Why isn’t Anthony Albanese going to COp27 in Egypt when Rishi Sunak will go?

Albanese declared on election night he wanted to end the toxic climate wars which had dominated Australian politics for a decade. And seemingly he’s been successful. Seems neither side is prepared to match the international calls for further action.

Six or so weeks after his election win, Albanese travelled to Europe where he told a NATO summit Australia’s new government wanted to be among global leaders on combatting climate change.

“What the world knows now is that Australia has a different position on climate change,” he said. “What that does is give Australia a seat at the global table of opportunity. And I intend to seize that opportunity.”

But there has been a growing disappointment among Australia’s diplomatic corps about Albanese’s timidness beyond the rhetoric to implement real change. They point out, for instance, that the position of Climate Change Ambassador is sitting vacant.

Last week was the 12-month anniversary of then-PM Scott Morrison announcing the Australian government would formally adopt a target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It didn’t win much praise at the time – it was simply a case of government catching up with the people.

The fact it had taken so long, when all state governments and several ASX200-listed companies had already committed, left many world leaders exasperated. And this is why the Coalition cannot with any credibility attack Albanese for not attending this year’s event.

After an election result where climate-focused independents doubled the size of the crossbench and the Greens added three extra MPs, why are they not making life tough for the new PM?

It is true that the majority of COP summits are what are known as “implementation” conferences, where mainly climate, energy or environment ministers and their bureaucrats nut out technical details. Albanese had protested at the idea of Morrison not attending last year and while the scenarios are not the same, it does leave you wondering why the new PM has not faced any pressure at home.

While he boasted back in June that the Europe Union was now prepared to take trade negotiations serious because of his decision to increase Australia’s target to 43 per cent, many clearly missed the memo last when European parliament called on all G20 nations to “show leadership” and to commit to even more ambitious reduction targets ahead of COP27.

The UN’s environmental program emissions gap report tells us that even if more ambitious national 2030 climate targets are implemented, the world is on a path towards a 2.7 degrees temperature increase, far above the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees and pursuing 1.5 degrees. We are told that the government accepts this science.


So, amid dire predictions, it’s clear annual UN climate summits can no longer simply be regarded as incremental, with the major political summits held every five or so years. The fact the world’s leaders will be in Egypt this week shows action and agreement must continually be updated and can no longer be kicked down the road.

Albanese, like Sunak, has plenty of pressing domestic issues and has copped criticism for his frequent travelled since May. The event is sandwiched between two parliamentary sitting weeks with a G20 summit in Bali to follow as well as the Asia-Pacific Co-operation summit in Thailand.

But if Australia wants to host the event in two years’ time, the prime minister is showing to the world that his time in Canberra is more valuable than the majority of G7 leaders who see it as a priority to attend summit.

And if Australia does win the right, how can Albanese with a clear conscience expect the world’s leaders to attend?

Australians might have grown tired of fighting about climate change, but it’s clear they do want a government which at least fights to stop it.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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