Costa Rica, a country of less than five million people (slightly larger population than New Zealand), achieved a clean energy milestone by using 100 per cent renewable energy for a record 75 days in a row, according to the Independent. "The feat was achieved thanks to heavy rainfall, which powered four hydroelectric plants in the first three months of the year, the state-run Costa Rican Electricity Institute said. No fossil fuels have been burnt to generate electricity since December 2014, in the state which is renowned for its clean energy policies," according to the UK paper.
Closer to home, Renew Economy reports Australia largest solar plant started generating to the grid: "The Nyngan solar plant in western New South Wales on Saturday began generating power into the National Electricity Market, with the first of the 25MW completed to date feeding into the Australia’s main grid.”
The website also reported that the mid-north coast New South Wales city of Coffs Harbour has committed to a renewable energy target of 100 per cent by 2030. The move puts Coffs Harbour City on the same page as fellow NSW local governments, like Lismore, which last May committed to a 100 per cent by 2023 renewable energy target; and Uralla, which was last year revealed as a candidate for Australia’s first zero net energy town. More recently, the Byron Shire – part of the northern rivers region of New South Wales – revealed plans to become Australia’s first “net zero emissions” region, with a goal to reduce emissions from energy, transport, buildings, waste and land use to zero within 10 years, reported Renew Economy.
While there are some promising developments in renewables in Australia, at a wider level, the industry in Australia remains in limbo. In a new report, the Climate Council said Australia is lagging behind the world's major economies when it comes to renewable energy generation. It said Australia has "enough renewable energy resources to power the country 500 times over. Globally, renewable energy is now cost-comparative or cheaper than fossil fuels for generating electricity, and the cost of wind and solar in particular is projected to continue to fall steeply. Investment and jobs in renewable energy have surged internationally. Clean energy investment grew in China (32%), the US (8%), Japan (12%), Germany (3%) and the UK (3%) in 2014. Whilst in Australia, investment fell 35% (with investment in large-scale renewable energy falling 88%), due to policy uncertainty."
Then there's the debate over the Renewable Energy Target in Australia. As the week closes, it appears that the key parties are no closer to an agreement on the target. Renew Economy reports "The renewable energy industry is trying to broker a deal to end the standoff between the Abbott government and Labor over the renewable energy target by suggesting the parties “split the difference”. In another report, the website opined that the government is unlikely likely to budge from its low end wants, saying those in key meetings reported "the agenda was still being driven by the Prime Minister’s office, the same one that appointed climate denier and pro-nuclear advocate Dick Warburton to head the RET review, and which has appointed other climate deniers to head inquiries into banking and the commission of audit, and to head its business advisory panel." Meanwhile, the Guardian reports the government this week will issue a discussion paper asking how deep Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions cuts should be and what domestic policies are required to meet the target.
Finally on the domestic front, the government last weekend announced measures to help address concerns about the future of the Great Barrier Reef. According to the Guardian, the measures have drawn widespread criticism from the environment movement saying they don't go far enough. The Conversation carried some expert opinion echoing the view of environmentalists.
Overseas this week there were a number of positive and negative developments on climate change. The Climate Group reported that the positive rhetoric coming from China on climate change is increasing with a leading official saying "Climate change is a “serious threat” and could have “huge impacts” on China. The website quoted Zheng Guoguang, head of the nation’s Meteorological Administration.
Across the Pacific, EcoWatch reported that President Obama signed an Executive Order to cut government greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent. According to the White House, major suppliers to government are being encouraged to adopt similar practises. While all of this was going, the New York Times reported on the Republicans starting an aggressive campaign to block President Obama’s climate change agenda in statehouses and courtrooms across the country.
Still in the USA and the campaign for the 2016 presidential election is now real with Texas Senator and climate change denier, Ted Cruz, becoming the first to officially declare candidacy. "I just came back from New Hampshire, where there's snow and ice everywhere. My view on this is simple: Debates on this should follow science and should follow data, and many of the alarmists on global warming, they have a problem because the science doesn't back them up," Senator Cruz said on a TV talk show last week. The Democratic Party Governor of California, Jerry Brown told Sunday political television that Senator Cruz is 'absolutely unfit' to run for office because of climate change views.
While David has made some big grounds this week, the battles elsewhere are of Goliath proportions. The posturing is accelerating in what is the most critical 12 to 18 months in climate change politics ever with the UN Conference in Paris at the end of this year and the US presidential election a little under a year later. It is often said we are currently at a tipping point on climate change action. These two events could be a step up, plateau, or step down for action on climate change.