By Sam Beever
2020 was a year that tested the strength of our communities and the resilience of our countries.
It was a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Australians, 2020 started with the most devastating bushfires in our history.
Nations near and far offered Australia assistance. Family and friends in Cyprus raised funds to assist with our rebuilding, recovery and future resilience.
This generosity in our hour of need was humbling. And it will never be forgotten.
2020 demonstrated the importance of marshalling collective will, innovation, resources and leadership to protect and support our communities and countries.
At the virtual Climate Adaptation Summit hosted by the Netherlands this week, Australia will reaffirm our commitment to ambitious and practical action to combat the impacts of climate change at home, in our region, and around the world.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world, and hosts the oldest living cultures and some of the richest biodiversity in the world.
We are fortunate to be able to learn from the 65,000-year connection of the First Australians, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, to their country.
The recent bushfires demonstrated the importance of bringing together traditional Indigenous knowledge about the land with modern science.
Indigenous Rangers are on the frontline of this work, for example using traditional fire management practices to preserve and protect Australia’s natural and cultural heritage.
This year, Australia will establish a new National Resilience Relief and Recovery Agency to reduce natural disaster risk, enhance resilience and ensure effective relief and recovery to all hazards.
And a new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy will set out a future adaptation vision.
Australia recognises that climate change is the biggest long-term threat to the health of coral reefs worldwide, including those in our own iconic Great Barrier Reef.
Australia has committed $2.7 billion to the Reef 2050 Plan to effectively manage and protect the Great Barrier Reef.
We have launched a $150 million Reef Restoration and Adaptation program that brings together world leading marine science that can help reefs recover from bleaching events and adapt to changing ocean temperatures.
While our adaptation and resilience work starts at home, Australia is also committed to supporting the global community to tackle climate change.
Australia has pledged at least $1.5 billion for global climate finance in the next five years. $500 million of this funding will directly help our Pacific neighbours.
We’re sharing our climate adaptation expertise, experiences and skills through our development programme and the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.
Through the International Partnership for Blue Carbon, we’re working together to protect and sustainably manage these critical coastal ecosystems.
Of course, adaptation action must go hand in hand with reducing emissions.
And Australia is getting on with the job.
We remain resolutely committed to the Paris Agreement and are on track to meet and beat our 2030 target, having reduced emissions by almost 17 per cent since 2005.
Our emissions have fallen faster than many other advanced economies or the OECD average.
Australians are also building and investing in renewables at record levels.
On a per person basis, Australia is building new wind and solar at ten times the global average and four times faster than Europe.
Like Cyprus, Australia is blessed with abundant sunlight. Almost one in four Australian homes now have solar—the highest uptake in the world—and we expect renewables will contribute at least 50 per cent of our electricity by 2030.
Australia is aiming to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible.
The need to get to net zero is not in dispute—the global community needs to focus on ‘how’.
Australia has developed a Technology Investment Roadmap – a comprehensive plan to invest in technologies to bring emissions down.
Australia is aiming to leverage $70 billion of new investment in low emissions technologies by 2030.
We’re focussed on accelerating technologies like hydrogen, carbon capture use and storage, soil carbon, energy storage to backup renewables and decarbonise transport, and low or zero emissions steel and aluminium.
Our goal is to get the cost of deploying these new technologies to parity with existing, higher-emitting alternatives.
This is a practical pathway to achieve net zero emissions that also presents economic opportunity.
And it’s a pathway we are traveling with others.
Here in Cyprus, our solar thermal research with The Cyprus Institute is helping Cyprus meet its renewable energy targets by drawing renewable energy from half an acre of unique sun-tracking mirrors, or heliostats.
As the world recovers from the economic impact of COVID-19, we need investments that can both accelerate emissions reductions and support jobs and communities.
Whether in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, or tackling the ongoing challenge posed by climate change, we need to embrace innovation and strengthen global partnerships.
Our scientists tell us that, even with the most ambitious global emissions reductions, we will still need to adapt to changes in our climate over coming decades.
Practical actions that help us adapt to those changes and strengthen the resilience of our local environments are critical.
Together, we will make a difference.
Sam Beever is Australian High Commissioner to Cyprus