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: On January 21st a bushfire threatened several houses on the Adelaide Hills. Source: Dr John Coulter, former leader of the Australian Democrats.
Zali’s bill under review
The Parliamentary hearings for Zali Steggall’s Climate Change Bills at the House of Representatives took place in Canberra last Friday and Monday. The bills call for zero net emissions by 2050 and provide a pathway for getting there, following successful legislation introduced in the UK in 2008. However, a new Climate Panel Taskforce populated with such luminaries as John Hewson and Will Steffen said last week that the 2050 net-zero emissions target might be insufficient. Instead, the target should be anticipated to 2045, if we are to stay within 2°C warming over pre-industrial levels (more if we’re to stay within 1.5°C). Moreover, the emissions-reduction target for 2030 (currently set to 26-28% on 2005 levels) should be increased to at least 50%
No room for complacency
Despite the weather event La Niña is meant to be cooling things down in Australia, WA and SA have experienced bad bushfires. Former leader of the Australian Democrats Dr John Coulter lost 60 acres of bush around his house in the Adelaide Hills, though the CFS saved his house, solar panels and sheds (see featured photo). Let us not be complacent. Victoria was also on bushfire alert this week.
Costs of inaction
The release of the latest Climate Council report was thus timely. It says that the impact of fires, floods, droughts, storms and sea-level rise linked to climate change could skyrocket into the future. Their consequences could potentially cost the country’s economy up to $100 billion every year by 2038. According to Prof Will Steffen – the report’s lead author – “we can’t expect extreme events to increase in a smooth linear fashion, as they could jump up at an extremely fast rate at any time; these are the risks we are taking as climate change continues”.
Ever disappointing Federal politics
It was a controversial day (an extremely hot January 26th) for the National backbench to call on party leadership to back new coal-fired power stations to boost manufacturing jobs. Fortunately, the proposal was quickly repudiated by urban Liberals as being completely inconsistent with Australia’s energy transition. Not that all federal Liberals, however, are entirely on board when it comes to climate action. Environment Minister Sussan Ley committed money to climate adaptation, but crucially not to mitigation. Moreover, the government recommitted to its abysmal 2030 targets of 26-28% reduction on 2005 levels, despite international calls to ramp up ambition in the lead up to the COP-26 meeting in Glasgow this coming November.
The Labor Party remains somewhat divided on the issue. Pro-coal Joel Fitzgibbon – the MP from the Hunter – resigned from the Shadow front bench in November. In an effort to reunite the party on the issue, leader Anthony Albanese gave last week the Climate and Energy portfolio to Chris Bowen, who swapped the Health portfolio with Mark Butler. We thank Mr Butler for his efforts and wish best luck to Mr Bowen.
Good news for the week
While it was the Labor Party that set the stage, full credit should be given to the Liberal premier of South Australia Steven Marshall for following through on renewables. South Australia now boasts the cheapest wholesale electricity prices in the country. Remarkably, the state served all (100%!) of its electricity demand for more than an hour shortly after mid-day on October 11 through rooftop and utility scale solar.
The even better news this week are the series of very impressive executive orders signed by the new US President Joe Biden, promising climate action while undoing four years of hostile climate policy by Donald Trump. Biden’s envoy John Kerry had a chat with our Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Taylor is committed to building 1,000 megawatts of gas-fired generation capacity in the Hunter Valley in response to Matt Kean’s renewables-focused NSW Energy Infrastructure Roadmap. We hope Mr Kerry made Mr Taylor reconsider his position.
- Surge in global action highlights Australia’s stance on climate change. With General Motors and the UN making big announcements on electric cars and cutting emissions, Australia’s position on climate change is inevitably thrust into the spotlight.
- Climate crisis: world is at its hottest for at least 12,000 years – study. Scientists say temperatures globally at highest level since start of human civilisation.
- Earth is now losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. And it’s going to get worse. Two new papers reveal the growing toll that human-caused global warming is having on the planet’s ice.
- Carbon: Getting to net zero — and even net negative — is surprisingly feasible, and affordable. Reaching zero net emissions of carbon dioxide from energy and industry by 2050 can be accomplished by rebuilding U.S. energy infrastructure to run primarily on renewable energy, at a net cost of about $1 per person per day, according to new research.
- New research suggests projections of future warming may be too conservative. Two recently published pieces of research suggest the world is likely to warm more than current projections.
- Electrifying federal govt’s fleet of cars would cost $200 million. Converting the Commonwealth’s fleet to electric vehicles would benefit the environment, save money on fuel and help second-hand car buyers, the Greens say.
- The verdict on Australia’s emissions targets: catastrophic. Leading scientists have taken the government’s own figures and found it’s overspent so much of Australia’s carbon budget that it now needs to cut emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2030.
- “Poking holes” in solar cells the secret to Aussie perovskite world record. Australian researchers unveil secrets to record-breaking perovskite solar cells in new paper.
- Climate change will cause a shift in Earth’s tropical rain belt – threatening water and food supply for billions, study says. By 2100, billions of people are at risk of facing more flooding, higher temperatures and less food and water.
- Climate crisis: The dreadful heat that threatens to make our cities unliveable. Parts of Victoria and NSW are sweating through an extreme heatwave that started sweeping across Australia’s southeast yesterday. This may seem like just a good excuse to go to the beach, but as the planet warms and summers become longer and less bearable, heatwaves are coming to represent an existential threat to Australian suburbs.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.