Pacific Ocean floor, the new mining ‘frontier’

Environmental defenders are waging another war in the Pacific– this time, against deep sea mining. As land-based resources continue to deplete amid growing demand for natural resources, private companies are relentless in their quest for minerals beyond the frontier.

Nautilus Minerals Inc. (Nautilus), with corporate office in Toronto Canada and project office in Brisbane, Australia, got a green light to drill the ocean floor in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea to extract polymetallic seafloor sulphide deposits.

The company has also plans to extend its tenement holdings in the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters of Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand as well as other areas outside the Western Pacific.

A pioneering project, Nautilus went through rigorous negotiations with the PNG government, including settlement of  commercial dispute for equity participation. The company applied for Mining Lease (ML), along with the submission of development proposal, in 2008 and was granted in 2011. The Environmental Permit was also given in 2009 by the PNG’s Department of Environment and Conservation. The lease term covers 25 years until 2035 to exploit the seabed for the prospect of copper, gold and silver.

Nautilus deploys heavy machinery equipment to extract vast mineral deposits on the sea floor. (Photo: Nautilus)

Under the agreement, the State of PNG takes an initial 15 percent interest in the project with an option to take up to a further 15 percent interest within 12 months of the Agreement. PNG paid Nautilus a non-refundable deposit for its initial 15 percent interest of US$7,000,000.

Support from resource industry

The mining industry admits the challenges in the world market and thus supports this development. In Sydney, 13th Papua New Guinea Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference is being held for three days, Dec.1-3, to discuss prospects of mining.

SOLWARA-img1

The theme, “PNG Resources – Expanding Horizons”, articulates the optimism of the PNG oil and gas sector which has been facing challenging times in the world market.  Commodity prices are falling amid rising costs and falling productivity.

The conference highlights how the mining industry can address the changing conditions and significant progress which is being made in responding to the new environment.

Solwara 1 offers a bright prospect. “Development is well under way on the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project and several of PNG’s world class mineral prospects have made further substantial progress,” its conference website reads.

The conference also offers a wide range of prestigious sponsorship opportunities and the large trade exhibition which presents an exclusive opportunity to showcase the company to a very large audience.

Protest in Sydney

On Tuesday noon this week, human rights and environmental activists staged a PNG mining and pollution divestment protest on George Street in Sydney juxtaposing the conference being held at the Hilton Hotel. They said mining has been destroying communities and the environment since 1972.

Dan Jones, Melanesian Studies advocate said, “From Bougainville to Ok Tedi, to Porgera and Ramu Nickel in Madang, the extractive industry continues to cut corners purely to maximise profits causing massive environmental damage and social upheaval which continues to spark social uprising, ecocide and serious conflicts.”

"The Great Commission" arrives in PNG, an image being used by Nautilus in its deep sea mining gallery.

Nautilus is one of the speakers at the conference and organizers want the message to get across.

Natalie Lowrey, acting coordinator for Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “The Nautilus Environmental Impact Assessment is deeply flawed, neither the Precautionary Principle or Free Prior and Informed Consent has been adhered to despite growing opposition in PNG. This only further disenfranchises communities in PNG who have not yet made an informed decision on whether they want to be the guinea pigs of such a new industry.”

PNG locals are gathered to brief them of what is to  happen in their community. (Photo: Nautilus)

Protesters also decry Bank of South Pacific which provided Nautilus funding for Solwara 1. The bank is a sponsor and presenter at the conference. BSP is  criticised for allowing the project to progress after it stalled.

BSP, who considers itself the ‘greenest’ bank in the Pacific provided a loan of $120 million (2 percent of BSP’s total assets) to PNG for a 15 percent stake. Those finances are due to be released to Nautilus from an escrow account on Dec. 11.

The Deep Sea Mining campaign sent a joint letter with PNG-based NGO Bismarck Ramu Group to BSP asking if they have undertaken a full risk analysis on its loan to the PNG government that is allowing this project to advance. However, the groups had not received an answer.

Jones explained that most Papua New Guineans do  not see any benefit of mining, coal, and gas explorations to the community. They only see exploitation of their land and damage being done to their spiritual connection to land and sea. Jonas said culturally diverse subsistence agricultural communities rely on clean environments and waterways for survival. He added:

“Papua New Guineans want support for their own initiatives, like value adding to existing cocoa and coconut industries. There is an increasing demand for organic health food export markets utilising fair-trade virgin coconut and cocoa in recent years is an industry PNG is failing to tap into.”

