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

Advertisements

Defeat of QLD Labor, death of Green projects

The official tally of Queensland State Election 2012 (Photo: The Australian)

With the political massacre of the left-wing Labor Party in the recent Queensland state election, new leader from the Liberal National Party Campbell Newman ordered the demolition of environmental projects.

Newman has already directed to scrap the $1.2bn Solar Dawn solar thermal project near Chinchilla, west of Brisbane. This will stop the $75 million in state funding pledged for the scheme which the Anna Bligh government signed last February, the SMH reported.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson noted he Solar Dawn project was initially thought it would bring $60m in research funding to the University of Queensland, and provide an average of 300 jobs during the three-year construction phase, due to start in 2015. He also suggested the federal government to withdraw its own $464m contribution pledge last month.

Solar Dawn solar research and power plant at Chinchilla (Photo: SMH)

Newman is now working  to axe seven other green schemes saying the carbon tax would make them redundant. The Australian reported. These include the following:

  • $430m Queensland Climate Change Fund which provides $30m a year for climate change initiatives
  • $50m Renewable Energy Fund which supports the Geothermal Centre of Excellence
  • $50m Smart Energy Savings Program which helps businesses improve energy efficiency
  • Waste Avoidance and Resource Efficiency Fund
  • Local Government Sustainable Future Fund
  • Solar Initiatives Package
  • The Future Growth Fund set up in 2006 with the net proceeds from the sale of state-owned energy corporations

Newman assigned the demolition job to bureaucrat Greg Withers, the husband of the now defunct Queensland leader, Anna Bligh. Withers led in setting up the green energy schemes.

Coal-fired power stations in Victoria are one of Australia’s dirtiest. (Photo: Paul Jones/SMH)

Meanwhile, in Victoria, gas emitters are welcome to do business. The Ted Baillieu Government removed the cap on greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired power plants, the SMH reported.

Energy Minister Michael O’Brien announced this development contradicting earlier government’s decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by the end of the decade. It also came as the state government released a report on future impacts of climate change in Victoria, finding average temperatures could increase by 1 to 4.2 degrees by 2070 relative to 1990.

The Coalition –Labor and Greens–  had proposed a new coal power standards that would cap emissions from new coal-fired power plants at 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide for every megawatt hour of electricity generated. They also suggested the installation of new power plants that would use clean coal technology.

Environment Victoria’s Mark Wakeham said ”polluters are welcome in Ted Baillieu’s Victoria while the government is going out of its way to make it harder to build clean energy projects”.

Baillieu is reported to have released an independent review of Victoria’s Climate Change Act that “recommends repealing the state’s 20 per cent emissions target – which the state government has agreed to – because it would have no extra environmental benefit and would only lighten the load for other states in meeting a national 5 per cent emissions target.”

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Carbon tax unconstitutional, goes to high court

Mining billionaire Clive Palmer of Queensland Nickel

The carbon tax circus is not yet over.

Mining magnate Clive Palmer announced he will challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s carbon tax to High Court saying it is unconstitutional.

Palmer said his legal advisers who are “all senior counsels with experience in the High Court” advised him to take legal action against the federal government on the ground of discriminating his company Queensland Nickel.  The Age  said his legal advice would be finalised next week and his company would probably lodge documents with the High Court by April.

Palmer said his lawyers advised him there were several grounds under which the carbon tax is unconstitutional. For one, he said his company was getting less compensation under the carbon tax than rivals BHP Billiton and Glencore.

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, however, denied the claim saying the government was still awaiting audited data from nickel producers that would then be included in the compensation regulations.

The Age also noted Roland Burt, a principal at Macpherson and Kelley Lawyers, who singled out three potential avenues for a challenge. These include “Commonwealth external powers, the federal government’s power to impose taxes on the states, and the issue of whether tax law could be bundled up with other legislation.”

However, Burt doubts the success of the challenge:

”Clive Palmer will have some of the best legal minds in the country at his disposal and they will certainly put a powerful case….’But my guess is the government has thought about it all carefully enough to design it in a way that will probably – but by no means certainly – survive the challenge.

PM Gillard and her camp insisted that the carbon tax was strictly reviewed during its legislative development and has ”taken careful constitutional advice and legal advice at every stage.”

Greg Craven, a law professor and vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, believes the carbon tax was ”inherently complicated” and ”was always going to end up in the High Court”.

It raised questions about the scope of taxation power, the rights of the states, the Commonwealth’s power to make laws binding the states, and the compulsory acquisition of property.

”If you were looking for a law that was born to be challenged, this is it, because there are billions of dollars at stake.

Andrew Bolt, one of Australia’s most influential columnists said, “ Palmer might be right and the carbon tax wrong.”

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent