As the world watched in horror at the tragedy that started in Paris late last Friday night, every climate change campaigner around the world, could be excused for having a secondary thought - what impact will this have on the United Nations Climate Conference scheduled to be held in Paris next week. While we expressed our deepest sympathies to the people of France and the families of those killed, injured and traumatised by the terrorist attack, we breathed a collective sigh of relief when the organisers resolved that the conference will proceed, largely unchanged.
“COP21 must be held,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Saturday. However, already tight security will be further strengthened for the two-week summit, he said. “The feeling is we should go on with business as usual, because you can’t give in to these terrorists,” a European diplomat said Saturday, adding that his prime minister will attend. “My feeling is heads of state will still go, unless they absolutely cannot,” reported Politico. The Ecologist asked if it was a coincidence that attack was committed weeks before COP21, the biggest climate conference since 2009. Perhaps, it opined adding failure to reach a strong climate agreement now looks more probable. And that's an outcome that would suit ISIS - which makes $500m a year from oil sales - together with other oil producers. Finally, The Conversation said the Paris climate talks could be a light in the darkness of terror.
Away from Paris for the moment, things in Australia can be best summed up as “It’s complicated”. I am talking about the latest carbon emissions reduction auction (my layman’s words) of the Australian Government’s Direct Action Policy where the government rather than the polluter pays to reduce emissions. It is shaping up as a costly policy and budget disaster. “You’ve got to hand environment minister Greg Hunt a capital A for Audacity. Or maybe a capital C for Chutzpah. Round two of the government’s emissions reduction fund – the central plank of its Direct Action plan – has come and gone, another $557 million has been spent making some farmers and carbon traders a lot richer than they used to be, and Hunt is still insisting that it is the greatest success in the history of emissions reductions. Ever,” Giles Parkinson, editor and commentator opined. “In the lead up to Paris, this government has once again demonstrated that we can significantly reduce emissions and tackle climate change without a carbon tax and increased electricity prices,” Environment Minister Greg Hunt press released on Thursday. “It’s easy to claim a triumph with rhetoric, but not so easy to do so with the numbers,” replied Mr Parkinson. The bottom line here is that yes, carbon emissions are being reduced but the money allocated by the government to do this is not even close to what’s needed to meet emission reduction targets. To help you make sense of this, there’s a bit more detail on this story at the Climate Communications Blog.
Now to some intriguing news. Renew Economy reported Australia remains open to including an option to tighten the global climate target to a maximum 1.5°C warming above pre-industrial levels, and may also support a long-term goal for the world to be “carbon neutral” by 2050. “In a briefing to many of the more than 100 environmental NGOs and business representatives due to attend the Paris climate change conference which begins in late November, the Australian delegation underlined the point that Australia remained “flexible” in many of the key issues to be discussed at the two-week conference,” it was reported. Editor and commentator Giles Parkinson said it reveals how far the Australian government has moved since the replacement of Tony Abbott as prime minister by the more moderate Malcolm Turnbull, who will lead the delegation to Paris and speak at the leader’s day on the first day of the summit. It is worth having a read of the whole story on the Renew Economy site. It is illuminating and encouraging.
Australia and its fellow G20 nations are “paying fossil fuel producers to undermine their own policies on climate change”, a British think tank says. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Overseas Development Institute questioned why the Australian government continued to provide more than $5 billion a year to support fossil fuel production, despite a G20 commitment to phase out subsidies six years ago. The report, titled Empty Promises: G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production says that G20 governments collectively spend more than $640 billion a year to support the production of fossil fuels – almost four times the total of global subsidies for renewable energy. The Australian government alone provides more than $5 billion a year to support fossil fuel production as a part of a $45 billion a year subsidy by the federal, state and territory governments in Australia.