“Development to Papua New Guineans is much more than an expedient cash cow benefiting foreign investors and local officials. Real development includes cultural development including environmentally custodial customs, responsibilities and spiritual connections to land and sea.”

Meanwhile, Mining Australia admitted that while deep sea mining generates enormous profits, the risks associated with it cannot be ignored. Potential consequences may include pollution, accidental spillage which may release toxic substance into the surrounding area, and a fear that could damage uncharted area of the sea — just to name a few.

News blog link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

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Gallery: People’s Climate Mobilisation Australia

Gallery

This gallery contains 51 photos.

Around 30,000 people, including families and their children join the People’s Climate Mobilisation March on Sunday in Melbourne. These are the photos. (Please do not copy or distribute otherwise contact the Green Journal AU for permission.)        

Free market think tank urges privatisation of ABC

The proposed privatisation of  the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) could be an ultimate blow to Australia’s clean energy policies if it pushes through. The county’s fossil fuels think tank highly recommends the public broadcaster to be silenced by transferring its management to the private sector.

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA)  released a report this week saying that the ABC is bias against the fossil fuels industry and  is leaning towards the left with favourable reporting on  renewable energy. IPA commissioned iSentia in March to do an analysis based on ABC’s coverage of energy policy issues, including the coal-mining, coal-seam gas, and the renewable energy industries.

Privileged occasions where Abbott-Murdoch-Rinehart get together. Top photo shows Gina Rinehart whispers to PM Tony Abbott while below, Murdoch is with the mining goddess.

“If bias at the ABC is systemic, only structural reform will solve it. A new board or management won’t change the culture. Privatising the ABC is the only way to ensure taxpayers’ money is not used to fund biased coverage,” IPA said in its website.

But oppositions to the fossil fuels industry are saying the contrary. Privatising the ABC would limit reporting on renewable energy policies, giving way to big-scale investments on fossil fuels. GetUp! said privatising the ABC will thwart Australia’s burgeoning renewable energy industry in favour of fossil fuels.

A speech delivered by Len Cooper, secretary of Communications Workers Union, in Wodonga on 16 June 2014 also said Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a  pre-election pledge. He promised his party, industry think tanks, and supporters to dismantle policies that are not favourable to encourage investments. Cooper added, “the IPA has over 100 policy demands it has wanted and wants the Abbott Government to implement.”

Copper revealed the guests who attended the 70th Anniversary IPA dinner in April 2013 before the federal election. She said high profile guests included mining queen, Gina Rinehart and media mogul, Rupert Murdoch who was one of the keynote speakers. Early on, Abbott assured his guests his government will repeal the carbon tax, abolish the climate change authority, and disband the Clean Energy Fund.

The IPA claims itself as the world’s oldest right wing think tank representing big businesses with close links to the Business Council of Australia. It advocates free market economics, privatisation, deregulation, limited government, and a free market approach to environmental problems.

Cooper accused the IPA of being an instrument in forming the Liberal Party and is also a fund raiser for the party with major donors from the resource industry such as ExxonMobil, Telstra, WMC Resources, BHP Billiton, Phillip Morris, Murray Irrigation Ltd., Clough Engineering, Caltex, Shell, Esso, Electricity and Mining companies, and British American Tobacco among others.

ABC Friends also noted how Abbott praised his fellow keynote speakers, especially Murdoch.

Without specifying what items on the IPA’s list to radically transform Australia he would not implement, Abbott’s broad response was: “a big ‘yes’ to many of the 75 specific policies you urged upon me”. So what would be the result if the IPA’s policy for the ABC was implemented? Public broadcasting – gone. The ABC to be broken up and sold off, and SBS to be fully privatised.

Large-scale protests are already brewing to lambast Abbott’s leadership policies..GetUp! said “we actually had a good laugh, until we realised – this is no joke. “

GetUp! said the IPA’s report purports to have  uncovered “media bias” but the fact remains that “As we all know by now, the right-wing think tank just happens to be supported by the likes of Murdoch and Rinehart.”

