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Let me see if I have got this right. Let’s just say you get asked the following question: “While you are in Europe for work, would you mind popping into Paris for a few days to represent the country at a meeting which could change the course of the civilisation?” How would you answer? Well, if it were you or me, it would take a nano second to answer this with a very indiscrete “HELL YES!”
Not so our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. The Member for Warringah is in Malta in late November this year for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. The next day, the United Nations Climate Change Conference starts where hopefully the world will set a course address climate change. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Prime Minister's office has refused to say whether he will attend the meeting despite being just a two hour flight away. The paper reports John Connor, the head of The Climate Institute, saying he thinks the Prime Minister should attend Paris particularly if he is already in the region for CHOGM. It would be good for any national leader whatever their party affiliation "to actually confront the reality of both the extent and urgency" of acting to halt global warming, he said, adding that senior business leaders and investors would also be attending.”
Sticking with the Paris meeting, Renew Economy reports the government is stonewalling on global questions around emissions targets. It reported “The Abbott government has responded to the dozens of questions about its climate policy posed by most of its major trading partners, but continues to stonewall about whether it can meet its modest 2020 target, and how it would address any future target agreed to in Paris later this year.” The Sydney Morning Herald reports the government has been using the response to talk up its Direct Action Policy. “Amid the questions that faced Australia, Beijing had accused it (Australia) of doing less to cut emissions than it was demanding of other rich nations. “China also asked whether the emissions reduction fund - the centrepiece of the Direct Action policy, under which emitters will be paid to make cuts - would be enough to make up for the axed carbon price and meet Australia's target to reduce emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 on 2000 levels. In response, Australia told China that its emissions reduction goal for 2020 was ambitious and comparable to other advanced economies.The government also said Australia's targets were under review.
However, that review has to date focused on determining Australia's targets for after 2020.” The Climate Institute likes none of this. “The Australian Government has raised more questions than answers in its response released today to other governments’ formal questions about its direct action policy. The government’s response to other countries questions on the effectiveness of its domestic pollution reductions policy lack transparency and try to avoid accountability,” said Erwin Jackson, Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute. “The government appears to be inflating the impact of its actions to 2020 without providing any estimate of the pollution reductions it will deliver. Its responses raise more questions than it answers.”
Government and others gathered in Bonn, Germany, this week to work on the text for the draft resolution to be considered in November at the meeting in Paris. Reuters put out a concerning report based on the opinion of some academics that the Paris meeting “may instead become the graveyard for its defining goal: to stop temperatures rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” "Paris will be a funeral without a corpse," said David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego, who predicts the 2C goal will slip away despite insistence by many governments that is still alive. "It's just not feasible," said Oliver Geden, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "Two degrees is a focal point for the climate debate but it doesn't seem to be a focal point for political action.” Overnight, the UNFCCC put out some positive statements on the outcomes of the meeting. The UN web site has more information on the meeting and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, is very active on Twitter and should provide a balanced comment on the outcomes toward the end of the week.
On the politicking, France’s Minister for the Environment, Ségolène Royal, said poor nations are waiting for a deal on climate. The Guardian reported that developing countries will wait to see if rich nations will ‘meet their expectations’ in global warming talks. She told the Guardian that the key to a successful agreement would be for rich countries to come forward with plans to provide financial assistance to the poorer world, to help developing nations cut their greenhouse gas emissions, avoid basing their future economic growth on fossil fuels and adapt their infrastructure to the likely ravages of climate change. Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, meeting with his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, put climate change at the centre of recent talks. “This is a vital year to secure an ambitious deal that can combat climate change. I’m fully behind President Hollande’s efforts to reach agreement at the summit here in Paris in December. We need an outcome that keeps our goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees within reach. The UK is already playing its part, but we need to do more to get the private sector involved, fostering research and innovation into new clean energies, and supporting growth and jobs. That’s why we’ll put £50 million of our existing climate funding towards a new international initiative that will back new technologies for a clean energy economy. Quite simply, it’s time the market got to work on climate change.” If only other conservative politicians shared the same view.
Then there’s Australia’s not so Great Barrier Reef. In short, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says this 18 million year old underwater rock and flora garden in Australia’s backyard shouldn't be on the 'in danger' list - for now. According to the Guardian, the reef will remain on UN’s watch-list and a draft ruling calls on Australia to ‘rigorously’ implement its conservation commitments: “The committee noted “with concern” the ongoing decline in the health of the reef shown in the last comprehensive scientific survey of the reef in 2014, due to climate change, water pollution and coastal development. But it welcomed Australia’s 2050 long-term sustainability plan for the reef, which includes an 80% cut in water pollution by 2025 and an extra $200m (AUD) to accelerate that progress in the next five years. The committee called on Australia to “rigorously implement all of its commitments” in the plan, including through legislation, and to halt the evident deterioration in the reef, which has lost more than half of its coral cover in the last 30 years. It also called on Australia to act on its promise to set up a long term “investment framework” for its plan this year as “a matter of priority”. There was the predictable crowing from the government and alarm bells from conservationists. Some ‘middle ground’ commentary can be found at The Conversation. For those who want it in four minutes, Waleed Aly from the Ten Network’s The Project is here to help.
Tomorrow, Friday 5 June 2015 is World Environment Day. “WED” as it is known has been around since 1972 (Source: Wikipedia). The United Nations is the chief promoter of the day. There are lots of organised and not so organised events. If nothing else, post something somewhere about the environment on World Environment Day. Our environment could use a hand right now.
Want more: Climate change news summary for business: Climate Communication
1. Australian Photovoltaic Institute: Mapping Australian Photovoltaic installations
2. Big Think: Governments Can Send Signals. They Can't Singlehandedly Save the Planet, Says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
3. EcoWatch: Michael Mann’s ‘Dire Predictions’ Provides Ultimate Guide on Understanding Climate Change
4. Engadget: These seven climate science projects could save the world
5. Environmental Performance Index: Environmental Democracy Index
6. Globe International: Study finds doubling of climate laws since Copenhagen
7. Oil Change International: Under the Rug: How Governments and International Institutions are Hiding Billions in Support to the Coal Industry
8. Politico: Inside the war on coal
9. RTCC: Is natural gas really a bridge to a greener future?
10. Think Progress: If You’ve Wondered Why So Many Politicians Deny Climate Change, Science Has Your Answer
11. Washington Post: New study reaffirms the link between conservative religious faith and climate change doubt
12. World Resources Institute: Delivering on the US Climate Commitment: A 10-Point Plan Toward A Low-Carbon Future
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