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: St Andrews Uniting Church in Cooma, NSW. This and other places of worship sounded the alarm about the climate crisis as part of the Global Multi-faith Day of Action on Climate.
The accelerating end of coal
The big news nationally this week was that the biggest brown-coal power station in the country -Yallourn in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley – will close in 2028: four years earlier than planned! It accounts for a fifth of Victoria’s power supply. Given how polluting Yallourn is, it is a pity that its closure will not happen earlier. On the other hand, this timeframe will allow its workers to retrain. Various groups are calling for a “just transition” for the workers, which means helping them in moving to new jobs, hopefully many in the renewable sector.
Jobs after coal
One possibility for Yallourn’s employees is to work for Australia’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Gippsland. Planners of the $8-10bn Star of the South wind farm have stated their preference to hire workers who will lose their jobs when Yallourn closes. Its construction – proposed to begin in a couple of years – will generate 5,200 jobs. Once operational in 2027, Star of the South will provide 740 ongoing jobs.
Chris Bowen – Federal Labor’s spokesman on Energy – travelled to Queensland this week to make this very point to coal workers: there will be jobs in the renewable sector, once the coal industry will end. On the other hand, Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor is urging coal operators to produce more coal-fired power to replace Yallourn. They, however, are reluctant because even their existing power stations are becoming marginal in their profitability. The current low prices – associated to the recent rise in solar and wind energy – do no support development of new supply.
Looming carbon tariffs
The EU’s planned border tariffs on energy-intensive imports from Australia – and other nations with weak emission laws – was mentioned in a previous post. Instead of reacting, for instance, by adopting a zero net emissions target for 2050, Australia is pushing back against the EU’s move. Federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan says that he will seek an alternative plan through the World Trade Organisations to slash tariffs on more than 50 environmental goods and services, including wind turbines and solar panels. This move seems not without merit. However, it would be easier to adopt the 2050 zero net emissions target and be in line with our trading partners.
NSW aims at favouring the net-zero transition
The NSW government is rolling out its Net Zero Industry and Innovation fund to keep in the State a few major carbon-intensive regional employers – such as BlueScope, Fortescue and Tomago Aluminium. The $750m fund will help such big businesses drop their emissions and develop greener manufacturing processes.
The rise of #TorresStrait8
Sea-level rise, king tides, inundation, erosion and coral bleaching are threatening the homes and cultures of Torres Strait Islanders. Eight Torres Strait Islanders – also known as the #TorresStrait8 – are taking their case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. They are demanding Australia to rapidly increase its emissions reduction target to at least 65% below 2005 levels by 2030, going net zero by 2050, and phasing out coal. The Australian Government, however, is pushing for the UN to dismiss the landmark case. Help the Islanders by signing their petition here.
Faith for climate action
It is great to see churches and other faith-based groups getting involved in climate action. Last Thursday many places of worship – including St Andrews Uniting Church in Cooma NSW (pictured above) – rang bells or otherwise sounded the alarm for climate. It was part of the Global Multi-faith Day of Action on Climate.
Australian Parents for Climate Action is a relatively new but extraordinarily successful group. They are seeking a new national director. If you are interested, check out their ad.
- Angus Taylor has failed as a politician and energy minister. He should be moved on. Yallourn closure will be quickly followed by others, and Taylor’s response shows the Coalition government has nothing to offer and doesn’t even understand what’s happening.
- Outcry at Australia’s coal plant closures misses the point: change is coming. Trying to heavy owners won’t hold back the renewables tide. It’s time to plan, and the blueprint exists
- Australia’s climate inaction remains a national embarrassment. The drift in the progress to a low-carbon world by mid-century is alarming.
- The death of coal-fired power is inevitable — yet the government still has no plan to help its workforce. Yallourn power station — Australia’s oldest, dirtiest coal plant — will close four years ahead of schedule in 2028. Announcing the move this week, operator Energy Australia said it will build a giant energy storage battery on the site to make room for more renewables. This is a powerful statement about where our energy system is heading.
- Vital Signs: timing of Yallourn’s closure shows it’s high time for a carbon price. If you ever doubted the price of renewable energy was falling so rapidly it would eventually replace fossil fuels, the expedited closure of the Yallourn coal-fired power plant should change that.
- Cities at risk of becoming ‘unliveable’ as shrinking green spaces create ‘heat islands’. Most major Australian cities will be far hotter than forecast in coming years, as a lack of vegetation creates “heat islands,” especially in poorer areas, a new report warns.
- Australia needs to embrace both Snowy 2.0 and batteries. Further to Murray Upton’s response (Letters, March 9) to Greg Pritchard’s article (“Snowy 2.0 defaces a national park”, March 2, p23), all I can say it is a vexed issue.
- Australia’s coal collapse is coming, and Angus Taylor needs to get out of the way. Yallourn’s early closure highlights a dawning realisation cropping up around the world – no grid needs coal. We can be rid of it quickly.
- No amount of government subsidies can halt decline of gas. Coal and the more expensive gas can’t compete against cheaper renewables, and the Coalition’s gas-fired subsidy scheme is wasted money on a declining industry.
- The single most important resource underpinning Australia’s food security is under threat. Average annual streamflow into the crucial Murray-Darling Basin could be up to 30 per cent less in 30 years’ time.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.