Climate champ Leonardo DiCaprio mired in Malaysian 1MDB scandal

Leonardo DiCaprio receives his Best Actor Oscar Award 2016 for his lead role in the Revenant.

Leonardo DiCaprio receives his Best Actor Oscar Award 2016 for his lead role in the Revenant.

Lately, his foundation made headlines announcing US$15.6 million in grants that have been awarded for various causes including wildlife and habitat conservation, indigenous rights, climate change and solving complex environmental issues.

Grant receivers and partners are happy… but not everyone.

The Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) suspects the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has received bribe money from Malaysians who are connected to the high-profile 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal, namely Riza Aziz, Low Taek Jho (“Jho Low”), Tan Kim Loong and Riza Aziz’s film production company, Red Granite Pictures.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the role in the Revenant.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the role in the Revenant.

The BMF has already written Swiss bank Julius Baer, the main bank linked to DiCaprio’s foundation and asked to provide information on their due diligence when it comes to the acceptance of donations from Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) from Malaysia.

The bank responded it expects the LDF to conduct due diligence and prevent damage to its charitable goals.  The bank subtly distanced itself from donations the foundation had received from individuals connected to the 1MDB corruption scandal. DiCaprio, however, is yet to answer questions.

Citing legal reasons, Julius Baer’s Co-Head of Marketing, Marco Perroni, said he couldn’t disclose if the bank managed accounts on behalf of the LDF. However, he stated that all transactions handled by the bank were carefully examined and that it also expected its partners to accept and handle donations with due care.

The Julius Baer Group supports charitable goals via the Julius Baer Foundation and via partner organizations.

“In case of problems, we discuss appropriate measures with our partners in order not to affect or damage the charitable goals and the beneficiaries. Naturally, we also expect from our partners to conduct due diligence and take measures. […]”

We can assure you that transactions and financial flows handled by our bank are generally subject to scrutiny with respect to their origin and use and that, in case of suspicion, reports would be made to the authorities in charge.

Last month, the BMF wrote to DiCaprio, calling for transparency on his financial ties with Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Jho Low, a key person behind the US$3.5 billion 1MDB scandal.

najib razak waving

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. Pic: AP.

The BMF said it recognizes the LDF’s important role in supporting rainforest protection and indigenous rights.

However, the organization also said DiCaprio and his foundation should never have accepted funds that proceed from corruption in Malaysia.

“Our long-term experience in Malaysian Borneo, as outlined in the book Money Logging, has shown that corruption has become of of the main drivers of rainforest destruction in South East Asia,”the BMF added.

The call for transparency has been taken up by numerous media around the world, including The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, Fox News, CBS News, El Pais, La Repubblica, Milliyet and others.French TV station TF1 broadcast a special eight-minute piece during its 50 minutes inside Saturday night prime time show.

The BMF has called on DiCaprio and his foundation to disclose their full financial relationship with all Malaysians connected to the 1MDB corruption scandal and to pay back all the money to the Malaysian people.

The suspicion, if true, could mar the integrity of the actor’s foundation and his advocacy.

The Guardian noted DiCaprio has joined high-caliber personalities in the fight to address climate change and various global issues.

[He became] a fixture at events focused on global challenges since 2014, dropping in at the Davos economic forum to pick up an award last January, and holding a private chat on the sidelines with Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary general, on the sidelines of the Paris climate negotiations last December.

DiCaprio joined the climate march alongisde 400,000 through the streets of Manhattan and was named as a UN climate change ambassador in 2014 where he delivered an address at the UN climate summit.

He has had private tutorials in climate science from some of the world’s best researchers including Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Penn University Scientist Michael Mann.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Penn University Scientist Michael Mann.

DiCaprio’s transformation as a climate champion began with his meeting with then vice-president Al Gore at the White House in 1998. DiCaprio, who has cited that meeting as the beginning of his climate activism, set up his foundation that same year.

This year, the LDF announces through its website the foundation’s largest-ever portfolio of environmental grants, increasing the organization’s total direct financial giving to over $59 million since 1998. Additionally, after a period of increased grantmaking and a goal of expanding its global impact, the foundation warmly welcomes veteran environmental leader Terry Tamminen as CEO.

