Are you ready for this? Environmentalists, business groups, unions, energy suppliers and the biggest users in the country walk into a bar and, oh wait, they formed a roundtable to do something for their country and the wider world. This is no joke!
Australia's leading business, labour and environment groups came together to form the Australian Climate Roundtable this week. Its membership is made up of Australian Aluminium Council, Australian Industry Group, The Climate Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation, Business Council of Australia, WWF Australia, Australian Council of Social Service, Energy Supply Association of Australia, Australian Council of Trade Unions and Investor Group on Climate Change. The collective has issued a set of principles, the most notable being: We recognise the major parties’ bipartisan goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees above preindustrial levels. Our overarching aim is for Australia to play its fair part in international efforts to achieve this while maintaining and increasing its prosperity." An overview of the principles and quotes from the roundtable can be found on the ACF website.
Everyone was excited about the roundtable, except the one group not at the bar. "Environment Minister Greg Hunt said on Sunday that while the government welcomed the contribution from the alliance, it did not endorse all of the principles," reported The Age. On a more positive note, leading political commentator, Michelle Gratton in The Conversation said: "While there have been previous alliances in the climate debate, this is by far the most extensive and inclusive."
Declaring the initiative "extraordinary", Griffith University academic Michael Howes, writing in The Conversation, said the roundtable could end the carbon deadlock in Australia: "First, the principles themselves offer some calm common sense in an arena that has been dominated by ferocious partisan politics and dramatic policy reversals. They could therefore offer a way to break the current policy deadlock and re-establish a bipartisan approach to climate change. Second, the principles are the product of a highly unusual alliance of ten organisations, representing business, unions, environmentalists, and the community. It is unusual that such disparate groups can sit down together to talk, and downright extraordinary that they can agree on a common set of principles. "
The formation of the roundtable in Australia is one of the more positive events in climate policy in Australia in the past year. While a positive step, the reaction of the government to its formation once again highlights an administration out of step with the rest of the world. The United States, China and Brazil continued their climate push this week. The Washington Post reported: "President Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, leaders of the Western Hemisphere’s two most populous countries, released a statement Tuesday pledging each country to get 20 percent of its electricity by 2030 from renewable sources, not including hydropower. In addition, Brazil pledged to restore 12 million hectares, or 46,332 square miles, of its forests -- about the size of England -- by 2030 while it also pursues “policies aimed at eliminating illegal deforestation. Also on Tuesday, China extended and solidified climate commitments made in November by releasing its own emissions reduction target in anticipation of the United Nations’ climate meeting in Paris in late 2015. The world’s largest emitter pledged to reduce the amount of carbon emitted relative to the size of its economy by 60 to 65 percent by 2030, building on cuts already made and in line with a prior agreement with the United States." Still in Asia, Reuters reported South Korea has finalised its 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent from business-as-usual levels, higher than its earlier plan for a 15 to 30 percent cut. "The country is among the world's top 10 carbon emitters, so any steps it takes to curb emissions are key to global efforts to combat greenhouse gases in the environment," reported Reuters.
China is continuing its rise up the climate change action charts. The Conversation reports: "China is using its submission as a means of demonstrating to the world that rhetorical commitments to carbon reduction ring hollow unless they are backed by real investments in green energy and resource systems. China has made it clear that it sees its energy future in a very large renewables system (which it can build through its own manufacturing) based on huge investments in green infrastructure such as a strong and smart power grid, high-speed rail networks, and urban recharging systems for electric vehicles."
Around the same time that England sweltered through its hottest day in a decade, the UK's standing committee on climate change warned action plans are required urgently to deal with impacts. "Ministers should focus on the future risks of heatwaves and flooding, says the Committee on Climate Change. Its report said more needed to be done to keep emissions on track, although the government said it was committed to meeting its climate change target. It also warned a decision to stop onshore wind farm subsidies early could potentially add £1bn a year to bills," reported the BBC.
Over on the continent, Europe is bracing for more climate litigation, according to Nature, as a Dutch order to cut emissions opens door for citizens' lawsuits elsewhere. A court in The Hague ordered the government of the Netherlands to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to at least 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 -- substantially greater cuts than are required under the small country’s European Union (EU) obligations. Renew Economy had a look at the local implications. Huffington Post looked at the global implications.
A new study for the G7 says climate change should be top foreign policy priority as global warming is the ‘ultimate threat multiplier’ posing serious risk to world security. Speaking at the launch of the study, Baroness Anelay, the UK’s minister of state for the FCO, agreed that climate change should become a top foreign policy priority. “Climate change is not only a threat to the environment but to global security and economic prosperity. That therefore makes it a top priority not only for environment ministers but foreign ministers too. It’s a cross government issue – and if it’s not, it should be,” she said in the Guardian.
Let's finish today with a feel good cheer - Renewables, Renewables, Renewables!
• Oi #1: Renew Economy reports three out of four new solar households will add battery storage. The Australian Energy Market Operator predicts that NSW and Victoria will lead the country in the adoption of battery storage by households over the next two decades.
• Oi #2: The Conversation says Australia can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, according to analysis by ClimateWorks.
• Oi #3: Guardian reports Europe will likely get more than half of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of the next decade if EU countries meet their climate pledges.
One more thing: Keep an eye out on line today for news from Australia's Climate Change Authority on its the final report of its own investigation into Australia’s emissions targets. Media reports say it has suggested a 30 per cent cut on 2000 levels by 2025, although it seems likely that Australia will fudge this by announcing a cut of between 16 and 25 per cent, but from 2005 levels, when emissions where higher.
PS. Too good to skip: She said what? Bishop predicts China economy to peak by 2030.
A selection of good reads on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward.
Bloomberg: What's really warming the world?
CBS News: Which countries are the biggest global emitters?
Climate Communication: Responsibility Plus Bulletin #035
Climate Institute: Guide to Australia's post-2020 target announcement
Committee on Climate change (UK): Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change: 2015 Progress Report to Parliament
Economist: Thinking beyond a global carbon price
Guardian: Pope Francis recruits Naomi Klein in climate change battle
Guardian: Barack Obama sets sizzling climate action pace in push to leave legacy
LA Times: On climate change, will Christians follow Pope Francis or Rush Limbaugh?
Renew Economy: Australia’s climate and energy policy debacle
RTCC: Euroland: psyched and ready for climate charm offensive
UNFCCC: State of play: Launch of Mid-year Status Report on NAMAs
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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