Clean energy on ALP National Conference agenda

“Australians want cheaper, cleaner power. There are more than 5 million people living under a solar roof, taking control of their electricity bills and doing their bit for the environment.” – Claire O’Rourke, National Director, Solar Citizens

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) will decide its policy platform at their National Conference in Melbourne on July 27.

On the agenda includes climate change. The conference is open to the public to join clean energy workers, community leaders, and thousands of voters, to show the ALP Australia is ready for leadership on clean renewable power.

The event is crucial for ALP to step up in providing the necessary vision and policy settings to put Australia on a path to a cleaner, fairer economy that tackles the challenge of climate change.

DATE
July 25, 2015 at 11am – 12pm

VENUE

Melbourne Convention Centre
1 Convention Centre Place South Wharf
Melbourne, Victoria 3006
Australia
RSVP HERE.
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US economist launches low carbon mission in Australia

While the global community is stepping up plans and actions to respond to climate change, Australia is responding otherwise. Under the current political leadership, Australia’s attitude towards global cooperation has been recalcitrant.

The Tony Abbott’s budget cuts on environment , along with the anti-climate change initiatives, remain a controversial issue triggering non-stop protests and rallies nationwide. But in the midst of chaos, the budget welcomes the re-known economist and professor, Jeffrey Sachs, who arrived in Australia  to launch a clean energy initiative.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs leads the launching of low carbon project in Melbourne (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

“This is not a great budget, but a great debate,” Professor Sachs quipped.

Noting the crucial role of Australia in preventing a tipping point of the planet, Sachs led the launching of ‘How Australia can Thrive in a Carbon World, Pathways to Prosperity in 2050’ in Melbourne on May 21. The launch was sponsored by Monash Sustainability Institute and The Myer Foundation.

Obviously disappointed and not amused with the budget, Sachs said Australia has a critical role in leading the world towards a low carbon and yet still a prosperous global economy. For one thing, Australia’s per capita emissions are amongst the highest in the world driven by agriculture, industry and coal-based electricity.

He said decarbonisation has been underway,  including Australia’s trading partners with a goal of economic prosperity – yet with improved air quality, energy security and improved standards of living. The project underlies a tough challenge for Australia’s competitiveness driven by emissions from the country’s key exports, including coal, gas, oil and beef. The Monash University team, however, underscores that Australian economy is resilient and diverse, besides the largest industry which occupies 52 percent of the  GDP is the service sector. The carbon emissions sector such as mining, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry share lesser portion to the GDP.

The mission of the project is to map up viable pathways to reduce dangerous carbon emissions. Pathways may include increasing energy efficiency, shift to low carbon resources, and non-energy abatement and sequestration. Sachs said there has been a lot of talks going on and what the global community needs to see is a showcase of a pathway that is viable and achievable. The working paper outlines:

This means that each country will gain insights such as what China is predicting in terms of renewable energy growth, what Europe and the US are assuming with regards to take up of energy efficiency, and what India’s demand for coal may be.

Decarbonization is coordinated globally but driven locally with the participation of 13 countries which collectively represent more than 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The project is being coordinated by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) – which is an international network of universities and research institutions. Countries participating include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States. 

SDSN appointed ClimateWorks Australia and the Australian National University to jointly lead Australia’s involvement, with modelling by CSIRO and the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University. After the launch, the project expects each of the participating countries to prepare summaries of example pathways modelled and demonstration of the technological solutions for deep decarbonisation. The summaries will be included in a SDSN ‘Phase 1’ report to be released in July 2014. It will be presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in preparation for the UN General Assembly meeting and Climate Change Summit in New York City this coming September. Australia’s story will be presented to a global audience.  

Q & A during the launch. Professor Jeff Sachs is seated second from the right. (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

Q & A during the launch. Professor Jeff Sachs is seated second from the right. (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

Professor Sachs is known for his work on poverty eradication, including his bestselling books – Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet and The End of Poverty. He is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

New Abbott gov’t heads for environmental disaster, expert warns

A day after Tony Abbott was elected as the new Prime Minister of Australia, conservation groups are already worrying about the future of environmental protection and sustainability in the country.

Under the new “management”, a term used by Abbott in his acceptance speech at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, his government will put environmental issues on the back burner to get the business back on track.

Tony Abbott (top) won the 2013 federal election to become Australia's 28th prime minister beating Kevin Rudd who conceded defeat on Sept. 7.

