Australia’s climate policy in limbo, carbon tax is dead

Australia’s carbon tax has been repealed leaving the nation’s climate policy in a vacuum with no concrete alternative.

Australia’s Coalition Government has begun celebrating the repeal of carbon tax which was voted down in a Senate marathon on Thursday.  It is a landmark victory for Prime Minister Tony Abbott since he assumed office last year. From day one, he wanted to abolish clean energy legislations which the previous Labor Government had enacted.

The Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2] was voted down last week, July 10, after  crossbench senators under the Palmer United Party (PUP) joined the opposition block. But Abbott was relentless over the weekend. He worked with PUP leader Clive Palmer to sort out a last minute amendment. 

PM Tony Abbott claps and celebrate Coalition’s victory to scrap carbon tax. (Photo: Supplied)

The repeal bill was defeated in both houses of the Parliament since Abbott introduced the proposed legislation.  Last week, the bill reached a double dissolution trigger, but Abbott was determined to quash the tax once and for all.

On Monday, the Senate resumed deliberations and in the final vote on Thursday, the senators from the PUP backflipped as expected.  They voted for the repeal, along with Motoring Enthusiast Senator Ricky Muir, Family First Senator Bob Day, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Democratic Labour Party Senator John Madigan. Labor and the Greens voted against.

The jubilant prime minister reiterated the tax is a big obstacle to businesses and a hand brake to the national economy. “We are honouring our commitments to you and building a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia,” he enthused. He said it would save the average family $550 a year and the first benefits would be seen in coming power bills although oppositions and observers said the savings is unclear and without consensus.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne defends carbon tax. (Photo: AAP)

While Abbott is celebrating, Greens Leader Christine Milne condemned the government and crossbench senators for “the legacy of their political career”. Milne declared the vote  a “failure” that would see Australia a “global pariah” and” backwater” going against the flow while other countries marched towards pricing carbon and stronger action on climate change. Labor senator Lisa Singh said with one vote, Australia had moved backwards and it “will today be a laughing stock to the rest of the world”.

Conservationists, grassroots to fight back

Grassroots declare Thrusday as the black day for the planet. They said Australia is the first country in the world to repeal a carbon tax, with no clear carbon emissions plan being put in place.

Greens and grassroots stormed Twitter to vent their anger over the carbon tax dumping.

GetUp is now galvanising a campaign that would be ”the largest open letter in Australia’s history”  condemning Australian government’s inaction on climate change.  The group has already gathered more than 73,600 signatures as of noon time on Thursday.

Rallies are already being scheduled on important dates when governments around the world meet to tackle climate change, including a United Nations meeting in New York this coming September, G20 summit in Brisbane in November, and Conference of Parties in Paris next year.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) joins conservationists across the nation to express dismay over the dumping of carbon tax. In an email to supporters, the ACF said,

Today our government failed us. The senate just voted to repeal our working price on carbon pollution. You, with Australia’s leading scientists, economists, health experts, firefighters and ambulance workers fought loud and clear to keep our climate safe. But the senate didn’t listen to us. Instead they chose to listen to big polluters and abolish our carbon price.

Now is the time to show Australia that while the government voted against climate action, we won’t give up. In Bono’s words “The power of the people is greater than the people in power”.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific also expressed disappointment on the government for making Australia the first country in the world to abolish a price on carbon. It told supporters that as the rest of the world moves to tackle climate change, “the Australian government is doing everything it can to remain wedded to fossil fuels.” It urged Australians, “to come together and take action to secure a cleaner, healthier safer future.”

 

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

 

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Malaysian authorities accused of human rights violations

Re-blogging:

The local police in Gebeng, Malaysia have been accused of suppressing basic human rights following the illegal arrests of civilians who are protesting against the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), an Australian-owned rare earths mining company.

Civilian rally against Lynas.

Over a dozen of protesters were arrested on June 22, including Australian environmental defender Natalie Lowrey. She was released earlier and she is now back in Sydney safe and sound.

