This time two months ago, the Paris climate conference was in full swing and a week or so later there was global relief that a process had been agreed to commence the process to reduce carbon emissions and encourage the widespread adoption of clean energy. Even previously recalcitrant nations, like Australia, shared in the joy. Two months on and back on home soil, it appears Australia is back playing the role of a climate villain (as it was once described in the international media).
Leading industry commentator, Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy asked this week “Was the renewables industry better off under Abbott than Turnbull?”. “Under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, the rhetoric has (mostly) changed: the gratuitous insults and personal prejudice are (largely) muted, although coal is still considered to be good for humanity and to solve hunger. But policy has not changed, and the large-scale renewable energy industry has little to show for the change in leadership. The Turnbull government has begun 2016 in the same way that the Abbott government started 2014 and 2015; with legislation on the table that calls for the dismantling of the government’s key agencies – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Climate Change Authority,” the Renew Economy Editor wrote.
Renew Economy also reported Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are poised to surge to a record high after 2020, and may not reach a peak before 2030 – despite the government’s claim it has been reducing emissions and its support for the Paris climate deal. “A new analysis from industry analyst Reputex – a division of global ratings agency Standard & Poor’s – confirms what we already know: despite the Coalition’s rhetoric, emissions in Australia actually rose 1.3 per cent in 2014/15, for the first time since the Coalition was last in power a decade earlier,” Giles Parkinson reported. “The Reputex survey also notes that Australia’s emissions growth is now among the highest in the world, with the government’s own forecast showing emissions will grow 6 per cent to 2020, despite its “Direct Action” plan and the billions spent in the Emissions Reduction Fund.”
The Climate Institute this week welcomed the vote for the establishment of the Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into Carbon Risk Disclosure in parliament. “Australia has one of the most emissions-intensive economies in the world,” said The Climate Institute CEO, John Connor. He said it is essential that all our financial and economic policymakers understand how climate change will affect their work. This Senate Inquiry can be a positive opportunity for public discussion of this task. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Renew Economy reported the Government, despite its apparent embrace of the Paris climate agreement, voted against the inquiry, with Liberal Party Senator Scott Ryan saying “the government does not support additional red tape.” The motion was passed with support of Labor and some cross-benchers.
This week the Guardian reported on a report from Oxford University saying Australian thermal coalmines are some of the riskiest in the world for investors because of their exposure to environmental dangers. “The report – which was supported by Norges Bank Investment Management, managers of Norway’s government pension fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund – also found that Australian, Chinese and US coal-fired power stations were the most vulnerable to environmental risks. The authors of the report said the findings meant investors should be very cautious about supporting projects associated with thermal coalmines in Australia, such as Adani’s Carmichael mega-mine and the Shenhua Watermark mine.
Despite this Adani has secured an environmental permit from the Queensland government to build Australia’s largest coal mine. The Indian conglomerate was issued an environmental authority for its Carmichael mine, west of Bowen in north Queensland, by the department of environment and heritage on Tuesday. “It is one less hurdle for Adani’s highly contested plans, after its Australian chief complained last week that delays in government approvals were “incentivising” green activists to plot further legal challenges to stymie the company’s progress. Adani still needs to obtain significant bank funding to realise its $16.5bn mine, rail and port project,” the Guardian reported.
All of this came in the week that Dr Alan Finkel started in his new role as Australia’s Chief Scientist. In his first day on the job, he said he wanted to put sustainable energy on the agenda to help Australians weigh up different options saying the country needs to accelerate its switch from coal to renewable energy. "I think the obligation on us and every country in the world is to move as quickly as we can towards zero emissions electricity," Dr Finkel was reported as saying in The Age. He was also on
Disease lurks! Time reports that climate change could spread diseases like the Zika virus. “The link between climate change and mosquito-borne illness centers around how rising temperatures may expand the area in which mosquitoes can thrive. Most such illnesses can only be transmitted at temperatures between approximately 16°C (61°F) and 38°C (100°F), according to a World Health Organization report. Perhaps more significantly, the time it takes for mosquitoes to develop decreases significantly the closer temperatures are to around 30°C (86°F). The average global temperature is expected to rise by at least 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100 even if countries take dramatic action to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. In some areas, that shift will be much more dramatic.: Time reported.
Still in fossil fuels, BP has reported an annual loss of $6.5billion, it’s worse result in 20 years, and has announced that it will axe around 3,000 jobs in a bid to cut costs. According to Greenpeace, the news comes as shares in the oil major tumbled on the news that the companies bill for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster had climbed to $55bn. The energy giant has already cut around 4,000 jobs as the company struggles to come to terms with the collapsing oil price. Shares in the group fell 5% on the news of last year’s poor performance.
Well, here’s a combination of names and phrases I never thought I would mention in the one paragraph in this digest. The are “climate change”, “the Pope”, “Leonardo DiCaprio” and “PEOPLE”. Well, PEOPLE magazine reports the actor had a private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on last week. “Leo explained that he wanted to discuss a subject they both have very much at heart: protecting the environment and climate change,” a source told PEOPLE. “This meeting is the latest stop on the actor’s environmental advocacy tour. DiCaprio was recently honored for his philanthropic efforts at the Economic Forum in Davos, where he donated another $15 million to environmental projects,” PEOPLE reported.
See, climate change can be entertaining.
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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