is "trust me". We don't think so.
The Japanese government received massive criticism over its coal addiction and expansion policy. And today, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama completely ignored the science. In response to a media question about the UNEP Emissions Gap Report recommendation about coal phase out in Japan, Minister Kajiyama said that he is adamant Japan will continue using coal.
In a jiffy, Minister Kajiyama snubbed the international community and the Paris Agreement. Instead of showing a commitment to multilateralism and the climate, Minister Kajiyama showed commitment to destroying the planet and putting people in danger. Shame on you Japan, if you don’t stop your coal addiction now.
About CAN: The Climate Action Network (CAN) is a worldwide network of over 1300 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in more than 120 working to promote government and individual action to limit human induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels. www.climatenetwork.org
About Fossil: The Fossil of the Day awards were first presented at the climate talks in 1999, in Bonn, initiated by the German NGO Forum. During United Nations climate change negotiations (www.unfccc.int), members of the Climate Action Network (CAN), vote for countries judged to have done their 'best' to block progress in the negotiations or in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.