US$15.6 million in grants have been awarded to the foundation’s partners.

The grants support works which range from major environmental conservation organizations to local partners who are fighting to protect and defend vital ecosystems and species that are gravely impacted by the global environmental crisis caused by climate change.

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Great Australian Bight at risk with BP’s oil project

An aerial view of the Great Australian Bight.

An aerial view of the Great Australian Bight.

Conservation groups have been waging war against oil drilling into the vast underwater of the Great Australian Bight located in the Southern Sea, and it may take political will to stop BP Developments Australia Pty Ltd from its oil exploration project in the area once and for all.

South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced last week she will introduce a Bill to the Senate that seeks to protect the Great Australian Bight marine park from companies wanting to drill for oil and gas.

Senator Hanson-Young said Parliament needs to intervene and stop several other companies lining up to drill the underground of the marine park. She noted a marine park is useless if it is not protected from exploitation, citing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as one example of such risk.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has already advised BP that it will be taking additional time to assess the company’s environment plan proposing the drilling of the Stromlo-1 and Whinham-1 exploration wells in the Great Australian Bight. NOPSEMA will deliver its next assessment decision for the plan by Sept 29.


“This precious marine ecosystem and numerous local industries, including fisheries and eco-tourism operators, deserve to be protected,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“The Bight is an essential sanctuary for southern right whales and a feeding ground for threatened sea lions, sharks, tuna and migratory sperm whales.”

The Great Australian Bight Alliance, composed of various environmental and civic groups, has been actively campaigning to stop BP. Last month, a series of events were held led by Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel Steve Irwin which departed from Melbourne and sailed for the Great Australian Bight. This was a part of its Operation Jeedara.

Operation Jeedara showcases the treasures of the Great Australian Bight and exposes the threats to a wilderness of global significance. Much of the landscape and diversity of life in the Great Australian Bight is unknown to the world. The Sea Shepherd showed what is at risk if BP were allowed to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight .

The Great Australian Bight Alliance set up campaign events against BP. (Photo: Sea Shepherd South Australia)

The Great Australian Bight Alliance set up campaign events against BP. (Photo: Sea Shepherd South Australia)

The expedition covered the Nuyts Reef, the Isles of St Francis, Pearson Island, areas around Kangaroo Island and the Coorong Coast, to the iconic Bunda Cliffs of the Nullarbor Plain.

“The Bight is an utterly inappropriate place to be pushing to expand the oil industry. We must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to have any chance of a livable climate into the future” said Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen.

Related related story HERE.

Australian environmentalist, Dr Bob Brown, has joined and supported the campaign. Greenpeace Australia Pacific is also supporting the cause and has launched its own campaign.

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Investors warned of Buru Energy’s fracking in West Australia

Buru Energy's operation in Western Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

Buru Energy’s operation in Western Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

Investors for natural resource exploration company Buru Energy’s AUD $30.8m plans to frack for gas in Western Australia’s ecologically sensitive Canning Basin have been warned of the various risks posed by the project. The backers have also been told to expect more protests from local communities should the energy company continue to push for the project, which is due to be implemented upstream from a heritage site in WA’s Kimberley region.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) issued the alert recently, raising the company’s financial viability, along with its engineering integrity in other operations as prime concerns.

Buru Energy has been looking into the feasibility of fracking for gas in the South Kimberley’s Canning Basin since the company demerged from ARC Energy in 2008. The project includes fracking for unconventional tight gas, oil, and condensates. Among its partners are Mitsubishi Corporation, Coogee Chemicals, and Rey Resources.

ACF’s Kimberley Project Officer Wade Freeman said Buru’s plans for hydraulic fracking in the region have the potential to cause serious damage to underground water as well as historical and cultural values for local communities. Buru’s exploration permits cover the beach resort town of Broome’s aquifer, an area of floodplains and lakes that feeds Broome’s only drinking water source, Freeman added.

The ACF has also raised concern that Buru’s fracking plans present a genuine threat to the health of the Fitzroy River and Roebuck Bay. Instead of investing in risky fossil fuel industries for the short term, the conservation group said there are other sustainable options based on The Kimberley’s unique cultural and environmental values.