Dark, thick smoke from coal-fired power plants is belched into the atmosphere. (Photo: ABC)

The scary truth is right now we are watching the IPA’s radical conservative agenda become a reality before our eyes – from the dismantling of the carbon price to a budget that elevates big business over everyday Australians. Its seemingly impossible wish list of 75 conservative items has been rapidly ticked off as our Prime Minister adopts them with abandon.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne described the Coalition as an ‘Abbott-Murdoch-Rinehart collaboration directed and promoted by the IPA.’

Meanwhile, the Guardian said there are many indicators how to determine whether news reporting is objective or biased. But whether ABC is bias or not, “A KPMG report leaked in 2006 considered the ABC to be highly efficient and underfunded.”

A positive mention of Crikey: “The ABC provides a high volume of outputs and quality relative to the level of funding it receives … the ABC appears to be a broadly efficient organisation.”

Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

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

 

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

Gore praises Obama ahead of climate leaders training in Australia

Former US Vice President Al Gore is scheduled to visit Australia this month to lead a climate leadership training drive, shortly after US President Barack Obama’s historic announcement early this week directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate massive cuts on dirty carbon emissions.

Climate Reality Project Chairman and former US Vice President Al Gore (Photo: CRP)

The 25th Climate Reality Leadership Corps training program will kick off on June 25-27 in Melbourne in partnership with Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) to teach participants about the science of climate change and how to communicate its effects.

US President Barack Obama announces historic cuts in carbon emissions (Photo: AP)

Gore’s leadership training  will mark another important event following initiatives of various NGOs towards decarbonising Australia. Last month, US economist Jeffrey Sachs led the launch of a low carbon economy initiative.

Gore, the Climate Reality Project chairman, praised  Obama’s announcement to cut the nation’s dirty carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels by 2030. This is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year. The former VP said the clean energy initiative is the most crucial step towards combating the climate crisis.

We simply cannot continue to use the atmosphere as an open sewer for dirty and dangerous global warming pollution that endangers our health and makes storms, floods, mudslides and droughts much more dangerous and threatening – not only in the future, but here and now.

Gore reiterated that actions are taking place worldwide to address climate change but remained wary about special interest groups that continue to deny and spread misleading information to muddle and obfuscate the issue. He said denial of the linkage between carbon emissions and climate change is like denial of the link between tobacco and lung cancer. He warned that further inaction would be extremely dangerous and destructive for America and the rest of the world. He added that there are now technologies that can offer alternative sources of clean, efficient, and competitive renewable energy.

He backs Obama for facing challenges through a series of critical actions and empowering the EPA to enforce limits on CO2 emissions for new power plants and accelerating the shift to  renewable energy.  He said America has taken another historic step in leading the world towards a green and sustainable economy.

Not all businesses are happy

Smoke billow from coal-fired power plants (Photo: AP)

Not all businesses are happy and merchants of doubt are expected to block climate initiatives. Christopher Helman of Forbes notes the “casualties” of the plan: “Coal miners and owners of coal-fired power plants. Don’t expect their shares to sell off on today’s rule revelation though — EPA has been telegraphing its plans for months, so the bad news is baked in.”

…..it is clear to analysts that coal will bear the brunt of this anti-carbon crusade, while natural gas will be the big winner. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for about 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in America. Per megawatt-hour, coal plants emit about 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide. Compare that to natural gas turbines, which emit just .4 metric tons per mWh.

The EPA reportedly estimates that investments needed to meet the emission limits will cost about $8 billion a year, but would save 6,600 lives and more than $50 billion a year in health care costs tied to air pollution.

While the announcement is widely praised, not everybody is positive. Bloomberg reported how the US zero emission would only be defeated by the rising emissions of China, India, and Indonesia, for example.

Burning fossil fuels in the U.S. released 5.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2012. China emitted 9.0 billion tons and by 2020 is forecast by the U.S. Energy Department to reach 11.5 billion metric tons, while the U.S. stays flat. India, Indonesia and other developing nations are expected to grow, as well.

Were U.S. emissions cut to zero, “global emissions would continue to increase,” Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program, said in an e-mail. “So, the direct impacts of the new power plant rules on atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations will be small.”

