In November last year, when confronted with the accusation that Australia is at the back of the pack in terms of action on climate change, Environment Minister Greg Hunt cited the Yale Environment Performance Index as “the most credible, scientifically based, hard data-based analysis in the world” in his rebuttal, because, at the time, Australia was ranked third on its environmental performance index.

How times change. The index, updated this month, now ranks Australia at 13 out of 180 countries. How did we slip 10 spots? Mainly due to our poor performance in curbing carbon emissions. We are a significant underachiever, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Department of Environment’s own statistics, which show that Australia produced more pollution in the 2014-15 financial year than in the previous year.

While much was made over the Paris climate change agreement, Australia is yet to see any policy change, with the Turnbull government still committed to Tony Abbott’s ludicrously ineffective Direct Action plan.

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No doubt Hunt will say we are still the second best performer in our region — second only to New Zealand — but short of a dramatic shift in policy (like say, getting rid of fuel tax credits, and ceasing to approve massive new coal mines), it won’t take long for us to slip much further down the list.

Hunt has never been a credible environment minister. Now he isn’t credible even by his own cherry-picked standards.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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