O Canada, thank you. For those that don’t know it, the title of the national anthem of Canada is “O Canada”. Well, this week the world said “O Canada - thank you!” for the defeat of the government lead “climate villain” Stephen Harper.
As Renew Economy reports: “In less than two months, the two political leaders named by New Statesman as the “world’s worst climate change villains” have been tossed out of power: Australia’s Tony Abbott by his own party, and Canada’s Stephen Harper in a national poll. It is good news for the upcoming Paris climate change talks. Both countries, under their former leaders, ranked at the bottom of the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for their efforts on climate change. Among G20 countries, only Saudi Arabia ranked lower than them. Since their elections – Harper in 2006, and Abbott in 2013 – they had applied the brakes on climate change and renewable energy policy, despite some strong efforts at sub-national levels (the provinces in Canada and states and territories in Australia). During a visit to Canada last year, Abbott and Harper decided to create a “conservative alliance among ‘like-minded’ countries” to try to dismantle global efforts on climate change,” Renew Economy reported.
The new Prime Minister is Justin Trudeau, whose Liberal Party sits in the middle of the political spectrum. Despite the name, the Liberal Party in Canada is a centrist party. Reuters reports Mr Trudeau will arrive in office with a pledge to improve the country's battered environmental image, promising a new strategy for global climate negotiations in Paris this December. Time reports Mr Trudeau emphasized the very real danger of climate change and pledged his support for what he called a “pan-Canadian” approach to the issue. “In 2015, pretending that we have to choose between the economy and the environment is as harmful as it is wrong,” he said in a speech earlier this year. Some are much more skeptical about Mr Trudeau and his commitment to the environment. One skeptic according to Grist is David Suzuki who is reported to have called him a “twerp” full of “sanctimonious crap”.
Australia’s international image copped another hit this week when the government re-approved the Adani Carmichael coal mine, which has been labelled ‘a complete disaster’ for the environment. “The federal government and Environment Minister should be in the business of protecting the Reef and the climate, not giving mining companies licence to destroy them. This project means more dredging in the Great Barrier Reef, more ships through its waters and more carbon emissions,” Greenpeace was quoted in Grist. In Renew Economy, Labor again confirmed its support for the mine. “This project is of great importance to Queensland and to Australia. Australia’s coal exports are important to our customers and our mining communities”, shadow Resources Minister Gary Grey said in a statement. Renew Economy summed it up: “Tony Abbott might be consigned to the back-benches of the Australian government, but one of his favourite political slogans, that coal is good for humanity, lives on.”
Still in Canberra, some curious commentary came out of the federal government on climate change, both outside and inside of the Parliament. Outside of the house on the hill, Renew Economy reports the following words came from the mouth of Environment Minister, Greg Hunt: “It gives me great pleasure today to share my views on the required ‘green shift’ toward a more vibrant, resilient and low emissions society.” Giles Parkinson reports on a speech titled “Australia’s Green Shift”, which Mr Hunt delivered to Australia’s Norwegian Embassy. Yes, the federal environment minister – who as recently as July this year described the Labor Opposition’s comparatively ambitious renewable energy and emissions reduction targets “a triple-hit on electricity prices” – is now all about shifting to green, and wants everyone to know it,” Mr Parkinson wrote. “The Australian Government is driving this transformation in Australia and working globally to build a future that reflects the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said – a sentence, which Mr Parkinson said is safe to say he would never had uttered under his former boss, Tony Abbott.
Inside the parliament, on Tuesday, Labor asked three questions of the Prime Minister on his previous statements on climate change policy in general, the direct action policy and the future of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Labor’s line is that the new Prime Minister has ‘sold out’ on his previous strong support for climate change action and stinging criticism of the direct action policy. In response, the Prime Minister didn’t say anything new on overall policy or direct action. He refused to guarantee a future for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation: “The final part of the opposition leader’s question was: does the Clean Energy Finance Corporation play a crucial part in reducing Australia’s emissions? I would say, no, it does not play a crucial part; it plays a part. It is certainly making a contribution. But the reduction of emissions across the board is contributed to by many things. It is open to debate whether it is a role that the government need to play, but we recognise that we have not been able to secure the support of the Senate to abolish it and it is continuing. It is being, as far as I can see, well run within the limits of its mandate,” Mr Turnbull told Parliament.