Optimism in the Pacific

Solar panels station on Port Augusta, Victoria (Photo: Supplied)

Scientists in the Pacific welcome Obama’s clean energy plan. Radio Australia interviewed Dr. Padma Lal,  an independent researcher on Climate Risk in the Pacific, who applauds the announcement and said it is urgent to take action to make the plan a reality.

She noted other countries – the major polluters – have already started taking action to reduce their carbon emissions, such as China, India, Brazil.

…..we would like to see other countries such as Australia and European nations to follow suit. Perhaps it’s a bit too early to say that this is actually going to happen, it’ll be interesting to see in tangible terms what actions are taken by the American state. From the Pacific point of view it really is urgent that they do take such measures…

Gore leads climate training in Australia

The former US VP will lead the leadership training in Australia, alongside world-class climate scientists, political strategists, communication experts, community organisers and activists. He said:

We have taken these trainings around the world, and in every community committed leaders are standing up to take action on the climate crisis. Our goal is to provide them with the best possible tools to become even more effective leaders in their schools, businesses, houses of worship, and local and national governments.

The intensive program is expected to formally train a new group of Climate Reality Leaders, who can become change agents in their own communities. They will emerge from the program as “energised and skilled communicators” with the knowledge, tools and drive to educate diverse communities on the costs of carbon pollution and what can be done to solve the climate crisis.

Australia leads the world’s highest per capita carbon emissions (Image: Supplied/ Carbonworks)

ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said that is the absence of government support to educate and train leaders on the urgency of climate change, her organization welcomes Gore’s project to Australia.

Australia is on the front line when it comes to climate change impacts, yet our national government is unravelling hard-won progress to price pollution and boost renewable energy. In the absence of government leadership on climate change, the people need to lead the way.

 

 

Blog Link: The Green Journal/ Asian Correspondent

Deutsche bank rebuffs Adani’s funding request

The Deutsche Bank of Germany announced it will not lend money to the Indian mining firm Adani Group to finance the development of Abbot Point Terminal I. The decision came after an AGM held on Thrusday.

We stress that we take the future of the Great Barrier Reef very seriously. We observe that there is no consensus between UNESCO and the Australian government regarding the expansion of Abbot Point. Since our guidance requires such a consensus as a minimum, we would not consider a financing request. – Deutsche Bank Group

Deutsche Bank Group convenes AGM 2014 (Photo: Deutsche Bank Group FB)

Adani is one of the last remaining investors standing for the port terminal, along with another Indian firm, GVK Group.

Other investors have long abandoned their stakes, including mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Lend Lease and Anglo American. Market and financial analysts said the multi-billion dollar investment is unfeasible due to the end of the mining boom, with the downward spiraling of coal market prices worldwide. Galilee Basin in northern Queensland, where coal will be extracted,is also extremely remote and without basic infrastructure.

Tony Brown, tour operator for the Whitsundays, speaks at the bank’s AGM 2014 (Photo: Market Forces)

Australian mining goddess Gina Rinehart, herself, sold most of her coal assets in 2011. GVK bought them.

But despite Indian interests, the project has been stalled for two years. Adani is required to complete all environmental approvals and then raise AU $8 billion of additional debt and equity financing, and hence allow construction to commence on the Carmichael coal, rail and port proposal. Read the scale and magnitude of funding HERE.

There are speculations that the two companies tried to sell their equity holdings. GVK allegedly offered Coal India Ltd, but was rebuffed due to its uncommercial value. Adani is also rumoured to have approached several Chinese firms, including China Railway Corp.

Early this month, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) warned investors it is too risky to invest in the project. Local banks which were appointed to finance the project include National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank, and Westpac Banking Corp- on top of a few other international banks.

Tim Buckley , director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said that India cannot afford the price of imported coal:

India’s perilous economic and financial situation creates further uncertainty for companies relying on its ability and willingness to import coal, with its associated implications for inflation, current account deficits, economic instability and energy security’.

He also said that “imported coal would require double the current price of India’s wholesale electricity, which categorically discredits the nonsense argument that it might alleviate India’s energy poverty.” Buckley has produced detailed reports on Adani and GVK.

Whitsundays tour operator Tony Brown joins the rally in Germany (Photo: Market Forces)

Various environmental and civic groups have written the Deutsche Bank not to lend Adani.  Australian-base civic groups also linked with their European counterparts to “pressure” the bank. Some travel operators in Queensland further travelled to Germany to join the rally.