A new ranking of global energy and climate policies has placed Australia 110th in the world for development of renewable and low carbon energy sources and efficiency of supply – just after Benin and just before Trinidad and Tobago. Renew Economy reports the World Energy Council’s annual ranking of energy and climate policies – the 2015 Energy Trilemma Index – rates the energy systems of countries across the world, based on how they are balancing the three key dimensions. These are: energy security (a country’s ability to meet its current and predicted energy demand); energy equity (the accessibility and affordability of energy across the population); and environmental sustainability (the achievement of supply and demand-side energy efficiencies and the development of energy supply from renewable and other low-carbon sources.).
Australia has backed down from a climate change stand-off with the US and Japan, agreeing to a deal to cut funding for dirty coal-fired electricity by billions of dollars a year. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Leaked documents seen by Fairfax Media last week showed Australia had opposed a US-Japan deal that effectively would have limited public financing of coal plants by OECD countries to only the “cleanest” available – mostly those classed as “ultra-supercritical” generators. Greens climate change spokeswoman Larissa Waters accused the government of ”browning down” the deal at the last minute. “Right until the last moment, Australia was threatening to block the historic deal … This cynical strategy is driven by the Coalition government’s desire to please its big mining donors at the expense of the world’s poorest people and Australia’s safe climate future.”
In news that didn’t get a lot of publicity, The International Business Times reports the Australian government has announced that Australians who purchase low emissions vehicles will receive incentives as part of the country’s goal to reduce carbon emissions. “The new programme is funded with $50 million through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, or CEFC. The government aims to urge corporate, government fleet buyers, and not-for-profit organisations, to buy vehicles with lower emissions to meet and beat the country’s 2020 CO2 reduction target,” the website reported.
There was lots of good news around this week on renewables:
Let’s hope there’s more to come.
CLIMATE COMMUNICATION PUBLICATIONS
A selection of great reading on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm and www.climatecommunication.net
ABC Radio National Background Briefing (Audio): The big disconnect
attn: 6 Ways Climate Change Will Drastically Change Your Everyday Life
Business Insider: The US is about to hit a big solar energy milestone
Climate Change News: Who has pledged what for 2015 UN climate pact?
Climate Communication: Responsibility Plus Bulletin for brands and reputation
The Conversation: Finance for developing countries will help Australia in climate talks
IEA: November: Low prices should give no cause for complacency on energy security, IEA says
Inside Climate News: Climate Primer: Explaining the Global Carbon Budget and Why It Matters
Jones Day: Australian Governments Commit To Renewable Energy
Labor Herald: Senate inquiry hearings into environment legislation scuttled
Mashable: For the first time, Saudi Arabia, oil empire, commits to fixing climate change
Mother Jones: The Republican presidential debate was so utterly devoid of science it hurt
Guardian (Stockholm Resilience Centre): The planet’s future is in the balance. But a transformation is already under way
Guardian: Coal from Carmichael mine 'will create more annual emissions than New York’
Guardian (Bill McKibben): Is Australia the last country standing in defence of coal?
Guardian: UK doesn't have right policies to meet renewable energy target, admits Amber Rudd
Guardian: Coal is not the solution to energy poverty, warn aid agencies
Guardian: Brown coal in the dock – where to for Victoria now? (Government statement)
Mother Jones: This Chart Shows Which Countries Are the Most Screwed by Climate Change
Mother Jones: These charts show why you should be excited about clean energy
National Geographic: Bill Nye the Science Guy Knows How to Fix Climate Change
New York Times: Senate Votes to Block Obama’s Climate Change Rules
Politico: Clinton's coal aid plan leaves critics cold
Renew Economy: Fossil fuels subsidies cost world $5.3 trillion a year – $10m a minute
Renew Economy: Electricity retailers will transform the Australian energy storage market
Reuters: Unmitigated climate change to shrink global economy by 23 percent, researchers find
Solar Citizens: Solar Citizens has welcomed the South Australian Government’s announcement today of a goal to power the state government by 100% “low carbon electricity”
Sydney Morning Herald: Greening from the grassroots up: Councils step ahead on climate action
Think Progress: Here’s How Much The World’s Biggest Economies Spend On Fossil Fuel Subsidies
CLIMATE COMMUNICATION PUBLICATIONS
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