A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action
By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.
We thought that with La Niña we would be spared excessive heat and bushfires this summer. Instead, record-breaking temperatures in much of eastern Australia was the name of the game at the end of spring and start of summer. Indeed, the Bureau of Meteorology has declared November to be Australia’s hottest on record.
A week of reports
Just before we glued ourselves to the TV this weekend to watch the great spawning on the Great Barrier Reef, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the official advisory body on nature to the UNESCO world heritage committee – issued its triennial report. It found that climate change threatens a third of the world’s natural heritage sites. Moreover, it downgraded the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef from “significant concern” to “critical” – the most urgent status under the IUCN system.
There was another worrying report from the UN this week, The Production Gap, which said that “to follow a 1.5°C-consistent pathway, the world will need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6% per year between 2020 and 2030. Countries are instead planning and projecting an average annual increase of 2%. By 2030 this course of action would result in more than double the production consistent with the 1.5°C limit”. This will lead to “climate disruption”, the report said.
In national rather than international reports, both the Climate Council and the Australian Farm Institute joined the chorus of voices saying that a gas-led recovery was not a good idea. The latter’s briefing paper stated that a natural-gas expansion would come at a cost to farmers by reducing agricultural jobs, while increasing land use conflicts. More details can be found in the reports section.
No coherent policy in sight
The Federal Government issued its emissions data for the March-June quarter. Quite surprisingly, it took full credit for emissions falling 7.4%, even though the Covid-pandemic should rightly take the credit, largely because of a dramatic decline in transport emissions. There’s still lack of a coherent government climate and energy policy. Christiana Figueres, once head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), called the government’s lack of action “suicidal”. The UK High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, Nigel Topping, said the Australian government’s resistance to adopting ambitious emissions reduction targets was an economic “folly”, causing the nation to fall behind in a rapidly unfolding new industrial revolution.
On Wednesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made good on her election campaign promise to declare a climate emergency.
The end of carry-over credits?
PM Morrison has done one good thing on climate this week though. He has dropped plans to use Kyoto carryover credits in order to meet our Paris targets. (Don’t clap too hard though, as this was an appalling idea in the first place.) It is also good news that he plans to attend the UN’s virtual climate ambition summit on 12 December.
Last week we reported on the State Bank of India wanting to loan Adani $1billion for its coal mine in Central Queensland. This week Amundi – Europe’s largest asset manager – has said it will divest tens of millions in green bonds from the State Bank of India, if the $1bn taxpayer loan to Adani goes ahead. Bravo Amundi!
- UN: The Production Gap. Read the executive summary here.
- IUCN. World Heritage Outlook 3. Download here.
- The Lancet: The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: 2020 report. Read it here.
- Climate Council: Passing gas: why renewables are the future. Read it here.
- Australian Farm Institute: Briefing Paper. Foot off the gas. How a gas-led recovery will impact Australian farmers. Download it here.
- WA Dept of Health: Climate Health WA Inquiry: Final Report. Download here.
- Medical Journal of Australia: The 2020 special report of the MJA–Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: lessons learnt from Australia’s “Black Summer”. Read here.
- Delivering on the Paris Climate Agreement: looking ahead to Glasgow, co-organised by the British High Commission in Australia, the Italian Embassy in Australia, and The Australian National University Climate Change Institute. The event recording can be found here.
- Green energy transition: Early and steady wins the race. Researchers from Aarhus University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have modelled the decarbonisation of the sector-coupled European energy system using uninterrupted high-res hourly data for every European and Scandinavian country and network interconnectivity. The research has now been published in Nature Communications and the results are clear: To reach climate-neutrality by 2050 we need solar energy. And lots of it.
- Britain unveils ‘ambitious’ new target of 68 per cent cut in emissions by 2030. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is taking the lead with a 2030 target that would have the country reducing emissions “faster than any major economy”.
- One of the world’s longest continuous electric car networks planned for WA. Western Australia plans to build one of the longest continuous electric vehicle networks in the world, enabling motorists to drive from Perth down to Esperance, across to Kalgoorlie or up to Kununurra.
- ‘We’re not nationalistic about it’: Sydney needs exotic trees, light colour buildings to cool down. Planning Minister Rob Stokes says homeowners should plant exotic trees as well as native species around their homes as the state government pushes to boost tree canopy cover and combat urban heat across Sydney.
- Climate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, over 120 researchers say. Climate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, and no country is immune, a major new report from more than 120 researchers has declared.
- World is ‘doubling down’ on fossil fuels despite climate crisis – UN report. Production must fall by 6% a year to avoid ‘severe climate disruption’ but Covid-19 funding is supporting increases.
- Greenland ice sheet faces irreversible melting. Most detailed ever study of Greenland ice sheet warns of irreversible ice loss.
- Watching the Arctic thaw in fast-forward. The frozen permafrost in the Arctic is thawing on an alarming scale. By analyzing an annual record of satellite images, researchers have now confirmed these findings: thermokarst lakes in Alaska are draining one by one because warmer and wetter conditions cause deeper thaw, effectively weakening frozen ground as a barrier around lakes. In the season 2017/2018, lake drainage was observed on a scale that scientists didn’t expect until the end of the century.
- Pollinator-friendly solar could be a win-win for climate and landowners, but greenwashing is a worry. Solar developers are planting native flowers and grasses near—or even in between—solar panels, addressing the twin problems of pollinator decline and climate change.
- Gift guide: 12 books on climate and environment for the holidays by Michael Svoboda, Ph.D. Twelve books address decades of writing on climate change, reassess the challenges, offer hope and guidance for action, and envision very different, climate-changed futures.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.