At the end of the AGM on Thrusday, the bank released the Deutsche Bank’s Environmental and Social Reputational Risk Framework (ES Framework), which stipulates the bank’s  environmental and social due diligence as an integral part of the approval process for doing business.

One of the specific guidelines recently adopted addresses activities in the close proximity to World Heritage Sites. It precludes transactions within or in close proximity to World Heritage Site unless there is a prior consensus between the relevant Government and UNESCO that such operations will not adversely affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the Site. This implies that we would not consider a request to finance an expansion unless we had the assurance of both the government and UNESCO that it would not adversely affect the Value of the Site.

Read: Deutsch Bank official stand and UNESCO’s State of Conservation

Blog Link: The Green Journal/ Asian Correspondent

Abbott’s 2014 budget: Climate change not a priority

It is not a big surprise when the Coalition Government of Tony Abbott sliced a huge amount of budget for the environment.

Reacting to the budget, mining magnate Clive Palmer, who leads the Palmer United Party, said the 2014 budget is delivered for the lobbyists and donors of the Liberal Party. He, however, failed to realise that the mining sector, which he likewise represents, is a big budget benefeciary.

Clive Palmer with Jim Mclnally and Sisie Douglas announcing the United Australia Party in Brisbane, 26 April. (Photo: Mark Calleja/ goldcoast.com.au)

Palmer wrote in  The Guardian:

As the government prepared its first budget, the spin doctors were working overtime, preparing for the moment when Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey would throw away the promises and the policies they took to the election. At parliament house, lobbyists queued to see ministers and bombarded new members of parliament with detailed submissions…

The budget, which was delivered in Parliament last week, hits the Green sector hard – not to mention a range of other victims under Australia’s welfare system.

Australia’s climate change policy and investments in renewables are now facing uncertain future.

Investment in renewables has been scaled down to save about $1.3 billion. The government has also turned its back from its commitment to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) with funding of $2.55 billion now set to spread out over 10 years instead of four years as promised.

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

 

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is no longer needed and its function will be streamlined under the environment department. ARENA was set up in 2012 to drive research and investment in renewable technologies. With bipartisan support, it was set up as an independent agency to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and their uptake. Ivor Frischknecht, the agency’s chief executive ,said abolishing the agency will reduce Australia’s ability to lower cost energy in the long term.

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme is designed to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. The RET scheme is helping to transform Australia’s electricity generation mix to cleaner and more diverse sources and supporting growth and employment in the renewables.

More bad news comes with AGL backflipping from its commitment to renewables. It announced over the weekend Australia’s RET is not achievable.

Leading utility AGL Energy has called for the scrapping of federal government support for rooftop solar PV, and has indicated the large scale renewable energy target (RET) should also be diluted or deferred because it would be impossible to meet the current 41,000GWh target in the current timeframe. – Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy

This will make Australia to slip further as an enemy of clean energy Already, the country ranks ninth  in renewable investments last year ahead of Italy, but behind the likes of South Africa, Canada, India and Germany.

 In contrast to renewables, the mining sector get a big  boost with $100 million allotted over four years for minerals exploration. Small explorers will not make any taxable income access to a refundable tax offset for their Australian shareholders.

Abbott has also spared mining an increase in  the diesel fuel excise. Currently, commercial vehicles used in mining and agriculture get a rebate on the diesel fuel excise that drops it to six cents per litre. Before the budget there had been calls to raise this in line with the petrol fuel excise.

 Extreme heatwaves hit Australia (Image: ABM)

 

The Minerals Resource Rent Tax, otherwise known as mining tax, which was introduced during the Government of Kevin Rudd and passed the Parliament under Julia Gillard has been tabled in Abbot’s agenda. The abolition of mining tax is projected to save $3.4 billion over the next three years. Read ABC’s summation of the budget.

With the G20 summit to be held in Brisbane this coming November, Abbott has already informed the EU he wants environment and climate change to be taken off  from the agenda- besides he already informed the IPCC and the rest of the world he does not believe in climate change. 

 

 

Arctic oil wells up, Russia sends home 30 activists

Tasmania awaits the homecoming of Colin Russell, 59, one of the 30 Arctic activists detained and freed by Russian authorities.

