A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action
By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.
The good news for the week is that the Andrews’ government has just announced Victoria’s climate strategy. This includes:
- a 2025 emissions reduction target of 28-33% over 2005 levels;
- a 2030 emissions reduction target of 45-50% over 2005 levels.
This ambition should be applauded. After all, US President Joe Biden was lauded for proposing a 50% reduction by 2030 for the US. Let’s not forget that Australia’s target is still a wholly inadequate 26-28% reduction by 2030 (over 2005 levels).
Electric vehicles in NSW
The NSW government is flagging it might introduce an electric vehicle tax (to help pay for roads) but wants the industry to get established first. In a remarkable move, we may soon have electric trucks plying the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane. The project aims at using exchangeable batteries that can be swapped in only 3 minutes, removing the need for trucks to plug in and charge for up to 12 hours.
The undeniable rise of renewables
The Prime Minister Scott Morrison, perhaps chastened by his poor performance at the Leaders’ Climate Summit the week before, finally visited a solar farm. It was a massive one in the Pilbara, yet to start firing electrons. After completion it will power Andrew Forrest’s iron ore mines. Morrison failed to get his mouth around the word “solar”, but Mr Forrest certainly did, stressing the potential for solar in the region.
Just as you think that we’re making progress and that reason is prevailing, Richard Van Breda – the CEO of Queensland’s state-owned and biggest energy provider Stanwell – resigned without explanation after ten years in the job. This happened only two days after he told a future energy summit in Gladstone that Stanwell was planning to “retire” the state’s major coal-fired power generators. He had also mentioned a couple of days before that Stanwell “plans to shift towards renewable energy and storage in the coming years’’. This might have been altogether too much for local miners and the state’s energy minister.
Natural gas is the new coal
Meanwhile, wholesale coal prices have dropped dramatically, driven by cheap renewables. Not surprisingly, most analysts see little future in coal. The Prime Minister may have been astute enough to understand that, but he clearly still thinks gas is OK. He is pressing ahead with a plan to build a baseload (we might have understood a peaking one) gas-fired power plant in the Hunter region, arguing that there will be a shortfall in electricity when Liddell closes in 2023. The splendid Kerry Schott – head of the Energy Security Board – says that a taxpayer-funded gas-fired power plant in the Hunter Valley “makes little commercial sense, given the abundance of cheaper alternatives flooding the market”.
If you’re not quite convinced, tune into the webinar Big New Gas, Big Mistake on Tuesday May 18 from 7 – 8.30pm. RSVP: here
There was about a nanosecond between feeling exultation that pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-fossil fuels Resources Minister Matt Canavan had left the front bench, and despair about Keith Pitt succeeding him. Pitt is now trying to change the laws covering the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to make it easier to open up the Beetaloo Basin in the NT for gas fracking. Oppose it if you get the opportunity.
In case you missed the recent webinar Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate: What next for Australia & our region?, the event recording is now available, and can be found here.
- Dare we hope? Here’s my cautious case for climate optimism. The Green New Deal, formerly seen as radical, is now in mainstream debate. And renewable energy becomes more efficient every day.
- Antarctic ‘doomsday glacier’ may be melting faster than was thought. Study finds more relatively warm water is reaching Thwaites glacier than was previously understood.
- EU Green Deal could phase out European coal by 2030. Potsdam Institute says new EU climate targets will result in elimination of coal generation from Europe, and a sharp decline in gas power.
- ‘Historic’ German ruling says climate goals not tough enough. Germany’s supreme constitutional court has ruled that the government’s climate protection measures are insufficient to protect future generations, after a complaint brought by environmentalist groups.
- Fastest change in the world: coal’s demise sparks call for energy market reforms. The future of coal power is being buried under the rise of cheaper renewables and the Commonwealth’s energy adviser says urgent reform is needed for the transition.
- Halting the vast release of methane is critical for climate, U.N. says. A landmark United Nations report is expected to declare that reducing emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas, will need to play a far more vital role in warding off the worst effects of climate change.
- “Battery of the world”: Australia’s key role in fast transition to wind and solar. Australia well placed to become “battery of the world” if wind and solar can pass political barriers, as well as technical and economic hurdles already jumped.
- More reasons for optimism on climate change than we’ve seen for decades: 2 climate experts explain. It’s unusual for researchers who study our catastrophically changing climate to use the words “optimism” and “climate change” in the same sentence.
- Calls to phase out fossil fuel subsidies ‘that exceed Australian Army funds’. A new report by progressive think tank The Australia Institute sheds light on how much money Australia pays to subsidise the fossil fuel industry, but exactly what constitutes a “subsidy” remains at the centre of the debate.
- Speed at which world’s glaciers are melting has doubled in 20 years. Glacier melt contributing more to sea-level rise than loss of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, say experts.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.