Climate Newsletter 30 Sep 2018

It was quite a demonstration down at Tathra today with several hundred people making the words KEEP TATHRA COOL, DECREASE CO2, CLIMATE ACTION NOW. Rural Fire Service trucks provided the downward arrow for ‘decrease’. It was great that they were there because of the recent bushfires, evidence of which was all around us. Former PM Malcolm Turnbull had denied there was any connection with climate change but local councillor Jo Dodds has been very vocal in claiming there was indeed a connection.

Climate Action Monaro is part of Repower Monaro which is encouraging every candidate in the state seat of Monaro to promote renewables and not fossil fuels in the lead up to the NSW state election on March 23 next year. As part of the action, we are holding a demonstration in Queanbeyan on Friday (5 October) starting 4.30pm which will start in Crawford Street outside sitting member John Barilaro’s office (not far in from the main street) then head to the Council offices. Join us if you can. Barilaro has been a promoter of coal and nuclear while in office but we are hoping to persuade him to take a different tack.

Seems but yesterday – in fact ten years – since Ross Garnaut issued his long-awaited Climate Change Review. Although it led to the short-lived carbon tax under the Gillard Government, nevertheless, the last decade has seen a climate and energy policy mess. If we had adopted all his recommendations back then, albeit not as radical as some us would like, we would be in a better place now.

In a case of cynical timing, the new federal Minister for Environment, Melissa Price, on Friday afternoon – a public holiday in Victoria and the day the interim report of the banking commission was issued – released a report that showed emissions climbed 1.3% in the year to March 2018. At this rate, we will not meet our Paris targets “at a canter” as the new Prime Minister insists, but “gallop past them” as Bill Hare of Climate Analytics rather wonderfully noted.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is meeting this coming week in Incheon, South Korea, to consider the Special Report Global Warming of 1.5ºC. Subject to approval, the Summary for Policymakers will be released on Monday 8 October. There have been reports that the Summary has been watered down to appease such governments as the US and Australia, though the text has not. Some climate activists here argue vehemently that even 1.5 degrees warming over industrial levels will be too much and see not only the end of the Great Barrier Reef, but inundation of Pacific atolls and the major food-producing deltas of the world.

Don’t despair! There is some good news, for instance, a solar-powered abattoir for Central Queensland; the development of a solar-flow battery; the commercialisation of (new, efficient) perovskite solar cells; a new stable catalyst for splitting water to produce hydrogen (which can then be used as a clean fuel); and the splendid Australia Institute launching an advertising campaign to debunk the assertion of the Business Council that a 45% target for emissions reduction would wreck the economy.

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

‘Policy muddle’, but Ross Garnaut holds high hopes 10 years after his Climate Change Review

The 2008 landmark report could not have predicted Australia’s climate policy mess, but some outcomes have turned out much better than forecast

Australia plays catch-up on climate policy

In their song Time, Pink Floyd sing: “Then one day you find that 10 years have got behind you / no one told you when to run / you missed the starting gun.” It might be said that the starting gun was fired by Ross Garnaut, who 10 years ago today delivered the Garnaut Climate Change Review for the Rudd government.

Solar-powered abattoir plan approved for central Queensland

The Queensland Government has given the nod to a plan to build an abattoir in Gladstone that will be powered by its own renewable energy facility.

2018 Arctic Summertime Sea Ice Minimum Extent Tied for Sixth Lowest on Record

Arctic sea ice likely reached its 2018 lowest extent on Sept. 19 and again on Sept. 23, 2018.

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions climb again amid climate policy vacuum

Climate Analytics says that on current trends, emissions will race way past the Paris agreement target

Device that integrates solar cell and battery could store electricity outside the grid

Scientists have harnessed the abilities of both a solar cell and a battery in one device — a ‘solar flow battery’ that soaks up sunlight and efficiently stores it as chemical energy for later on-demand use. Their research could make electricity more accessible in remote regions of the world.

New, highly stable catalyst may help turn water into fuel

Breaking the bonds between oxygen and hydrogen in water could be a key to the creation of hydrogen in a sustainable manner, but finding an economically viable technique for this has proved difficult. Researchers report a new hydrogen-generating catalyst that clears many of the obstacles — abundance, stability in acid conditions and efficiency.

Perovskite solar cells leap toward commercialization

OIST scientists’ research on perovskite solar cells indicates a promising future towards sustainability.

Business council faces negative ad blitz over criticism of 45% emissions target

Australia Institute will launch advertising campaign debunking assertion that 45% target would wreck economy

When we look at the crisis rationally, the only logical response is to declare a climate emergency

People engaged in the climate debate are often bewildered by society’s lack of response. How can we ignore such overwhelming evidence of an existential threat to social and economic stability?

