The single biggest piece of news this week concerned Labor's decision to compromise on the RET. In short, Labor backed down on its original position on the RET and agreed with a target put forward by both the leading renewable energy industry group (Clean Energy Council) and the Business Council of Australia. Labor did so with a view to breaking the impasse and bringing certainty to the industry. In making the announcement, Bill Shorten said "Labor will use this target as a floor and if elected, acting on the advice of the sector, will increase the RET out to 2020 to bolster investment, specifically in large scale solar." According to The Australian, the Abbott Government has rejected the compromise saying it will continue negotiating with the minor parties in the Senate to get the (much lower) target it wants.
Activism chalked up another win today when the Sydney Morning Herald reported "Three of France's biggest banks have taken the unusual step of writing letters committing not to fund coal projects in Australia's Galilee Basin, in a potential blow for the three big projects slated for the region. Credit Agricole, Societe Generale and BNP Paribas made their pledges in response to petitioning from anti-coal activists." Why is this important? Market Forces says $135 billion has been loaned to the Australian fossil fuel sector since 2008, and France was the fifth-biggest source of debt finance for fossil fuel companies and projects in that time.
The Abbott Government has continued to come under fire on environmental matters. First, Citigroup, according to Renew Economy, has "written a savage criticism of Australia’s Direct Action climate policy stand, essentially describing it as useless and expensive, and suggesting it could cost $15 billion a year to meet the sort of emissions reduction targets being mooted for the Paris climate talks. An analysis written by senior analyst Elaine Prior also dismisses the Abbott government’s emissions reductions targets paper, released in late March, suggesting that it appears to be setting the stage for an unambitious post-2020 target, designed to protect fossil fuel producers and the electricity sector, and discourage a move to a lower carbon world."
The government this week also released an energy white paper. It has been widely criticised for focusing on fossil fuels. It met with this response from Renew Economy: "... there are no surprises for guessing that is a document that is largely focused on the rear-view mirror. The energy white paper begins with a false assumption. That “Australia’s large quantities of traditional energy resources provide low-cost, predictable and reliable power for Australia and the world. Unlike the actions of the US, China, Europe and other emerging economies, there is no talk of environmental impacts, emissions standards, enhanced renewable energy targets, or climate goals. It is almost entirely focused on the technologies of the past, rather than the future."
While Australia is over 12 months away from a federal election, the Brits go to the polls in May. The environment and more specifically climate change is a key issue in the election with all the parties signing up for major commitments. Labour has signalled it will push for tougher climate change targets. The Guardian reports "Labour will champion a goal of zero net global emissions in the second half of this century and push for stricter targets in Europe than the current goal of a 40% cut by 2030".
In the United States, climate change has been getting lots of coverage on both sides of the country. In California, Governor Gerry Brown, has told climate change deniers to "wake up" as his state faces the worst drought in its history. “With the weather that’s happening in California, climate change is not a hoax,” Brown said, on ABC news. “We’re dealing with it, and it’s damn serious.” The Guardian reports "snow pack in California this year, which historically has renewed the state’s water reservoirs each spring, has been measured at just 8% of usual levels. Reservoirs sit mostly dry, with 38 million residents downstream wondering where water for showers, dishes and drinking will come from."
On the other side of the country, the Guardian reported US President Barack Obama was highlighting the impact of climate change on public health as the White House unveiled an initiative targeting adverse health effects caused by extreme weather and greenhouse gas emissions. “There are a whole host of public health impacts that are going to hit home,” Obama said at a roundtable discussion with health professionals at Howard University in Washington DC, citing rising asthma rates and the prospects of nontraditional insect-borne diseases soon moving to North America. “Ultimately ... all of our families are going to be vulnerable. You can’t cordon yourself off from air or from climate.” According to Washington Post, the US President will host a summit mid year on health and climate change.
Finally, here's some good news to end the week. Renewable energy had a "stellar" 2014. Business Spectator reports "After two consecutive years of declines in financial investment, renewable energy investment (excluding large-scale hydro) grew 17% in 2014 to $270 billion, just off the economic stimulus-driven record high in 2011. These figures are contained in the 2015 edition of the United National Environment Program’s annual Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment publication produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Frankfurt School UNEP Centre."
Before finishing, there was an unusually large number of 'good reads' around this week on climate change. They're generally longer and deeper in thought that the news of the day. I have put together a linked list below for you to work through over the weekend.
Want more? Climate Change News for business: http://climatecomm.squarespace.com/news/
Guardian: Are we reaching a positive climate change tipping point?
Medium: Canada’s Silence on Climate is Deafening
New Yorker: Carbon Capture, Has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation?
Discover Magazine : About that Controversial New Yorker Article on Climate Change by a Famous Novelist
The Conversation: Road to Paris: three myths about international climate talks
SMH: Time for stateswomen to step forward on climate change
Grist: Want to fix the climate? First, we have to change everything
Blog: Sleepwalking toward a new ecology
ABC: Global warming hiatus explained and it's not good news