High Commissioner visits the Sivanarul Integrated Farm in Mannar
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 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. Sri Lanka generously contributed large amounts tea that refreshed our tired firefighters and emergency personnel.
The generosity of friends 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 and countries.
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.
The virtual Climate Adaptation Summit hosted by the Netherlands last week provides a valuable opportunity for the international community to work together towards a more climate-resilient future.
At the summit, Australia will reaffirm our commitment to ambitious and practical action to combat the impacts of climate change at home, in our region, and around the world.
Australia’s work on adaptation and resilience
Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world, it has the oldest living cultures and some of the richest biodiversity 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 Indigenous knowledge about the land with modern science.
Indigenous Rangers are on the frontline of this work, preserving and protecting Australia’s natural and cultural heritage. For example, using traditional fire management practices, through cool and controlled burns.
Australia has committed over $15 billion to make our natural resources, environment and water infrastructure more resilient to drought and climate disasters.
We are spending more than $2 billion on bushfire recovery efforts, supporting local communities to design their own economic, social and environmental recovery.
This includes the important job of regenerating habitats, helping native animals recover and building knowledge for better land management.
By July 2021, Australia will establish a new National Resilience Relief and Recovery Agency to drive the reduction of natural disaster risk, enhance natural disaster resilience and ensure effective relief and recovery to all hazards.
A new information service, Climate and Resilience Services Australia, will inform the new agency and national emergency management so that we can better prepare for, and deal with, climate risks.
This year, a new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy will set out a future adaptation vision and communicate our adaptation efforts including these new reforms.
The Australian Government also recognises that climate change is the biggest long-term threat to the health of coral reefs worldwide, including those in the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s national icons.
Australia has committed $2.7 billion to the effective management and protection of the Great Barrier Reef to support the implementation of the Reef 2050 Plan.
We have launched a $150 million Reef Restoration and Adaptation program that brings together world leading marine science to research strategies that can help reefs recover from bleaching events and to 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 over the period 2020 to 2025 for global climate finance. $500 million of this funding will directly help our Pacific neighbours deploy renewable energy, and improve their climate change and disaster resilience.
We’re sharing our climate adaptation expertise, experiences and skills with the world through our development program and the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.
Australia actively supports Sri Lanka’s leadership of the Commonwealth Action Group on Mangrove Restoration. We are also working with the International Partnership for Blue Carbon to protect and sustainably manage these critical coastal ecosystems and coral reefs.
We are joining the Call for Action on Raising Ambition for Climate Adaptation and Resilience, to encourage greater ambition, finance and coordination to protect against growing climate risks.
And Australia has joined the Coalition for Climate Resilience Investment, which aims to shift private investment towards climate resilient infrastructure and support vulnerable communities to attract private sector investment.
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 per cent since 2005.
Our emissions have fallen faster than many other advanced economies or the OECD average.
Australians are also building and investing in renewables at world-leading rates.
On a per person basis, Australia is building new wind and solar at ten times the global average and four times faster than Europe, the US or Japan.
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, here and around the world.
Australia is aiming to leverage $70 billion of new investment in low emissions technologies by 2030.
We’re focussed 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.
Dr Alan Finkel, Australia’s Special Adviser for Low-Emissions Technology, spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos this month on the enormous potential of these technologies to support the global transition to net zero emissions.
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.
Our goal is to get the cost of deploying these new technologies to parity with existing, higher-emitting alternatives.
This is a practical pathway to achieve net zero emissions that also presents economic opportunity.
It’s an approach that will bring the world with us, including the major developing economies in our region.
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.
And emission reductions need to occur across all economies – it won’t be enough to encourage reductions in emissions amongst developed and advanced economies alone.
That’s why we need to reduce emissions in a sustainable and commercially viable way that generates jobs in all economies.
We are also building partnerships with countries like Japan, Singapore, Germany and the Republic of Korea to enable collaboration and cooperation.
Partnerships for a sustainable future
Whether in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, or tackling the ongoing challenge posed by climate change, we need to embrace innovation and strengthen global partnerships.
We need to consider those most in need, engage all stakeholders equally and respect indigenous culture and knowledge in taking climate action.
Our scientists tell us that, even with the most ambitious global emissions reductions, we will still need to adapt to changes in our climate over coming decades.
Practical actions that help us adapt to those changes and strengthen the resilience of our local environments are critical.
Together, we will make a difference.