COP26 Diary: Trying to understand Australia’s climate change plans

Aboriginal leader and Christian minister Ray Minniecon is in Glasgow, Scotland for the UN Climate Summit COP26 and he’s keeping a diary …

Diary entry #2: Friday 29 October 2021

Now that my body clock is adjusting to the different time zone I can write this post. It’s early morning here in Scotland. I spent some time reading the online news from Australia. Trying to understand Australia’s climate change plans.

COP26 Diary by Ray Minniecon

I am not convinced by the Government’s secret plan to achieve net zero by 2050. Actually, I am pretty disturbed and a little confused by the different opinions and expertise on this critical human and earth-shattering disaster. Compare the voices in this debate. Our government with its plan to zero emissions and the UN voice. Which one do we heed?

Our Government says: The Prime Minister said the Government is supporting the next generation of energy technologies with an extra $1.62 billion for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to invest, as well as expanding the focus of ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to back new technologies that will cut emissions in agriculture, manufacturing, industry and transport.

“Our JobMaker plan is about protecting and creating the jobs of today and positioning Australia for the jobs of the future, which is why our investment in new technologies is so crucial,” the Prime Minister said.

“Australia is in the midst of a world-leading boom in renewable energy with over $30 billion invested since 2017. Solar panels and wind farms are now clearly commercially viable and have graduated from the need for government subsidies and the market has stepped up to invest.”

The Government will now focus its efforts on the next challenge: unlocking new technologies across the economy to help drive down costs, create jobs, improve reliability and reduce emissions. This will support our traditional industries – manufacturing, agriculture, transport – while positioning our economy for the future.

“These investments create jobs and they bring new technologies into play. This will not only cut emissions, but deliver the reliable energy Australia needs while driving down prices for homes and businesses.”

Our Prime Minister is coming to Glasgow COP26 with his plan. My problem is this. When I do see him on that international stage, I will see a Prime Minister holding a lump of coal in one hand and a second had 50 billion dollar sub in the other hand and a secret microchip in his back pocket that will achieve net zero emissions by 2025. The problem is, we may not have that much time!

On the other hand, listen to the UN voice: Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, who has access to the best brains on the planet when it comes to analyzing and understanding the seriousness and impact of climate change. He has three Working Groups offering their time, skills and talents on our behalf to give opinions and scientific analysis on climate change to all humanity.

He released the 6th Assessment Report titled The Heat is On’. It was released on the 9th of August 2021. This date is special, because it is the United Nations Day of Recognition of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples. The theme being, “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract”.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during press conference after the presentation the An Agenda for Disarmement at a University Dufour in Geneva. 24 May 2018. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during press conference in Geneva. 24 May 2018. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

Secretary-General António Guterres’s opening remarks are quite sobering:

“Ladies and gentlemen of the press — good morning. I welcome my colleague Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

“We are both here to keep sounding the alarm. As world leaders prepare for COP26, this report is another thundering wake-up call. Less than one week before COP26 in Glasgow, we are still on track for climate catastrophe even with the last announcements that were made.

“The 2021 Emissions Gap Report shows that with the present Nationally Determined Contributions and other firm commitments of countries around the world, we are indeed on track for a catastrophic global temperature rise of around 2.7 degrees Celsius.

“Now, even if the announcements of the last few days will materialize, we would still be on track to clearly more than 2 degrees Celsius.

“These announcements are essentially about 2050 so it is not clear how they will materialize but even if these recent announcements would materialize, we would still be clearly above 2 degrees Celsius. As the title of this year’s report puts it: ‘The heat is on.’

“And as the contents of the report show — the leadership we need is off. Far off. We know that humanity’s future depends on keeping global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030. And we also know that, so far, parties to the Paris Agreement are utterly failing to keep this target within reach. And the report also shows that countries are squandering a massive opportunity to invest COVID-19 fiscal and recovery resources in sustainable, cost-saving, planet-saving ways.”

Compare these statements by the UN our own Government’s response and you get my gut feeling that we are heading for a major catastrophic climate disaster, not a “she’ll be right mate” scenario. Especially for our Indigenous People. The Government’s response is not going to be fast enough. Mining on our lands, troubles with our water pollution and sea rights, our animals are becoming extinct, our air quality is far from clean, we have tons of garbage filling our good soil, and we are looking for places to bury our nuclear waste.

Are we serious about our carbon emissions? Sadly, we still don’t have a voice, a treaty or a truth commission. We have no power to veto any negative and destructive activities on our lands. And it looks like our Prime Minister is putting a lot of faith on a yet-to-be-designed microchip which is unknown or undiscovered…

I don’t see that we, Indigenous people, are included in the decision making of these plans. Sadly, they are being implemented without our prior and informed consent on our sovereign lands.

Our Indigenous voice at COP26 is critical. Our Indigenous Peoples Organisation has worked tirelessly over the past several months to try and bring together the fears and concerns that our local communities have expressed about our future beyond Covid and into the new climate-changing future.

Our people don’t have a powerful voice on this issue. But we do know we need to change our behaviours towards our sacred lands quickly! My hope and prayer is that back home we will continue to form all the necessary collaborations, gather all our wisdom and knowledge and build the momentum from the ground up to battle this climate crisis and give hope to our children’s children.

I just hope that we are not left behind again.

My Prayer

Ancient of Days,
The world You created is so spectacular! Today I come to say to you how much I appreciate the beauty of all creation and the mysteries of life in each leaf, rock, water drop, the ever-moving wind, and what each cool breeze holds. Their forms and substance draw deep into the depths of my curiosities How marvellous that I am alive to see, feel and experience these mysteries that You created. I am amazed at my deep feelings that I have the honour and privilege to experience this deep curiousness about the mysteries and sacredness of life. I feel like I am being drawn deeper into these secret dark mysterious spaces and places with my yearning soul. Seduce me again through my curiosity. I seek to deepen my wonder of You and all You have created. But I implore You, Ancient of days, give me wisdom and understanding and patience with my deepest anger and rage towards all those who seek to destroy Your Creation. In His Name, show mercy.


Ray Minniecon is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gurang Gurang nation of south-east Queensland. He is also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people, with deep and abiding connections to the people of Ambrym Island. He leads Scarred Tree, an Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Australian South Sea Islander ministry based in St John’s Glebe, Sydney.