Annalena Baerbock in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji: coal, cows, climate escape

Annalena Baerbock travels to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. The climate crisis is also on the agenda – in very different forms.

Annalena Baerbock is on her way to the other end of the world: After a plane breakdown, she is going to Australia with a day delay, then a day to New Zealand and two to the Pacific island nation of Fiji. As is almost always the case when the Green Foreign Minister is on a trip, it is also about the climate crisis – she had written climate foreign policy on the flag when she took office. When she was already traveling in the Pacific region last year, the pictures of her on the beach in Palau went around the world.

The rising sea level is also on the agenda for the minister’s trip – especially in Fiji, this time the last stop on the trip, people are already acutely threatened by it. The other two countries, meanwhile, have very different problems. Baerbock thus expects a climate policy contrast program – with a common enemy: global warming and its effects.

Station one: The coal country Australia

Your first stop: Australia. When it comes to climate issues, the country “down under” has a reputation for being one thing above all: covered in coal dust. More than half of Australia’s electricity was still generated by coal in 2021. The “black gold” is one of the top export goods.

In absolute figures, the country causes 1.09 percent of global emissions. Converted to around 25 million inhabitants, however, Australia ranks seventh among the biggest climate polluters in a global comparison. This is mainly due to the long period of inactivity of the Conservative governments since 2013, most recently under Scott Morrison.

In 2022 he was replaced by Labor politician Anthony Albanese. He vowed to improve and missed the Australian climate goals an update. By 2030, 43 percent fewer greenhouse gases are to be emitted than in 2005, the new target is almost twice as high as that of the Morrison government. However, how it is to be achieved remains a big question mark even among Albanese.

An example: Albanese is sticking to the strengthening of the gas infrastructure. The Morrison government had already launched the “gas-fired upswing” – it is intended to get the Australian economy back on its feet after the corona pandemic. However, the International Energy Agency states that no new oil or gas fields may be developed. Because the world should be emission-free by 2050 – Australia has also committed itself to this goal.

It is questionable whether the gas is even needed for the energy supply: Australia has massive potential for renewable energies – there are more than enough wind and sun, but they are not used enough. The National Energy Agency recently warned of power shortages: Aging coal-fired power plants could be shut down in the coming years before sufficient green electricity capacity was available. However, there is still no political plan for an orderly phase-out of coal.

This is one of the reasons why Australian climate policy is considered insufficient in the analysis of the “Climate Action Tracker”. The experts also criticize the lack of financial support for climate protection projects in emerging and developing countries, to which the industrialized nations were actually committed.

The Climate Action Tracker is a scientific project that compares the effects of climate policy measures with the Paris climate protection target. The largest sources of emissions are considered. The project is run by scientists from the Berlin non-profit organization Climate Analytics and the Berlin research institute New Climate Institute. The categories range from “completely insufficient” to “1.5 degree compatible”. No country is currently classified in the latter category. The German climate policy is considered “insufficient” and is thus in the middle.

However, there has now been movement in climate finance. On Tuesday it became known that Australia will in future align its development policy in the Indo-Pacific with the climate crisis – probably also due to the fear that China could use the increasingly frequent natural disasters in the often poorer states under the guise of development aid for its territorial ambitions. In practice, this means that roads financed by Australia must be built in such a way that they can still be driven on despite rising sea levels, schools must be designed to be cyclone-proof. Baerbock should be happy about that – the German federal government is also pushing ahead with climate-safe development cooperation.