However, not all the protesters were freed in good faith. Last week, six were released on three conditions – bail amounting to RM 2,500 (€576) each, a ban from posting on social media, and monthly reporting at the local police station.

The six are members of the Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly), a Malaysian environmental movement protesting against Lynas. They were detained on charges of illegal assembly and rioting following their participation in the protest calling for the company to cease work on the plant and leave Malaysia.

The group opposes the operations of Lynas plant, which the group claims produces tonnes of toxic waste.

A couple joins the rally.

Two protesters were hospitalised after the protest and  a human rights defender sustained serious injuries in the head, resulting in concussion, according to reports. All were charged were violating the country’s penal code.

The lawyer for the human rights defenders rejected the conditions, arguing that the injunction is an unconstitutional infringement of  the right to freedom of expression. The case hearing will resume on September 2.

Front Line Defenders is concerned that the charges and bail conditions are targeting the protesters  in order to obstruct and limit their human rights, specifically their campaign to protect the environment of the local community in Kuantan.

A vigil rally pressing for the release of Australian environmental defender Natalie Lowry.

Front Line Defenders has urged the authorities in Malaysia to immediately drop all charges against the 15 human rights activists.

Link: Asian Correspondent

1.2 million Malaysians send eviction notice to Lynas Corp

Australian-owned Lynas Corp cannot get away from its “socially unlicensed” operation in Kuantan, Malaysia, An eviction notice signed by 1.2 million Malaysians across the nation has been sent urging the company to shut down and leave the country immediately.

The signatories press the Australian company to respect local people’s basic human rights and dignity, and to do environmental justice.  They slammed the company for posing health and environmental hazards. Lynas’ operation involves toxic and radioactive rare earth, they said, and that they will fight to the end not to allow their children to be harmed or their land to be destroyed for profits.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (left) and Natalie Lowrey (right) flash an eviction notice in Sydney. (Photo: Supplied)

Apart from health risks, they claim the operation is illegal, if not anomalous, for not having a proper licence. They said the business took off without a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) put in place and not complying with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommendations. The signatories also pointed out the project lacks long-term plan for the permanent waste disposal of radioactive waste.

Sydney-based environmental activist Natalie Lowrey was released on June 30 after six days in detention. She was arrested along with 16 other Malaysians for joining a peaceful protest. She is back home and held a press conference with Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon at the Lynas headquarter located along Pitt Street.

In a statement, she thanked supporters of her release, including hundreds that joined vigils across the country, the 34 Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGO), and other various groups and individuals.

She also appreciated the support of international colleagues and friends, especially Friends of the Earth International and Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific for their quick response in getting a petition going and networking across member groups across the world.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (right) joins the press conference with environmental activists at the Lynas office in Sydney. (Photo: Supplied)

Lowrey said she has no regrets for her act of solidarity with Malaysian people. She also urged all Australian citizens and residents to take responsibility to hold Australian corporations accountable for the impacts of their developments and operations in other countries. She added:

As an international community we must start considering the impacts of rare earth refining and look at worlds-best-practice to contain and deal with the waste and move towards alternatives including urban mining and the recycling of rare earths, especially that rare earths are used in so many green technologies.

The Save Malaysia Stop Lynas activist group has also urged the Malaysian Government earlier not to extend Lynas licence which is due to expire in September this year. The group lamented and claimed Lynas has failed to disclose to the public the identification of the site for the Permanent Deposit Facility (PDF) for its radioactive Water Leach Purification (WLP) waste as required under the terms of its Temporary Operating License (TOL).

As early as 2012, the issue of radioactive waste storage disposal has never been resolved. It was suggested that wastes have to be shipped back to Australia.

However, even the former Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Norman Moore, asserted at that time that “Australia does not support the importation and storage of other countries’ radioactive waste”. He passed on the responsibility to the Malaysian government to take care of the processing plant that is operating in its territory.

