Joining the dots, tea leaves, smoke signals, code, spin, drums, hokey pokey - just another normal week in Australian climate politics; Australia should feel insecure about climate change security; Al Gore speaks up for climate action in the UK; Mr Pope goes to Washington; Hillary moves ground on policy and more positive signs for a good outcome in Paris - all in the week that was.
As much as I loathe explanation by dot points, here’s a dot point summary of the last ten or so days as it is the best way to be clear:
- On the night he was elected PM designate, Mr Turnbull said he would stick with current emissions reduction targets (the ones Australia is taking to the Paris meeting).
- A few days later in Question Time in Parliament, he repeatedly said he supported the Direct Action Policy.
- This week we heard from the PM that all polices are open to change, including climate and energy policy (see the PM on ABC AM and ABC 730)
- Reappointed Environment Minister Greg Hunt reaffirmed Mr Turnbull’s support for renewables (Source: AFR) and the new Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, said they were an important part of the energy mix (Source: AFR).
- There are also signals that the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation may get a reprieve from execution under the new PM (Source: IB Times).
- There have been signals that Mr Turnbull may drop proposed changes to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, limiting opportunities for legal action against developments (Source: Courier Mail).
- The Government, through Minister Frydenberg, has signalled the government remains supportive of the Adani coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin (Source: Renew Economy).
- Commentators galore have gone from a position of saying Mr Turnbull had ‘sold his soul’ on climate change to saying ‘we’ need to be patient for change. An example is from leading commentator Tristan Edis in Business Spectator. Lenore Taylor in the Guardian has a similar view, saying “The Turnbull government is signalling a new approach to climate policy despite its pledge to stick with the “Direct Action” climate plan, abandoning Tony Abbott’s attempt to abolish two key renewable energy agencies and considering tougher “safeguards” to ensure the policy actually reduces emissions.”
- Others are not so optimistic. Former Chair of the Climate Change Authority and former Governor of the Reserve Bank, Bernie Fraser, told the Sydney Morning Herald that Mr Turnbull has lost courage on climate change. “He is just sticking with the status quo … It’s a pity his courage deserted him,” Mr Fraser said, adding the party’s hardliners were “causing [Mr Turnbull] to back away from what was a pretty strong position earlier on”.
- The Climate Institute laid down a plan for Australia to climb out of its “climate hole”. “For the new Prime Minister it is an urgent time to take a fresh look and to throw off the shackles and divisions that have beset this policy area. We need to leave behind the attitudes that formed and became deeply entrenched between 2009 and 2012. It is time for a fresh look at the systemic risks that climate change poses to Australia’s interests, assets, regional security and financial security.”
Leading industry commentator, Giles Parkinson, has used his Renew Economy journal to speak of the need for change in policy: “No more excuses: Heat is now on Hunt”. “But if Hunt craved to be portrayed as a beacon of light in a sea of smog, he did not get a lot of sympathy from those involved in the sector. Part of that was due to his own choice of rhetoric: in an attempt to appease and impress, or just to get along, Hunt on occasions tried to out-do even the extreme right on the costs of renewables and climate action. That has now changed, the conservative forces that stood in his way appear to have been swept aside by the sudden rise of Malcolm Turnbull and his declaration that his government will be one looking to the future, not the past. So, the next phase can be seen in two ways: a test of Hunt’s willingness and ability to introduce long-lasting and effective climate change policies, presumably with the indulgence and sponsorship of his new leader; and a test of the remaining power of the hard-line conservatives,” Parkinson opined.
Away from the politics of climate change policy in Australia, the Climate Council, said Australia needed to be prepared for climate change on security grounds. “Climate change is a significant and growing national security threat that is undermining the preparedness of the Australian Defence Force” said the Climate Council in a report authored by Australia’s former Defence Chief. “Be Prepared: Climate Change, Security and Australia’s Defence Force report reveals Australia is lagging behind its UK and US allies in preparing its militaries for climate change, with Australian Defence Force resources already under strain from the increased need for humanitarian assistance in response to climate-induced disasters,” the Climate Council said.
Keeping an eye on the big picture, Public Radio International in the United States reports things are looking good for the Paris conference in November. “Now, world leaders are preparing for a new round of talks scheduled for December, in Paris. While Copenhagen ended with few concrete results, Rebecca Lefton, director of policy and research at Climate Advisers, says the international fight against climate change is inspiring hope -- and this time, that hope that isn't dependent on the man who used it as his campaign slogan,” PRI reported. “We’re seeing a new level of cooperation between major emitting economies,” Lefton says. “This is something that President Obama has been doing, especially in the second part of his administration.”
Overseas now and Al Gore has attacked David Cameron for U-turns on the environment. The Huffington Post has reported on a visit to the UK by Mr Gore. "I have been partisan in my country. I have never dared to express a partisan view in this country, I have refrained, as I should, I am not a citizen of your country. But too much is at stake," he said. "Since the election was held, this country’s commitment to zero carbon homes has been cancelled. This country’s commitment to carbon build has been cancelled, the green deal has bee cancelled. The climate change levy exemption for zero carbon energy has been cancelled. Solar support via the renewables obligation has been cancelled. Onshore wind support via the renewable obligation has been cancelled," he said. Mr Gore expressed similar sentiments on visits to Australia in 2014 and 2015.