The Russian Parliament passed amnesty laws before Christmas absolving a range of minor felons, including 30 Greenpeace activists known as the Arctic 30. As New Year draws near, the immigration department also ordered to issue exit visas so that former detainees can go home.

Colin Russell is free at last and is expected to be home in Tasmania for the New Year. (Photo: AAP)

Colin Russell is free at last and is expected to be home in Tasmania for the New Year. (Photo: AAP)

Twenty-eight Greenpeace protestors representing 18 nationalites – Americans, Canadians Britons and Australians, to name a few– and two freelance journalists were seized at the Prirazlomnoye platform on September 18 by Russian commandos. They boarded on the Arctic Sunrise to protest against drilling in the ice capped region, but were intercepted, captured, and charged of piracy, then reduced to hooliganism. If convicted, they could be locked up for at least seven years in jail.

The pardon came at a time when Russia’s first Arctic offshore field Prirazlomnoye started pumping oil in the remote waters of the Pechora Sea. Gazprom Neft announced on December 20 that oil production has begun with an average of 10.6 million barrels of oil per day, close to its current capacity. Gazprom expected an initial production of 12,000 barrels per day in 2014 and the first tanker is likely to be loaded with oil in the first quarter of next year.

Already an owner of the world’s largest natural gas reserves and a growing presence in the oil sector, Gazprom also aims to produce 6 million tons of crude per year (120,000 barrels per day) at the site by 2021.

The Arctic 30 in St. Petersburg awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism.

The Arctic 30 in St. Petersburg awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism.

Prirazlomnoye’s estimated oil reserves stand at 72 million tons — a small field that would be responsible for just 1 percent of Russia’s daily production and be depleted in about two decades, the Reuters reported.

Prirazlomnoye deposit is Russia’s first Arctic offshore exploration project, which marks the start of establishing of a large hydrocarbon hub in the region. The Prirazlomnoye oil deposit lies 60 km offshore in the Pechora Sea. The announcement also marks Russia’s long-planned effort to turn the vast oil and natural gas riches believed to be buried in the frozen waters into profits for its ambitious government-run firms. Gazprom also stressed it has rights to 29 other fields it planned to exploit in Russia’s section of the Arctic seabed.

But both Gazprom and the Kremlin view the field as a stepping stone in a much broader effort to turn the Arctic into the focus of future exploration that makes up for Russia’s declining oil production at its Soviet-era Siberian fields, according to AFP.

The Arctic region is seen as an important source of potential growth for Russia, the world’s largest oil producer, in the next decade, with global oil majors including ExxonMobil, Eni and Statoil clinching deals to enter the Russian Arctic. Russian President Vladimir Putin sees the Arctic offshore riches are of a strategic importance for the country.

Control over energy fields in Russia’s section of the Arctic is split between Gazprom and its state-owned rival Rosneft — an oil producer that wants to break Gazprom’s grip on the natural gas market. Rosneft is said to be partnering in the region with U.S. major ExxonMobil and has smaller deals signed with Italy’s ENI and Norway’s Statoil, the AFP report further added.

Gazprom sees overall investments into the project at about 200 billion rubles ($6 billion), of which half had already been spent with the bulk accounting for a special ice-proof platform.

Conservation groups react

Dima Litvinov, the first of the Arctic 30 to leave Russia for Finland said his freedom is not the end, but just a beginning.

Gazprom's Polarstar platform (Photo: Gazprom.ru)

Gazprom’s Polarstar platform (Photo: Gazprom.ru)

“ They (Gazprom) may have celebrated when our ship was seized, but our imprisonment has been a disaster for them. The movement to save the Arctic is marching now. Our freedom is the start of something, not the end. This is only the beginning. The oil companies are moving north, the world’s climate is changing, the biggest struggles still lie ahead of us.”

Greenpeace said all efforts to protect the last frontier of pristine resources will be exerted and the fight is not yet over. One of its campaign platforms to gather support is Save the Arctic.

