Ahhh, the good old days. Remember the days when you lay on the lounge with the Saturday paper, had only a dozen or so TV and radio stations to choose from and checked the mail box by the front gate each day expecting it to contain a welcome and personal letter. Well, the good ol’ days were back this week with letter writing in vogue.
Letter number one was from the 26 European Ambassadors to Australia asking Tony Abbott about the whereabouts of the country’s post 2020 emissions targets. They wrote: “We look forward to seeing Australia announce an ambitious emissions reduction contribution. Only by collective action can we avoid irreversible damage to the planet. Australia and Europe have always been strong promoters of a global-level, multilateral solution to climate change. We have never been closer to reaching this common goal. The agreement to be brokered in Paris aims to be the first universal agreement ever concluded, by which all countries are equally bound. It is now crucial for all other major economies, including Australia and other G20 countries, to act.”
The next letter the postie dropped off to Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600, was from Australia’s religious leaders calling on the government and opposition, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, to commit to deep cuts in greenhouse gases after the current goal expires in 2020. “Representing Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist groups (they) called on Australia to pledge a 40 per cent cut in carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2025. By 2030, the reduction should increase to 80 per cent, the group said. "Australia has the technological and economic capacity to deliver on these policies," the letter said, adding there is a "moral imperative" to keep temperature increases to less than 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels,” the SMH reported.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Joe Hockey is on the receiving end of a letter from the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. The group represents 120 investor CEOs from around the world managing funds worth more than US$12 trillion. They have written an open letter to finance ministers (treasurers in some countries) urging them to support the inclusion of a long-term emissions reduction goal. “Many countries are late in submitting their climate plans and it is also not clear if and how the 2C target agreed by countries in Cancun will be reached. From an investor perspective this uncertainty and the strength and depth of emissions cuts which are agreed will have implications for the ability of investors to manage portfolios, correctly value energy sector and other assets impacted by climate change, seize the low-carbon opportunities, and ultimately fulfil fiduciary responsibilities,” they say in the letter.
Still in the land of documents, the Chinese continued its aggressive climate change diplomacy this week, releasing a statement (but not a letter) with Brazil, urging rich nations to take the lead in Paris. RTCC reports on a seven year joint action plan: “Brazil and China underscore the need for the provisions of the agreement to fully reflect different responsibilities and development stages of developed and developing countries, with developed countries to take the lead by undertaking ambitious, economy-wide, absolute emission reduction targets.”
It was a week when the big economic powers like China and the EU, faith leaders and big institutional investors all made big noises about action on climate change. This is very significant.
Away from targets and Paris meeting related matters, events in Australia concerned the usual politicking and some mostly good news on the renewables front. The Government’s Direct Action Policy continues to be under attack. Its direct action policy appears to be on things that were already actioned. Renew Economy reports “Federal Labor’s climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, has accused the Abbott government of brazen deceptiveness over the results of its first carbon abatement auction, which he said had only really succeeded in buying around 10 million tonnes of new abatement, at a cost of $66 per tonne. Quoting evidence submitted to the Senate Estimates Committee, Butler said the the Clean Energy Regulator had now admitted that 107 of the 144 projects recently awarded contracts under the Emissions Reduction Fund were pre-existing. He said CER CEO Chloe Munro had confirmed these projects, previously paid for by big polluters under Labor’s market mechanism, had been transferred to payment by the taxpayer.” Yes, really.
The recent and laughable comments by the PM’s business adviser, Maurice Newman, were set straight by the Bureau of Meteorology (which always gets it right). The Sydney Morning Herald reports “Claims by the Prime Minister's chief business adviser about climate change have been rejected by the head of the Bureau of Meteorology as "incorrect", irrelevant and "old red herrings”. In a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, Greens climate spokeswoman Larissa Waters read through the opinion piece, paragraph by paragraph, asking the bureau's director of meteorology and chief executive Rob Vertessy to respond to Mr Newman's claims.” The bureau responded with ”rejected" repeatedly. Enough said.
There was a climate change induced storm in a tea cup this week when the Grattan Institute got a few hours in the ever oppressive sun before being widely slapped down for claims on the efficiency of solar. Giles Parkinson from Renew Economy lead the charge: “When you actually look at the numbers, they’re a witch’s brew of mistaken assumptions and omissions.” Parkinson also reported that Australia will lead the world in solar and storage. “It is one of the best organic markets in the world,” said Hugh Bromley, an analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Bromley also put another fascinating aspect to that equation. Australia, he says, has the cheapest price of solar in the world, on a whole bunch of metrics - in terms of income, months of savings, and percentage of property value.” That’s good news because more than three quarters of Australians support big solar. According to a report in Renew Economy, market research firm IPSOS found that 77 per cent of Australians thought large-scale solar plants would play a significant role in helping meet the nation’s future energy needs. Another 60 per cent thought funding for large-scale solar facilities should be prioritised over funding for non-renewable energy sources.” Finally on the good news front, Canadian Solar, according to Renew Economy, expects Solar PV costs to fall another 25 per cent in three years.
The only bit of bad news about this week concerned employment in renewables in Australia. The Climate Council pushed a report on review of renewable energy and employment from the International Renewable Energy Agency. “It states that global employment in renewable energy grew 18% to 7.7 million in 2014 while Australian jobs were slashed due to policy uncertainty. The report also reveals that the largest renewable energy employer, with 2.5 million jobs, is solar PV.”
A month is a long time in politics, two months is even longer. Well on this day two months ago the Age and Sydney Morning Herald Political and International Editor Peter Hartcher was alone is writing a glowing article on the Direct Action Policy. Two months on, as we saw earlier in this column, that’s well, err, not quite the case. Hartcher this week stuck his toe in the (rising) environment waters again declaring “Green power success stories take the wind out of Tony Abbott”. His closing comment is also a great way to conclude this week’s column: “The world is moving faster, to cheaper and cleaner renewable energy, than just about anyone had imagined. Especially the Abbott government.” It says it all.
Want more: Climate change news summary for business: http://climatecomm.squarespace.com/news/
Age: Big green donors warn funds could dry up if Abbott government changes tax rules
BBC: How Arctic ozone hole was avoided by Montreal Protocol
BBC: Why India’s government is targeting Greenpeace
Bloomberg: Australia dumbs down as government bets on baristas over brains
Conversation: Q&A with Ross Garnaut: ‘we’re not there yet’ on climate policy
Conversation: Coal and climate change: a death sentence for the Great Barrier Reef
Clean Energy Council: A bipartisan deal on Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET)
Guardian: The climate change fight cannot be won with white liberal America alone
Guardian: World leaders missed chance to tackle climate change, says economist
Huffington Post: 10 Leaders Who Are Reshaping The Environmental Movement
IPSOS: Establishing the social licence to operate large scale solar facilities in Australia: insights
Renew Economy: Graph of the Day: How utilities see themselves in 2030
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