Climate Newsletter 24 Sep 2018

Two recent reports conclude that Australia is failing to meet its Sustainable Development Goal 13: Urgent action on climate change. Now another report has  placed Australia 14th out of 27 wealthy countries on the Global Development Index; a low ranking largely because of our inaction on climate change.

And it is hardly likely to get better with the current federal Minister for Energy, Angus Taylor. Not only has he said that he will not replace the Renewable Energy Target in 2020, but has insisted that considering environmental factors in energy decisions is ‘corporate virtue signalling’. His attacks on wind and solar drew an enraged response from the admirable Giles Parkinson of ReNew Economy (see below).

About Angus Taylor:  His grandfather, William Hudson headed construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme from 1949 to 1967. Taylor’s family owns property near Nimmitabel (they declined wind turbines so Boco Rock went next door) and Taylor is now federal member for the seat of Hume which borders our local seat of Eden-Monaro. According to a ReachTel poll, 42.3 % of Hume voters want Australia to cut emissions more deeply.

Taylor needs to read a couple of things: 1) the report by S&P that says propping up the coal industry with government subsidies would be a ‘credit negative’ for the energy sector, and 2) the attached article (published in Global Research) by Andrew Glikson of ANU saying the world is living on borrowed time.

It is the attitude of countries like Australia and the US that is responsible for the watering down the summary of the much anticipated IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, due out next month, on 1.5oC warming. Nevertheless, the body of the report remains and paints a grim picture of, amongst other things, disruption to the Gulf Stream from cold waters flowing into the North Atlantic from melting ice and glaciers. Speaking of which, check out the last item below for amazing footage of a calving glacier in Greenland.

Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

Taylor launches extraordinary and ill-informed attack against wind and solar

Giles Parkinson

New energy minister Angus Taylor has launched a new and extraordinary attack against wind and solar, saying they cause “de-industrialisation” and claiming that Labor’s 45 % emissions reduction target would send a “wrecking ball” through the Australian economy.

Energy minister’s electorate backs higher emissions reduction target, poll shows

ReachTel poll of Angus Taylor’s voters finds 42.3% want Australia to cut emissions more deeply

Building new coal, and propping up old, not the answer: S&P

Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings  says government intervention to prop up existing coal power, and underwrite the development of new, would be “credit negative” for the energy sector.

Climate change is making storms like Hurricane Florence worse

Florence isn’t a preview of what is to come from climate change; it is an example of what climate change is doing to storms right now

Climate study ‘pulls punches’ to keep polluters on board

‘True risks’ of warming played down to placate fossil-fuel nations

Closing eyes to climate change won’t stop warming

Ebony Bennett

Not even bushfires in winter were enough to budge the Coalition into meaningful action.

Coalition exposes its ignorance in anti-renewable stance

Mark Butler

Angus Taylor is a disaster for Australian households and business struggling under sky-rocketing power prices because of the Liberals’ energy and climate policy paralysis.

Climate activists say women are key to solving the climate crisis

When will everyone else get the memo?

Revolving doors, golden escalators and the demise of climate and energy policy

Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy

The revolving door between politicians, advisors and lobbyists.

Harsh climate: The struggle to track global sea level rise

The best predictions for sea-level rise this century are getting more dire, and yet less precise, in part because of a lack of understanding of these glaciers and how their behaviour fits into global climate modelling.

Climate Newsletter 17 Sep 2018

Super-Typhoon Mangkhut is now causing havoc in Hong Kong after causing death and destruction in the Philippines. In North Carolina, hundreds are trapped by flooding caused by Hurricane Florence. While climate change is not wholly responsible for these mega-storms, at least one group of researchers has estimated that climate change is responsible for half of the rain falling in the Hurricane Florence’s wettest areas.  

The Coalition federal government has abandoned the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) though the ALP looks like they pick it up and run with it as industry is still demanding certainty. Meanwhile, emissions are rising in Australia and there is no long-term plan to curb them. Indeed, the federal government has been explicit in saying they will focus on power prices rather than on emission reduction. The latest report suggests we will miss meeting our Paris targets.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) produced a great TV ad last week using a drought-stricken farmer who said emphatically: “We need to stick to the Paris agreement, we need to stop burning coal and we need to commit to more renewable energy…”

ALP leader Bill Shorten on the Insiders’ program yesterday seemed to come out against the proposed Adani mega-mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland, in line with the Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler’s position but not with that of all his Cabinet. Meanwhile, Gautam Adani has reduced the size of the proposed mine and rail link to the coast, possibly because he sees short-term gain in coal but not long-term (see John Quiggin’s article below). Adani has been working on Wangan and Jagalingou Land without traditional owners consent, as well as drilling for water in the Great Artesian Basin, possibly beyond what was permitted under their permits.