Last year, the World Wildlife fund (WWF) released a joint report that seeks to find solution in the event of an oil spill in the region. It said that harsh conditions in Russia’s Pechora Sea coupled with an inadequate oil spill response plan mean that Gazprom would not be able properly respond to an oil spill in the Arctic

A comprehensive study and joint report was released last year by the WWF, Greenpeace, Hydrometcentre of Russia, SOI, AA RI, SRC Risk Informatics. The title of the report: “Simulation of the behaviour of oil spill in the course of OIRFP “PRIRAZLOMNAYA“ Operation Assessment of the possibility of emergency response related to oil spills.

The experts reviewed tens of thousands of possible scenarios and concluded that the area of possible contamination covers over 140,000 square kilometers of open water, as well as over 3,000 kilometers of coastline. The area at risk also includes three protected areas located 50-60 km from the Prirazlomnaya oil platform: the Nenetsky natural reserve, as well as two wildlife preserves, Vaigach and Nenetsky. These reserves are home to walruses and countless species of birds. Gazprom does not include any funds for animal rescue in its oil spill response plan.

 Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya platform in the Arctic (Photo: Gazprom)


Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform in the Arctic (Photo: Gazprom)

Gazprom’s Technology

Gazprom defended its Prirazlomnaya as a unique platform designed and built in Russia on Gazprom orders. In a press statement, it said it uses technology designed to work in extreme conditions, conforms to the strictest safety requirements and is capable of withstanding maximum ice pressure. Specification of the materials used are comprehensively detailed to ensure Prirazlomnaya is oil-spill-free.

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Santos to pay the price for contaminating Pilliga forest

The New South Wales Land and Environment Court is prosecuting for the first time an oil and gas company for spilling a toxic gas waste into the forest killing acres of trees.

The Sydney court is expected to announce its verdict on Santos Ltd. after the New Year. Santos is prosecuted this week for 10,000 liters of coal seam gas spill in the great inland of the Pilliga Forest, northwest of Sydney, in June 2011 without reporting it as required by law. Santos is the first-ever to be prosecuted under 1991 forest law.

Santos-rally

Community groups form a blockage to denounce Santos and the risks associated with fracking (Photo: Supplied)

On Wednesday, the company pleaded guilty on the spill and three counts of failing to file accurate environmental reports. Each charge carries a maximum fine of AU$110,000. Santos is also ordered to pay an additional AU$110,000 for the costs of the investigation and prosecution. The court’s prosecutor, Stephen Rushton, said the penalty serves as deterrence for others to follow.

Santos, acquired Eastern Star Gas July 2011 for AU$626 million. ESG ran a water treatment plant in the Pilliga forest. The polluted water spilled into the forest in June 2011, killing 77 percent of the trees in a 1.75 hectare area, the prosecution said.

The Wilderness Society claims that the senior management of Santos at the time knew about the June 2011 spill, but tried to cover it up. The Society said the court proceedings would then be a test for NSW Government regulation of the coal seam gas industry.

Wilderness Society Newcastle Campaign Manager Naomi Hogan said Santos deserves the maximum penalty for the cover up and that any penalty should be a serious deterrent to other companies.

The Society notes that communities across NSW are watching the ruling closely, as this court case exposes the reality of the water pollution and environmental damage associated with coal seam gas fracking operations.

The damage considered in this case was just from a handful of wells, yet now residents of north-west NSW are facing Santos’ plans for 850 production wells across the Pilliga and Narrabri region, the Society adds.

Local farmers had to report the toxic spill to the media before Santos took action, according to the Society, and this is ”a scary prospect to think that community members will have to continue to monitor coal seam gas pollution if gas fields expand across the north west as planned by Santos and the NSW Government.”

pilliga forest

Community leaders inspect the affected area of the Pilliga Forest (Photo: Supplied)

The Pilliga is considered the last great inland forest, home to many threatened species including the koala and Pilliga mouse. It’s part of the Murray Darling basin, Australia’s largest food bowl, and a major recharge zone for the Great Artesian Basin, an essential source of water for Outback Australia.

About 40 community members blockaded Santos’ Pilliga forest operations on Tuesday and another 25 protests outside the court on Wednesday. Dozens more protested outside Santos offices in Gunnedah and Narrabri.

Santos has always insisted people needs education when it comes to understanding the processes and benefits of fracking.

Drawing from its rich history for 40 years, Santos has been fracking for natural gas from sandstone in the Cooper Basin in outback South Australia. The gas is piped thousands of kilometres to Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney.