The climate this week – 17 Nov 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: NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean unveiled a massive $32 billion dollars plan to transform the State into a renewable energy superpower.

A never-ending election

Our eyes are still focussed on the US election with President Trump still not conceding defeat. Hopefully on November 23, when the big states under contention declare their results officially, he may be persuaded to do so. A Biden win is critical for climate because of his $2 trillion promise to invest in clean energy and to rejoin the Paris Agreement.

Time to act, now

The much awaited Climate Change Bill which was introduced by Zali Steggall into federal Parliament on Monday has been referred to the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy.  It will go to a public inquiry with submissions already open and closing on Friday 27 November. Anyone can make a submission. More information is here.

NSW’s plan to become a renewable energy superpower

Amazingly, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean was able to bring on board both the Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro as well as Labor for the government’s ambitious $32 billion NSW Renewable Energy Plan. This plan is good news for both the climate and the economy, and will deliver lower electricity prices.

The climate in Parliament

It is worth mentioning the Senate’s new inquiry into media diversity, which was started in response to a petition by former PM Kevin Rudd that raised half a million signatures. It is important for climate because the focus of the inquiry is on the dominance of the Murdoch media empire (News Corp), which includes The Australian. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull clashed with The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly on the ABC’s Q+A last week over News Corp’s treatment of climate science. Turnbull said it had done enormous damage over its promotion of climate denial.

It was thus no surprise that the federal government exploited one of the unsatisfactory conclusions of the Disaster Royal Commission. As climate activist Philip Sutton points out, “the Royal Commission has given them a ‘get out of jail free’ card to do nothing much on emissions for 20 years because the Royal Commission drew an incorrect conclusion that the warming trend for the next 20 years is locked in under all possible scenarios.” The warming trend isn’t locked in, of course, providing there are radical measures to reduce emissions. Mitigation is way too hard for this government, unfortunately, because it entails confronting fossil fuel interests. Its response of ‘resilience’ is far easier. You can find the government’s response to the Royal  Commission here.

On the side of the Federal Opposition, Joel Fitzgibbon, MP for the federal seat of Hunter has resigned from Labor’s front bench. He claims that the party has put climate change ahead of ‘regional interests’. The bad news, however, is that it has left Labor in a state of turmoil with some wanting the excellent Shadow Minister for Climate Change Mark Butler to step aside.

Hotter and hotter

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO issued their confronting report: State of the Climate in 2020. It is a wake-up call. Australia’s average temperature has gone up by 1.44 degrees C since 1910. We can expect increasing extreme heat and fire danger and regional areas will be the worst affected.

Perhaps it was appropriate therefore that former NSW Fire Commissioner Shane Fitsimmons was named NSW Australian of the Year. Shane was heroic in dealing with last summer’s fires and explaining what was happening on nightly television.  Greg Mullins, head of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA), who tried to warn the government about the impending threat of bushfires 18 months ago, would have made an equally good candidate for Australian of the Year. Let us hope he too gets the recognition he deserves.

A controversial new tax

South Australia has been a leader in renewable energy for some time. It was disappointing that it is going to tax electric vehicles. While funding to maintain roads is understandable, nevertheless, the tax is a disincentive to the uptake of EVs and hybrids, a critical part of the energy transition.

A chance to get solar energy without a roof

For those of us who own our homes and have sunny roofs, it is both economically and environmentally sound to install solar panels. There are, however, many renters or apartment dwellers who do not have the opportunity to do so. Fortunately, help is on the way! The Haystacks Solar Garden is a unique new project that will provide people without a sunny roof with access to the many benefits of rooftop solar through purchasing a plot in the solar garden. If you would like to get into solar, but do not have the opportunity at home, then this might be the option for you.  More information can be found here.

Oppose the gas-fired recovery

The COVID Commission – a federal government advisory body – has recommended a “gas-fired recovery” plan, providing millions of dollars to the gas industry toward infrastructure, including pipelines. There is a National Day of Action on 28 Nov 2020 opposing the gas-fired recovery plan. You can add your support here.

Finally, Australia will have a new Chief Scientist in January, physicist Cathy Foley, who replaces Alan Finkel. While she recognises the need to reduce emissions rapidly, she believes gas has a role as a transition fuel. Let’s hope she doesn’t endorse gas projects, such as pipelines that will be stranded assets in a few years’ time. We wish her every success in her role.

Coming webinars

  •  ANU solar oration: Mark Z Jacobson. Tuesday 17 November 12-1.30pm. Register here.
  • Who pays for climate disasters: Why we need a National Climate Disaster Levy: 11am Wednesday 18 November. Register here.
  • Implications that a Biden presidency will have for clean energy in Australia and around the world. 10-11am Friday 20 November. Register here.
  • Q&A with Ross Garnaut. 7-8pm Tuesday 1 December. Register here.

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

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