A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action
By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.
As the US leads…
On Earth Day (April 22) at US President Joe Biden’s Climate Summit, the world saw a massive increase in ambition. The focus was less on zero net emissions by 2050 and more on the all-important interim targets, particularly 2030. The Americans led the way, promising a 50% cut in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030.
As usual, Australia was found wanting with PM Scott Morrison fudging the figures and offering no commitment about mid-century carbon neutrality.
PM Morrison clearly thought that promising to spend a quarter billion dollars on Carbon, Capture and Storage (CCS), and another quarter billion on the hydrogen economy (not all of it green hydrogen) would be enough to silence doubters. Even though the two proposals were worthy recipients of his largesse, they pale into insignificance alongside President Biden’s promised US$2.3 trillion for climate action.
The Prime Minister’s attitude disappointed well before the Climate Summit. In an address to the Business Council of Australia’s annual dinner, he declared that net zero emissions would not be achieved in the “cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities’’. That enraged people in the inner cities, but also in the regions, including farmers, to whom he was trying to appeal. Many farmers care deeply about climate change and did not like being pitted against inner city “lefties”.
The country moves despite the government
Meanwhile, the rest of the country gets on without the help of the federal government. Gladstone (currently the world’s fourth largest coal exporting terminal) could become a “global clean energy superpower”, the Energy Futures Summit heard at its two-day forum mid-week. This event included behind-closed-doors discussions between energy companies and industry players, government departments, unions, environment groups, education institutions and Traditional Owner groups.
More good news comes from Queensland this week. Stanwell Corporation – Australia’s third largest greenhouse-gas emitter and the state’s largest power generator – revealed plans to transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Stanwell CEO Richard Van Breda said that the speed of the national energy transition means that the corporation “must” now shift its focus towards new energy technologies.
Always in the lead when it comes to climate and energy, the ACT government is now proposing to establish a network of distributed batteries which will operate as if they were one big battery. It aims to have new capacity of 250MW (which is huge).
Mixed signals by the NSW gov
For a while this week we felt warmly towards the NSW Government, after it bought out the Shenhua coal mine on the Liverpool Plains near Tamworth and ruled out open-cut mining at Dartbrook in the Hunter Valley. Unfortunately, the State Government cancelled out all the good work by inviting companies to tender for coal mining licences in the Wollar district, north-east of Mudgee. Resources Minister John Barilaro should perhaps talk to NSW Treasury, which projects that the coal industry will decline over the next 40 years.
NSW Treasury could also speak to the seven pro-coal candidates in the state Hunter by-election scheduled for May 22. Only two candidates, Independent Tracy Norman and Greens Sue Abbott, are anti-coal. This is not surprising, given that we are talking about the heart of coal country, but depressing all the same.
It was excellent work this week from the ABC with 7.30’s four-part series on climate. The show started with the Torres Strait island’s going under the waves and ended with big miners – such as Fortescue Metals – committing to reducing carbon emissions. Watch it on iView if you’ve got a chance!
The Australian Security Leaders Climate Group – a new non-partisan network of current and former defence and security practitioners – was launched this week. Its reason of being comes from the fact that Australia is ‘ill-prepared’ for the threats that accelerating climate change poses to our security. The group is comprised by a great line-up of people, including Chris Barrie AC, Ian Dunlop and John Blackburn AO, all with years of relevant experience.
In the same vein, 101 Nobel laureates – including the Dalai Lama – have called on world leaders to commit to a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels, and a plan to ensure everyone around the world has access to renewable energy. They called climate change “the great moral issue of our time”.
- On Tuesday 27 April at 11am, The Australia Institute’swebinar series, Coal, Climate Change and Conservatives, features The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull AC in conversation with Richard Denniss. FREE, registration essential.
- Also on Tuesday, is awebinar at 5.30pm featuring Prof David Lindenmayer and others called “Protecting South-East Forests”. Register to attend here and watch this video about the forests from Nature Conservation Council (NCC).
- If you want to break away from thatwebinar for another at 6pm with an international focus, there is Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate: What next for Australia and our region? You can attend in person at ANU or on-line but you must register and you can do so here.
- The next day, on Wednesday 28 April from 8 to 9.30pm awebinar organised by the Commission for the Human Future features two excellent (relatively) young speakers. To receive details on how to join the webinar, please register in advance here. See attached.
- Australia has wasted so many years when it comes to climate change. The first mention in parliament of ‘greenhouse gas’ occurred in 1986 – decades later the government is still not proposing anything near appropriate.
- Spot the difference: As world leaders rose to the occasion at the Biden climate summit, Morrison faltered. Prime Minister Scott Morrison overnight addressed a much anticipated virtual climate summit convened by US President Joe Biden, claiming future generations “will thank us not for what we have promised, but what we deliver”.
- Morrison’s failure on the global stage. Has Australia ever put in a more depressing and shameful performance at a major international forum than during President Biden’s climate summit on Thursday night?
- Australia left behind as global climate action gathers pace. The US has proven it has returned to international leadership with its climate change summit, while Australia remains a reluctant partner.
- The world is cooling to Morrison’s Australia. While leading nations doubled their ambitions to cut carbon emissions, Scott Morrison delivered a message of Australian timidity and complacency. It will cost us diplomatically – and economically.
- The US climate target blows Australia’s out of the water. Australia’s 2030 target of a 26%-28% reduction is totally inadequate compared with those from our best friends and allies.
- Global reset on climate action leaves Scott Morrison looking like yesterday’s man. At Joe Biden’s virtual summit, achieving net zero by 2050 was considered a given, not something you might do, possibly, if Matt Canavan lets you.
- Scott Morrison’s climate summit speech was littered with downright dodgy claims. I have sat through countless speeches on climate change from world leaders, both working for the government and outside it, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s rant at President Joe Biden’s climate summit last night was one of the worst performances I have ever seen.
- Red alert for the planet: UN chief’s call to phase out coal by 2030. The Secretary-General of the United Nations marks Earth Day – Thursday – by penning this warning: time is running out to prevent the climate crisis from becoming a permanent global catastrophe.
- How can I help reduce carbon emissions? Reducing a nation’s carbon emissions seems such a large problem, it’s hard to imagine how individual action can make a difference. The good news, however, is that we can do something while being paid by a simple fee levied on carbon polluting products such as fossil fuels.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.