Protestors hang the banner to stop Buru Energy from fracking. (Photo: Supplied)

Protestors hang the banner to stop Buru Energy from fracking. (Photo: Supplied)

Opposition towards the project is expected to rise from the local community level on to regional, national, and international spheres. In the state alone, this will likely be a major environmental issue in the lead up to the 2017 West Australian elections. Recent polling suggests the 2017 WA election is set to be a close race. The Western Australian Labor Party has advanced two policies that will potentially end hydraulic fracturing in the state.

National awareness programs are being organised to highlight potential impact of shale gas development on national heritage-listed assets in the region. The states of Victoria and Tasmania have already placed moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing. The Australian Labor Party has recently committed to add shale gas fracking to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) Act’s Water Trigger.

Signs not to frack Aboriginal land. (Photo:Supplied)

Signs not to frack Aboriginal land. (Photo:Supplied)

The ACF said the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change in December last year has shifted global approach towards the issue of energy. In the US, several states have already banned fracking, including Maryland, New York, California, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Washington, Hawaii, and Ohio. Many countries have followed suit, including Germany, Scotland, Wales, Canada, France, Luxembourg, Romania, Netherlands, Spain and Bulgaria. This development is expected to set the momentum of a new era.

Western Australian farmers and community groups have formed an alliance with farmers from Wyoming in the US, warning other communities by publishing their experiences with the detrimental impacts of shale gas fracking.

ACF’s Economist Matthew Rose sent the alert to investment firms, fund managers and individual shareholders. Considering the post-Paris agreement on climate policy, this project raises concern about the increased risks in the region, affecting traditional owners and national heritage-listed values in The Kimberley.

“There are serious risks associated with this project – for the environment and for investors,” Rose said.

Buru Energy’s Quarterly Report published on June 30 shows the company’s estimated cash inflows for the next quarter at $9.5 million for the sale of a pastoral lease asset, and $5.8 million from government tax concessions.

“What is the future of an oil and gas company that relies on selling beef and drawing big tax concessions from the public purse in order to remain viable?” Mr Rose asked.

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Australian Senate investigates Malaysian money-laundering

Here’s a development of what has been going on in Adelaide in connection to the bribe allegations involving the former chef minister of Sarawak at Adelaide University. The Taib Mahmud Court has been defaced and renamed as Columbo Plan Alumni Court. Read story: Adelaide University renames campus plaza honoring controversial Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud



Amid graft and corruption scandal in Malaysia involving Prime Minister Najib Razak,
green groups seized the moment to submit a Senate inquiry that will look into foreign bribery and money-laundering allegations against Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud’s family.

Former Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud is mired in bribe alegations involding his ties with a uni in Adelaide, South Australia. scandal

Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud is mired in bribe allegations involving his ties with a uni in Adelaide.

An Australian Senate inquiry into foreign bribery will look into money-laundering allegations against the family of Abdul Taib Mahmud Sarawak, the current Governor and former Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Earlier this month, the Australian Senate Economics References Committee acknowledged receipt of a joint submission by the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund and the Australian Bob Brown Foundation that highlights the Taib family’s multi-million dollar real estate transactions in Australia and calls for tighter rules against money-laundering in the Australian real estate sector.

The submission calls for all Taib family assets held in Australia to be frozen and restituted to Sarawak. While the submission names 33 Australian companies with links to the Taib family, particular attention is given to the $55 million Adelaide Hilton hotel held by the Taibs on the South Australian capital’s Victoria Square.

The submission and its attachments, two NGO reports on Taib corruption, are protected by parliamentary privilege following their release on the Senate Committee’s website. “This means that you cannot be prosecuted or disadvantaged because of anything you have provided in evidence, or because you gave such evidence”, the Committee Secretary stated.

The Bruno Manser Fund welcomes the Australian Senate’s move and calls on Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem and the Malaysian authorities to support the tracing and recovery of assets stolen by the Taib family. It is currently unclear how today’s dissolution of the Australian Parliament ahead of the 2 July election will reflect on the Senate inquiry.


Australian Senate inquiry into foreign bribery:

Terms of Reference:



The Green Journal AU has undergone a hiatus during summer in the southern hemisphere.

