Australia’s international reputation is being shredded according to new data which shows the country’s climate-change policies are striking a raw nerve.
Celebrated for its great beaches and abundant wildlife, the country is now making headlines for its love of coal and gas.
Analysing more than 1000 international print publications, media intelligence group Meltwater Australia found negative sentiment toward's Australia's climate policy has been growing steadily since early September.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s net zero by 2050 announcement on October 26 saw the country further savaged in the press, with observers calling Australia the “weakest link” in the developed world in terms of climate policy.
While Mr Morrison promised "action on climate change", his plan was slammed by critics for lacking detail and being rushed through ahead of the COP26 climate talks.
When comparing international data from September 26 and October 25, to October 26 and October 29, negative sentiment was shown to have increased from 17 to 21 per cent.
Positive global coverage also increased slightly from six to seven per cent, with the majority of news being neutral.
Domestically, coverage of Australia’s climate-change policies have been less critical, with the Meltwater data indicating only four per cent was negative, compared to an average of 20 per cent overseas.
Reason Australia received sentiment boost in July
There was one spike in positive news stories regarding Australia and climate change in mid-July, following an announcement by Japan that it was revising its 2030 emissions targets.
Australia was at the centre of much of the coverage as it is a major supplier of gas and coal to Japan, which was instead promising to double down on renewables.
More detail was also released about the UK and Australia’s plans to tackle climate change through the future Clean Tech Partnership, which likely resulted in positive coverage.
What you need to know about COP26
Social media savages Australia's climate policies with negative emojis
US, UK, India, and Canada were found to be the most “robust” in their criticism of the country’s emissions reduction stance.
On social media, sentiment has also been largely negative, with “pigs” “failure” and “hot mess” all trending in relation to Australia’s climate stance.
While most emojis used in posts about COP26 were hopeful, when mentions of Australia were cross referenced with the term, researchers saw a surge in images conveying anger, frustration, and disbelief.
Greenpeace CEO slams Morrison's net zero plan
In announcing his net zero by 2050 plan, Mr Morrison has promised 62,000 new jobs in the mining and heavy industry sectors and pinned hopes of reaching the target on technology which is yet to be invented.
"It is not a revolution but a careful evolution to take advantage of changes in our markets," Mr Morrison said.
Responding to the Meltwater data today, Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter described Australia's net zero plan as "shameful"
"What Scott Morrison attempted to do was to pull a scam on the Australian people, and a scam on the world's media and world leaders," he told Yahoo News.
"What their data shows is he has comprehensively failed, no one has been fooled.
"If Mr Morrison has any sense of decency, he will be doing some further thinking on his way to the COP, and will arrive with a set of ambitious targets to deliver emissions reductions in Australia by 2030."
Pacific islands disappointed by Australia
With China’s influence growing in the Pacific region, Australia is increasingly motivated to form better relations with its island neighbours.
Climate Council researcher and Griffith Asia Institute research fellow Dr Wesley Morgan believes Pacific island governments are largely “disappointed” that Australia will not be taking stronger 2030 emissions reduction targets to COP26.
“Australia is taking the same 2030 commitments to Glasgow that it took to Paris six years ago, while Pacific island countries see action on climate change this decade as being key to their survival. ” he told Yahoo News.
"Pacific Island countries have been going to the UN climate talks for well over a decade with the slogan 1.5 to stay alive.
“That comes from the science which says we need to keep global warming to… below 1.5 degrees, lest we lose the world’s coral reefs and atoll islands.”
With the world needing to cut emissions by 45 per cent this decade in order to prevent the loss of these vulnerable ecosystems, Australia in on track for an increase.
While Australia is a valued member of the Pacific Islands Forum, an International trade bloc, Dr Morgan believes its neighbours are perplexed that it isn’t backing them on climate change policies.
“Australia is growing its exports of coal and continuing to promote gas,” he said.
“In just in the past 12 months, the federal government has promoted a gas-fired recovery from COVID-19.
“So this does I think, undermine Australia's goal of cementing its relationship with Pacific Island countries.”
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