In November 2021, governments from around the world convened at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) to respond to the rapidly escalating climate challenge. The pledges made at Glasgow have profound implications for the next Australian Government, particularly the need to promptly strengthen its 2030 emissions reduction target (UNFCCC 2021). A significantly stronger 2030 target will restore Australia’s international standing, and unlock economic opportunities for Australians in clean industries and exports. Most importantly, it will better align with the global goal to limit warming to 1.5°C, which would help protect Australians, our Pacific neighbours and the global community from catastrophic climate change.

Multiple lines of evidence strongly suggest that we can no longer limit warming to 1.5°C without a temporary overshoot. The global average temperature rise will likely exceed 1.5°C during the 2030s (IPCC 2021). There’s little time left to limit global warming below catastrophic temperature rises. Breaching 1.5°C of warming significantly increases the risk of triggering abrupt, dangerous and irreversible changes to the climate system. Every fraction of a degree of avoided warming matters, and will be measured in lives, species and ecosystems saved. We must do everything possible to deeply and rapidly cut our emissions, while also preparing for climate impacts that can no longer be avoided.

This briefing unpacks the key takeaways for Australia from the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, in particular the urgent need for Australia to catch up with the rest of the world. The only way to do this is with a strong 2030 target and a suite of credible climate policies that accelerates the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and electrification.

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