Australia snubs global climate summit in Warsaw

It is official: Australia’s new government denies global warming.  The Coalition Government will not send its environment minister to the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which will kick off  in Warsaw, Poland from 11-22 November 2013.

The National Stadium in Warsaw

Environment Minister Greg Hunt will stay at home to expedite the processes involved in repealing the carbon tax, a top election promise made by his big boss, Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

However, a representative on his behalf has been dispatched to take part in the annual event. Hunt will be busy repealing the carbon tax while the conference is underway. The carbon tax was passed by the Australian legislature in 2011 under former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Since Abbott won the federal election in September this year, scrapping the carbon tax has topped his priority agenda.

Australia will be represented by Australia’s Climate Change Ambassador Justin Lee from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will also not attend.

The Coalition Government of Tony Abbott (center) is up to repeal the carbon tax. (Photo: Courier Mail)

Climate observers said this will send a wrong signal of Australia walking away from its commitment on climate action and it may set a precedent for other countries to backslide.

Climate skeptics and right-wingers are already cheering on Australia’s unprecedented example. Recently, former PM John Howard also scoffed at ”alarmists” in a climate skeptics’ gathering held in London and admitted he is “unconvinced” of an impending ”global warming catastrophe.”

The COP19 expects to bring together around 40,000 attendees from government, academia, business and advocacy groups to advance international agreements that aim to mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects.

In the past, a government minister represented Australia to the UNFCCC.  Ian Campbell headed the delegation under John Howard’s first government in 1997.  Labor Climate Change Ministers Penny Wong and Greg Combet, respectively, attended the conference from 2007, although in  2012, the Gillard government’s parliamentary secretary on climate change Mark Dreyfus attended the conference on behalf of Combet.

Oppositions and environmental groups are wary of the bad signal Australia will be sending to the summit. Opposition climate spokesman Mark Butler said “Other countries are going to read into it at best with confusion and at worst that the Abbott government is walking away from global action on climate change, ” Australia’s leading media The Australian quoted him as saying.

Greens MP Adam Bandt also said it was “understandable” that Minister Hunt was “embarrassed” by his government’s decision to scrap the carbon tax, but it was no excuse to skip the global summit. While no major decisions will be made at Warsaw, the meeting will build momentum in the lead-up to major negotiations for a global agreement on cutting greenhouse gases in Paris in 2015.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt during a media interview (Photo: SBS)

Businesses support repeal of carbon tax

PHP Billiton, among other businesses under the Australian Business Council,  supports the dumping of carbon tax. While backing the Federal Government’s plan, the mining giant, however, urged scrapping the price of carbon should be done as soon as possible. It warned of a possible  complications if it is not done by mid-2014. The mining firm said it still believes in having a price on carbon, but any policy should be trade friendly and revenue neutral.

BHP Billiton noted that repealing the carbon tax will get rid of the current problem of Australian firms paying a higher cost on pollution than their international competitors.  The company shares concerns already expressed by others businesses about the uncertainty that will be created should the legislation not pass by mid-next year.

Climate action nationwide rally

Amid plans to scrap the carbon tax, a climate action is brewing nationwide. Various environmental groups are set to mobilise rallies in every major city nationwide on November 17. It is a collaboration of GetUp, the Australian Conservation Foundation,  the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Environment Victoria, Fire Brigade Employees Union, Greenpeace, 350.org, Oxfam Australia and many other groups. ACF said they intend to make this event as big as they can.

The ACF wants to keep Australia’s carbon tax. It said that while the tide of history is flowing towards pricing pollution, Australia is turning back the clock. Along with the climate action rally, the Foundation also supports an online petition to the prime minister, environment minister, and environment decision makers from all parties.

GetUp who is spearheading the climate action  rally said 2011 was a turning point for Australia.  Climate scientists warned it was the beginning of the critical decade for climate change and thus required stronger action to avoid the catastrophic effects of rising emissions. Australians responded to this warming by enacting the carbon tax.

