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: Dr Robert Glasser – former head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – warned the government about the “largely ignored” security threats that will be faced by Australia due to climate change. Source: UNISDRjwf (Wikimedia).
There have been two significant appointments in the past few weeks. The first was Malcolm Turnbull’s appointment to chair the NSW government’s zero-emissions taskforce. Mr Turnbull called for a moratorium on new coal mines, only to have the Murdoch press attack him until the government “un-appointed” him. Given Mr Turnbull’ credentials, this is undoubtedly a defeat for effective climate action. The winners are the leader of the NSW National Party John Barilaro, One Nation’s Mark Latham, and Labor’s pro-coal Joel Fitzgibbon. No doubt the upcoming by-election in the coal-dependent Upper Hunter influenced the choice.
The second appointment was that of Grant King as Chair of the Climate Change Authority (CCA). King is the former head of Origin Energy and president of the Business Council of Australia. The CCA was set up by the Gillard government as an independent advisory body to provide expert advice on climate change mitigation initiatives. “Expert advice” suggests that climate scientists might feature as members. That was indeed the case in the early days of its existence. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott tried unsuccessfully to get rid of the CCA. Since then, the Coalition governments responded by gradually stacking the organisation with allies in the fossil-fuel industries and pushing it aside, not even seeking its advice prior to releasing climate policies.
Speaking of which, ABC-TV’s Four Corners will be airing an expose on the federal government’s gas led recovery push on Monday night (12th April). Watch it if you can.
Coal on the ballot
Let’s go back to the by-election in the NSW seat of the Upper Hunter. In the opening of the electoral campaign, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro stood in front of a massive coal train and extolled the virtues of coal mining. This push for coal runs contrary to the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap – which received last year multi-partisan support in the NSW parliament – as well as the state’s commitment to zero net emissions by 2050. Given that most new coal will be exported, the NSW government seems happy to work towards lowering emissions domestically but not globally, as emissions are counted where the coal is burnt. Of course, emissions don’t know about national boundaries, so it doesn’t matter where coal is burnt in terms of its effect on the climate.
Finally an Aussie electric ute?
In the past few weeks Labour has launched its electric vehicles (EV) policy. We now hear that an Australian-built electric ute (ACE Yewt) is on schedule to roll out of an Adelaide factory early next year for just under $26,000 for the basic model.
Meanwhile, the federal Government is facing criticism following an Australia Institute report. The report stated that the government manipulated data in claiming electric vehicle subsidies were poor value for money. In contrast, the independent authority Infrastructure Victoria (IV), in addressing how to reduce Victoria’s increasing transport emissions, recruited more than 200 experts to hear their advice. Much to the surprise of IV, their recommendation was to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
Climate change is also a security threat
Former Australian defence chief Chris Barrie has been talking about it for years. A new report agrees that rapidly escalating climate change poses an unprecedented national security threat. Robert Glasser – former head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – says that the threat has been “largely ignored” by our strategic planners. He called for the federal government to urgently recognise the security risks of climate-induced famines, rising seas and mass migrations affecting hundreds of millions of people in our region.
A group called Health on the Frontlines has been blocking vehicles from entering the construction site of the Bravus Carmichael rail line to the proposed Adani mega-coal mine in central Queensland. Lisa Fitzgerald, an associate professor in public health, said that “Climate change is the number one public health issue for this generation and the generations to come.” Bravo protesters!
An exciting Earth Day
April 22 is the 51st anniversary of the first Earth Day. To commemorate it this year, United States President Joe Biden is holding a World Leaders Summit on Climate Change and has invited Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The summit is designed to secure commitments from 40 countries to increase ambition on climate ahead of the critically important COP26 meeting in Glasgow this November. Sign a petition to call on Morrison to take real commitments to the summit.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s death dominated the media late this week. Whether you support the monarchy or not, he nevertheless had influence and expressed his attention towards the environment. As far as climate change is concerned, David Attenborough reminded us that “for years, the Duke of Edinburgh warned us about the greenhouse effect.”
- Anticipating extreme crises and disruptions: Developing a National Risk Management Strategy. Tues 13 April, 12:30pm – 1:30pm. Find out more and register
- Third of Antarctic ice shelves ‘will collapse amid 4C global heating’. ‘Unimaginable amounts’ of water will flow into oceans if that temperature rise occurs and ice buffers vanish, warn UK scientists.
- If Biden doubles climate ambition, where will that leave Angus Taylor? Biden might be on the verge of a historic climate ambition update. If it’s true, Morrison is will face unprecedented pressure.
- Carbon dioxide levels in atmosphere reach record high. Concentrations are 50% above pre-industrial levels despite dip in emissions during Covid pandemic.
- Marine species increasingly can’t live at equator due to global heating. Study suggests it is already too warm in tropics for some species to survive.
- Clean energy? The world’s demand for copper could be catastrophic for communities and environments. The benefits of switching to clean energy are huge. As with any industrial activity, the transition has potential environmental and social impacts.
- Australian government says superannuation funds should support new coal projects. Australia’s superannuation funds should be free to support the coal industry’s expansion plans, resources minister Keith Pitt said on Tuesday, as a battle heats up over new mines in the key Hunter Valley mining region of New South Wales.
- A new type of battery that can charge ten times faster than a lithium-ion battery created. Researchers at St Petersburg University have developed a new type of battery that can charge ten times faster than a lithium-ion battery. Moreover, it is safer in terms of potential fire hazards and has a lower environmental impact.
- Abandon coal now or face catastrophe, US envoy says. Coal and its friends were in the sights of the powerful representatives at the International Energy Agency’s net zero conference this week.
- ‘Every choice matters’: can we cling to hope of avoiding 1.5C heating? The Australian Academy of Science warns that limiting global heating to the Paris goal is now ‘virtually impossible’. Is it right?
- Community batteries: what are they, and how could they help Australian energy consumers? Labor proposes funding batteries to allow households with solar power to pool excess electricity. Here’s what you need to know.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.