Sydney floods: No point tackling climate in Australia if emissions keep rising in developing world, PM says

Flooding is among ‘most extreme disasters in Australian history’, says major environmental assessment

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Thursday 10 March 2022 16:48 GMT
Emergency workers evacuate Sydney residents following floods

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has defended his government’s record on the climate crisis after devastating flooding and record rainfall killed at least 22 people.

Tens of thousands were evacuated as floodwaters rose, and many are returning to devastation and "uninhabitable" homes across the south west of the country, after some areas received 80 per cent of their annual rainfall in just three days.

On Wednesday Mr Morrison was met by a barrage of angry protests during his tour of flood-stricken communities over his handling of the disaster and his government’s stance on the climate crisis.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Morrison admitted Australia is increasingly being impacted by disasters driven by the climate, but even as people return to their ruined homes he reiterated his intention not to strengthen existing policies to tackle worsening environmental breakdown.

Mr Morrison said: “I think it is just an obvious fact that Australia is getting hard to live in because of these disasters.”

Devastating flooding in New South Wales (NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE/AFP)

“I’ll tell you what’s not going to fix climate change... doing something in Australia and then in other developing countries their emissions continue to rise,” he said, according to Australia’s 7 News.

“The real challenge of addressing climate change is ensuring that we’re working with other countries in the region and particularly developing countries to ensure we have the technology.”

In the city of Lismore, people held signs which read “this isn’t strange, it’s climate change”, and "announce a climate emergency", while protesters chanted: “The water is rising, no more compromising.”

A Climate Council of Australia report published on Thursday described the recent flood events as one of the most extreme disasters in Australian history and said the devastation was "wide ranging".

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison inspecting flood damage in the suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, on 10 March (EPA)

Total damages have so far been estimated at AU$1.77 billion (£950m), the Insurance Council of Australia said.

Ahead of the UN’s Cop26 climate it was reported that the Queen embarrassed Mr Morrison into attending the event, where he blamed companies for not doing enough to reduce their impacts on the environment. Australia is among the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita.

This week Mr Morrison was also forced to apologise to flood victims over the roll out of government support for the worst-hit areas.

Houses inundated with floodwaters from an overflowing Hawkesbury River are pictured in the Windsor suburb of Sydney (AFP via Getty Images)

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, those affected by flooding in northern New South Wales will be given “immediate” tax relief and up to AU$3,000 (£1,680) in emergency payments

Meanwhile, skies cleared in Sydney after nearly two weeks but major flooding continued in the city’s western suburbs of North Richmond and Windsor as water continued to flow from overloaded dams and rivers, according to Reuters.

Floodwaters could continue at the current levels until the weekend, emergency services said.

Electric vehicle charging stations are also among the casualties from the floods, with many charging stations offline or underwater, or both, leaving some families dependent on electric vehicles without transport, according to reports.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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