The imminent death of the Great Barrier Reef

In 2016, there was an obituary written for the Great Barrier Reef. The cause of death: climate change and ocean acidification. It died at the age of 25 million.

Australian scientists confirmed this is not far from the truth —  if drastic action to save the reef is not taken. In a media release by the James Cook University, scientists conducted a survey last year in which they recorded severe coral bleaching across huge tracts of the Reef. They completed aerial surveys along its entire length. Reports said that while bleaching was most severe in the northern third of the Reef, the middle third has experienced the most intense coral bleaching.

Orpheus Island bleaching. Image: Greg Torda

Prof. Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, who undertook the aerial surveys in both 2016 and 2017, said the combined impact of this back-to-back bleaching stretches for 1,500 km (900 miles), leaving only the southern third unscathed.

The bleaching is caused by record-breaking temperatures — even without the effects of El Niño conditions.

The aerial surveys in 2017 covered more than 8,000 km (5,000 miles) and scored nearly 800 individual coral reefs closely matching the aerial surveys in 2016 that were carried out by the same two observers.

Dr. James Kerry, who also undertook the aerial surveys, explains further, “this is the fourth time the Great Barrier Reef has bleached severely – in 1998, 2002, 2016, and now in 2017. Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals, but in the severe central region we anticipate high levels of coral loss.”

It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016.”

Coupled with the 2017 mass bleaching event, Tropical Cyclone Debbie struck a corridor of the Great Barrier Reef at the end of March. The intense, slow-moving system was likely to have caused varying levels of damage along a path up to 100 km in width. Any cooling effects related to the cyclone are likely to be negligible in relation to the damage it caused, which unfortunately struck a section of the reef that had largely escaped the worst of the bleaching.

“Clearly the reef is struggling with multiple impacts,” explains Prof. Hughes. “Without a doubt the most pressing of these is global warming. As temperatures continue to rise the corals will experience more and more of these events: 1°C of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years.”

‘Ultimately, we need to cut carbon emissions, and the window to do so is rapidly closing.”

Mining and Fossil Fuels

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) blasts the mining and fossil fuels industry as well as the lack of government action. Mining and burning of fossil fuels– like coal – are warming the oceans and killing the reef, the Foundation claims.

Kelly O’Shanassy, ACF director said this is a global tragedy blaming the Australian government and coal companies for undermining action on global warming.

O’Shanassy said in order to have any chance of saving the rest of the reef, there should be a stop in digging up and burning coal and take the alternative — to rapidly repower Australia with clean energy.

“We are heartbroken, and furious. But we will not stop speaking out, showing up and holding people accountable for their decisions,” she said adding:

“The death of so much of our reef was not an accident. It was conscious choice. The government and coal companies knew this was coming yet for years they chose to undermine action on global warming. They laughed as they threw coal around Parliament.”

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World leaders now need to act on historic climate deal

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 12: Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres (L 2), Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (C), Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (R 2), and France's President Francois Hollande (R) raise hands together after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. (Photo by Arnaud BOUISSOU/COP21/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE – DECEMBER 12: Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres (L 2), Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (C), Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (R 2), and France’s President Francois Hollande (R) raise hands together after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. (Photo by Arnaud BOUISSOU/COP21/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

THE 12-day COP21 in Paris concluded with an agreement among 195 or so countries to limit global average temperature to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels in a bid to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

The agreement aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. Limiting carbon emissions is expected to increase the ability of nations to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and to foster climate resilience. The agreement also encourages low greenhouse gas emissions development to prevent threats on food production.

The agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

FULL TEXT HERE.

There have been positive reactions to the agreement:

Academic and climate experts from Australia and beyond have welcomed the agreement. “The signature achievement of the Paris Agreement is a much bolder temperature target than expected: a ceiling of 2℃ warming, plus the pursuit of the safer target of 1.5,” according to Robyn Eckersley, professor of Political Science, University of Melbourne.

“Twenty-three years after signing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the nations of the world have at last decided to act on it. The Paris Agreement will mark a turning point in so many ways and represents a victory that would have seemed impossible even one or two years ago.” said Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Stuart University.

“2015 is set to be the hottest year ever recorded. Appropriately, the Paris Agreement contains the strongest temperature goal of any international climate deal so far. Its aims – to strengthen global action to hold warming well below 2℃ and encourage efforts to limit warming to 1.5℃ – frame and drive the Agreement’s ambition.” said Peter Christoff, associate professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne.

However, the agreement did not come without shortcomings:

Prof Hamilton notes, “The decisive question now is how powerfully the Paris Agreement will signal to those outside national governments, including business, that the world has entered a new era. Because it is what they do over the next few years that will determine how deep the next round of emission cuts can be. All the indications are that Paris will send a very strong signal indeed.”

Katharine Hayhoe, associate professor and director of Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University said, “The Paris Agreement is not naïve: the majority of its 31 pages lays out the need for ongoing reporting, special IPCC reports, financing for the Green Climate Fund, even naming individual climate Champions, tasked with keeping the process moving. To succeed, it will need all the help it can get; but if it does, all of our work – in climate science, policy, impacts, law, communication, and many other fields – will have not been in vain. That’s worth fighting for.”

