The Australian Government continued to come under fire this week at home and abroad on climate change policy. There were signs of hope for Paris; Pacific Islands issued a cry for help and, Barack Obama left no doubt about the need for action with the New York Times labelling a speech in Alaska “apocalyptic”. It was a week of contrasts on a global scale.
Climate policy continues to be problematic in Australia with The Age reporting a win for big business as it has new ways to increase emissions under the Abbott government’s climate policies. “Big business will be afforded several ways to increase their greenhouse gas emissions without penalty under the second plank of the Abbott government’s Direct Action climate change plan.”
Environment Minister Greg Hunt released on Wednesday draft rules for the government’s promised “safeguard mechanism”, which will set emissions limits, called ”baselines”, on big industrial plants and power generators. The government says the baselines will apply to about 330 plants from 140 businesses from mid-next year, and will ensure their emissions do not rise significantly above business as usual levels. But within the draft rules industry has been given a number of ways to apply for an increase over their initial baseline without penalty.” The Guardian quoted the Australian Conservation Foundation said the only thing being “safeguarded” was the big polluters’ right to pollute. Renew Economy labelled the announcement “the non-delivery of an invisible policy”.
RTCC reports that Australia ‘has world’s biggest climate policy gap’. It reported on analysts saying said Australia’s U-turn on climate laws mean it will generate three years worth of extra national emissions by 2030. “Prime Minister Tony Abbott ditched a carbon tax and toned down renewable targets after winning office in 2013. With this strategy, the country’s emissions are set to increase 27 per cent on 2005 levels, Climate Action Tracker (CAT) revealed on Thursday. The CAT study shows it also has the biggest gap between its target and policy measures, the consortium of research outfits said. “We have undertaken a forensic analysis of Australia’s climate target, and contrary to government assertions, the abatement task has increased considerably over the years, reflecting the negative consequences of the Australian government’s repeal and amendment of key climate policies,” Bill Hare of Climate Analytics said in a statement. RTCC reports on progress towards an agreement in Paris saying officials are confident of a deal to limit global warming to two trees celsius but much work remains to be done. “The latest round of 5-day long negotiations started on Monday, with over 190 countries tasked with whittling down a vast set of proposals into a concise document they can all agree on”. It says a lack of climate finance and inadequate carbon cuts headline concerns for developing countries at Bonn talks.
The Australian Financial Review reports the Queensland Labor government has flagged a dramatic shift away from the coal sector as it attempts to reach its ambitious target of 50 per cent of renewable energy by 2030. “Despite the coal industry delivering billions of dollars in royalties and thousands of jobs each year, Energy Minister Mark Bailey said the Palaszczuk government would be doing everything it could to support the development of solar and wind projects in the state. Mr Bailey said the goal of one million homes with solar photovoltaic systems was achievable, saying Queensland had the fastest up-take of solar in the world, with 28 per cent of homes currently with a system on their roof.” Renew Economy reports the West Australian government appears to have overcome years of institutionalised resistance and recognised that the state’s energy future will be built around solar energy. “In a landmark speech this week, Energy Minister and state treasurer Mike Nahan said solar PV would meet the daytime electricity needs of WA within the next decade. Nahan noted that solar was cheap, and democratic, and was likely to account for all new generation capacity, and it would displace the state’s ageing coal generators.”
Meanwhile, Renew Economy reports household gas demand to fall 50 percent within 10 years. “The case against unconventional gas mining in Australia has been given a boost this week, with the release of a new report that predicts household demand for in gas in the nation’s eastern states could be cut in half in a matter of years, as households switch their gas heaters off, and their reverse-cycle air conditioners on. The report, published on Wednesday by the University of Melbourne Energy Institute, forecasts declining gas demand in both electricity generation and industry, but says the most dramatic decline will be seen in the domestic market, where demand may fall by 50 per cent within a decade.”
The Adani mine in Queensland remains in the news with the The Age reporting the National Australia Bank ruling out funding for the controversial project. “While Adani has not approached NAB, and the bank has not done due diligence on the coal project, a NAB spokesperson said the bank “is not involved and has no plans to be involved in any financing of the Carmichael coal mine”. When NAB was asked whether its position on Carmichael was a signal that the bank was backing away from funding coal or fossil fuel projects, a spokesperson said: “We have a role to play in transitioning to a low carbon economy, we also believe we have the responsibility to fund projects that will secure Australia’s energy needs now and into the future and coal has an important role to play in this.”
