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Australia “needs action on several fronts” following a catastrophic bushfire season, including leading international efforts against climate change and cutting emissions beyond the electricity sector, Julie Bishop has said.
Bishop, the incoming chancellor of the Australian National University, made the comments to Guardian Australia, offering to put the university’s disaster management experts and more than 300 climate scientists at the federal government’s disposal to provide “evidence-based” responses to the bushfires.
The former foreign minister and deputy Liberal leader started the ANU role in January but has postponed an event marking her appointment as the university responds to the outbreak of coronavirus and extreme weather including bushfires in the Australian Capital Territory and damage from a hailstorm.
Bishop said that “clearly there have been some missteps” in the federal government’s handling of the bushfires, adding she is “certain the government will reflect on recent events and learn from any missteps”.
“I as chancellor … have offered to assist the federal government in its bushfire recovery response,” she said.
Bishop said the university was preparing to provide expertise in disaster recovery, public health, biodiversity, engineering, and climate science.
“ANU has climate change expertise, we have expertise in bushfire recovery, 300 climate scientists across seven colleges and 25 schools.
“We have the climate change institute, headed up by Mark Howden who’s on the intergovernmental climate change panel.
“As a national university we have a responsibility to the Australian community to deliver evidence-based solutions … to the myriad consequences from these catastrophic events.”
The government has come under fire for its handling of climate change because the prime minister, Scott Morrison, has argued Australia contributes just 1.3% of global emissions, while lobbying to lower global ambition by including carryover credits in 2030 Paris targets.
Liberal senator Jim Molan said on Monday his stance on climate change was not based on evidence, while the new deputy Nationals leader, David Littleproud, has explained he had professed doubt – but now accepts – climate science because he is not “gifted academically” and lacks a scientific background.
Bishop praised Britain for being “ambitious and a leading voice in calling for greater standards to deal with climate change” after Boris Johnson urged major economies to go carbon neutral by 2050.
“I’ve always been of the view that Australia, as a leading industrialised and developed nation, with one of the best standards of living in the world, needs to be a leader in the international response to climate change,” she said.
“We have a responsibility. The extreme weather events, the horrific fires, that take such a terrible toll on our communities and wildlife place us at the frontline of the impact – and so Australia has a direct interest in leading international debate on this topic.
“I certainly look forward to our government taking on that role.”
Asked how Morrison should balance Nationals and Liberal conservatives wanting more coal-fired power with moderate Liberals’ calls to do more to fight global heating, Bishop responded that Morrison “doesn’t need my advice”.
“We need action on several fronts: disaster response, including the resourcing of emergency fire services; climate change mitigation [and] adaptation; and reducing our own emissions is obviously vital – but we have to focus on all areas, not just the electricity sector,” she said.
Despite Morrison claiming the government has set out how it will reduce emissions by 26% to 28% by 2030, critics have noted it is yet to set vehicle emissions standards or a plan to reduce emissions in the transport and agriculture sectors.
Bishop backed the Morrison government on its handling of the coronavirus, despite criticism from Universities Australia that Australian Border Force had overreacted by reportedly detaining Chinese students returning to Australia after the travel ban.
Bishop said she assumed all measures were taken after “consultation with national and international health bodies”.
ANU, like many other universities, has offered flexible arrangements to help its students affected by virus-related travel bans including online delivery of courses, intensive courses and deferral without penalty.
Bishop said she was “not aware of any evidence” that Australia’s relationship with China had slowed evacuations from Wuhan or had suffered as a result of travel bans.
Bishop listed among other priorities for the ANU to equip students and graduates for the fourth industrial revolution and disruption of traditional work, and to gain greater international recognition for the university.
Since retiring from politics at the 2019 election Bishop has also taken a role on the board of foreign aid contractor Palladium which she insists is not a breach of ministerial standards, which ban ministers lobbying on “any matters on which they have had official dealings” in the previous 18 months.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN/PACNEWS
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