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.
- 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.
- CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology: State of the Climate in 2020.
- Climateworks: Solutions, actions and benchmarks for a zero net emissions Australia.
- NSW Energy and Infrastructure Roadmap. Overview.
- Our latest climate report card is here, and it’s not like we didn’t see it coming. The latest biannual report card from the BOM and the CSIRO shows we are now up to 1.44 degrees of warming, and the 2020 COVID slowdown has been barely a blip on global CO2 concentrations.
- The time has come for Morrison to act on climate change. Surely, it can only be a matter of time before Scott Morrison responds to the mounting global, business, institutional, civil society, and voter pressure to listen to the science and adopt a responsible climate policy?
- Australia’s leaders are lagging behind on climate. Australia is experiencing climate change now and warming is set to continue, according to the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s 2020 State of the Climate report released yesterday.
- Almost half of thermal coal firms set to defy climate pledge – report. Almost half the companies involved in the thermal coal industry are expected to defy global climate commitments by deepening their coal interests in the coming years, according to a report.
- Bushfire misfire. On climate, the Morrison government is stuck in denial.
- Australia’s gas-led recovery likely to be a ‘mirage’. The Federal Government’s planned gas-led recovery could turn out to be a mirage, according to energy experts, who question the economic case for investing in gas infrastructure when fossil fuels are being rapidly replaced by renewable energy sources.
- More Australian drivers embrace electrified cars, as hybrid SUV sales triple. Australian drivers embrace electrified drivetrains, with figures showing hybrid SUV sales tripling compared to same period in 2019, and passenger EVs up 25 per cent.
- More wind and solar means early closure of coal plants is more likely. We now estimate that Australia’s main grid will be around 45% renewable as early as 2025, and that spells bad news for some coal generators.
- Renewables industry rejoices as Australia’s biggest electricity state goes green. The reaction to New South Wales’ $32bn renewable energy plan has been swift and overwhelmingly positive, from all sides of industry and the political spectrum. Well, almost…
- Former ARENA, CEFC heads call on Coalition to abandon “flawed” green bank changes. Former heads of the CEFC and ARENA issue joint call for Morrison government to abandon “flawed” plans to open up the CEFC to fossil fuel investments.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.