Leaked report reveals Australia’s role as global coal lobbyist

Documents leaked to Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative platform, reveal that the Morrison Government has actively lobbied for the rejection of findings outlining the need for rapid global coal phase out from the next major report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The leak comes days after the Morrison Government rejected setting a stronger 2030 emission reduction target in the lead up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The leaked documents reveal how Australia is part of a small group of fossil fuel producing countries, including Saudi Arabia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), who are lobbying the IPCC – the world’s leading authority on climate change – to water down findings and delete a key conclusion that world needs rapidly to phase out fossil fuels. 

IPCC scientists are under no obligation to accept the comments, and each of them is checked against the scientific literature. However, the comments provide a window into the positions being adopted by leading nations behind the scenes.

In one comment seen by Unearthed, a senior Australian government official rejected the obvious reality that one of the most important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to phase out coal-fired power stations.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter said that the leaked documents reveal the extent of the Morrison Government’s attempts to trainwreck global climate progress.

“These leaked documents reveal the shameful lengths the Morrison Government will go to to protect fossil fuel interests and damage global efforts to reduce emissions and safeguard the climate,” he said.

“What we see in these leaked documents is Morrison Government officials in sabotage mode, rather than acting in good faith with the best interests of the Australian people to collaborate to secure ambitious global climate cooperation.”

“Scott Morrison has rejected setting a stronger 2030 emissions reduction target for Australia, and now we know his government is  pushing back against key recommendations by the world’s leading climate science body on the need to phase out coal over the next decade.” 

“The Morrison Government is attempting to force its dangerous politics of climate delay onto the rest of the world. We urge world leaders at the upcoming COP26 climate summit to reject and condemn Australia’s reckless climate obstruction.”

The information comes from a leak of tens of thousands of comments by governments, corporations, academics and others on the draft report of the IPCC’s ‘Working Group III’ – an international team of experts that is assessing humanity’s remaining options for curbing greenhouse gas emissions or removing them from the atmosphere.

In one comment, an Australian government official suggests Australia be deleted from a list of the world’s major producers and consumers of coal – despite Australia being the fifth largest coal producer in the world between 2018-21 – on the grounds that it does not consume as much coal as other countries. 

Elsewhere, Australia asks the IPCC to delete analysis explaining how lobbying by fossil fuel companies has weakened action on climate change in Australia and the US. Despite the large number of references the IPCC draws upon in making the statement, the Australian government official requests “deleting this political viewpoint made to seem factual”.

Commenting on the revelations, Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said:

“The Australian government even goes as far as arguing against the need for a coal phaseout while also trying to rewrite history by denying the role of corporate lobbying in blocking climate action. 

“As the global spotlight moves to Glasgow, other world leaders should be aware of how far these governments will go to sabotage our chances of keeping 1.5 degrees in sight. The key test for world leaders in Glasgow is whether or not they agree to rapidly phase out fossil fuels, as the science warrants. History will not be kind to them if they fail and we will be watching.”

For more information contact Fiona Ivits on 0487 003 872 or [email protected]