Following the COP21 in Paris last December, actions of individual countries in reducing greenhouse emissions should have started to speed up the momentum. This blog attempts to provide updates soon.


Q & A at the Melbourne Town Hall, 7 March.

Meanwhile in Australia, three influential scientists/academics/authors have been invited to open a conversation on climate science and hope for the planet. The Sydney Opera House and Wheeler Centre, in cooperation with the University of Melbourne, have arranged the forum led by the trio: Naomi Oreskes, David Suzuki, and Tim Flannery. The engagement was held last week in two venues: Melbourne Town Hall (7 March) and Sydney Opera House (8 March).

Suzuki spoke of his long-time experience as an activist in conservation, along with his involvement with indigenous people in Canada as well as in South America. He reiterated the interconnections of all living beings as one. Oreskes, on the other hand, emphasised the scientific evidence of climate change based on the accumulated experience and expertise of people working together. Flannery, meanwhile, noted some scientific breakthroughs that could offer solutions to give humanity hope for future.

It was a full house in both venues. Guests and other participants are positive the event was just a beginning of the conversation.

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World leaders now need to act on historic climate deal

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 12: Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres (L 2), Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (C), Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (R 2), and France's President Francois Hollande (R) raise hands together after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. (Photo by Arnaud BOUISSOU/COP21/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE – DECEMBER 12: Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres (L 2), Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (C), Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (R 2), and France’s President Francois Hollande (R) raise hands together after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. (Photo by Arnaud BOUISSOU/COP21/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

THE 12-day COP21 in Paris concluded with an agreement among 195 or so countries to limit global average temperature to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels in a bid to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

The agreement aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. Limiting carbon emissions is expected to increase the ability of nations to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and to foster climate resilience. The agreement also encourages low greenhouse gas emissions development to prevent threats on food production.

The agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.


There have been positive reactions to the agreement:

Academic and climate experts from Australia and beyond have welcomed the agreement. “The signature achievement of the Paris Agreement is a much bolder temperature target than expected: a ceiling of 2℃ warming, plus the pursuit of the safer target of 1.5,” according to Robyn Eckersley, professor of Political Science, University of Melbourne.

“Twenty-three years after signing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the nations of the world have at last decided to act on it. The Paris Agreement will mark a turning point in so many ways and represents a victory that would have seemed impossible even one or two years ago.” said Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Stuart University.

“2015 is set to be the hottest year ever recorded. Appropriately, the Paris Agreement contains the strongest temperature goal of any international climate deal so far. Its aims – to strengthen global action to hold warming well below 2℃ and encourage efforts to limit warming to 1.5℃ – frame and drive the Agreement’s ambition.” said Peter Christoff, associate professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne.

However, the agreement did not come without shortcomings:

Prof Hamilton notes, “The decisive question now is how powerfully the Paris Agreement will signal to those outside national governments, including business, that the world has entered a new era. Because it is what they do over the next few years that will determine how deep the next round of emission cuts can be. All the indications are that Paris will send a very strong signal indeed.”

Katharine Hayhoe, associate professor and director of Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University said, “The Paris Agreement is not naïve: the majority of its 31 pages lays out the need for ongoing reporting, special IPCC reports, financing for the Green Climate Fund, even naming individual climate Champions, tasked with keeping the process moving. To succeed, it will need all the help it can get; but if it does, all of our work – in climate science, policy, impacts, law, communication, and many other fields – will have not been in vain. That’s worth fighting for.”

More details from The Conversation here.

Stephen Kretzmann, Oil Change International (OCI)executive director said the Paris climate talks highlighted the need to stop funding fossil fuels and to adhere to scientific warnings to keep coal in the ground. He said, “The clear hypocrisy of funding the industry that is destroying the climate cannot withstand scrutiny for much longer.”

Hannah McKinnon, OCI senior campaigner, admits the agreement does not offer a “silver bullet to change the world or save the climate” but rather – “it is the growing climate movement that is already making that happen. Everywhere you look, citizens, front line communities, Indigenous Peoples, business leaders, and politicians are standing up to Big Polluters and taking a clean, safe, and renewable energy future into their own hands.”

