Day one of the conference was Monday. It was the day all of the world leaders did their bit before heading back to their home countries to leave negotiators to negotiate. Renew Economy looked at the Australian perspective: “Australia prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was forced to duck and weave his way through the first day of talks. The day started badly for Australia with the revelation that it had snubbed – apparently, at the last minute and under pressure from the conservative rump of the Coalition government – an invitation to join a 40-country campaign to remove fossil fuel subsidies. Australia was also conspicuously absent when many of the world’s major economies held a special event to underline their support for a carbon price”.
In his speech, Mr Turnbull, announced:
- Australia’s 2030 target will halve the country’s per capita emissions.
- Australia will meet and beat out 2020 emissions reduction target.
- Australia will ratify the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
- Australia will contribute at least $1 billion over the next five years from the existing aid budget both to build climate resilience and reduce emissions.
Renew Economy described Australia’s problem: “It is Turnbull’s position on fossil fuel subsidies, his support for coal, his torpedoing of a carbon pricing mechanism, and his meek support for other measures, that reveal a continuing disconnect between talk and action.” Renew Economy earlier reported that Australia and Canada were branded “climate dunces” by the influential Le Monde newspaper in a 20-page special published on Saturday. In news from day two of the conference, Renew Economy reported a strongly worded statement that came from the leaders of 30 of the world’s poorest countries who said they wanted the world to be 100 per cent renewable by 2050.
Reporting from Canberra, press gallery veteran, Malcolm Farr of News Ltd said the Prime Minister is taking significant steps on climate change policy in Paris but he is still following in the carbon-reduction footprints of predecessor Tony Abbott. So far at least. “The Prime Minister has been hobbled by domestic political priorities just as an important group of major economies has made clear they want to run towards global carbon neutrality. But he continues to be restricted by the constant attention of his Liberal right wing — and right wing commentators — who are alert to, and highly critical of, any deviation from the Abbott line.” “Malcolm Turnbull has had so much hope placed in him ... for him to disappoint everyone is heartbreaking,” Greens senator Larissa Waters told News Corporation. She went further in the Gaurdian.
The New York Times reported the pledges that countries have signaled they will make in Paris over the next two weeks to cut emissions will inevitably fall short of what is needed to solve the problem of climate change. “But many political leaders gathering there — including governors, mayors, and provincial cabinet secretaries — are pushing for more aggressive cuts. By the dozen, they are signing a voluntary agreement committing their jurisdictions to faster and deeper reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases than their national governments have promised,” the newspaper reported.
Business Green reports US President Barack Obama has demanded that a global climate change deal signed in Paris this month should include legally binding requirements for countries to review their carbon reduction targets. Speaking to reporters on his two-day trip to the French capital, the President waded into an ongoing row over the legal nature of the proposed climate change deal. Mr Obama also expressed optimism that an ambitious climate change deal could be delivered over the next two weeks, declaring that despite on-going challenges “I actually think were gonna solve this thing”.
Business also got into Paris action when Bill Gates launched a multi-billion-dollar initiative to fund new clean energy technologies. According to the Seattle Times, Mr Gates will work with the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, and Virgin Group's Richard Branson among the band of almost 30 high-profile early investors who are committed to taking clean-energy ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace to cut the cost of sustainable energy once and for all.
Two good pieces came out overnight summarising events to date:
- Climate Council blog
- Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National breakfast interviewed Anthony Hobley Chief Executive, Carbon Tracker Initiative
- Renew Economy: Editor Giles Parkinson is in Paris and delivering daily analysis and news from an Australian perspective.
- Fairfax: Tom Arup and Peter Hannam are in Paris providing expert coverage.
- Climate Institute: The Deputy CEO of the Climate Institute, Erwin Jackson, is in Paris and doing a daily blog, again from an Australian perspective.
In an announcement with curious timing, the Australian Government this week called for public input into climate policy saying the Climate Change Authority (CCA) will look at the full range of policies, including the various types of emissions trading schemes. It has issued a draft report laying out how the Authority will evaluate the policy options, based on three key principles: cost effectiveness, environmental effectiveness and equity. In inviting submissions, the acting Chairman of the CCA said Australia’s climate debate has become so polarised “we have lost sight of the key goal” of slashing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Chairman Stuart Allinson said the report attempted to start a “fresh and constructive discussion of how Australia should meet its climate goals”. “In Australia in recent years, the climate policy conversation has become highly polarised,” he said. “At times it appears, amid the heated debate, we have lost sight of the key goal – to reduce emissions so as to safeguard our environment, the wellbeing of all Australians and our way of life.” The ABC also reported the CCA has warned the Government’s own climate policy is at risk of becoming fiscally “unsustainable”. It said the Direct Action Policy has advantages including relatively low indirect and transaction costs, but that at a larger scale the “fiscal cost could become unsustainable”.
Finally, As world leaders tussled over the fate of the climate in Paris, Huffington Post reports Beijing residents struggled to make out the silhouettes of buildings. The multi-day pollution emergency - dubbed “Airpocalypse” by English-language media - signaled the start of smog season in one of the most polluted capitals in the world. The irony of it all.