Climate change minister Chris Bowen has urged nations to "stay the course" on climate action and welcomed the prospect of even "incremental change" as the world prepares to deliberate dire warnings and expected roadblocks at next week's COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
The minister's update, and calls to change climate financing, at a Lowy Institute event in Sydney comes as the unfinished 2023 breaks global temperature records and the United Nations warns that the world remains on track for a 2.5-2.9C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels this century.
The 2023 Emissions Gap Report by the UN Environment Programme (Unep) states that 2030 net-zero pledges are not currently considered credible. It states none of the G20 countries, including Australia, are reducing emissions at a pace consistent with their net-zero targets.
In his Tuesday address, Mr Bowen said change is hard, urgent and necessary, but asking nations to change their economies and trajectories comes with challenges.
"It is more important than ever that we stay the course. Because even incremental change can still make substantial progress," the minister said.
"We need to recognise countries will move at different paces and on different paths, but the direction of travel is clear and agreed. And we need to stay the course."
Mr Bowen and assistant minister Jenny McAllister will lead the Australian delegation for the global event which starts on November 30. Australia's emissions reduction plan is to reach net zero by 2050 with a legislated aim to reach emission levels of 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Despite the existential threat to civilisation and ecosystems, there was very little progress at last year's COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, although there was provisional agreement for a climate "loss and damage" fund to compensate poorer countries.
Mr Bowen said it doesn't take much to block progress in negotiations based on consensus and reminded that the world was on track for close to 4 degrees of warming before the 2015 Paris Accord was struck.
"I don't blame those observing proceedings who will question the ability of such multilateral forums to achieve anything while some nations are so determined to block progress," Mr Bowen said.
"We are clear-eyed, but not disillusioned about the challenges of multilateralism."
The latest UN report states that for the world to get back on track for the 2C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels, global carbon emissions in 2030 must be cut by at least 28 per cent compared to current scenarios. Bringing it to within the 1.5C limit will require a 42 per cent cut by 2030.
The window for climate action to work is "rapidly closing" and it is now more likely than not that this key target of the Paris Agreement will be breached.
"Even in the most optimistic scenario, the likelihood of limiting warming to 1.5C is only 14 per cent," the report states.
The Minister said Australia backs the Loss and Damage Fund which will be formalised at COP28 and wants to review the funding arrangements, originally set up in 1992, that ensures wealthier countries contribute more than less wealthier nations to climate action and finance.
"The world has changed a lot since 1992," Mr Bowen said.
"The list of "annex one" countries who are required to make the larger contributions to climate finance would not be the same as it was if we were constructing that list today.
"It's time to have that discussion."
Mr Bowen said one of the key COP28 outcomes will be the first ever "Global Stocktake" on the earth's climate, a "frank assessment of where the world is at" and "where we need to go".
He also said Australia will again argue for stronger mitigation language in any global agreement while supporting a tripling of global renewables capacity and doubling of global energy efficiency efforts.
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