“It’s the people on the streets who provide the real hope for addressing the climate crisis. People fighting for climate justice around the world are the ones who will solve this problem and they’re already making headway day by day,” said David Turnbull, OCI campaigns director.

The Executive Director May Boeve and Co-founder Bill McKibben issued a press release following the latest text of the climate agreement in Paris.

McKibben said every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry.

Boeve notes the agreement marks the end of fossil fuels era, and there is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now.

“Our job now is to hold countries to their word and accelerate the transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Over ten thousand of us took to the streets of Paris today to demonstrate our commitment to keep up the fight for climate justice, while many more demonstrated around the world. Our message is simple: a livable climate is a red line we’re prepared to defend, ” Boeve said.

The organisation recognises the final text still has some serious gaps. Specifically, it excludes the rights of indigenous peoples. Finance for loss and damage is also lacking, and while the text recognizes the importance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C, the current commitments from countries still add up to well over 3 degrees of warming.

Despite the ban on climate marches following the Nov 13 terror attacks, people cannot be silence to press for climate action. (Photo: Indigenous People’s Network/Flickr)
Despite the ban on climate marches following the Nov 13 terror attacks, people cannot be silence to press for climate action. (Photo: Indigenous People’s Network/Flickr)

Members of the Indigenous Environmental Network are not convinced of the outcome of the 12-day talks. At the last day of the conference, they held the morning prayer circle and was moved down the street to the infamous Pont des Arts, also known across the world as the ‘Love Lock Bridge’ where they staged a direct action. Their collective message was clear – “People discuss ‘red lines’, we are the red line. We are the keepers of the land, protectors of animals, the seas, the air. We are the solution.”

Indigenous representatives from Indigenous nations of Circumpolar, Amazon, South Pacific and North America joined for an early morning sunrise ceremony prayer at the foot of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, to close the climate negotiations.

Indigenous representatives from Indigenous nations of Circumpolar, Amazon, South Pacific and North America joined for an early morning sunrise ceremony prayer at the foot of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, to close the climate negotiations.

Indigenous representatives from Indigenous nations of Circumpolar, Amazon, South Pacific and North America joined for an early morning sunrise ceremony prayer at the foot of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, to close the climate negotiations.

Quoting Alberto Saldamando, human rights expert and attorney, they flashed in their website:

“The Paris accord is a trade agreement, nothing more. It promises to privatize, commodify and sell forested lands as carbon offsets in fraudulent schemes such as REDD+ projects. These offset schemes provide a financial laundering mechanism for developed countries to launder their carbon pollution on the backs of the global south. Case-in-point, the United States’ climate change plan includes 250 million megatons to be absorbed by oceans and forest offset markets. Essentially, those responsible for the climate crisis not only get to buy their way out of compliance but they also get to profit from it as well.”

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Melbourne’s climate march a huge turnout for COP21

On the frontline of People's Climate March Melbourne, Nov. 27.

On the frontline of People’s Climate March Melbourne, Nov. 27. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

The People’s Climate March kicked off in Melbourne before dusk on Friday, Nov 27, with a massive turnout of about 60,000 people. Other rallies across Australia are expected to follow suit over the weekend – Saturday and Sunday — to include Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Hobart. The marches will set momentum for the Conference of Parties 21 (COP21) climate talks scheduled for Nov 29 – Dec 12.

The march on Friday is described as ”massive” and the ”city’s biggest climate march ever.” Chants and oratories opened at the State Library located along Swanston corner La Trobe Streets before the march proceeded to the Parliament House along Spring Street where more speeches were made.

Indigenous Australians at the forefront of climate march in Melbourne, Nov. 27. (Photo: The Green Journal AU - Asian Correspondent)

Indigenous Australians at the forefront of climate march in Melbourne, Nov. 27. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

Australian organisers and participants include a wide spectrum of conservation groups, political parties, medical and health professionals, superannuation funds, indigenous people, community groups, clean energy businesses, farmers, families, and other civic groups and individuals.