In the past week some exciting news has come out about Australia’s renewable energy future and potential export industries. Renew Economy reports Australian developers are hoping to tap into the voracious demand for clean energy from the big north Asian economies, and create a “solar fuels” export industry at a scale many would have thought unimaginable. “Proponents such as Renewable Hydrogen’s Andrew Want are talking of the prospect of developing massive solar arrays in the Australian outback at a scale of “multiple tens” of gigawatts. There is a big push in Australia to tap into Japan’s emerging “hydrogen” economy, and use Australia’s rich solar and wind resources to provide clean fuels to Japan and other countries. Professor Ross Garnaut and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation chief executive Oliver Yates say this could create an export industry that could rival coal and gas,” Renew Economy reported. Renew Economy also reported Australia has the opportunity to become a renewable energy superpower – giving it a global economic advantage much greater than that ever gained from fossil fuels. “A new report has suggested, but only if it seizes three key areas of opportunity, based heavily on innovation; and only if it acts quickly and doesn’t miss the wave. The report, published on Monday by Beyond Zero Emissions, notes that Australia – despite having one of the best renewable energy resources in the world – is currently on the back foot in the global energy stakes. Its “fossil fuel advantage” is fast disappearing, and it has an outdated and gold-plated electricity network that has acted as a ball and chain to progress,” Renew Economy reported.
Only six weeks ahead of the UN climate conference in Paris, the Sydney Morning Herald reports global leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have called on countries and companies to put a price on carbon to speed up efforts to fight climate change. “In what has been described as an unprecedented alliance ahead of the Paris climate summit starting next month, the leaders said pricing emissions was needed to steer the global economy to a low-carbon future that would avoid dangerous levels of global warming,” the Herald reported. “There has never been a global movement to put a price on carbon at this level and with this degree of unison,” World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim said in a statement. “The science is clear, the economics compelling and we now see political leadership emerging to take green investment to scale at a speed commensurate with the climate challenge.”
In the United States, President Obama continued his push for action on climate change when he announced new commitments from companies who are joining the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. “With this announcement, 81 companies will have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge to demonstrate their support for action on climate change and the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future. These 81 companies have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion,” the Whitehouse said in a statement. The Guardian wasn’t impressed by the announcement: “But do the climate commitments add up to meaningful change? They may. But so far, they haven’t” the media organisation said.
And finally some good news. The Sydney Morning Herald this week reported the Australian Government this week revealed it would no longer provide $4 million in funding to enable controversial climate muddier and Tony Abbott favourite, Bjorn Lomborg, establish his Copenhagen Consensus Centre at an Australian university. It looks like common sense has been Bjorn again.
The Week That Was Flipboard Editions are at Climate Communication.
A selection of great reading on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm and www.climatecommunication.net
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Bloomberg: These Three Trends Have Radically Redefined the Energy Market
Business Green: How to invest in green bonds
Climate Access: Sharing what works
Climate Change News: 6 elections to watch before Paris climate summit
Climate Communication: Responsibility Plus Bulletin for Marketing and Communications
The Conversation: Rising seas threaten to drown important mangrove forests, unless we intervene
Guardian: Tackling climate change is the key to producing enough nutritious food to beat hunger
Guardian: Fossil fuel industry must 'implode' to avoid climate disaster, says top scientist
National Geographic: The Climate Change Issue
New Matilda: John Hewson Attacks Coal-Loving Peter Costello Over Future Fund's Fossil Fuel Investments
Reuters: PNG plans new home for islanders fleeing volcano, climate impacts
Solar Citizens: Australia and its Pacific neighbours agree to double renewable energy by 2030
Special Broadcasting Service: Indigenous say untapped potential for Australia to tackle climate change
Sydney Morning Herald (Ross Gittens): Coal's days are numbered and the sooner we face up to that the better
Time: Why Restoring Nature Could Be the Key to Fighting Climate Change
Weekend Reads Flipboard Editions are at Climate Communication
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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