The climate this week – 7 Jun 2021

The climate this week – 7 Jun 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 theme for this year’s World Environment Day was “restoring ecosystems”. Photo credit: Marco Verch (cc).

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.

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

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