Abbott won Saturday’s Federal Election to become Australia’s 28th prime minister, beating Kevin Rudd in an overwhelming victory.

In a reaction to his election, however, Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe from the School of Science, Griffith University said Australia’s newly elected government will be disastrous for the environment. He finds the Coalition Government’s policies on environment to be depressing, The Conversation reports.

Under the Liberal Party’s plan, Abbott will seek to abolish the carbon tax immediately, which he considers toxic and destructive for Australian businesses. The new PM also vowed to suspend the operation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Citing New South Wales as an example of bad business affected by carbon tax, Premiere Barry O’Farrell has made it clear that the state’s black coal-fired power stations will suffer a loss in value of at least $5 billion because of the carbon tax.

Abbott will also abolish the mining tax which he claims undermines investor confidence in Australia as an investment destination and as a secure “supplier of resources.” By scrapping the tax, the Coalition aims to “restore confidence, stability and security for the industry, allowing it to thrive, create jobs and contribute to the prosperity of all Australians.”

Green groups have been alarmed at the Coalition’s plan to implement a One-Stop-Shop Environmental Approvals Process. The process will cut green tape and will fast-track approvals of new mining and other projects. Once it gives  green light to the petition lodged by the Business Council of Australia, the Coalition will offer State and Territory governments the opportunity to act as a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals. The States and Territories would then administer a single approvals process including approvals under Commonwealth legislation such as the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The Environment Defenders Office has already released a report that finds the One-Stop-Shop a process to streamline the process of environmental destruction. Read related article here.

Lowe said Abbott’s  proposal will turn the clock back 30 years on environmental protection.

“Since the Hawke government blocked the proposed Franklin Dam, successive governments – ALP and Coalition – have curbed the worst excesses of growth-oriented states, which are prepared to approve irresponsible developments. Even our National Parks are no longer safe,” he said.

Other plans in the Coalition pipeline include a go for mineral exploration activities; agricultural land exploration for seam coal gas; approval of uranium exports to India; examination of the potential of thorium as an energy source for export; and a review of the former government’s White Paper on energy and resources, among other things.

Relevant links to the new government’s policies are here, including resources and energy plans.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent’s Green Journal

A Threat to Renewables?

What’s going on with Australia’s sustainable energy resources? Here’s from GetUp:

Australia’s renewable energy future is on the line.

Windpower generators are also considered but its feasibility is under study.

Windpower generators as part of Australia’s sustainable energy future.

On Tuesday Coalition MPs will take the stage outside Parliament House with radio personality Alan Jones to demand a halt to wind power development and to advocate for the scrapping of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.

Never before in Australia have we had organised opposition to renewable energy. That means it’s no longer enough to just support renewable energy. We need to demonstrate it. On Tuesday we can counter fear-mongering with hope, look to the future, not the past and show the way to a clean energy future.

Join us in Canberra on Tuesday and show your support for renewable energy.

www.getup.org.au/rally4renewables

What: Rally for Renewables
Where: Garema Place, Canberra.
When: 12 noon, Tuesday 18 June.
RSVP: www.getup.org.au/rally4renewables

The last few months have marked a disturbing turn against renewable energy by the Coalition. Tony Abbott has described climate change as “absolute crap”3 and vowed to repeal the price on carbon that makes polluters pay for the real environmental cost of their emissions. Coalition MPs threatened the head of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which offers market rate loans for renewable energy projects and demanded that she stop investment by the fund. They even said that if elected that they would “tear up” the contracts signed with renewable energy companies despite the uncertainty it would create for jobs and investment in the renewable energy industry.

And now Coalition anti-renewables “crusaders” – Alby Schultz, Craig Kelly and Chris Back –  are peddling misinformation to try and erode support for renewables. The research has comprehensively debunked the health claims about the negative impacts of wind turbines4. But those facts aren’t important to these MPs. They know that without strong community support for more investment in renewable energy, it creates space for Australia to walk away from its promise to get 20% of our power from renewable sources by 2020. Tony Abbott and Shadow Environment minister Greg Hunt should condemn these MPs as a rogue element but instead they have been silent.

Right now, renewable energy has overwhelming community support, even among Coalition voters. It’s our one clear opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and do our bit to limit global warming to 2 degrees. We can’t let community support for renewable energy be undermined by lies and spurious claims.

www.getup.org.au/rally4renewables

I hope to see you there on Tuesday.
Carl, for the GetUp team.

