Environment Minister ignores plea from the Southern Ocean

UPDATE: Environment Minister Greg Hunt replied to the letter sent by Captain Peter Hammarstedt of The Bob Barker, but unable to help in pressuring the Japanese to stop whaling.

Re-blogging this post on March 3.

The “Relentless Operation” of the Sea Shepherd Australia (SSA) is in distress following the relentless attacks of Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean.

Captain Peter Hammarstedt of The Bob Barker alleged the Japanese fleet has assaulted its vessel for the third time this season and has sounded alarm to the Australian Government asking for rescue. However, the distress call has fallen on the deaf ears.  .

Sea Shepherd’s fleet observes this Minked Whale swimming around the vessel. (Photo: Tim Watters)

The Captain also asked the New Zealand Government to cooperate in the mission to protect the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

The Japanese are accused of throwing steel cables on Bob Barker’s bow, an attempt to disable the propeller and rudder of the ship. On Sunday, the whalers are also accused of throwing bamboo spear at the crew of the small boat rescue. The Bob Barker decided to launched two small boats to defend their ship and attempt to cut the steel cables during the assault. It sustained damage of the antennas of the small boat in the process, Capt. Hammarstedt claimed.

The helicopter’s GPS indicates the northern border of the Antarctic Treaty Zone (Photo: Eliza Muirhead)

Hammarstedt said his vessel is carrying nine Australian volunteers who have joined the cause in protecting the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Earlier on Sunday, the Sea Shepherd Fleet located the Japanese factory vessel for the fourth time “with a dead, protected Minke Whale onboard, and blood running from the side of the ship. Slabs of whale meat were also filmed on the deck, along with the severed head of a recently butchered whale. “

Hammarstedt wrote a letter to Environment Minister Greg Hunt  two weeks ago and bewailed how the minister ignored his plea. He said “the Australian government has failed in its duty to take any action against the poachers of the Japanese whaling fleet. “

Despite broken promises of the Government to protect the Southern Seas, the Sea Shepherd will remain relentless in its mission to guard the vast expanse of the sanctuary, “enforcing international conservation law when governments refuse to take action.”

Captain Peter Hammarstedt of The Bob Barker (Photo: Marianna Baldo)

Captain Paul Watson also announced earlier that Sea Shepherd cannot be stopped. He said Sea Shepherd is not only a group, but a movement of thousands of people pursuing their passion and courage to defend and protect the oceans.

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

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Largest port to kill the Barrier Reef

The “Asian Century” has arrived in Queensland. The world’s largest port will rise soon that will pave the link between the Australian state and Asian market– India in particular.

Aerial view Abbot Point T2 and T3

Aerial view Abbot Point T2 and T3

The Federal government gave the green light to the massive expansion of three major port terminals at Abbot Point, 26 km north of Bowen in Central Queensland– positioned to become one of the world’s largest industrial sea ports.

The approval gives Adani Enterprises Pty. Ltd. and GVK, among other mining companies, a breakthrough in the multi-billion coal industry which will exploit the potential of the coal-rich Galilee Basin.

Adani’s most recent performance at T0

Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced the decision on Tuesday after a ”rigid assessment” and the project’s environmental impacts. After a long delay, the minister approved four Queensland projects under the National Environmental Law, including the capital dredging program for the proposed Terminals 0, 2 and 3 at the Port of Abbot Point, the Adani T0 project, the Arrow Liquefied Natural Gas Facility on Curtis Island, and the Arrow Gas Transmission Pipeline to Curtis Island. The terminals will provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the ”bullish” coal industry within the Galilee Basin.

The approval of Terminal 0 (T0) is sure to boost Adani’s ambitious prospect to ship the coal to India. “Coal from this project will predominantly service the Indian market,”  Adani admitted. The group acquired the terminal for about two billion Australian dollars under a 99-year lease in 2011. T0 is estimated to have a 70 metric tonnes per annum mtpa (35 mtpa x two stages) handling capacity. T2 will be built by an Australian-own company, while T3 will be undertaken by GVK.

But the New York Times reported Adani bought the port in 2011 for 1.8 billion Australian dollars taking advantage of the area still recovering from a series of floods.

 “Abbott Point is our contribution to India’s global ambitions,” said Gautam Adani, chair of Adani. Adani. “An Indian billionaire and real estate magnate, runs the largest private sector coal importer in India, a country hungry for energy resources. He already has other investments in Queensland….”

The T0 alone is projected to generate  a financial value of A$ 1.4 – 2.8 billion annually in gross revenue which will contribute significantly to the Queensland and Australian economy. It will directly benefit Bowen locality and the wider Whitsunday region, Adani said in its presentation paper earlier this year.

Estimated employment stands at 500 jobs in construction and 200-250 jobs in operation, while it provides opportunity for expansion of permanent working population at the Port of Abbot Point. This projection, however, is based on the estimated export of thermal coal from Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine and Abbot Point Coal Terminal 0 projects.

GVK, on the other hand, will undertake the expansion of  T3  port facilities and Galilee Basin coal assets including the Alpha, Alpha West and Kevin’s Corner coal projects. It will also construct a rail connection to the Abbot Point Port. “Together with the previously received clearances for the Alpha mine, the rail to Abbot Point ,GVK Hancock has solidified its leading position in the Galilee Basin of Queensland, Australia, ” the company said in a press release.