The Melbourne turnout calls for other cities to do the same and to demonstrate their support for a strong climate action.  Paris announced it will ban all climate rallies along its boulevard and other public places as the city plays host to the climate talks. The ban will be enforced for security reasons in the aftermath of the terror attacks on Nov 13.  The conference has also been reduced to a “negotiation” event – without celebrities and entertainment. Those who cannot march are also asking march partners elsewhere to march for them. A website has been opened for this purpose:

“If you can’t make your voice heard in the country where you live, make it count somewhere else in the world. Marchers from all over the world are ready to carry your message on your behalf.”

The Paris climate talks will see representatives of around 200 countries coming together to forge a binding agreement on capping carbon emissions as a way to limit the earth’s temperature below two degrees Celsius by 2050. This climate talk is said to be the last chance to seal an agreement.

Australian Labor Party raises the banner. (Photo: The Green Journal AU - Asian Correspondent)

Australian Labor Party raises the banner. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

The Australian Greens are in too. (Photo: The Green Journal AU - Asian Correspondent)

The Australian Greens are in too. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

The march culminates at the Victorian Parliament Building. (Photo: The Green Journal AU- Asian Correspondent)

The march culminates at the Victorian Parliament Building. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

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TPP irreconcilable with UN sustainable development goals, say critics

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP. (Photo: Supplied)

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP Monday. (Photo: Supplied)

Last week, leaders from around the world announced their commitment to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals which outlined the solutions to address global climate change, environmental degradation, poor health, and poverty. In juxtaposition to this historic announcement, trade ministers from 12 countries reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Monday which sets the economic rules for 40 percent of the world economy in Atlanta, Georgia.

The historic pact was signed by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said in a statement that the TPP will drive Australia’s integration in a region that underpins Australia’s prosperity.  The deal cemented Australia’s successes in concluding trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea, and other partners in the region.

The TPP will eliminate over 98 percent of tariffs among signatories and removes import taxes at around AUS$9 billion of Australian trade. Robb said one third of Australia’s total goods and services exports – worth $109 billion – were sent to TPP countries last year.

However, fierce opposition against the deal is expected. Australia’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, for one, opposes the provisions of the pact, including TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems which allows a foreign tribunal to intervene with domestic policies.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) International blasted the agreement, saying several of the UN sustainability goals are irreconcilable with the TPP. There are 17 goals and 169 specific targets.

Sam Cossar-Gilbert, FoE international economic justice coordinator, said: “This is a sad day for our planet, as the TPP favours safeguards for corporate investments over safeguards for nature.  The TPP chapters on technical barriers to trade will threaten regulators’ capacities to effectively regulate the roughly 85,000 chemicals in commerce needed to protect human health and our environment.”

Renowned scholars and economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam S. Hersh warned the TPP is a charade. It is not about “free trade” but rather “an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies.”

Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

The TPP is claimed to be shrouded in secrecy. They said it is protected under the ISDS systems which allow foreign investors gain new rights to sue national governments in binding private arbitration for regulations they see as diminishing the expected profitability of their investments.

Stiglitz and Hersh said that such provisions make it hard for governments to conduct their basic functions including protecting their citizens’ health and safety, ensuring economic stability, and safeguarding the environment.

In Australia, Philip Morris International is already prosecuting the government in a $50 million legal suit before a tribunal in Singapore for its plain cigarette packaging.

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

FoE said, “Even very simple consumer sustainability measures like efficiency rating and food labelling on imported goods could be impossible under TPP, because labelling regulation can be deemed a barrier to trade. ”

The TPP faces a number of challenges prior to its ratification as protests and rallies are expected to be held worldwide. In the U.S., it faces a hostile Congress while it is an election issue in Canada. There is also a court action in Japan and a widespread opposition in Australia .

FoE warned the TPP will threaten people and the planet, if ratified.

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Labor’s solar-wind revolution underway

Despite Australia’s recalcitrant record in joining the world towards a clean and sustainable energy, some positive developments are taking place from within the Opposition who are leading the way. Re-posting:

Australia’s opposition block has come up with a defiant act against Tony Abbott’s government on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) by committing to an ambitious target of 50 percent by 2030. In Victoria alone, a solar and wind farms revolution will soon get underway. By 2020, RET will be no less than 20 percent.

