In putting together a column like this, you always have a debate with yourself as to whether you should start with the bad news or the good news. Normally, there are clear trends to assist with the editorial process. Not this week, however. Thus, the news summary this week begins somewhere in the middle and will later deal with the good and the bad.
Taking up the middle ground this week was the developments, or lack thereof, between the Government and the Opposition in Australia on the Renewable Energy Target. Renew Economy reported there had been no give by either on negotiations. The Government remains committed to slashing the RET by 40 per cent, according to the report. Opposition leader Bill Shorten called a meeting of unions, industry, and renewable energy leaders on Monday to discuss the target and he again reaffirmed Labor would accept a lower target by not as great as that proposed by the Government.
Despite the uncertainty in the renewable energy sector in Australia, the unstoppable march toward the implementation of clean technology continues. Renew Economy reported that New South Wales this week had an early win in the annual hostilities with Queensland. "The so-called Sunshine State, has lost its mantle as the biggest market for rooftop solar installations, with NSW overtaking its northern neighbour in the month of February, thanks to a big boost in commercial-scale installations. On a monthly basis, Queensland has now been overtaken by NSW, and may soon be overtaken by Victoria too."
The Australia Conservation Foundation (ACF) presented further evidence for the need to accelerated deployment of renewables with a new report identifying Australia’s ten biggest 10 climate polluters. ACF President, Geoff Cousins told the ABC's Lateline that the 'top ten' is responsible for nearly one third of Australia’s greenhouse pollution.
Overseas, and the future, or lack thereof, of the big coal fired power stations has again been confirmed with a new report out of the United States indicating the global boom in coal-fired power plant construction is going 'bust'. The Huffington Post reports that "Since 2010, for every coal plant completed worldwide, two proposed coal plants have been shelved or cancelled. Globally, in 2014, for the first time ever, carbon emissions were flat as the world economy grew, largely due to reduced coal use and the expansion of clean energy. Even as coal use continues its rapid decline in the United States with 187 coal plants announced for retirement since 2010, thanks in large part to widespread grassroots pressure from communities demanding an end to deadly pollution, the U.S. coal industry was counting on a booming exports business to keep it afloat. But today's report shows this is simply not going to happen."
There were two other pieces of good news this week from the big players in world policy on climate change. In China, Bloomberg reports the Government raised its solar target for 2015, promising to add almost 2 1/2 times as much capacity as the US added last year. The more ambitious goal may attract as much as 21 billion yuan ($3.4 billion) of additional investment to solar projects compared with the earlier plan, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates.
Meanwhile, the European Union continues to march toward its renewable energy goals for 2020, but some countries aren’t content to wait until then to meet their targets, according to the website, Climate Central. Newly released data show that four countries — Sweden, Bulgaria, Estonia and Lithuania — have met or surpassed their renewable energy target ahead of schedule, and Italy and Romania are within a fraction of a percent of reaching their targets as well.
Now the bad news. The Washington Post this week screamed, "The melting of Antarctica was already really bad. It just got worse". It cites a report in Nature on research that indicates that the great ice sheet of east Antartica is melting as fast as the ice sheet in west Antarctica. The report says the floating ice shelf of the Totten Glacier covers an area of 150 kilometres by 35 kilometres. It is losing an amount of ice “equivalent to 100 times the volume of Sydney Harbour every year,” said the paper, quoting the Australian Antarctic Division.
Finally, the Chairman of the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore, was in the news again this week, thanks to another inspirational address, this time to tech, music and pop culture leaders at the annual South by South West (SXSW) Conference in Austin Texas. CNET reported Mr Gore told attendees the internet would be a key battleground in the fight against global warming. Covering the address, the New York Times reported Mr Gore's 'new optimism;' on getting real action this year to address climate change.
Let's hope he's right. Let's make sure he is right.
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