Bushfires: Australia going European?

The bushfires in Australia have claimed at least 27 human lives and according to estimates killed more than a billion animals since October. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who until now had fiercely defended the coal industry, has announced the introduction of new measures to reduce CO2 levels. Commentators discuss what can be done to prevent such disasters and what role Europe can play.

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De Volkskrant (NL) /

Disasters open our eyes

The longer the fires burn in Australia, the more climate change deniers lose their credibility, columnist Bert Wagendorp writes in De Volkskrant:

“Even Prime Minister Scott Morrison is now advocating measures to reduce CO2 emissions even though this goes against the interests of the world's largest coal exporter. There have long been signs that Australia is at the forefront of climate change, including summer temperatures of around 50 degrees. But it's only now that there is a growing conviction down under that the rising temperatures are not only reducing huge swathes of land to ashes, but also slowly but surely making the country uninhabitable. Maybe it takes major disasters for us to admit that something is really wrong.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Campaign for climate protection in trade

Brussels has been negotiating a trade agreement with Australia since 2018. Writing in Le Soir, environmental lawyer Nicolas de Sadeleer warns the EU not to betray its values:

“The institutions of the European Union (unlike Ceta, the future trade agreement provides for exclusive EU competence) must ensure that both partners respect the values laid down in the EU founding treaties. These include sustainability and the fight against climate change. It's now up to our minister of international trade, who sits on the EU Council of Ministers, as well as the MEPs who will eventually vote on the trade agreement, to ensure that these values are taken seriously. The credibility of Europe's policy outlined in the recently presented Green Deal is at stake.”

Le Courrier (CH) /

Green-washed EU has no influence

Without specific instruments the EU Commission's Green Deal is unconvincing and therefore unattractive, warns Bernard Cassen, former editor-in-chief of Le Monde Diplomatique, in Le Courrier:

“The intention is laudable but it contradicts the dogmas underlying the EU. You can't promote the capitalist logic of 'more and more' - even if it's been given a green coat of paint - while at the same time calling for just and sustainable use of the earth's resources, which are 'finite' in the mathematical sense. You also can't insist on energy-saving measures while at the same time promoting the transport of goods through free trade agreements. ... The EU hasn't given itself the means - in particular protectionist measures - that would allow it to play the global role it aspires to. ... It has to choose between neoliberalism and protecting the planet.”

Savon Sanomat (FI) /

Climate change can't be exported

Australia is hurting its own interests with an economic policy based on coal exports, Savon Sanomat believes:

“Australia is one of the major CO2 exporters, and according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison it will stay that way. In theory the consequences of activities that are harmful to the climate can be outsourced to the rest of the world. Sometimes, however, the risks also become a reality at home. That's also why it would be in Australia's interest to strive for a climate neutral world.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Reckless disregard for the obvious

The Guardian also believes that Australia is knowingly heading towards disaster:

“The prime minister has pledged to maintain Australia's position as a world-leading coal exporter. The country's energy minister, Angus Taylor, has suggested that countries like Australia cannot single-handedly have a meaningful impact on global emissions when countries such as China and India fail to follow suit. That is a counsel of despair. It is also one that is culpably inadequate, coming from a minister whose country is getting hotter, dryer and more dangerous as each year goes by. ... The crisis unfolding on his watch is unprecedented. His reckless disregard for the principal cause must cease.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Prevent disaster now!

The fires show what happens when urgent environmental problems are put on the back burner, the taz admonishes:

“The hotter and drier it gets, the stronger the winds become, and the more flammable the forests are, the more devastating the bushfires become. ... The word 'pyrozene' is already circulating: the 'age of fire'. But this age is not coming upon us without our being able to do anything to stop it. We are bringing it on ourselves by burning coal, oil and gas. ... The fires in Australia are smoke signals from the future. There and everywhere it's crucial to formulate clear regulations to prevent a major disaster - and to implement them seriously, even against the resistance of politicians, lobby groups and industry.”