There were two major events this week: The release of Labor’s climate policy on Monday, and the following day, the federal Budget.
On the positive side, Labor, as well as promising to restore the Climate Change Authority which gives independent advice on climate change to government; says it will not carry over Kyoto credits to count towards the Paris target (doing so would essentially halve our reduction commitments); will ensure half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 are electric (which the Coalition attacked but the NRMA said didn’t go far enough); and new government vehicles will be 50 per cent electric by 2025. Labor will cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45% on 2005 levels by 2030 (compared to the government’s 26%), and ensure 50% of the nation’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2030. It has a long term target of net zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050.
Unfortunately, if emission reduction targets are to be in line with the science, they should be at least 65%, not 45% (reduction on 2005 levels by 2030). While the focus on electric vehicles (EVs) is good, Labor needs to ensure that the energy to power them comes from renewables, not coal. It also needs to focus more on public transport, not just private. It is still clearly undecided on coal, particularly on the Adani Carmichael mine, and failed to criticise the Government’s potential future investment in fossil fuel power generation. And while the emphasis on mitigation is good, it is silent on the need for adaptation to climate change.
On balance, however, Labor is way ahead of the Coalition on climate policy. The Greens are possibly ahead of both, though it is to be hoped that, should Labor win office, they support Labor’s climate initiatives and don’t let the Perfect-be-the-Enemy-of-the-Good.
As for the Budget, for those hoping for funds for appropriate climate action, they were bitterly disappointed. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) noted that for every dollar spent on climate action, $4 would be spent on subsidising the use of fossil fuels. When Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $2 billion injection for the Climate Solutions Fund he described it as a 10-year plan, but budget papers showed it is actually a 15-year plan with only $189 million of the $2 billion allocated for the next four years. After the first four years, a mere $160 million will be available each year instead of $300 million,
In what has become a worrying trend, March in Australia was the warmest month (of March) on record. It would have been the driest as well, had we not had welcome rain at the end of the month.
The sad news for the week came from Joseph Scales of Solar Citizens, saying, “Solar Reserve, the company building the solar thermal plant in Pt Augusta, has not been able to secure necessary finance and won’t proceed with the project.” The many mirrors of a Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) plant concentrate the sun’s rays onto a heliostat which heats salt. The molten salt gradually releases the heat overnight, producing electricity, so is an effective form of storage. Pt Augusta lost its coal mine a couple of years ago and the CST plant was to be a crucial part of a ‘just transition’ for the town’s workers. It would also have supplied 5 per cent of South Australia’s electricity. Let’s hope other finance can be found.
As we approach the federal election in May, Greenpeace asks that you sign up to join the movement to make coal history.
There is another Climate Change Institute forum in Canberra from 9 am to 4.30 pm on Tuesday, April 30, this one called “Climate Change Adaptation in Asia and the Pacific: Is Gender relevant? You can register here.
If you happen to be in Sydney on Monday 15 April and have a spare $180 for lunch with John Hewson, Kerryn Phelps, Mark Butler and Arthur Sinodinos talking on whether Australia is ready for an election on climate action, you might want to attend. The lunch is organised by BioEnergy Australia. Mark Butler will be releasing Labor’s Bioenergy Strategy Commitment.
Before this, also in Sydney, on Tuesday 9 April, Zali Steggall is hosting a Clean Energy Forum with a host of notable speakers, (but not Tony Abbott, against whom she is running in the May federal election).
Finally, I commend the article by former coal executive Ian Dunlop to you. He argues that delaying on climate action threatens our very survival.
Newsletter by Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro
Governments should be ensuring the people get the best from technological change, not resisting it.
In his first message to staff in his new ministry, Matt Kean said he was “determined to take decisive and responsible action on climate change”.
Scientists have found that ice cliffs on Greenland’s Helheim Glacier are slumping — a sensation that typically happens on land. This may trigger rapid sea-level rise, the study says.
Bank Australia becomes second Australian company to sign up for 100 per cent renewable energy initiative, and calls on other business to lead transition.
The quickest way to decrease greenhouse gases from transportation is to travel by train and move goods by rail instead of on the road or by air.
Environment spending has been labelled pointless by conservation groups in this year’s federal budget, with calculations showing for every dollar spent on the environment, $4 will be spent on subsidising pollution.
Using data from about a hundred sites worldwide, an international research team has demonstrated that forest cover acts as a global thermal insulator, by cooling the understory when the air temperature is high. This buffer effect is well known, but this study is the first that has evaluated this worldwide in temperate, boreal and tropical forests.
Labor is promising to build a network of electric car charging stations around the country if it wins the next election.
Other countries have announced plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars and the NRMA says it is now time for Australia to catch up.
A Shorten government would add about 100 high polluters to those subject to an emissions cap, and drastically slash the present cap’s level, under the opposition’s climate policy released on Monday.
The temperature graph at the top of this page
The graph shows the soaring “average global air temperatures” from 1880 onwards. See more