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: Chinese President Xi Jinping addressing the General Debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly via video, September 22, 2020. During the debate, President Xi surprised everyone by committing China to net carbon neutrality by 2060. Source: Xinhua News Agency.
The long and winding roadmap
Earlier last week, the first low emissions technology statement of the Technology Investment Roadmap was announced by the Australian Federal Government. The goals of achieving energy security and meeting our obligations to emissions reduction was not focused on renewables, but rather on carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). Additionally, it was suggested that a new gas-fired power station in the Hunter Valley could be built.
The good, the bad and the ugly
It wasn’t all bad. As two academics from ANU described it: there was the good (a series of specific numeric targets for each priority technology, such as hydrogen); the bad (the absence of a time frame in which targets should be met); and the ugly (tens of billions of dollars in annual subsidies to support fossil fuels, as well as the absence of a carbon price).
Climate Action Network Australia (CANA), the umbrella organisation for several climate-action groups, said the roadmap contained a number of good commitments, including:
- $191m in targeted grants;
- $70m on a regional hydrogen export hub;
- $50m for energy efficiency;
- $67m for renewable energy and battery micro-grids in remote communities;
- $57m for electric vehicles;
- Commitments on major transmission improvements;
- 10 years of funding ($1.4bn) for ARENA, although at a lower rate than in the past.
On the other hand, according to CANA there are negatives as well. These include:
- prioritising hydrogen without ruling out burning fossil fuels for its production;
- a continued commitment to carbon capture and storage, despite considerable investments ending in failure over the past decades;
- a bizarre “watching brief” for nuclear power.
Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) summarised their misgivings with the government’s roadmap as follows:
- Lack of interim or long-term climate targets. ACF says that the roadmap should adopt a target for net zero climate pollution by 2050, as well as 100% renewable energy by 2030.
- Failure to support key zero emissions technologies – renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport – which require rapid, widespread roll out.
- Inclusion of costly, harmful technologies such as CCS, fossil fuels and nuclear. ACF believes the roadmap should exclude support for fossil fuel technologies, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage connected to fossil fuel extraction and use (CCUS).
The doubts of the Opposition
Labor said it would back new gas under the proposal, but only under “environmentally sustainable terms”. This position was greeted with disdain by the Australian Workers Union (AWU). According to AWU, Labor would kill off blue-collar jobs and any chance of winning government, if it does not wholeheartedly embrace gas. One poll found, however, that two-thirds of voters wanted public spending to be directed to renewables, rather than gas.
The Independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall accused the Government of wanting to lock in fossil fuels for the next 30 years.
For those wondering whether and how renewables might better fit the bill for both energy security and emissions reduction, there was a worthwhile webinar on Thursday organised by the Energy Change Institute at ANU. See first item below. The relatively new Independent MP for Indi, Dr Helen Haines, has launched a vision for massively scaling up community ownership of renewable energy projects under a $483 million Local Power Plan to help boost regional economies.
Hope from China
There was good news on the international front with China announcing to the UN it was aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060. The bad news, however, was that the area of Arctic sea-ice, at its minimum annual point on 15 September, was the second lowest in recorded history. Scientists are saying that even if we limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, sea levels are expect to rise by 2.5metres.
Webinar and conferences
- 12-1pm Tuesday 29 September with Zali Steggall OAM, MP – Independent Federal Member for Warringah, on her climate legislation. Join via Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6192584721 a few minutes early.
- Global Smart Energy Summit. 29 and 30 September. Register here.
- “Digging into the Technology Investment Roadmap” Climate change Institute. 4 – 5:30pm, Thursday 8 October. Find out more and register
- “Carbon Capture and Use as an emerging technology” Climate change Institute. 5:30 – 6:30pm, Monday 12 October. Find out more and register
- “Yes we can”: Energy experts plot path to fossil-free grid.
- Two key numbers that make battery storage better bet than gas peakers. A new report says that battery storage is beating gas peakers in Australia on capital costs and fuel costs, and will win too on longer storage.
- CEFC may have to sell wind and solar investments to fund $18bn technology roadmap. The controversial Technology Roadmap unveiled by the Morrison government this week could force the country’s green bank to sell profitable investments in wind and solar projects, so it can channel these funds into new preferred technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
- Melting Antarctic ice will raise sea level by 2.5 metres – even if Paris climate goals are met, study finds.Research says melting will continue even if temperature rises are limited to 2°C.
- ‘Short-sighted’: Mark Butler says no room for gas in Australia’s future prosperity. Coal and gas won’t play any part in Australia’s future prosperity, Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler has declared in a speech that threatens to stoke growing divisions within the opposition over climate policy.
- Carbon price needed to make energy roadmap believable by John Hewson, former leader of the Liberal Party. A genuine emissions trading scheme would give the Technology Roadmap the substance it lacks.
- ‘Warlike footing’ needed to tackle climate change, warns Prince Charles. A long-time advocate for nature, the British royal said climate change was rapidly becoming a “comprehensive catastrophe” that would dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Medical groups are urging Greg Hunt to include climate change in 10-year health strategy. Medical groups are astonished climate change isn’t mentioned in the consultation paper to develop a 10-year national preventative health strategy.
- By 2020 standards, Angus Taylor’s low-emissions technology statement is not really a climate policy. Australians are just expected to trust the minister and his advisers to successfully pick winners deserving a crack at $18bn in taxpayers’ money.
- There are more horses in the energy race, but are they fast enough? The ideas outlined in the energy road map may well one day reduce Australia’s carbon emissions, but critics say the plan lacks the urgency this crisis requires.