More details from The Conversation here.

Stephen Kretzmann, Oil Change International (OCI)executive director said the Paris climate talks highlighted the need to stop funding fossil fuels and to adhere to scientific warnings to keep coal in the ground. He said, “The clear hypocrisy of funding the industry that is destroying the climate cannot withstand scrutiny for much longer.”

Hannah McKinnon, OCI senior campaigner, admits the agreement does not offer a “silver bullet to change the world or save the climate” but rather – “it is the growing climate movement that is already making that happen. Everywhere you look, citizens, front line communities, Indigenous Peoples, business leaders, and politicians are standing up to Big Polluters and taking a clean, safe, and renewable energy future into their own hands.”

“It’s the people on the streets who provide the real hope for addressing the climate crisis. People fighting for climate justice around the world are the ones who will solve this problem and they’re already making headway day by day,” said David Turnbull, OCI campaigns director.

The 350.org Executive Director May Boeve and Co-founder Bill McKibben issued a press release following the latest text of the climate agreement in Paris.

McKibben said every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry.

Boeve notes the agreement marks the end of fossil fuels era, and there is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now.

“Our job now is to hold countries to their word and accelerate the transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Over ten thousand of us took to the streets of Paris today to demonstrate our commitment to keep up the fight for climate justice, while many more demonstrated around the world. Our message is simple: a livable climate is a red line we’re prepared to defend, ” Boeve said.

The organisation recognises the final text still has some serious gaps. Specifically, it excludes the rights of indigenous peoples. Finance for loss and damage is also lacking, and while the text recognizes the importance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C, the current commitments from countries still add up to well over 3 degrees of warming.

Despite the ban on climate marches following the Nov 13 terror attacks, people cannot be silence to press for climate action. (Photo: Indigenous People’s Network/Flickr)
Despite the ban on climate marches following the Nov 13 terror attacks, people cannot be silence to press for climate action. (Photo: Indigenous People’s Network/Flickr)

Members of the Indigenous Environmental Network are not convinced of the outcome of the 12-day talks. At the last day of the conference, they held the morning prayer circle and was moved down the street to the infamous Pont des Arts, also known across the world as the ‘Love Lock Bridge’ where they staged a direct action. Their collective message was clear – “People discuss ‘red lines’, we are the red line. We are the keepers of the land, protectors of animals, the seas, the air. We are the solution.”

Indigenous representatives from Indigenous nations of Circumpolar, Amazon, South Pacific and North America joined for an early morning sunrise ceremony prayer at the foot of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, to close the climate negotiations.

Indigenous representatives from Indigenous nations of Circumpolar, Amazon, South Pacific and North America joined for an early morning sunrise ceremony prayer at the foot of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, to close the climate negotiations.

Indigenous representatives from Indigenous nations of Circumpolar, Amazon, South Pacific and North America joined for an early morning sunrise ceremony prayer at the foot of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, to close the climate negotiations.

Quoting Alberto Saldamando, human rights expert and attorney, they flashed in their website:

“The Paris accord is a trade agreement, nothing more. It promises to privatize, commodify and sell forested lands as carbon offsets in fraudulent schemes such as REDD+ projects. These offset schemes provide a financial laundering mechanism for developed countries to launder their carbon pollution on the backs of the global south. Case-in-point, the United States’ climate change plan includes 250 million megatons to be absorbed by oceans and forest offset markets. Essentially, those responsible for the climate crisis not only get to buy their way out of compliance but they also get to profit from it as well.”

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Melbourne’s climate march a huge turnout for COP21

On the frontline of People's Climate March Melbourne, Nov. 27.

On the frontline of People’s Climate March Melbourne, Nov. 27. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

The People’s Climate March kicked off in Melbourne before dusk on Friday, Nov 27, with a massive turnout of about 60,000 people. Other rallies across Australia are expected to follow suit over the weekend – Saturday and Sunday — to include Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Hobart. The marches will set momentum for the Conference of Parties 21 (COP21) climate talks scheduled for Nov 29 – Dec 12.

The march on Friday is described as ”massive” and the ”city’s biggest climate march ever.” Chants and oratories opened at the State Library located along Swanston corner La Trobe Streets before the march proceeded to the Parliament House along Spring Street where more speeches were made.

Indigenous Australians at the forefront of climate march in Melbourne, Nov. 27. (Photo: The Green Journal AU - Asian Correspondent)

Indigenous Australians at the forefront of climate march in Melbourne, Nov. 27. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

Australian organisers and participants include a wide spectrum of conservation groups, political parties, medical and health professionals, superannuation funds, indigenous people, community groups, clean energy businesses, farmers, families, and other civic groups and individuals.