Rhiannon reiterated what Lowry had said that the Australian company has no right to destroy the home of Malaysians or to endanger their health and well-being. She also called for the immediate pullout of the company from Malaysia.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent/The Green Journal

Gore, Palmer forge clean energy alliance

Former US Vice President Al Gore’s recent visit to Australia could be a saving grace to the country’s clean energy future. Gore did not only get the support of more than 500 new climate leaders from 24 countries, but more notably he got the backing of  controversial mining magnate, Clive Palmer, who leads the Palmer United Party (PUP).

Gore told his followers during the 3-day Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Melbourne last week he believes in Palmer’s genuine intention to help reduce dirty carbon emissions. He added he appreciated the opportunity to meet Palmer to discuss solutions to the climate crisis: 

“As a national leader, he clearly understands the critical importance of ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come. Mr. Palmer and I don’t agree on everything, but I’m very encouraged by his willingness, and that of his party, to preserve many of the climate policies in Australia.”

Al Gore and Clive Palmer hold a joint press conference in Canberra. (Photo supplied)

The announcement elicited media sensations describing the Gore-Palmer meeting as an inconvenient partnership. But grassroots are more than happy to welcome the alliance.

GetUp, for example, said people fought so hard to keep clean energy initiatives, but all environmental  laws are facing the chopping board;

Saving the price on pollution we fought so hard to achieve is unfortunately looking less and less likely – but Palmer’s Senators have announce that they have conditions…

Gore and Palmer reached a compromise on clean energy issues. Palmer vowed to support the Renewable Energy Target (RET), uphold the Clean Energy Finance Corp, and to save the Climate Change Authority.  PUP Senators are expected to block moves that will abolish these “clean three.” PUP,  however, is not supportive to carbon tax, but instead favours Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Palmer also dismissed Direct Action plan which he claims to be a waste of money.

Al Gore trains new climate leaders in Melbourne.

Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive officer of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said Palmer has taken a big step towards securing a cleaner, healthier future for all Australians. But she is disappointed his party will support the repeal of the carbon tax, and the current emissions trading scheme structure could go with it.

The carbon price is working now. Pollution from electricity fell by 5% in 2013 alone. If Mr Palmer is serious about Australia tackling climate change, he must be serious about retaining the laws that are already doing the job.

Palmer has three Senate votes which is crucial in balancing the Senate. GetUp said, “ if our new Senate votes with Palmer, this will mean we can still make significant progress towards a clean energy future that will fund renewable energy projects, create jobs and stop Abbott from taking Australia back into the dark ages. “

The Senate will convene on July 7 to determine the fate of the clean energy future.

Gore recruits new climate leaders

Meanwhile, 525  new leaders are added into Gore’s climate army. Gore encouraged them in their resolve to help fight what matters to them: environment and climate change. The new leadership corps involve a wide range of professional demographics, including teachers, communicators, IT experts and technicians, farmers, artists, musicians, businessmen, and bureaucrats, among others as well as youth and students.

Al Gore leads the Climate Reality Q & A panellists.

It is the fourth training in Australia that calls for serious concerns on climate reality: severe heatwaves, bushfires, drought, and floods.  O’Shanassy said it is no coincidence that ACF are training leaders: “ We need them now more than ever. Over the next few weeks the government will try to bulldoze Australia’s climate laws. While some senators are pushing their support for clean energy, nothing can be taken for granted until the votes are counted on July 7th. The carbon price is still in peril and we must keep fighting.”

Pricing carbon sets the agenda.

Gore expects Australia to play a global leadership role on the most pressing issue of the time.  He said “We have more reasons than ever to believe we’re putting ourselves on a path to solve the climate crisis.”
He underscored initiatives of  US President Obama who has committed to cut carbon emissions and encouraging global action to tackle global warming. He also noted China to have established emissions trading schemes, along with the European Union and parts of the United States like California. He concluded that Australia is taking action as well:

Two million Australian households now have rooftop solar PV systems, just one example of the rapid growth of clean renewable energy worldwide. Australia and its citizens have long been leaders on this issue. It is my hope that its climate policies will continue to reflect that and serve as an example to the rest of the world.

Blog Link: The Green Journal/ Asian Correspondent