This week, the world changed on climate. The G7 - representing the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States - put an expiry date on coal. From that time, coal as a fuel will be dead and remain buried.
Rather than summarise or editorialise, the direct quotes provide the most insights:
◦ “… they (G7) commit to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C.”
◦ “… a decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century”
◦ “G7 leaders also commit to develop long-term national low-carbon strategies.”
◦ “They also remain committed to eliminating inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”
◦ “Urgent and concrete action is needed to address climate change, as set out in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report.”
◦ “… as a common vision for a global goal of greenhouse gas emissions reductions we support sharing with all parties to the UNFCCC the upper end of the latest IPCC recommendation of 40 to 70 % reductions by 2050 compared to 2010 recognizing that this challenge can only be met by a global response.”
◦ “We pledge to incorporate climate mitigation and resilience considerations into our development assistance and investment decisions. “
◦ “In order to incentivize investments towards low-carbon growth opportunities we commit to the long-term objective of applying effective policies and actions throughout the global economy, including carbon market-based and regulatory instruments and call on other countries to join us.”
There’s a range of reaction to this historic announcement. The most common phrase is “cautiously optimistic”. I have pulled excerpts from the announcements and collected coverage. It is in a post at the Climate Communication Tumblr blog.
While the G7 was doing the G7 thing, bureaucrats from all states in the United Nations were in Bonn working through the draft text to go to the meeting in Paris later in year. Guess who the red headed step child was at the meeting. Yep, Australia. RTCC reported that Australia was under intense pressure from leading economies use UN session to probe Canberra government over plans to slash emissions. The Sydney Morning Herald reported a view from the office of the President of France that Australia is a recalcitrant on climate change. “Prime Minister Tony Abbott is not very in favour of a very ambitious fight against global warming," the official said. "It's not just a perception.” The former head of the UN, Kofi Annan also joined the chorus condemning Australia, saying ““With one of the world’s highest levels of per capita emissions, Australia has gone from leadership to free-rider status in climate diplomacy,” the Guardian reported. The Climate Institute said Australia is simply piling more pressure on itself. “Transparency and accountability are key trust builders between governments. Without these ingredients climate negotiations are made much more difficult. By not doing what it is saying others should do, the government is undermining its case for even greater accountability on national actions as part of the Paris outcome at the end of the year.” Those talks in Bonn have wrapped up with RTCC reporting a slow pace raising the stakes in Paris.
Meanwhile, the former Republican Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor was in Australia this week on a promotional tour for the climate denying News Corporation. While here, he used the opportunity to shirt front Tony Abbott on climate change. “In order for us to be successful the whole world has to work together ... Australia, Austria, the US – everybody has to work together,” Schwarzenegger told Channel Ten’s The Project on Friday night. “So I am on a mission, I’m on an environmental crusade to go and motivate everyone to go in that direction.”
If that’s not enough, the New York Times, one of the most respected newspapers in the world - equalled only by the Guardian, had this headline to an editorial this week - “The case for a carbon tax”. Yes, really.
“In a welcome development, businesses are asking world leaders to do more to address climate change. This week, the top executives of six large European oil and gas companies called for a tax on carbon emissions. These companies -- the BG Group, BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total -- are not taking a bold environmental stand. They are being pragmatic. They want an efficient and predictable policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions because they realize something must be done. Numerous scientists, economists, environmentalists and political leaders have previously proposed similar ideas. Of course, getting lawmakers to adopt a carbon tax will be difficult. In the United States, many Republican lawmakers, the coal-mining industry and politically powerful corporations like Koch Industries oppose it. Just last year, Australia repealed its carbon tax after a new conservative government came to power. But world leaders, who will meet in Paris later this year to negotiate a climate change agreement, cannot give up in the face of this opposition. Carbon taxes are one of the best policies available to solve this global problem.” Quite.
Now, normally this column comes out on a Thursday but I am a day late this week. I was all ready to hit send yesterday when I collapsed and went into a coma after hearing Tony Abbott on the Alan Jones Show say some absolutely remarkable things, including that he thinks wind turbines are ugly, wind turbines are a health hazard, the new RET deal is bad and John Howard should have never installed a RET in the first place. Yes, really. Renew Economy has more. Social media went into meltdown. Media and advocates had a field day. The Climate Council came out with a quick statement pointing out where Mr Abbott is factually wrong.
In addition to the news from the G7 this week, there was some other good news:
• Climate Spectator reported that the NAB will offer discounted energy efficiency, solar loans. “The agreement to fund energy-saving equipment or renewables generation will see NAB offer a rate 70 basis points below its standard equipment finance rate. Finance will be offered through NAB, and will be across a diverse range of pre-approved assets including cars, irrigation systems, solar PV, building upgrades, lighting upgrades, processing line improvements and refrigeration.”
• Green Tech Solar reports UBS Analysts saying Solar Will Become the ‘Default Technology of the Future: “Within a decade, solar photovoltaics could account for 10 percent of electricity supply globally, beating out coal and nuclear as "default" power generation technologies. The UBS report is one of many from large investment banks alerting investors to the sudden rise of solar and battery storage. Their conclusion: "We believe the financial community and most industry experts largely underestimate the global solar capacity growth, as falling costs, supportive regulation and the opening up of new solar markets seem to go largely unnoticed.”
• Renew Economy reported on news from South Australia that Alinta Energy announced the closure of its heavily polluting brown coal generators in Port Augusta. “The decline in demand for energy, as households have become more efficient and the number of industrial customers has declined, combined with policy settings designed to support significant growth in renewable energy generation, have together had the effect of causing a significant oversupply of power available to South Australia,” said Alinta in a statement.”
Over in the science department, there were a few interesting (read: bad news) stories floating around this week.
• Business Insider report on new research indicating storms and flash flooding will get worse in Australia as the climate changes. “University of NSW experts, studying weather records from 79 locations across Australia, found that the downpours will get worse as the climate changes and temperatures warm. The civil engineers from the university’s Water Research Centre analysed nearly 40,000 storms across Australia.”
• The Guardian reports on new research suggests global warming is accelerating: “The end result is that the temperature trends over the past 17 or so years has continued to increase with no halt. In fact, it has increased at approximately the same rate as it had for the prior five decades.”
Finally, put this in the diary for Monday night. Watch the ABC when Four Corners asks “With the price of coal plummeting and our biggest customers turning to renewable energy, is Australia backing a loser?” Now that’s something we all know the answer to.
Australia Bureau of Meteorology (Text): Ocean temperatures continue to rise in the tropical Pacific
Australia Bureau of Meteorology (Video): Ocean temperatures continue to rise in the tropical Pacific
C2ES: Key Legal Issues in a 2015 Climate Agreement
Climate Communication: News summary for marketing, communications and public affairs
Climate Progress: A Televised Presidential Debate, About Science?
Guardian: As arguing against climate change action gets harder, the naysayers get louder
Grist: California drought’s latest victim? Pro sports, Grist, 8 June 2015
Grist: This is crazy, but we actually have good news about climate change
Huffington Post: What If Citizens Around The World Could Decide How To Act On Climate Change?
Mashable: Tim Cook introduces the moral era at Apple: Gay rights, privacy and climate change
Mother Jones: On a Plane? Enjoy the View of the Planet You're Killing!
Monash University: Monash student elected to head new global sustainable development youth network
Guardian: We could end up with 'as much plastic in our oceans as fish’
RTCC: Paris tracker: Who has pledged what for 2015 UN climate pact?
World Resources Institute: Pope Francis, Business Executives and Government Leaders Come Together for Climate Action
The Week That Was - Flipboard edition (out 4 pm Friday afternoon)
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This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm