A Biden Win Will Expose Climate Faultline in the Alliance
Australian Financial Review
The following is an excerpt of ASPI Senior Advisor on Multilateral Affairs to the President Thom Woodroofe's op-ed originally published in the Australian Financial Review.
In difficult circumstances, Marise Payne and Linda Reynolds did a good job last month in Washington, walking the tightrope of U.S.-Australia relations in the age of Trump.
But by the time the two sides meet again in Australia next year, there is one issue that was not even mentioned in the AUSMIN communique that could be a major fault line in the alliance: climate change.
If Joe Biden is elected in November, rejoining the global fight against climate change will be a hallmark of his administration, including its national security posture. Just a few weeks ago, he unveiled a massive $US 2 trillion ($2.8 trillion) domestic energy, innovation and investment plan to regear the U.S. economy. And internationally, a key element of his plan will be to encourage other major economies such as Australia to do more to reduce emissions.
This means that just as Tony Abbott found himself in Barack Obama’s sights over climate change at the 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia could find itself in an uncomfortable position once again.
Australia’s insistence that it can simply “recommunicate” its existing 2030 emissions target by the time of the next round of UN climate talks in Glasgow at the end of 2021, likely won’t cut it in the eyes of a Biden administration. 114 countries have now committed to increase their original pledges under the Paris Agreement by this date.
They include the conservative government in the UK as hosts of the Glasgow meeting, as well as China, which is also likely to do more irrespective of who wins in November (it is likely just a question of how much). And to help get more countries on board, Biden has also said he would convene every world leader for a major climate summit soon after he is inaugurated.
Of course, Australia’s “decade of inaction” doesn’t necessarily make our ability to increase our own national ambition easy. Especially when we will no longer legally be able to use the same so-called “carryover credits” that will enable us to “meet and beat” our current 2020 target set under the old bifurcated Kyoto regime.