Jenny’s jottings – the climate this week: 17 Aug 2020

A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action

By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.


Encouraging news from the US Presidential campaign

While anxiety over the second wave of the Covid-crisis grips us, good news emerged from the US with Democrat Presidential nominee Joe Biden choosing Kamala Harris to be his running mate. Biden recently announced his $2 trillion climate package which was excellent, but Harris gives it added impetus because of her (mostly) strong record on climate action. She is committed to the Green New Deal and is very keen to deliver climate justice to the poor.

It hardly bears contemplating, but should Donald Trump win a second term, he can take the US out of the Paris Agreement on 4 November, the day after the US election. It would severely undermine the whole treaty and set back international action on climate change for years.

Gas-led recovery under scrutiny

Back here at home, the brou-ha-ha over the nature of the Covid economic stimulus package continues with NCCC Chair Nev Power confirming to a Senate committee that he has advised the federal government to use taxpayers’ money to underwrite new gas projects. Even the Australian Financial Review warned that gas projects could be left as stranded assets.

On the other hand, on Tuesday, a consortium of medical groups, representing three-quarters of the nation’s doctors, called for a sustainable economic recovery (not gas). Their open letter to the Prime Minister said, in part: “…we must ensure that we also have a whole-of-government approach towards addressing climate change, which also has potentially catastrophic health impacts. Carbon pollution and associated global warming will have profound consequences on the fundamentals of human health: clean air, water, access to food and a safe climate.”

It wasn’t just the medicos. Business chiefs of big banks and major corporations also urged the federal government to invest in health, education, clean energy and urban infrastructure as part of the Covid recovery effort.

The reality of climate change

Meanwhile, the world heats up. The last decade was the hottest on record and July 2020 was among the three warmest months of July since record keeping began in 1880. The UK has just had its hottest week on record. Just prior to that, eight inches of rain (198mm) fell in just four hours on Mumbai, India, leading to widespread flooding in the city.

On a happier note from India, the country’s wind and solar share of total electricity generation rose from 3 per cent in 2015 to 10 per cent in the first half of 2020. Meanwhile, coal’s share fell from 77 per cent to 68 per cent. Could someone tell that to Gautam Adani who wants to export coal from his Carmichael mine in Queensland to India, his home country?

Renewables slashing electricity prices

Back in Australia, wholesale electricity prices (representing about 30% of retail electricity prices) fell across all regions of the National Electricity Market. The Australian Energy Regulator credited the fall to the record high levels of wind and solar generation, and record low levels of coal generation, though Energy Minister Angus Taylor could not bring himself to do likewise.

And whatever you think about the NSW government not moving away from coal fast enough, at least the NSW regulator is trying to make coal companies behave. It is taking Whitehaven’s subsidiaries Narrabri Coal Pty Ltd and Narrabri Coal Operations Pty Ltd to the Land and Environment Court for the alleged breaches at a mine north-west of Boggabri.

All the best, Jenny


Coming webinars

  • Wednesday 19 August 10am – 1pm: Re-energise Australia: A Clean Jobs Summit for Local Government. Book here.
  • Wednesday 19 August 6.30pm: Climate justice in the Pacific. Register here.

More news and info


Main picture: “The State of COVID-19 Briefing – Wilmington, DE – August 13, 2020” by Adam Schultz / Biden for President. Original available at under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

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