However, Australia faces another turning point this year– which is poised to “go backwards on climate action at a time when the government’s own independent climate policy advisory body has warned the nation’s current emissions reductions targets are “inadequate” and what it needs is stronger and more ambitious targets.”

Blog Link: The Green Journal/Asian Correspondent

Climate Action: From the ACF

From the Australian Conservation Foundation:Who cares?

Carbon pollution contributes to man-made environmental disaster

Carbon pollution contributes to man-made environmental disaster

Hi Rowena,

You are one of a 20 million strong movement. On October 23, 24 Hours of Reality: The Cost of Carbon created the world’s largest conversation on climate change.

Did you miss it? You can watch videos from Australia and around the globe here.

So what happened?

  • More than 20 million people watched worldwide.
  • Over 24 hours, there were 252 million mentions on Facebook and Twitter.
  • ACF members and Climate Leaders hosted 60 screening events around the country.

What now?

More than ever, as we hear mixed signals from politicians about climate action, we need to be vocal and well versed.

Here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Come to the national day of climate action on Sunday Nov 17. Join ACF and our allies around Australia.
  2. Sign our petition to keep our laws to cut carbon pollution. It’s not time to wind them back!
  3. Request a presentation from a Climate Leader trained by Al Gore, so your group can better understand the science, impacts and solutions to climate change

I will be at the Melbourne day of climate action. Other cities have meeting points too. I hope you can make it on Sunday 17 November.

With thanks,

Tony

Tony Mohr ,Climate Change Campaign Manager, Australian Conservation Foundation

Transfer of power to State poses threat to environment

This might be a good news for Santos, Chevron, Woodside, Shell, BHP Billiton, ExxonMobil, Origin, Ta Ann—name it—and all those other giants engaged in the business of “exploiting” Australia’s natural resources. They will have more freedom to dig and rig, build dams, or haul native logs—if the power to enforce environmental laws will be transferred from the Federal Government to the State Government.

Undated photo shows BHP Billiton running this machine at Mt Newman mine in Western Australia. (AP Photo/BHP Billiton,HO)

The Council of Australian Governments earlier this year agreed to reform controversial environmental laws. It proposes changes that would give states autonomy to take control over local environmental laws.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)  administered by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts covers the assessment and approval process of national environmental and cultural concerns. It also administers specific Acts that oversee activities relating to marine resources, importing, heritage issues, hazardous waste, and fuel quality.

State and territory environment laws apply to specific business activities and are administered by both state and local governments in the form of licences and permits.

The plan to hand over control of national environmental powers to state and territory governments has outraged the Greens. Last month, an alliance of more than 35 environmental organisations sent more than 10,000 petition signatures to Environment Minister Tony Burke to oppose the proposals.

The Wilderness Society of Australia warned that without Federal powers to override the states, places of high conservation values would be exposed to exploitation. This is the case of the Great Barrier Reef, the Franklin River, the Daintree Rainforest and Fraser Island, for example. If left to the State Government, they would have been destroyed, the group said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) notes that in the past, under the national environment law, the Federal Government has been able to save  the Great Barrier Reef from State Government plans to allow oil rigs.

However, the reef is still at risk from climate change, catchment run-off, coastal developments and shipping. Recent reports show it has lost 50 per cent of its coral cover since 1985.


Protestors at Franklin Dam site in 1982. In 1978, the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission announced plan to build Franklin Dam, but failed. In 1982, the Federal Government declared the area as a World Heritage Site. (Photo: Tasmania Wilderness Society/National Archive of Australia)

Lonergan Research poll in November said the vast majority of Australians, about 85 per cent, believe the Federal Government should be able to block or make changes to major projects that could damage the environment.

Last week, the plan sounded to have been resolved. The Wilderness Society thought it could sit back and relax—at least for now. In a press release dated 7 December, the Society said the Federal Government has saved business and environmental organisations from a legislative and litigation nightmare by not handing over environmental approval powers to the states.

Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders noted, “The business community has avoided a train wreck. The Federal Government seems to have recognised that our environment is essential to our national interest.”