Still in Australia, leaders of government, business and advocacy groups came together last Wednesday week to discuss reform of the Australian economy. Climate change and the clean energy revolution were not on the agenda. This caused the Executive Director of the Australia Institute, Ben Oquist to ask in an ABC blog post: “How can a serious national economic reform summit entirely fail to grapple with the economic opportunities afforded by energy modernisation, renewables, and the transition away from coal?”
Pacific Island nations met in India this week to discuss a united front on climate change ahead of the Paris talks. The ABC reports nations are looking at buying land in New Zealand and Australia for its citizens displaced by climate change. “The Pacific Island nations said they had been forced to consider such nuclear options as buying land abroad to grow food and preparing their people to migrate as the seas slowly claim their homelands. Scientists have predicted that Tuvalu and Kiribati, which are little more than a metre above sea level, could disappear in the coming decades.
Both nations already suffer from a range of problems linked to climate change, including more intense storms like the one that devastated Vanuatu earlier this year and salination of ground water, which makes it impossible to grow crops,” the ABC reported.
President Obama took his climate change message to Alaska this week. NBC headlined his speech “Obama on Climate Change: Act Now or Condemn World to a Nightmare”. The New York Times said: “In remarks that bordered on the apocalyptic…”. It said Mr Obama issued a global call for urgent action to address climate change, declaring that the United States was partly to blame for what he called the defining challenge of the century and would rally the world to counter it. “Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re not acting fast enough. I have come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second-largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating the problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it.” You can read the full text of his remarks on climate change here at Daily Kos.
There were two interesting stories around this week of a scientific nature. First, Think Progress reports trees are disappearing from the world at an alarming rate. “The data shows that tree cover loss in the tropics is speeding up. Brazil, which has reduced Amazon deforestation by 70 percent over the last 10 years, saw an increase in tree cover loss in 2014. Indonesia, too, experienced an uptick in tree loss after seeing a drop in 2013.” Grist carries a story from NASA, which says sea levels are rising and they're not going to stop. “Global sea levels have risen by an average of three inches since 1992, the result of warming ocean temperatures and melting ice sheets and glaciers, according to new data released by a NASA panel yesterday. And the data suggest that we can look forward to a lot more sea level rise down the line.”
Paris is less than three months away. Tick, tick, tick.
A selection of great reading on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm and www.climatecommunication.net
The Age: Abbott's anti-environmentalist rhetoric echoes Canadian experience
ABC TV (Video): Clarke and Dawe: Greg Hunt Minister for* the Environment (*Yes. We know. Please form an orderly queue)
The Conversation: Zombie politics vs climate action: will the coming election focus on our future?
The Conversation: There’s another way to combat climate change -- but let's not call it geoengineering
Climate Communication: Climate Change for Brands and Reputation - Responsibility Plus Bulletin
Guardian: Don't believe the hype. Coal employs fewer people than McDonald's | Ben Oquist
Guardian: Bushfires, heatwaves and early deaths: the climate is changing before our eyes | Tim Flannery
Guardian: You're crazy if you believe Labor's emission cuts would cost $600 bn | Greg Jericho
Huffington Post: Climate Council - Australia Can Become A Renewable Powerhouse
Inside Climate News: Where the Presidential Candidates Fall on Climate Change
The Monthly: Robert Manne - Laudato Si’: A political reading
New Matilda: There's No Trade-Off Between Economy And Environment
New Matilda: Greg Hunt's Dept Suspects 'False Info', Overworked Staff Led To Botched Probe Into Mysterious Tiwi Port Expansion
Pacific Standard: Twitter Is Changing How We Talk About Climate Change
Slash firm: How to Change the World Review: Media-Savvy Activism Works!
Techinsider.io: Elon Musk says humanity is currently running 'the dumbest experiment in history’
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Image by Juriaan Booji - The Sinking of Tuvalu
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