A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action
By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.
A wind of change blowing from across the Pacific
Everything else paled into insignificance alongside the US Presidential election this week. For a day or so after election day, it seemed Trump would resume power. However, as correctly predicted by Bernie Sanders a couple of weeks before the event, once the mail ballots started to be counted, the tables turned. And at last, four days after election day, Pennsylvania fell to Biden and he was declared the winner.
Whatever virtues he may have had, Trump failed on climate. The day after the election, on 4 November, the US officially withdrew from the Paris Agreement. The world knew this was coming and other countries duly stepped up their own efforts to reduce emissions and meet their Paris commitments on time. Biden has promised to restore the US as a signatory to the Paris Agreement. However, this cannot come until after January 20, when he is installed as the 46th President, and then it will take another month.
The Republicans are likely to keep control of the US Senate, which ties Biden’s hands to a large extent. He can still achieve a lot, however, through executive orders that do not need to go through Congress. Nevertheless, profound change, such as the Green New Deal, aren’t going to happen with Republicans controlling the Senate, even though Biden has an excellent record in “working across the aisle” and getting people of the other party to come on board.
Australia is likely to be isolated on climate change now that Biden has been elected. Federally, we have yet to commit to a net-zero emissions policy by 2050, even though most state and territory governments have. Not that this is at all radical. As Ian Dunlop and David Spratt argue in an article below, what we really need to save the Great Barrier Reef and other critical environments is zero-net-emissions by 2030, not 2050.
Even without the US election result, we saw Australia being isolated by another country this week. China banned seven types of Australian exports, including coal.
Good news from home as well
There was plenty more good news this week, this time on the home front.
- South Australia’s (SA) Marshall Government looks to become Australia’s national export hub for green hydrogen. This follows the announcement on Thursday of $37 million for the upgrade of export infrastructure for the $240 million Eyre Peninsula Gateway Hydrogen Project, featuring a 75MW electrolysis plant.
- Victoria is set to charge towards its renewable energy targets. French renewable energy specialist Neoen will build and operate in the state one of the world’s largest lithium-ion batteries (300MW). When complete, the battery will store enough power to run 500,000 homes for about 30 minutes, significantly reducing the likelihood of blackouts in peak demand periods.
- Thanks to the addition of a 100MW wind farm in Merredin and a 214MW wind farm at Yandin, the combined output of wind and solar and other renewable energy sources has overtaken the principal fossil-fuel sources of coal and gas generation in Western Australia for the first time in the month of October.
You have to laugh. Adani, the company behind the Carmichael mega-coal mine in Central Queensland, decided to change its name to “Bravus”, assuming it meant brave or courageous. It actually means “crooked”, “deformed”, “mercenary or assassin”. (What they wanted was “Fortis” if they wanted to convey bravery or courage.)
- Net-zero emissions by 2050: leadership or climate colonialism? How fast does Australia need to reduce greenhouse emissions to play its fair part in responding to the global climate emergency?
- Australia the outlier in Biden’s brave new zero-emissions world. Australia will be left behind as its allies take steps towards a greener, emissions-free future, led by the newly elected President.
- If Biden wins, rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement will be the easy part. Here’s what’s next.
- Biden’s ambitious climate plans face big challenges, experts say. Joe Biden says the United States’ climate policy will start to shift immediately if he wins the presidency, but he might face some constraints in the Senate.
- Renewables cut Australia’s emissions more than Covid, energy analysis finds. Wind and solar displacing coal in the five states of the national energy market.
- Biden as president would pursue climate ‘cheaters’ – and Australia could be among them. Scott Morrison has resisted a call to action from the UK – but the US would be hard to ignore.
- We should stop backing losers in the Climate Change Cup. Selfish cynics used to ask why we should get serious about climate change when no one else was. Today the question is, ‘How can we fail to act when everyone else is?’
- ‘Paradigm shift’: Australia’s military is gearing up for climate emergency on home soil. Thousands of Australian Defence Force personnel will be deployed to more frequent natural disasters and COVID-style crises on home soil, in what a senior ADF official describes as a “paradigm shift” focused on the impacts of climate change.
- Gas-fired recovery policy leaves Australia behind world on emissions targets. It’s barely six weeks since Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a COVID-19 recovery strategy based on a massive expanded use of natural gas in electricity generation and manufacturing.
- ‘If you are pro-growth and pro-jobs, we need to act on climate change now’: Deloitte. The Australian economy will shrink by 6 per cent and shed 880,000 jobs if climate change is not addressed, according to a new report from Deloitte Access Economics.