Climate deniers are fond of blaming renewables for high prices of electricity but instead they should be blaming the big generation companies for their gaming of wholesale electricity prices. Last week the Australian Energy Regulator confirmed such gaming in South Australia in early July when the companies jacked up their prices at a time when the interconnector between SA and Victoria was restricted by maintenance work.

Our hero for the year has to be Bill Ryan, a 92-year-old war veteran, who chained himself to the railway in an attempt to stop coal trains from reaching Newcastle’s Kooragang Coal Port. On 8 September, a global day of action for climate change, 26 protesters scaled equipment, blocked railway tracks and obstructed machinery and were duly arrested. Bravo to all of them.

And bravo to the ACT government for becoming the first jurisdiction in Australia to join the UN’s Powering Past Coal Alliance aimed at rapidly phasing out the fossil fuel. The ACT has been exemplary in its emissions reduction policy in contrast to  federal policy which has now fully imploded.

Please, if you are close to Cooma on Saturday (22 Sept), come to our AGM preceded by a short talk by me on the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change. Afternoon tea will be served. Time: 2.30pm. Venue: Uniting Church hall, Soho Street, Cooma.

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

Scott Morrison needs a plan to cut emissions but all he has is a fairytale

Katharine Murphy

The deep feelings brigade is unlikely to permit any action on climate change, and that will cost the Coalition politically

Adani’s rail line cut shows project is on life support but still a threat to climate

John Quiggin

The catastrophic prospect of 300m tonnes of carbon a year appears to have been averted, but even 25m poses a danger to the climate

UN Secretary General: “We face a direct existential threat” on climate for “the emergency we face”

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment. We face a direct existential threat…

“If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.

Sun shines on Labor’s solar scheme as Liberal energy war flares up

Victoria’s solar and wind rush has begun. On Friday, the Andrews government fired the starter’s gun on what it says will be an energy revolution for Victoria.

The case for renewables has never been stronger, says Deloitte study

Deloitte report says the case for renewables has never been stronger, and smashes a few myths along the way.

ACT becomes first in Australia to join UN’s Powering Past Coal Alliance

The ACT government has become the first jurisdiction in Australia to join the UN’s Powering Past Coal Alliance aimed at rapidly phasing out the fossil fuel.

Global fossil fuel demand to peak in 2023, as wind and solar surge

Carbon Tracker predicts rapid growth of wind and solar will cause fossil fuel demand to peak in 2023 and then plummet, risking trillions for unwary and ignorant investors.

Transport emissions continue to rise as Australia lags behind other nations

Exclusive: inaction on pollution standards leads to 63% rise in transport-related carbon emissions since 1990, report finds

At its current rate, Australia is on track for 50% renewable electricity in 2025

Ken Baldwin, Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks

Australia could be getting half of its electricity from renewable energy by 2025, even without government subsidies for new wind and solar projects, according to a new analysis of energy industry trends.

Frydenberg: government will focus on power prices over emissions reduction

The new Morrison government will concentrate on lowering power prices ahead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Climate Newsletter 9 Sep 2018

So the NEG is dead, according to the new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. We might have assumed as much a couple of weeks ago when the former PM took emissions reduction out of it, leaving only the other two planks of reliability and lower prices.

So how to meet our Paris targets? According to the report below, the Energy Security Board (ESB) said if the national energy guarantee (NEG) wasn’t implemented, the national electricity market would “fall short of the emissions reduction target of 26 per cent below 2005 levels”. The PM, meanwhile, believes we can meet the targets ‘at a canter’. But Anna Skarbek of Climateworks (see below) argues we need do need new policies if we are to meet the targets.

The new Energy Minister Angus Taylor (without the accompanying portfolio of Environment) sees no need to worry about emissions reduction. The Monaro Post published my letter (see end of this bulletin) expressing CAM’s frustration – and this led to an interview on ABC’s SE regional radio.

Minister Taylor and the government are anxious to prolong the life of coal in the Australian economy.  However, an important new report coming out of ANU,  Coal Transitions report, looked at pathways for coal in light of Paris targets and found: (1) coal use could start to shrink by the early 2020s (‘peak coal’), and (2) major markets for Australian coal such as China and India were already seeking to curb its use.

