Reducing emissions through technology and building resilience

Adaptation action must go hand in hand with reducing emissions, writes the Australian Ambassador to Slovakia.

Fires in Australia in early 2020. Fires in Australia in early 2020. (Source: AP/TASR)

Richard Sadleir is the Australian Ambassador to the Slovak Republic

2020 was a year that tested the strength of our communities and the resilience of our countries.

It was a year dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

For Australians, 2020 started with some of the most devastating bushfires in our history.

Nations near and far offered Australia assistance. Over 300 foreign firefighters stood side-by-side with us as we battled the blazes.

People around the world raised funds to assist with our rebuilding, recovery and future resilience. We were deeply moved by the generous donations made by our Slovak friends.

This generosity in our hour of need was humbling. And it will never be forgotten.

2020 demonstrated the importance of marshalling collective will, innovation, resources and leadership to protect and support our communities.

While reducing emissions will remain crucial to ensuring global average temperatures stay well below 2 degrees, increased efforts will be required to adapt and build resilience to the climate change already occurring.

Australia’s adaptation and resilience efforts

Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world.

We are fortunate to be able to learn from the continuing connection of the First Australians, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, to their country.

For over 65,000 years their traditional knowledge and practices have preserved and protected Australia’s natural environment.

The recent bushfires demonstrated the importance of bringing together traditional knowledge with modern science and using traditional fire management practices such as cool and controlled burns.

Australia has committed over 15 billion Australian dollars (€9.6 billion) to make our natural resources, environment and water infrastructure more resilient to drought and climate disasters.

We are spending more than $2 billion (€1.3 billion) on bushfire recovery efforts, supporting local communities to design their own economic, social and environmental recovery.

And we have committed $2.7 billion (€1.7 billion) to the effective management and protection of the Great Barrier Reef to help one of our national icons recover from bleaching events and adapt to changing ocean temperatures.

While our adaptation and resilience work starts at home, Australia is also committed to supporting neighbouring and global communities to tackle climate change.

Australia has pledged at least $1.5 billion (€1 billion) over the period 2020 to 2025 for global climate finance. One third of this funding will directly help our Pacific neighbours deploy renewable energy, and improve their climate change and disaster resilience.

Reducing emissions through technology

Of course adaptation action must go hand in hand with reducing emissions. And Australia is getting on with the job.

We remain resolutely committed to the Paris Agreement and are on track to meet and beat our 2030 target, having reduced emissions by almost 17 percent since 2005.

Our emissions have fallen faster than many other advanced economies or the OECD average.

Australians are also adopting renewables at world-leading rates. Almost one in four Australian homes now have solar—the highest uptake in the world—and we expect renewables will contribute at least 50 per cent of our electricity by 2030.

Australia is aiming to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible. The need to get to net zero is not in dispute—the global community needs to focus on ‘how’.

To keep this momentum going, Australia has developed a Technology Investment Roadmap – a comprehensive plan to invest in the technologies we need to bring emissions down, in Australia and around the world.

Australia is aiming to leverage $70 billion (€44.8 billion) of new investment in low emissions technologies by 2030.

We are focused on accelerating technologies like hydrogen, carbon capture use and storage, soil carbon, energy storage to backup renewables and decarbonise transport, and low or zero emissions steel and aluminium.

Widespread global deployment of those technologies will reduce emissions or eliminate them in sectors responsible for 90 per cent of the world's emissions—45 billion tonnes.

This is a practical pathway to achieve net zero emissions that also presents economic opportunity.

As the world recovers from the economic impact of Covid-19, we need investments that can both accelerate emissions reductions and support jobs and communities.

Even with the most ambitious global emissions reductions, we will still need to adapt to changes in our climate over coming decades.

Together, we can make a difference.

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