A collection of the world’s leading climate research institutions have called on the world’s largest economies to learn the lessons of the global response to Covid-19, pleading with leaders of the G20 to cooperate and lead the world’s transition to decarbonisation.
The research universities called on G20 countries, which are set to meet for a summit later this month in Saudi Arabia, to prioritise responding to climate change as part of their Covid-19 responses. The research institutions called on governments to apply the cooperative and scientific response to Covid-19 to climate change, calling on leaders to ‘to heed expert advice’.
The joint statement was issued by the International Universities Climate Alliance, which was established in April. Its formation was led by UNSW Sydney, and serves as a collaboration between 40 international universities, including Australia’s UNSW Sydney, Monash University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania.
“We implore world leaders – particularly G20 leaders – to learn lessons from managing the pandemic: namely, to heed expert advice, to act with urgency, and to prioritise investments strategically,” the joint statement says.
“In the case of climate change, this means decarbonising the economy to build a climate-resilient world for future generations. Without a focus on a carbon-neutral economy, investments are incompatible with the important commitments that nations have pledged in the Paris Agreement.”
“Evidence-based solutions are available today that both decarbonise and strengthen the economy; examples include clean physical infrastructure founded on renewables, building efficiency retrofits, investment in education and training, natural capital investment, and innovation in low carbon technologies.”
The alliance was established as a way to facilitate the improved sharing of research and collaboration between leading climate research institutions. UNSW Sydney has been facilitating the alliance since its formation, which has sought to effectively communicate research-based findings.
“Many challenges lie ahead of us in combatting the existential crisis in which the world finds itself. The International Universities Climate Alliance is a rich resource upon which governments, business, industry and the wider community can rely for evidence-based expert advice,” UNSW vice-chancellor professor Ian Jacobs said.
UNSW Scientia Professor Matthew England said that as a member of the G20, Australia had a crucial role to play in demonstrating strong climate policies, as well as being one of the most vulnerable countries to rising global temperatures.
The universities have cited the G20 meeting, which includes the world’s largest economies, as well as the world’s largest emitters, as an opportunity for countries to cooperate on responding to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic in a way that supports long-term decarbonisation targets.
“With G20 member countries representing nearly 80% of global CO2 emissions and 85% of global GDP, they have the obligation, the opportunity, and the means to lead global systemic change,” professor England said.
Many of the largest G20 members have recently committed to net zero emissions targets, but Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has rejected suggestions that Australia should follow suit.
Australia has consistently ranked as having one of the worst track records of responding to climate change amongst G20 members, and with oil-heavy Saudi Arabia chairing the next round of talks, there may be little hope of an ambitious commitment from the 2020 round of talks.
But the research institutions argue that there no time for delay, and that the world’s leading economies have an ‘obligation’ to lead the transition to zero emissions.
“The G20 leaders therefore have both an obligation and the opportunity to lead global systemic change. G20 governments need to work together to ensure fossil fuel industries rapidly move at scale to become net-zero carbon energy providers,” the statement adds.
“We still have a window of time to make the necessary transition to a carbon neutral economy, we strongly encourage world leaders to ensure that all COVID stimulus measures maintain their countries’ commitments under the Paris Agreement and work toward a net-zero emission plan.”