In the United States, Hillary Clinton has sought to arrest dwindling support amongst Democrats by addressing a signature issue for this influential constituency. It is hugely symbolic. “Hillary Clinton opposes Keystone XL pipeline,” screamed CNN. “Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she opposes the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, taking sides with progressives who are fighting the 1,179-mile project over environmental concerns. The announcement, which comes after months of Clinton remaining mum over the hot-button 2016 issue, immediately drew praise from liberals and environmental groups but was criticized by Republican presidential candidates,” CNN reported. “I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is -- a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change,” Clinton told a community forum in Des Moines, Iowa.
Still in the USA, Think Progress reports on the first public address in the United States by the Pope saying he spent the majority of his time harping on one issue: Climate change. “But just three paragraphs into his prepared remarks, Francis pivoted sharply to the another issue near to his heart -- the environment. “It seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution,” Francis said. “Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.”
Think Progress reports that investors have pledged to get out of USD2.6 trillion in fossil fuel investments. “The divestment movement is really gaining steam -- non-coal, non-fossil-fuel powered steam. Investors representing $2.6 trillion in assets have pledged to cut fossil fuels from their portfolios, a fifty-fold increase from last year. At least 436 institutions have pledged to stop investing in fossil fuels -- for moral or financial reasons. Large pension funds and private companies make up 95 percent of the assets, according to analysis released Tuesday by Arabella Advisors,” Think Progress reported.
In science news this week, deniers worldwide are in mourning with new research suggesting a global warming ‘pause’ never happened. The Washington Post reports on research arguing the pause never existed. ”The notion of a global warming pause, or “climate hiatus,” suggests that the rising of global surface temperatures has significantly slowed or even stopped during the past 15 years. The idea, which experts believe cropped up sometime in 2013, has been seized upon by many climate skeptics, but also has managed to cause unexpected controversy within the scientific community. Since then, a flurry of scientific studies have emerged attempting to explain why such a pause might be occurring, pointing to natural climatic factors such as volcanic eruptions or changes in oceanic patterns. But in the past few months, a handful of scientists have taken a different approach by asking not why the hiatus is occurring, but whether it’s occurring at all. And two new studies, released within days of each other, are adding to the evidence that the pause may not exist,” the media organisation reported.
More evidence presented itself this week on the true state of the Great Barrier Reef. The Guardian reported on a Queensland Government study indicating the Great Barrier Reef is in poor condition and efforts to prevent pollution flowing onto the coral ecosystem are not happening quickly enough.
“The reef report card found despite it avoiding an “in danger” listing from Unesco’s world heritage committee in July, inshore areas are undeniably in a bad shape throughout the 2,300km-long ecosystem,” the Guardian reported.
The original hokey pokey rhyme ends “And wag it, and wag it, and wag it, Then turn and turn about,” Hopefully in Australia, we will see a ‘turn’ back to sensible climate policy, sooner rather than later.
A selection of great reading on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm and www.climatecommunication.net
ABC: Coal industry losing the PR battle on climate change: BHP exec
ABC: Climate change 'potentially the biggest issue facing local governments' along Queensland coast
Australian Conservation Foundation: Connections between Australian politics and coal lobby run deep
Celsius News: Six reasons why Turnbull’s change to water policy is freaking people out
Climate Communication: Responsibility Plus Bulletin #047 - climate change for brands and reputation
Conversation: Explainer: the world's new sustainable development goals
Conversation: If he wants to win an election, Turnbull should go back to his old self on climate
Conversation: Australia is among the most liveable nations, but it lags other countries on sustainability
Energy Matters: Australia Slips In Renewable Energy Rankings
Greenbiz: Inside Brazil's sustainability evolution
Guardian: Flinders University staff and students keep fighting Bjørn Lomborg centre
Guardian: Green groups call on Malcolm Turnbull to keep tax-deductible status
Guardian: Climate leaders should work with oil companies to put a price on carbon
Guardian: The palm oil plantations powering communities and tackling climate change
Guardian: 85% of British power can be via renewables by 2030, says Greenpeace
Guardian: Environmental activist David Suzuki on Tony Abbott, solar panels and his book
Mother Jones: Everyone should be freaking out about air pollution. The death toll is astonishing.
Nature: Climate policy: Democracy is not an inconvenience
New Daily: Give us renewables, super funds tell the PM
New Matilda: Give Malcolm Turnbull's Green Tactics A Few Months To Blossom, Or Wither
Renew Economy: Nahan says ban on battery storage and EVs is “red tape gone mad”
Renew Economy: World could go 100% renewable by 2050 for net economic gain
Rolling Stone: Obama Takes on Climate Change: The Rolling Stone Interview
Sydney Morning Herald: Coastal flooding, erosion forecast, as storms gather pace
Sydney Morning Herald: On the road to 100% renewable energy: Greenpeace report says the world could be fossil fuel-free by 2050
Sydney Morning Herald: Scientist Tim Flannery feels positive ahead of the UN's climate talks
Think Progress: Hillary Clinton Releases A Plan To Modernize America’s Energy Infrastructure
Washington Post: The top five things Pope Francis gets totally right about climate change
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