The climate this week – 4 May 2021

The climate this week – 4 May 2021

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: The Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews. Victoria has just released very ambitious targets for carbon-dioxide emissions reduction over the next decade. Source: Asia Society (cc).

Victoria leads

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.

Other resources

The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.

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