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 latest proposals by Energy Minister Angus Taylor regarding electric vehicles were considered by many a missed opportunity.
It was a terrible week for people around Perth, where bushfires raged. By Friday, when rains finally came, 86 homes had been lost. It brought back memories of the east coast bushfires a year ago.
Sitting on the report
It’s now over 100 days since the Bushfire Royal Commission handed down its report, but the Federal Government is yet to officially accept any of its recommendations. Neither Bushfires Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) nor Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA) are impressed by the delay. Peter Dunn of ELCA has called for teams of full-time local responders, combined with a domestic fleet of specialist fire-fighting aircraft, so that fires can be put out as soon as possible.
While the new US President Joe Biden goes from strength to strength in the climate fight, Australia’s PM Scott Morrison is busily seeking the “middle ground” which, in climate action terms, is simply not good enough. At the National Press Club on Wednesday, he did say that the government’s goal was to reach zero net emissions, but the target date was merely “preferably by 2050”. On the other hand, many scientists are now saying that “by 2050” might not be enough to spare us from the most devastating consequences of further warming. Moreover, his slogan of achieving net-zero via “technology not taxes” seems a recipe for underachieving.
Before that, there were hearings for Zali Steggall’s Climate Change Bills in Parliament House with an impressive round of speakers. (These Bills provide the pathway to zero net emissions by 2050 and are modelled on the UK legislation.) There is still conjecture as to whether either major party will vote in favour of them, or whether a conscience vote will be allowed. It’s rare to get a private member’s bill passed. However, this one had a record 6,500 submissions when it was sent to committee, more than any other bill has ever received.
We await with interest to see whether Labor’s new federal Shadow Minister on Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, will be able to persuade Labor’s right wing (including Joel Fitzgibbon) that there are more jobs in renewable energy than in fossil fuels. At least Labor remains opposed to allowing investment in gas power plants and grid infrastructure as part of the proposed $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund.
The rise of batteries
Speaking of gas, the Federal Government wants to build a new gas-fired power plant at Tomago in the Newcastle region. How it will stack up against the largest proposed grid-scale battery in the world – to be built nearby at Kurri Kurri – remains to be seen. In fact, the renewable-energy fund CEP Energy has announced a 1,200-megawatt battery project. This will be eight times bigger than Tesla’s Hornsdale battery in South Australia. If approved, the battery might be in function by 2023.
Not enough help for EVs
The Federal Government’s new initiatives on electric vehicles (EVs) drew a lukewarm response. The good news was that they will help Australian businesses buy electric vehicles en masse. The bad news is that they will not subsidise EVs for ordinary mortals like you and me. And in a timely release, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has brought out a discussion paper called Future Fuels Strategy. This paper discussed how new vehicle technologies and fuels will drive the future of road transport in Australia.
The fast-approaching end of coal
When Monaro MP and NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro supported Energy Minister Matt Kean’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap back in November, we thought he might have had a road-to-Damascus moment about climate change. But no. On Friday, he attacked the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC), which had just rejected the expansion of a major coal-mine (Dendrobium) under two of Sydney’s water catchment dams, Avon and Cordeaux, located near Wollongong. The IPC said that the project risked irreversible damage to Sydney’s drinking water. Barilaro claimed that the decision would “single-handedly destroy thousands of jobs, kill investment, and destroy any hope of a manufacturing revival.”
Coal mines are increasingly on the nose. Not just Dendrobium, but also New Acland mine in Queensland’s Darling Downs got knocked back this week. The community-based Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) won its appeal to the High Court of Australia against the New Hope Group’s proposed expansion of the New Acland coal mine.
Despite the Federal Government, the Clean Energy Regulator tells us Australians are now the world’s biggest rooftop solar adopters, and that 2 million households adopted rooftop solar last year. Installation of solar panels in January this year were up 23% on January last year. And as renewables surge, fossil fuel companies are suffering, with AGL and Origin Energy losing millions in market value.
Don’t forget the ANU Climate Institute’s 2021 Climate Update on Tuesday from 6 to 7.30pm. You can either attend in person or watch via Zoom. You have to register though and can do so here.
The Climate Institute is also hosting Climate Essentials: Climate change mitigation via removal of atmospheric greenhouse gases on Tues 16 – Thurs 18 March 9am – 12:30pm. Find out more and register here.
For those of you who have friends or relatives who complain about the cost of climate action, you may want to refer them to the Climate Council’s latest report on how climate change is driving more destructive heatwaves, downpours, cyclones, droughts, fires and other extreme weather events. Hitting home: the compounding costs of climate inaction.
- Australia’s climate policies rated worst of major developed economies. Australia gets poor rating on climate policies from BNEF scoreboard, and even worse rating on clean transport.
- Morrison is offering more of the same: indefinite climate delay as time runs out. Morrison is gearing up to evolve his climate rhetoric, but leave his policy unchanged. That’s a very big problem.
- Court faults France over ‘ecological damage’ from its emissions levels. A Paris court said the French state had failed to meet its commitments on greenhouse gas emissions. The lawsuit is among a growing number of such legal actions internationally.
- NSW Liberal Minister lashes PM’s ‘ridiculous’ emissions stance. NSW Environment minister Matt Kean criticises Scott Morrison’s refusal to commit Australia to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, saying his Liberal colleague’s stance is “ridiculous”.
- Can Australia’s Labor party match Joe Biden’s winning message on climate action? Biden dissolved the decades-old wedge between jobs and the environment. It’s an electoral field that is Labor’s to claim
- It’s not impossible for Morrison to land a grand emissions bargain. It’s just very hard. So far the PM’s new rhetoric on net zero doesn’t match the substance and the only way that will change is if he can corral the Nationals
- How to cut emissions from transport: ban fossil fuel cars, electrify transport and get people walking and cycling. The Climate Change Commission’s draft advice on how to decarbonise New Zealand’s economy is refreshing, particularly as it calls on the government to start phasing out fossil fuels instead of relying on offsets and carbon trading.
- Davos: Green transition is ′$50-trillion investment opportunity′. Financing the global shift away from fossil fuels could earn investors trillions, according to discussions at the World Economic Forum. But there’s not enough data to get the money where it’s needed.
- How Biden’s new Civilian Climate Corps might work. Biden wants to pay people to help fight climate change by putting them to work on conservation projects.
- GM becomes first major U.S. automaker to pledge all electric cars and SUVs by 2035. General Motors said Thursday that it will end the sale of all gasoline and diesel powered passenger cars and light sports utility vehicles by 2035, marking an historic turning point for the iconic American automobile company and promising a future full of new electric vehicles for American motorists.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.