Premier Daniel Andrews from the Labor Party unveiled their Renewable Energy Roadmap geared towards rebuilding Victoria’s reputation as the nation’s leader for renewable energy.

Joined by Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio at Keppel Prince in Portland,  Andrews announced the government’s plan to attract Victoria’s share of renewable energy investment and jobs in Australia by 2020.

The Labor government also launched an initiative to source renewable energy certificates from new projects in Victoria, bringing forward around $200 million of new investment in renewables. Andrews sees more wind and solar farms will rise in the coming few years to propel investments and to create jobs in the countryside.

The roadmap outlines a set of initiatives aimed at accelerating the development of renewable energy projects in Victoria. It was developed in partnership with key energy sector stakeholders, including industry, consumer groups and environment groups.

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

Along with the 20 percent renewable targets by 2020, the roadmap identifies other priority areas, including the use of government electricity purchasing power to support the creation of hundreds of renewable energy jobs. It also seeks to end unfair discrimination and improving access to the grid for solar customers. A $20 million New Energy Jobs Fund will also be set aside to support clean energy jobs. The Andrews government highlighted the need for ambition to attract investment and create jobs while tackling climate change.

The plan is coming together. Labor in the Australian Capital Territory has a renewable energy target of 90 per cent by 2020; South Australia 50 per cent by 2025; and Queensland, 50 percent by 2030.

Federally, the Labor opposition has committed to a national goal of 50 per cent by 2030. The target was announced during the party’s conference in July this year.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) renewable energy spokesperson Leigh Ewbank said, “A Victorian target that matches the ambition of the ACT or South Australia would be welcomed by the community. And it would ensure Victoria is not out-competed by other states.”

More wind farms to rise in Victoria. Pic: AP.

More wind farms to rise in Victoria. Pic: AP.

FoE sees a renewable energy revolution underway. “Building the shovel-ready wind farms alone would put us at around 26 percent renewable. And that’s not accounting for the rooftop solar revolution that’s underway.”

FoE says the government’s renewables roadmap sketches out a comprehensive plan to grow renewables. The group is awaiting further details about the policy drivers it will use to meet state renewable energy targets.

These details will be finalised in a RET Action Plan to be released later this year.

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Federal Court overturns Adani’s Carmichael mine

Adani's activity in the Carmichael mine. (Photo:Supplied)

Adani’s activity in the Carmichael mine. (Photo:Supplied)

Here’s another victory for environmental defenders!

Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland, which could have been one of the largest coal mines in the world and responsible for substantial greenhouse gas emissions, is now without legal authority to commence construction or operate. The Federal Court of Australia overturned approval of the project. Read the court order HERE.

Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) NSW, representing the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG), challenged the $16.5 billion project which the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved last year .The approval stirred unrests among local communities, indigenous people, tourism businesses, and various green and civic groups. 

Sue Higginson, principal solicitor of EDO NSW said the the decision of the court to overturn the Carmichael mine’s federal approval was based on a failure by the Minister to regard conservation advices for two Federally-listed vulnerable species, the Yakka Skink and Ornamental Snake. This kind of error in the decision making process is legally fatal to the Minister’s decision, the solicitor said.

The Minister approved the project without regard to the threats of endangered species which are found only in Queensland, the solicitor continued adding the law requires that the Minister should have considered conservation advices on the impacts of national environmental significance, such as the case of threatened species.

The  Minister also failed to consider global greenhouse emissions from the burning of the coal and Adani’s environmental history although these matters are left unresolved before the Court. Australia’s largest coal mine could be exporting up to 60 million tonnes of coal from across the Great Barrier Reef Coast every year.

Facility built at the Abbot Point Point to provide access to coal exports. (Photo:Supplied)

Facility built at the Abbot Point Point to provide access to coal exports. (Photo:Supplied)

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) estimates the mine will take 297 billion litres from underground aquifers, causing a drop in water table levels on which local farmers rely. When burnt, coal from the Carmichael mine will produce 128.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year, at peak production, or four times New Zealand’s annual climate pollution.

“It will be up to the Minister now to decide whether or not to approve the mine again, taking into account the conservation advices and any other information on the impacts of the project,” Higginson said. MCG is running a campaign calling the Minister to reject the project once and for all.

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