A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action
By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.
UN’s call for action
June 5th was World Environment Day. The United Nations warned that the world is reaching the point of no return on climate change, stressing that the next decade is humankind’s final chance to avert a climate catastrophe. The theme for this year was “restoring ecosystems”. They have called on governments to restore at least one billion degraded hectares of land in the next decade – an area about the size of China – to mark the start of the “decade of ecosystem restoration”.
Dropping, but too slowly
According to government data released this week, Australia’s carbon emissions have fallen by more than 20% since 2005, driven by increased uptake of solar and wind power and fewer fugitive emissions from Western Australia’s vast Gorgon gas export facility. Emissions dropped by 5% to 499 million tonnes in 2020 alone. The federal government tried to take credit for this. However, the Climate Council pointed out that it was the states who had done all the running on emission reduction, as well as Covid-related travel restrictions reducing emissions from transport. Moreover, emissions are expected to jump back as the economy will fully reopen with the end of the pandemic.
Australia increasingly isolated
Late last week, the G7 – the seven nations in the developed world with the biggest economies (US, UK, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy) – called for a stop to international investment in unabated coal in order to keep the global climate from warming more than 1.5 degrees C. Former PM Malcolm Turnbull said that Australia was now even more “out of step” with its allies on climate action. The response of Prime Minister Morrison is simply to argue against carbon border tariffs, rather than commit to zero net emissions by 2050 or something useful.
Aussie coal burning overseas
You will recall the Fukushima nuclear disaster of ten years ago. Japan not surprisingly wanted to partly divest itself of nuclear energy. Not having many energy sources of its own, Japan increased imports of Australian coal to fill the void left by the closure of the damaged Fukushima plant. A new report on the coal exported by Australia to Japan has found that it is responsible for around 490 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This is almost equivalent to Australia’s own domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The report calls for Australian coal exports and Japanese coal consumption to be phased out by 2030, for the sake of climate and general damage to the environment, including the Great Barrier Reef.
Gas is the new coal
We thought that the proposed Adani coal mine was bad enough, but there’s worse on the horizon. A proposed gas export development in northern Western Australia could result across its lifetime in the equivalent to 15 coal-fired power stations. The Scarborough to Pluto liquified natural gas (LNG) development may soon be approved without a full environmental impact assessment from state or federal authorities. The project includes the development of a new gas field more than 400km off the coast, piping infrastructure and an expanded processing facility in the Pilbara.
Do not miss this graphic from NASA, which you should show to any climate denier who doesn’t believe the world is warming.
You oppose the $600 million Kurri Kurri gas plant? Then sign here.
- Don’t forget the need for zero-emission buses in the push for electric cars. As part of efforts to decarbonise urban transport, Australian states and the ACT have announced various zero-emission bus trials and targets for replacing diesel buses. These trials are designed to help resolve some of the complex technical and contractual issues facing bus operators and public transport agencies.
- As electric vehicles take off, we’ll need to recycle their batteries. Electric car batteries contain critical minerals like cobalt and lithium. We’ll need to recycle them unless we want to keep mining the earth for new ones.
- The biodegradable battery. The number of data-transmitting microdevices, for instance in packaging and transport logistics, will increase sharply in the coming years. All these devices need energy, but the amount of batteries would have a major impact on the environment. Empa researchers have developed a biodegradable mini-capacitor that can solve the problem. It consists of carbon, cellulose, glycerin and table salt. And it works reliably.
- Electrochemical cell harvests lithium from seawater. The system offers an economical way to source essential battery material.
- Mathias Cormann calls for ‘ambitious’ plan to reach net-zero emissions. Mathias Cormann, in his first speech as head of the OECD, has called for action on climate change including more sustainable growth out of the pandemic.
- 1000 per cent renewables for Australia? ARENA boss says that is the goal. ARENA CEO suggests Australia’s electricity production could grow ten fold, and all from renewables, while becoming a global clean energy supplier.
- Petrifying climate change. Researchers want to combat climate change by chemically converting carbon dioxide into rock on a grand scale.
- Greens are right: Exploded Callide turbine should be replaced by a big battery. The Queensland Greens say the destroyed Callide coal unit should be replaced by a big battery, not a new turbine. Why do the big parties not understand that?
- Climate tipping points could topple like dominoes, warn scientists. Analysis shows significant risk of cascading events even at 2C of heating, with severe long-term effects.
- New David Attenborough film looks at Australia’s bushfires and the climate crisis – video trailer. Breaking Boundaries: the Science of our Planetis a new Netflix documentary from Sir David Attenborough that visits scientists working on melting ice, the degradation of the Amazon, and the loss of biodiversity, and looks at the 2019-2020 ‘summer from hell’ black summer bushfires that destroyed large swathes of Kangaroo Island
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.