A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action
By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.
Featured image: Death Valley, California. Credit: Good Free Photos.
The US presidential campaign heats up
The focus this week has been on the US with the Democratic National Convention. Joe Biden was confirmed as the Democrat presidential nominee and Kamala Harris as the VP nominee. There were a few worrying days when they seemed to have dropped the commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies, but that now seems to be back on the platform.
While we freeze in SE Australia this weekend, California burns with wildfires after unprecedented heat. On Sunday 16 August in that state, at the aptly named Furnace Creek visitors centre, Death Valley recorded what may have been the highest official recorded temperature anywhere in the world, ever: 54.4oC (129.9oF).
Meanwhile, the Greenland ice sheet lost a record amount of ice in 2019 (532b tonnes).This is double the average (255bn tonnes) since 2003, when satellite data started being collected. This makes Greenland the largest contributor to sea-level rise.
From coal to batteries
Back home, AGL – Australia’s largest energy generator – has announced the first concrete steps in shutting down its Liddell coal-fired power station in the NSW Hunter Valley, despite the efforts of the federal government to extend the plant’s operating life. Originally, Liddell’s closure was planned for 2022 and later extended to 2023. AGL is now planning to remove transmission lines between Liddell and its Bayswater plant, so the latter can operate on its own.
One of the federal government’s arguments for supporting gas was to even out the grid, which is increasingly powered by renewables, by providing peaking services in times of high demand. Now, however, AGL Energy’s newly appointed chief operating officer Markus Brokhof has said that there is a clear business case for big batteries, as they are starting to compete with gas peakers on commercial terms.
The NSW government seems to agree and has announced funding support for four new big battery projects in the state. Unfortunately, this good news is offset by its intent to support One Nation and its planned legislation to allow uranium mining. (See section ‘Campaigns’ below).
Australian farmers going net-zero
One of the remarkable pieces of news this week, barely reported by the media, was that the National Farmers Federation is supporting zero net emissions by 2050, in line with most states and territories, 20 overseas countries… but not our federal government. How much this will influence the Nationals and, in turn, their Coalition partners remains to be seen. However, this is very good news.
Another piece of good news, this time out of Queensland. The state Labor government, which has not restrained Adani from building its Carmichael mega-coal-mine, has nevertheless committed $145 million towards developing three Renewable Energy Corridors (as against RE Zones in NSW).
Appointments this week
- Craig Reucassel’s “Fight for Planet A: Our Climate Challenge”. The third of the three-part documentary will be on ABC-TV this Tuesday.
- Australian Parents for Climate Action (AP4CA) are calling attention to their ‘Solar Our Schools’ campaign, helped by Craig Reucassel’s “Fight for Planet A”. The ‘Solar Our Schools’ campaign is asking the Prime Minister to fund solar and batteries for all schools and early learning centres across Australia. Add your name to their open letter at their website: www.ap4ca.org/solarourschools
- Call the Premier! Tell her to not lift the ban on uranium mining.
- (past) Cities Power Partnership’s Re-energise Australia: A clean Jobs Summit, from 19 August. Recording here.
- (past) Climate Council and its Clean Jobs Plan from 17 August. Notes from the session and a link to the recording are in this document.
- Climate Change Institute: Progress your career with postgraduate study on climate and energy change. Monday 24 August 4pm. Register here.
- Driving global collaboration on high performance buildings. Wednesday 26 August 4.00pm – 5.00pm. Register here.
- Morrison’s Cash Splash for Gas. Thu 27 Aug 2020 12pm – 1pm Join: https://zoom.us/j/6486173456
“Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency” by Mark Lynas. You can read a review here.
- School Strike 4 Climate. Build our Future: Climate Justice and Jobs. Join students on Friday September 25. (More information on what is happening on the Monaro coming later.)
- Tell the Prime Minister we need an Australia-wide net zero by 2050 target! Sign the Farmers for Climate Action petition here.
More news & info
- How climate change is spreading current diseases and could expose new epidemics. Global warming is boosting the spread of tropical diseases as mosquitoes travel to temperate regions. If the world’s permafrost melts, it has the potential to unleash pathogens trapped for centuries.
- New model for pricing carbon will help meet net-zero climate change goals. Near-term to net zero pricing approach avoids pitfalls of the social cost of carbon.
- China undermines Pacific push for climate security. A push by Pacific countries to include climate change on the UN Security Council’s agenda has been undermined by China.
- Communities placed to lead the renewables revolution by Helen Haines. This year has given Australians a once-in-a-generation moment to decide what we want our future to look like.
- Widespread electric vehicle adoption would save billions of dollars, thousands of lives. A new study found that if EVs replaced 25% of combustion-engine cars currently on the road, the United States would save approximately $17 billion annually by avoiding damages from climate change and air pollution. In more aggressive scenarios – replacing 75% of cars with EVs and increasing renewable energy generation – savings could reach as much as $70 billion annually.
- Mumbai must face up to climate change’s existential threat. As early as the year 2050, great chunks of Mumbai could be permanently underwater, according to a 2019 report by the US-based climate science group Climate Central. All those people now living on the Mumbai coastline would have to find another place to live.
- AGL boss Brett Redman walks the tightrope on energy transition. In the fight against global warming, the energy sector matters. The objective, of course, is obvious: energy production must move from coal and gas-fired power stations to wind and solar sources supported by batteries, pumped hydro, possibly hydrogen. But in a nation reliant on coal for nearly two-thirds of its electricity, breaking up is hard to do and the speed at which we need to make this transition is bitterly contested.
- Energy efficiency is a jobs machine – and local governments can start it up by Holly Taylor. Momentum towards renewables is unstoppable. However, there is another, often unsung, side to the energy transition: how efficiently and productively we use our energy.
- A Biden win will expose climate fault line in the alliance by Thom Woodruffe. Joe Biden’s demands for all major economies to make big cuts in their emissions will complicate Australia’s relationship with the US, if he wins the US election.
- With better soil, farmers can fight climate change, make agriculture more sustainable. Climate change is forcing farmers to make adjustments to ensure their crops can withstand evolving weather conditions. At the same time, many aspects of agriculture – from tilling to raising livestock – contribute to increased levels of carbon in the atmosphere, which exacerbates global warming.