In another report, the New Climate Economy report, Lord Nicholas Stern found ambitious climate action could generate 65 million new jobs as nations moved to cut emissions. Lord Stern said that the case for change was “overwhelming” and called for G20 nations including Australia to adopt a carbon price of between $US40-80 a tonne by 2020. He warned that, if they don’t, it will be impossible to keep warming to less than three degrees.

Australia is not winning any popularity contests in the South Pacific. It finally signed a declaration citing climate change as “the single greatest threat” to Pacific people, but the climate change representative for the Pacific nation of Palau, Xavier Matsutaro, says Australia’s relationship with the Pacific is “dysfunctional”. Through its aid program Australia helps Pacific nations, he says, but at the same time it undermines global action on climate change which will wipe out many of them.

Yesterday, the Liberals copped a 29 per cent swing against them in the Wagga by-election and it looks like Independent Dr Joe McGirr will win the seat. In the campaign, he made strong statements about the impact of climate change on health so Bravo! McGirr.

Coming events:

10 September at 9am. Rally on lawns outside Parliament House, Canberra. “Let’s break the drought on climate action!”

11 September at 6pm in China in the World auditorium. ANU. In a free ANU/Canberra Times Meet the Author event, award-winning author, Quentin Beresford will be in conversation with Jack Waterford on Quentin’s new book, Adani and the War Over Coal, which examines the pivotal role of the Adani Carmichael mine and the conflict over coal and the environment in Australia. Bookings at or 6125 4144.

12 September, 12 for 12:30, Lecture by Dr John Hewson, “Climate Change: Too Important to Leave to Politicians?” Joint meeting with Canberra Georgians and Julian Cribb. Molony Room, ANU Emeritus Faculty, 24 Balmain Crescent, Acton ACT.

22 September, 2.30pm. Uniting Church Hall, Soho Street, Cooma. Postponed AGM of Climate Action Monaro following a talk by me on the SDGs and climate change.

NSW Government to lose Wagga Wagga in massive backlash

The NSW Liberal Party is set to spectacularly lose the seat of Wagga Wagga, with a massive backlash ushering in an independent Joe McGirr.

Scott Morrison says national energy guarantee ‘is dead’

Prime minister says NEG will not be going any further but Australia still committed to meeting emissions targets

Why baseload coal has no future in a modern grid

Marija Petkovic

The debate about the need for baseload coal-fired power stations has reignited with the Coalition saying it would welcome a new coal-fired power station.

Coal does not have an economic future in Australia

Frank Jotzo and Salim Mazouz

An international report has found there’s no future for Australia’s coal exports.

‘Overwhelming’ economics favour accelerating shift from coal, reports say

Massive opportunities will come with the transition to low-carbon economies but the costs will also be huge if we don’t, two new reports find.

Australia signs Pacific climate ‘threat’ declaration, islands call on US to back Paris deal

Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations sign a security declaration citing climate change as “the single greatest threat” to Pacific people, as island nations call on the United States to return to the Paris agreement.

Minister tight-lipped on claims Australia watered down climate change declaration

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne is tight-lipped on claims Australia watered down language on climate change in an official Pacific Islands Forum document.

Australia is not on track to reach 2030 Paris target (but the potential is there)

Anna Skarbek

Australia is falling behind on its Paris targets, but we have many options for improvement.

Taylor says there is too much wind and solar in electricity grid

Giles Parkinson

Crikey. If you thought that the political rhetoric around energy policy could not possibly get any lower, think again. It’s now about the Australian identity, it seems. Jingoism is now a power source, and if you want to have “fair dinkum” power, it’s got to be coal.

At ‘5 minutes to midnight’, rights group calls time on climate change

As disasters strengthen, it’s time to recognize climate change is now a major human rights risk, says Amnesty International’s new chief.

Letter published in Monaro Post on 5 September.

Climate Action Group sceptical of new minister

Climate Action Monaro is concerned that the new Minister for Energy, Angus Taylor, thinks electricity prices can be brought down by greater use of coal and gas, rather than renewables. Perhaps he failed to read a new analysis from last week that found with the huge quantities of wind and solar being brought on stream over the next two years, wholesale prices will be cut by around half. This corroborates earlier research from the Climate Change Authority, Finkel Review and the Energy Security Board that all found new renewables will bring down prices.

Minister Taylor says he is not a climate sceptic yet anyone who understands the gravity of climate change should be urging radical action to mitigate it. The most effective means of mitigation is shifting the economy from fossil fuels to renewables. The easiest sector to do that in is electricity, compared to agriculture, manufacturing and transport. The ACT government has shown how relatively easy it is to source nearly all electricity from renewables, including wind energy, which Minister Taylor has taken against with a particular vengeance in the past.

