Jenny’s jottings – the climate this week: 8 Sept 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.

Featured image: Parliament House in Canberra. Zali Steggall’s Climate Act Bill will be presented there on 9th November. Picture by Thennicke available under Creative Commons Licence.

Climate Act… Now!

As the Covid crisis grinds on with nearly two million Australians unemployed, there are a few glimmers of hope. Among these, Zali Steggall is re-tabling her Climate Act Bill for 9 November. Also in Federal Parliament, Labor promised to oppose the government bill to open up the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to fossil-fuel investments, particularly gas. However, what the Senate will do remains to be seen.

The government has pushed through the lower house changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. In doing so, it drew the wrath of cross-benchers for dismissing the prerogatives of Parliament. Zali Steggall described the government  as a “bully in action”. The changes would hand powers of assessment from the Federal Government to the States. States are notoriously worse than the Commonwealth on environmental matters, so it’s bad news in some ways. On the other hand, in recent years the States have all been bolder than the federal government on climate and energy policy.

Our emissions

It was good news, though for the wrong reasons of Covid restrictions, that Australia’s carbon-dioxide emissions fell to their lowest levels since 1998. Energy Minister Angus Taylor said emissions from electricity generation were in “long-term structural decline” and agricultural emissions were also down, largely because of the lingering effects of the drought. Emissions from exports continued however to increase due largely to the growing Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) industry. Moreover, emissions are expected to grow to their pre-Covid levels in the next few months, as soon as the restrictions will be eased.

Meanwhile, Tim Baxter from the Climate Council estimates that Australia’s greenhouse-gas accounting underestimates national emissions by about 10%. This is largely due to a failure to properly recognise “fugitive” emissions of methane, released during extraction. Methane is estimated to be apporximately 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Get ready for the new season

It’s finally spring! However, there is little time to relax, as recent rain has meant that growing grass has produced a fire hazard. In some parts of the State – such as the Shoalhaven – the fire season started on 1 September, instead of the normal 1 October.

Speaking of fires, the Bushfire Royal Commission issued an interim report this week, calling for a national fuel-load database to be set up.

There’s the possibility that we might get a La Niña (opposite of El Niño) forming this Spring. This generally means more rain, though the likelihood and strength of cyclones and other extreme weather events might increase as well.

The Wentworth Group of Scientists issued a worrying report this week, claiming that two trillion litres of water had ‘gone missing’ from the Murray-Darling Basin. Irrigators taking too much water is only part of the story, however. Climate change is also presumed to be a culprit, although a precise estimate is hard to determine.

Business matters

In a massive about-turn, the Australian Industry Group (AIG) is urging the government to spend $3.3 billion on renewables over the next ten years. Such good move has been greeted with derision in some quarters. In fact, the AIG has been for many years a drag on climate action.

Elsewhere in the business world, construction and mining industry super fund Cbus says it will slash emissions from its investments by 45% within the next 10 years.  Fossil-fuel companies will need to demonstrate how they will cut greenhouse-gas emissions in order to stay within the fund’s $54bn portfolio. By failing to comply, Cbus will divest from them.

Another company doing the right thing is Alinta Energy. Alinta is looking to add a wind farm and more battery storage to the Pilbara (Western Australia) network that supplies some of the country’s biggest iron-ore mines.

States in action

While Victoria struggles to keep Covid in check, the State government is doing something worthwhile: providing a $600 million funding boost to large-scale renewable projects. The new capacity will repower all the state’s schools and hospitals as well asl Melbourne’s train network with solar and wind energy.

In South Australia, the Tesla lithium-ion battery at Hornsdale, near Jamestown, is now fully operational with its increased potential output of 150 megawatts (from 100 MW). Moreover, the ACT government – as always leading the way – has announced that the expansion to the Canberra Hospital will be powered by 100% renewables.

In NSW, “bravo” to a community-solar and battery project in Goulburn, who announced they will not use Siemens inverters. The reason? The connection of the German multinational with the controversial Adani Carmicheal coal-mine project.

ANU is conducting research into “eco-anxiety”, which is the impacts of climate change on the psychological wellbeing of people. It is currently seeking participants to complete a survey. To participate please click here. (There are rewards!)

Coming this week

  • The virtual Smart Energy Conference and Exhibition on Sept 9 and 10 should be worthwhile. Info and registration here.

More info & news


The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.

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