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: Bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef. The Federal Government successfully lobbied UNESCO against declaring the world-heritage site as “endangered”. Needless to say, the danger persists. Credit: Australian Institute of Marine Science.
Not endangered, still endangered
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley was successful in her endeavours to put off having the Great Barrier Reef listed as ‘endangered’ by UNESCO. Unfortunately, all she has done is delay the inevitable. Australia has been requested to host a joint UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission to the reef and provide an updated report by February 2022.
The Federal Government has put a lot of faith (and public money!) in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), knowing that it will prolong the life of fossil fuel projects. This week, however, it was revealed that Chevron had not met a requirement to capture and store underground at least 80% of emissions from a gas reservoir over the first five years of the Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Western Australia. Climate campaigners argue Chevron should be fined. This was the world’s biggest CCS project.
Looming carbon tariffs
There is still no commitment from the Morrison government on Net Zero Emissions by 2050. New National’s leader Barnaby Joyce wants to know how much it will cost. Crucially, he does not ask the cost of not achieving such target. The problem does not involve just greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change: it’s the economic costs of not having an effective emissions reduction policy. The EU will introduce a Border Carbon Adjustment Mechanism (i.e. tariffs) by 2026 and now the US is suggesting as much. Carbon-intensive Australian exports will likely be hard hit.
Alan Kohler has always been entertaining on ABC News reporting on economics. This week In-Daily published a remarkable article by him that pulled no punches on the need for climate action, arguing that climate change was far worse than Covid. And that three degrees warming would be “catastrophic”. If more economists were as outspoken, we might win the day.
Gas in NSW
The NSW Government released its Future of Gas statement, in which unused gas exploration licences are canceled out, while those in Narrabri and on the Liverpool Plains were re-approved. The document prompted an enraged response from activist groups like Lock the Gate. Meanwhile, Japan has announced it will cut gas-fired electricity generation nearly in half and reduce coal power by more than a third by 2030. This will no doubt affect Australian exports of both thermal coal and LNG.
Australia’s future as a green superpower
The good news is that a report released this week by Blue Economy shows that Australia has huge potential for off-shore wind energy, all within 100km of existing sub-stations. Moreover, a new report by Beyond Zero Emissions says that Renewable Energy Precincts in the Hunter Valley and Gladstone can pump $13b into those communities. “Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts are clusters of manufacturers powered by 100% renewable energy. They connect industrial centres with the abundant and cheap renewable energy provided by Australia’s Hydrogen Hubs and Renewable Energy Zones”, says the report.
- Jobs, justice, climate: union webinar. Thursday 29 July, 5:30-6:30pm AEST. Registerhere
- It’s time to talk clean air with Abigail Boyd. Wednesday 28 July 7 – 8.30pm AEST. Registerhere.
Macquarie Bank is a major shareholder and broker of Empire Energy, the fracking company that wants to drill across Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. Tell the bank to respect the rights of indigenous people opposing the fracking. Sign here.
- Having spent a decade framing emissions reduction in apocalyptic terms, the Coalition now has to present different facts. If Scott Morrison is inclined to execute the pivot he’s spent months telegraphing – towards net zero by 2050 – a report out this week contains some helpful fodder.
- For cities, climate adaptation has a new urgency. A new report argues that cities must assume a wartime footing to protect critical infrastructure and prepare for a more dangerous future.
- Germany can fulfil entire energy demand with renewables in 10-15 years – report. Germany’s entire energy demand can be met through renewables alone within ten to fifteen years, says German Institute for Economic Research.
- Australia lifted fossil fuel subsidies more than any G20 nation, says BNEF. Australia had biggest increase in fossil fuel support of any G20 nation over last five years, at nearly $300 per person in 2019.
- COVID-19 spending plans set to drive global emissions to record levels in 2023, projections show. The International Energy Agency says while countries have allocated more than $21 trillion in fiscal support throughout the pandemic, just $518 billion, or two per cent, has gone to clean energy projects.
- Getting electric cars on the road in Australia could be easier than you think. A key step is to get the price down by removing taxes.
- Solar cells: Layer of three crystals produces a thousand times more power. The photovoltaic effect of ferroelectric crystals can be increased by a factor of 1,000 if three different materials are arranged periodically in a lattice. This has been revealed in a study by researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). They achieved this by creating crystalline layers of barium titanate, strontium titanate and calcium titanate which they alternately placed on top of one another.
- Space tourism: rockets emit 100 times more CO₂per passenger than flights – imagine a whole industry. The commercial race to get tourists to space is heating up between Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. On Sunday 11 July, Branson ascended 80 km to reach the edge of space in his piloted Virgin Galactic VSS Unity spaceplane. Bezos’ autonomous Blue Origin rocket is due to launch on July 20, coinciding with the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
- Wind output nears record levels as two big wind farms join the grid. Australia’s main grid came close to a new record for wind energy output over the weekend, as two new wind projects began production for the first time.
- Coming soon: The carbon taxes that cannot be repealed. Carbon taxes are coming to Australia whether we like it or not.