The new Environment Minister, Melissa Price, will be the one expected to bring down greenhouse emissions and comply with our obligations under the Paris Agreement. Yet without the energy levers, now in the hands of Minister Taylor, she will find that difficult. Planting forests and promoting sustainable agriculture are worthy but not enough to meet our expressed target of 26 per cent or more reduction by 2030.

At a public meeting in Cooma on 25 August, Professor Janette Lindesay said there is unlikely to be any relief from this severe drought in the near future thanks to a combination of El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole. Under a high-emissions scenario – the path we are on at present – we can expect five degrees warming, accompanied by extreme heat, drought and occasional violent rainfall. Five degrees will mean goodbye to snow and most local agriculture.

As Minister Taylor comes from a local farming family, perhaps he should take note.

Jenny Goldie
President, Climate Action Monaro

Climate Newsletter 1 Sep 2018

After the tumultuous events of last week resulting in a new Prime Minister, things went from bad to worse, at least as far as energy and climate policy was concerned. Josh Frydenberg, in the previous Cabinet, held the twin portfolios of energy and environment. Thus the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), with its two major objectives of reliability and lower prices, also had the critical environmental plank of emissions reduction. Former PM Turnbull took emissions reduction out of the NEG and that was the death of NEG and, somewhat ironically, his Prime Ministership.

Turnbull does have one good thing going for him and that is his son Alex Turnbull. Alex said, following his father’s political demise, that coal miner’s were exerting too much influence on the Liberal Party and that it made no economic sense to build new coal-fired power stations.

New Prime Minister Scott Morrison – disastrously – has split energy and environment and appointing well-known anti-wind campaigner from the Monaro, Angus Taylor, as Minister for Energy, and former coal company lawyer Melissa Price as Minister for Environment. Taylor has said he will not include emissions reduction in any energy policy. This makes it very hard to meet our commitments under the Paris Agreement though, fortunately, PM Morrison says he will not take Australia out of it.

Minister Price now has the onerous task of honouring the Paris commitments but, without energy/electricity policy as a lever, has little hope of achieving anything given the difficulties of lowering emissions in the other sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and transport.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Samoa,  Tuilaepa Sailele, has berated a number of international leaders, including ours in Australia, for not doing enough on climate change and declared that climate deniers should go to a mental hospital(!)

Also on the international front, a Canadian court has quashed the sale of the planned Trans-Mountain pipe-line that would have taken oil from the Alberta tar sands to Vancouver after pressure from the indigenous people along the route. A highly significant victory for the First Peoples and defeat for PM Justin Trudeau.

Climate change is World War III, and we are leaderless

David Shearman

The Western world is bereft of leaders and now the US and Australia have deserted the trenches by trading ideology for human lives and health

On first day as PM, Morrison learns difference between Big Battery and Big Banana

Scott Morrison gets lesson when major transmission fault causes outages in NSW. Tesla big battery helped keep lights on in SA, Big Banana didn’t lift a finger for NSW.

New wind and solar now competes with existing coal and gas

Dave Jones

Rising carbon, coal and gas prices mean new onshore wind and solar can compete with the short-term costs of existing coal and gas plants.

The death of Trans Mountain pipeline signals future of Indigenous rights: Chiefs

As a federal court quashes the controversial project, lawyers and Indigenous leaders agree it’s more clear than ever that Canada must modernize its view of Aboriginal rights.

Taylor confirms no interest in emissions, but says he’s no climate sceptic

New energy minister Angus Taylor has confirmed what was largely expected: that he has no interest in emission reductions under the remit handed him by prime minister Scott Morrison, and that his primary focus will be on reducing prices for consumers.

World leaders who deny climate change should go to mental hospital – Samoan PM

Tuilaepa Sailele berates leaders who fail to take issue seriously, singling out Australia, India, China and the US

Tropical forests are flipping from storing carbon to releasing it

Illegal logging and land seizures are driving this ominous yet overlooked scientific trend.

Turnbull’s hedge fund-manager son says miners exerting ‘undue influence’ over Liberal Party

Speaking out after his father lost the Liberal leadership, Alex Turnbull described Australia’s energy policy as 10 years of “panic and mania”, and said it made no economic sense to build new coal-fired power plants.

India’s devastating rains match climate change forecasts

Once-a-century rains that have pounded the Indian state of Kerala and displaced 1.3 million people are in line with the predictions of climate change.

Rain brings relief in NSW and Queensland, but drought far from over

Parts of drought-ravaged eastern Australia receive more rain in two days than in previous months combined

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro