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Australia Raises National Security Concerns in Annual Climate Summit

FILE - Firefighters battle a wildfire at Wooroloo, near Perth, Australia, Feb. 1, 2021.
FILE - Firefighters battle a wildfire at Wooroloo, near Perth, Australia, Feb. 1, 2021.

Australia’s Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has warned that global warming could lead to increased national security risks. Bowen presented his annual climate change statement to Australia’s Federal Parliament on Thursday.

Bowen told lawmakers Thursday the climate emergency had national security implications for Australia, which has had to accelerate its transition to green sources of energy to curb its emissions.

"This year’s national Climate Change Statement also includes a frank and thorough assessment of the national security imperative in this transformation," he said. "As the statement notes, extreme weather events caused by climate change place increased strain on Australia’s energy networks and this fragility could be used by hostile actors."

Bowen did not identify the "hostile actors," but he warned that the threats to national security would "compound and expand exponentially the hotter the planet becomes."

Before heading to the annual U.N. climate conference in Dubai, Bowen also told Parliament that the government was "within striking distance" of its 2030 emissions target.

Australia has legislated a target to cut carbon emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

However, despite the minister’s optimism about Australia reaching its emissions targets, a Thursday report by the Climate Change Authority, an Australian government agency, says the country is not on track to meet its 2030 targets.

The report asserts that to achieve that ambition, Australia would have to decarbonize at an average annual rate of 17 million tons of carbon per year, but in the first six months of 2023, emissions were rising, not falling.

Australia has some of the world's highest per capita emissions because of reliance on fossil fuels. They generate most of its electricity, while coal and gas exports earn billions of dollars.

Jennifer Rayner, head of advocacy at the Climate Council, an independent organization told VOA Australia must do more to join the effort to combat global warming.

"Australians are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as they particularly are seen through extreme weather like floods, fires, heat waves, which are a silent killer," she said. "So, we know that there is more we need to do as a nation to cut our emissions, but we also need to see that action around the world because burning fossil fuels causes harmful climate change wherever that happens in the world. So, we need to be part of the global effort to drive down our reliance on fossil fuels so that we can protect Australians from being on the front lines of harmful climate change."

Opposition lawmakers have criticized the government’s environmental policies. The conservative opposition’s climate change and energy spokesperson, Ted O’Brien, told Parliament that minister Bowen was "a false prophet who's big on future visions, but not on tangible outcomes."