GV Sanjay Reddy, Vice Chairman  of the GVK Power & Infrastructure Limited, said the approval will enable the “provision of billions of tonnes of high quality, low sulphur, low ash, and cleaner burning coal for consumption in the Indian and Asian market.” He added, “this approval takes our projects in to the final stageof project development and we look forward to successfully developing and consolidating our position as the leading Indian infrastructure development company.”

The North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation  (NQBC) has been commissioned as the port authority responsible for managing the project.

The extensive industrial projects along the eastern coast of Queensland. The darker blue line sketches the boundary of the world heritage area (Image: Fight for the Reef)

State Premier strengthens economic ties with India

The Galilee Basin is strengthening the economic ties between Queensland and India. Premier Campbell Newman admitted the potential of the region which could be a bigger contributor to Queensland’s economy than the coal seam gas industry.

Newman had visited Adani’s operation in India and believes in the export potential of the region. Further, he considers a long-term strategic business partnership with Indian companies. Mining Australia quoted him as saying, “They want coal to come for their thermal power stations day in, day out, week in, week out, month after month, for not 10 years or 20 years or 50 years; they want it to come for 70 to 100 years” .

On Gautam Adani, Newman is mesmerized with his business empire-building enthusiasm: “He owns the power lines, he owns the retail, he wants that coal. Now, the current coal price is not really a big thing in his calculations,” Newman said. “What he wants is supply security, and he wants to get that supply chain cost down as low as possible.”

Environmental concerns

Greenpeace lambasts the dredging and dumping of industrial waste into the vicinity of the reef.

Environmental groups, however, are enraged with the developments.

The terminals will require dredging of about three million cubic meters of sediments from the bottom of the sea. Local communities and environmental groups are outraged on how and where would the dredging spoils be dumped. The long-term effect after the area after the mining projects is also a matter of concern.

Hunt said he made an agreement with the Gladstone Ports Authority that they will not dispose of up to 12 million cubic metres of spoil within the Marine Park, but will instead use the material for land infill.

Hunt and Newman are already under fire from Green groups. The WWF, for one, is now pressing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park not to issue a permit to the NQBPC to dump the dredge spoil into the reef waters.

The WWF-Australia, in partnership with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, has also launched a nationwide and international campaign, Fight for the Reef, that educates people about the implication of the large-scale industrialization of Australia’s east coast- more significantly its impact on the world-listed heritage site – the Great Barrier Reef.

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

Abbott dumps climate watchdog, skeptics rejoice

Climate deniers are rejoicing over the abolition of Australia’s Climate Commission, along with the sacking of its commissioner, Professor Tim Flannery.

New Prime Minister Tony Abbott wasted no time in disbanding the nation’s climate watchdog on Thursday in order to deliver his election promise right after he was sworn into office. Plans to scrap other climate-related bodies are now underway.

Professor Tim Flannery, 2010 Australian of the Year, was the head of the Climate Commission until Sept 19, 2013. (Photo: Gemma Jones/ News Ltd)

Jo Nova, in her website, screamed, “Taxpayers rejoice! The science-propaganda agency is gone for good. One down — scores to go.”

Nova praised Abbott’s Coalition government in its decision “to cut waste and to stop funding an inept unscientific agency which was unbalanced to the point of being government advertising in disguise.” She said the commission wasted billions of dollars on useless and scientific projects, including desal plants, solar panels and wind farms.

Andrew Bolt also welcomed Abbott’s decision although he said the new Environment Minister Greg Hunt made one mistake when he sacked Flannery: thanking him for his work. ”Thank Flannery? Hunt should instead have asked Flannery how much of his $180,000 a year salary he’d refund after getting so many predictions wrong,” he quipped.

The Coalition Government will also dump the Climate Change Authority– set up in 2012 to provide independent advice to the government on the carbon price and emissions reductions targets, along with the legislation to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Also set up in 2012, CEFC has been provided with $10 billion in funding over five years to support private investment in renewable energy.

All climate-related bodies will be streamlined under the Department of Environment.


Anti-wind turbines cartoon by Steve Hunter posted at Andy’s Rant’s website.

Abbott gained notoriety when he said saying climate change was “crap” and therefore not a priority in his government. The Greens have tagged him as a “climate criminal”.

Observers said climate change was a highly politicised issue between the right and left wing.

The Abbott camp alleged that climate change “is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world.”

In an interview with the The Telegraph, Abbott admitted “the carbon tax has been a handbrake on the NSW economy” and scrapping the carbon tax will assure Premier O’Farrell that his top legislative priority will give an “adrenalin shot for local business…”

Alex White of The Guardian posted two reasons why Abbott wanted to scrap the pollution tax. One speculated Abbott was a skeptic, but the other was more politically compelling because climate change denial stemmed from “powerful vested interests in Australia, including the fossil fuel lobby, mining industry and carbon intensive corporations” which “are heavy donors to Mr Abbott’s Liberal Party.”

Major donors to the Liberal Party prior to the 2013 election, according to the Australian Electoral Commission include mining company Santos ($227,880), Clive Palmer’s Minerology ($459,900), nickel miners Minara Resources ($358,000) and Mincor Resources ($120,000), Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group ($50,000), and oil giant Chevron ($28,500).

The Labor leadership contender Anthony Albanese and Greens Senator Christine Milne are both distraught with Abbott’s decision to discard the climate commission.

Albanese said in a speech on Thursday the move to scrap the commission was “shameful”, while Milne said “issuing instructions to close the authority was irresponsible in the face of dangerous climate change.” She added that in the context of global warming, Abbott’s action was a crime against humanity.

Blog LInk: The Green Journal @ Asian Correspondent