Now is the time to put in place a robust system that guarantees the highest level protection of areas of national and international significance and for the Federal Government to continue to be the guardians of those values.

Greenpeace flashes a banner to support a UN team dispatched to assess the Great Barrier Reef in early 2012.

However, the ACF today pushed the red button: “Our federal environment laws – the last resort of protection for our precious places and species – are under attack.” Despite a concerted campaign of environmental organisations, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) will put the plan on hold till next April, Chief Executive Office Don Henry said in a statement circulated by email. ACF Director of Strategic Ideas Charles Berger also noted, “the plan is not completely off the table and big business is bound to push the government to reconsider.”

You can bet big business will be pushing these changes, which would make it easier for developers and miners to irreparably damage reefs, wetlands and heritage areas by taking away the national layer of scrutiny and review.

So the fight to pressure politicians not to allow businesses to exploit the environment is expected to go on until the Government will “dump this reckless idea for good, “ the ACF said.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

GetUp! rallies behind Swan on mining tax

“Politicians have a choice… between standing up for workers and kneeling down at the feet of the Gina Rineharts and the Clive Palmers …”  – Wayne Swan, The Monthly, March 2012

Here’s from the email inbox:

The Government is talking tough about the need to ensure all Australians benefit from the resources we own. But here’s the stark truth: Over the next three years, as the Minerals Resources Rent Tax brings in $10.6 billion from the mining industry, around $8.5 billion will be handed back to them in tax concessions and loopholes!

Wayne Swan is making critical decisions over the next few weeks in an attempt to reach a budget surplus in 2012/13. As we’ve seen at budget time in years past, ideas are floated out in the weeks leading up to the budget to see how the public responds. Just this morning, news outlets began running the story that perhaps mining subsidies would be cut in the upcoming budget. As Wayne Swan takes the public’s temperature on this issue, let’s turn up the heat on him.

Can you make sure Swan stands up for workers by ending mining handouts? Chip in to put this ad on the air so that he hears from everyday Australians instead of mining magnates:

http://www.getup.org.au/end-billionaire-welfare

Mining magnates such as Clive Palmer and Gina Reinhart continue to rake in record profits at the same time as receiving billions of dollars in handouts (our tax dollars) from the Government.

Each year, mining subsidies on offer include (but are not limited to): – $1.89 billion under the Diesel Fuel Tax Credit Scheme [1] – $330 million under the exploration and prospecting deduction [2] – $250 million via an accelerated deprecation scheme that lets them write down their assets early [3] – $390 million in various research & development deductions [4]

This billionaire welfare is occurring at the same time as nurses, teachers, aged-care workers and other public sector workers face further budget cuts.

That’s why we’ve made an ad that highlights the stories of the people who really deserve the Government’s aid – people working for public interest, not vested interest.

Can you help get their message on TV screens before it’s too late?

http://www.getup.org.au/end-billionaire-welfare

It’s safe to say that at some point in our lives – if it hasn’t happened already – we’ll all depend on people like Clare, Michelle, Janice and Inge. It’s not right that they continue to work hard and pay taxes week in and week out, facing budget cuts and staffing shortages – only to have that money handed over to Clive and Gina so they can become even richer.

We can put a stop to it. Ask Wayne Swan to put our money where his mouth is and end handouts to big mining: http://www.getup.org.au/end-billionaire-welfare

Thanks for standing up for what’s right, for the GetUp team.

PS – With just weeks to go before the budget is handed down, the word out of Canberra is that key meetings to discuss policy options like ending mining subsidies are occurring over the next few weeks. Can you help us get this ad on the air as these important decisions are being made? http://www.getup.org.au/end-billionaire-welfare

Sources: [1] ‘Taxation Statistics 2008-09’, Australian Taxation Office. 2011. p 14 [2] ‘Tax Expenditures Statement 2011’,  The Australian Government the Treasury. January, 2012. p. 108 [3] ‘Drill Now, Pay Later’, Australian Conservation Foundation. September, 2011. p. 8 [4] ‘The Berd in the Hand Report’, Australian Business Foundation. April 2011. pp 18 – 25