After carbon tax, coal to power the economy

Following economists’ recent prediction of the impending end of mining boom cycle, the Federal Government is scrambling to find an alternative solution to power the Australian economy and is now turning to seam gas and brown coal projects.

New South Wales and Victoria received the green lights to go ahead with the projects, respectively – stirring rounds of uproar from local industries, farmers, consumers, and environmental groups.

Hunter Valley in NSW is home to one of the world’s finest wineries and is now under seam gas exploration threat.

In January this year, the Federal Government created the Independent Expert Scientific Committee to provide impartial advice on the environmental effects of coal mining and coal seam gas projects. But ABC’s Lateline revealed that four out of the six members have financial links with the mining industry.

  • Professor Chris Moran – director of the Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University of Queensland. In 2010 the institute received $17 million, more than half of its funding, from coal seam gas and mining giants Santos, BHP Billiton, BG Group, Rio Tinto and many more.
  • Associate Professor David Laurence – head of the University of NSW Centre for Sustainable Mining Practices. It’s funded with a $1.1 million grant by Mitsubishi Development, a Japanese-controlled coal miner with significant investments in Queensland.
  • Professor John Langford – shareholder in coal seam gas and coal companies for his self-managed superannuation funds.
  • Professor Peter Flood –  a regular consultant for the resource industry.

Affected by the coal, the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association represents stallion farms, broodmare farms, the largest equine hospital in the Southern Hemisphere.

The committee is chaired by Professor Craig Simmons who said the committee is made up of distinguished academics with long and credible public records. He rejected any suggestion that the committee’s work is influenced by industry.

Professor Gary Willgoose, a hydrologist who holds a prestigious position of Australian professorial fellow said it is virtually impossible to find an independent expert as the coal seam gas industry funds and provides the vast majority of research and consultancy work.

Larissa Walters, Federal Green Senator, however said, “These people have been appointed to scrutinise the impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining. You want to make sure that they’re not getting paid by the industry and therefore might turn a blind eye to some of the more dastardly impacts of the industry.” Read ABC TRANSCRIPT.

In Victoria, the brown coal investment is in full swing under the Ted Baillieu Government. The federal and Victorian governments today announced the creation of a $90 million fund for new brown coal projects in the Latrobe Valley.

North brown coal power station in Gippsland, Victoria. (Photo: Aaron Francis/The Australian)

The Sydney Morning Herald said each government will contribute $45 million to pay for the development and rollout of brown coal technologies, including drying for export, conversion into fuels and fertilisers, and reducing emissions from coal-fired electricity generation. The announcement comes ahead of the Victorian Government opening its controversial tender for new allocations of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley.

Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said the program will create jobs in the LaTrobe Valley region, spur economic growth, and create a sustainable source of energy for Victorian industries and households.

The Minister also said,

There is a potential for brown coal to develop into a valuable export, which would not be possible without the technological innovation that may also assist in meeting the Government’s emissions reductions targets of five per cent fewer emissions than 2000 levels by 2020.”

Victorian Energy Minister Michael O’Brien said,

Our brown coal resource has for a long time benefited all Victorians, delivering a reliable and affordable power source that has underpinned our economic growth and been a competitive advantage for the state.

There is a long term viable future for the Latrobe Valley based on the sustainable use of brown coal.’

Expressions of interests for grants will close on November 19. The governments said construction of the  first funded project will be scheduled for 2013-14.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth campaign coordinator Cam Walker released a media statement to express his group’s disappointment over the government’s sneaky plan of scrapping clean energy projects.

The Yallourn brown coal power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. (Photo: News Limited)

Last week, the Federal Energy Minister announced it will cancel the $100 grant to the proposed HRL coal-fired power plant in the Latrobe Valley. He said the announcement is devastating for the Victorian communities. The $45 million Victorian government contribution could be use to invest in clean energy technology. Walker said the announcement is a massive lost opportunity.

Instead of continuing to peddle the notion of ‘clean’ coal technologies, the government should be putting public funds into job rich renewable technology. The state government has shut off much of the state to wind energy, and refuses to listen to community concerns about coal and CSG. Having done a U Turn on climate action, it seems the government of Ted Baillieu is determined to take Victoria back into the 1950s by continuing to support the expansion of the obsolete brown coal industry.