If, as my partner and I did recently over Easter, you put four children aged 4 to 12 in a room and ask, “what would you like to do today?”, you invariably get four very different answers and no one is happy. The same sort of thing happened in climate change in Australia this week. The Climate Change Authority put forward a suggestion and few were happy.
Australia’s Climate Change Authority recommended a 2025 target for Australia in greenhouse gas emissions of 30 per cent below 2000 levels. The Authority says it considers this target is comparable to the efforts of other countries. “The Authority has not recommended a specific target for any year beyond 2025--providing flexibility to adjust to changing circumstances--but it has recommended that Australia pursue further emissions reductions within a target range of 40 to 60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030.” The Guardian provided a good summary of the reaction. Environment Minister, Greg Hunt pretty much dismissed the report. “On their own numbers – what the CCA is proposing is not just the largest reduction in emissions intensity in the world – but a third more onerous than any other country,” he said. Labor Leader Bill Shorten was uncommitted. “We’re working on what our targets should be. We’re interested and most committed to seeing what occurs in the Paris conference.” The CEO of the Climate Institute, John O’Connor, would have any of it. “We should be targeting at least 40% reductions by 2025, and 60% by 2030, if we want to help build global efforts that give a strong chance of avoiding 2C,” he said. The Age declared “The authority's case is compelling. Any government worth its salt would play close attention.” All of the coverage of the report and reaction can be found at the Climate Communications Blog.
New research released this week from the World Wildlife Fund and Australian National University found Australia could source 100 per cent of power from renewables by 2050. According to the Guardian: “The WWF/ANU report contends that Australia is well placed to make an orderly and low-cost transition to decarbonisation if the government can send clear and predictable policy and regulatory signals to the market, and resist special pleading from the owners of carbon intensive assets.”
It appears that one of Australia’s biggest polluters, AGL, agrees. Renew Economy reported AGL this week promised to ramp up investment in renewable energy capacity and to shut down all of its existing coal plants over the next 35 years, as part of a new plan to decarbonise its generation portfolio by 2050. “Environmental NGOs welcomed the announcement as a step in the right direction. However, they also said the decarbonisation of Australia’s grid need to happen quicker, and 50 per cent cuts needed to be achieved by 2030 to help meet global climate goals,” the website reported.
Finally in Australia the Guardian reported on the growing divestment movement where rallies were held at 15 campuses to urge vice chancellors to follow the lead of the Australian National University and divest from oil, gas and coal companies. “The universities urged to ditch their holdings in fossil fuel companies include the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, Monash University, the University of Queensland and James Cook University,” the Guardian reported.
Overseas and the Australian Financial Review reports that “China's coal imports fell 42 per cent over the first quarter of the year, compared with the same time last year. This is partly a function of Beijing's recently declared "war on pollution" but also overproduction across the Chinese coal sector. While coal used in the power generation saw a sharp drop in the first quarter, the use of renewables rose sharply.” The news wasn’t so good across the Pacific with Green Biz reporting “After two years of decline, total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere because of human activity increased 2 percent in 2013 over the previous year. That surge was fuelled, in large part, because of a growing economy, falling coal prices and a cold winter.”
It was Earth Day this week. Each Day commemorates what’s considered the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 when 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. A few people used the occasion to push the climate change action cause.
US President Barack Obama spent the day in the Florida Everglades with the mosquitoes and ‘gators to, according to the Huffington Post, “ taunt the Republicans on climate change”. "Climate change can no longer be denied," Obama was reported as saying. "It can't be edited out. It can't be omitted from the conversation. And action can no longer be delayed." Mother Jones has a full video of Obama in Florida and his weekly address to the nation, this week talking about climate change, is on the White House website.
Scientists in Europe used the day to report on a call for three quarters of known fossil fuel reserves to remain in ground. The Guardian reported on the release of a statement by leading scientists and economists in which they urge leaders to keep to commitments to avoid dangerous global warming. “Spelling out what a global deal at the UN climate summit in Paris later this year should include, the group demanded governments adopt a goal of reducing economies’ carbon emissions to zero by mid-century, put a price on carbon and that the richest take the lead with the most aggressive cuts, the Guardian reported.
Earth Day was founded by US Senator and Governor, Gaylord Nelson - a Democrat from Wisconsin. He was a pioneer environmentalist from the 1950’s until his death in 2005. A memorial web site makes interesting reading. His comments in 1995 on the 25th anniversary of Earth Day could be made today: “Reaching a general understanding that sustainability is the ultimate issue will finally bring us face-to-face with the political challenge of forging a sustainable society during the next few decades. It is a challenge we can meet if we have the leadership and the political will to do so.”
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Guardian: Al Gore - Cheap coal is a lie – stand up to the industry’s cynical fightback
Brookings Institute: Earth Day: Climate change and displacement across borders
The Nation: Is the Carbon-Divestment Movement Reaching a Tipping Point?
National Geographic: 10 Ways That Latin America is Driving Global Climate Action
Grist: In “The Sixth Extinction,” Elizabeth Kolbert reports from the frontlines of a dying world
ABC: Direct action climate auction: What is it and how will it work?
Guardian: Hillary Clinton's green path to the White House: will she be 'careful' on climate?
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