The Melbourne turnout calls for other cities to do the same and to demonstrate their support for a strong climate action.  Paris announced it will ban all climate rallies along its boulevard and other public places as the city plays host to the climate talks. The ban will be enforced for security reasons in the aftermath of the terror attacks on Nov 13.  The conference has also been reduced to a “negotiation” event – without celebrities and entertainment. Those who cannot march are also asking march partners elsewhere to march for them. A website has been opened for this purpose:

“If you can’t make your voice heard in the country where you live, make it count somewhere else in the world. Marchers from all over the world are ready to carry your message on your behalf.”

The Paris climate talks will see representatives of around 200 countries coming together to forge a binding agreement on capping carbon emissions as a way to limit the earth’s temperature below two degrees Celsius by 2050. This climate talk is said to be the last chance to seal an agreement.

Australian Labor Party raises the banner. (Photo: The Green Journal AU - Asian Correspondent)

Australian Labor Party raises the banner. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

The Australian Greens are in too. (Photo: The Green Journal AU - Asian Correspondent)

The Australian Greens are in too. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

The march culminates at the Victorian Parliament Building. (Photo: The Green Journal AU- Asian Correspondent)

The march culminates at the Victorian Parliament Building. (Photo: The Green Journal AU)

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Australia caves in to global pressure, supports climate fund

Australia must realise time has changed and it has to abandon its recalcitrant stance on climate change especially when the world is moving away from dirty fossil fuels. Re-blogging:

Once again, Australia could not elude international pressure at the COP20 climate summit in Lima, Peru.  It finally pledged to contribute to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The government’s representative to the summit, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop,announced on Wednesday the country has committed it will give $200 million to the fund designed to help poorer nations to tackle climate change.

With Australia’s commitment, the GCF has already reached a threshold pledge of approximately $10.14 billion equivalent contributed by 24 countries. The UN’s CGF is raising $10 billion.

A dramatic turn around, Abbott has been notorious in his anti-climate change stance. A self-confessed climate skeptic, Australia became the first country in the world to have scrapped the carbon tax under his leadership. He did not show up in the UN climate summit in September and he we was also adamant not to include climate change in the G20 agenda which Brisbane hosted last month.

The meeting between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingping ahead of the Brisbane summit sealed a historic deal on carbon emissions cuts within the next decade by the two countries. Political observers said the deal is a game changer ushering in a new leadership to step up action on climate change. Abbott battled to ignore the subject throughout the G20 summit, but a communique to culminate the event pressed Abbott to back down. Majority prevailed.

President of COP20, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

President of COP20, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

In Lima, participants from around 190 countries did it again. Developing countries and conservation groups said it is time for the Abbott camp to admit the urgency of the issue..

Canada,  Australia’s partner in climate denial, also recently pledged about $US250 million.

The money which Australia pledged, will be paid over four years. It will be sourced out from Australia’s aid program budget.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the backflip was evidence of the intense international pressure Australia had been under to commit to the fund. She added there is no way Australia could have continued with its stand against global finance and be viewed as negotiating in good faith,

Blog Link here

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

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.

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. 

 

 

Carbon tax repeal faces hurdle

Re-posting:

When Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott won the election last year, his priority agenda included the repeal of carbon tax. Following his oath-taking, he wasted no time to abolish the Australian Climate Council. Climate-related projects introduced by the Labor Government were scheduled to be scrapped shortly.

On Monday, his Government’s plan faced a drawback. The Upper House blocked his attempt to repeal the carbon tax by rejecting the passage of a billl to abolish the Climate Change Authority.

The Labor-Green coalition knocked back the legislation to disband the authority. The authority was created during the Julia Gillard Government to oversee the implementation of the clean energy laws, which include the carbon tax.

The bill was amended by Labor Senator Louise Prat, but  defeated on the  second reading- 38 votes against 32. It can be re-introduced in three months, but a second rejection would trigger a double dissolution.

Australia’s carbon tax puts price on industrial carbon emissions.

The Greens Senator Christine Milne has already announced victory to supporters although Environment Minister Greg Hunt is unhappy about the outcome “as if an election was never held,” he mumbled.

The Abbott Government knows that any attempt to push for the carbon tax would slow down business and investments- an “industrial slow down.” Hunt had accused Labor of “blocking a tax on basic state services with hospitals, schools and police all impacted by the carbon tax.”

While environmental groups are celebrating, the Australian Conservation Foundation said the authority would now be able to continue its work until the new Senate takes over in July.  Milne said the government could bring this legislation back before the Senate in three months taking into account of the new composition of the legislative body.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne

Milne said the authority could continue to provide Australia with high quality independent advice on global warming and a rigorous review of the renewable energy target. She told reporters,“I am delighted that today the Senate has defeated Tony Abbott’s push to try and tear apart a science-based recommendation and go with his anti-science obsession.’’

The authority is mandated to govern Australia’s mitigation policies, undertake reviews and make recommendations on various issues, including emissions reduction targets and carbon budgets, renewable energy targets, the carbon farming initiative, and national greenhouse and energy reporting system.

Abbott disbanded the  Climate Council shortly after he was sworn in as the new prime minister  last year. The council was commissioned to  provide independent and authoritative climate change information to the Australian public “based on the best science available.”

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent