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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Renewable energy future uncertain as investment falters

solar stations

Just as Australia was too optimistic in its Renewable Energy Targets, plans are falling apart with a significant dropped in renewable investments last year.

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) is facing an uncertain future with a recent report showing that investment in large-scale renewable energy has nose-dived over the past year.

Investment in renewable energy worldwide is up by 16%, in a stark contrast with Australia’s figure which dropped by 88%.

The Climate Council said the future of Australia’s renewable energy industry remains highly uncertain due to the lack of a clear federal government renewable energy policy.

The RET aims to achieve 20% of the country’s power supply from renewables. About 89% of Australians support the initiative.

Activist group GetUp blames Prime Minister Tony Abbott, along with his pro-capitalist, pro-coal agenda which favours power companies such as Origin, AGL and Energy Australia.

GetUp said since 2001 the RET has been responsible for a massive $20 billion in investment into the Australian economy creating over 24,000 new jobs and lower power bills for consumers.

Nearly 24,000 GetUp members made their voices heard by making a submission to the government’s review of the RET. In addition, over 5,000 GetUp members have switched from Origin, AGL and Energy Australia to renewable energy companies such as Powershop as part of a campaign to make consumers’ voices heard.

With the RET’s future hanging in the balance new investment in renewables has fallen to a 13-year low, the group said.

GetUp noted this is ironic considering the fact that the Government’s former Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Liberal Party Senator Simon Birmingham admitted in 2013 that the real driver of investment in renewable energy has been and continues to be the RET. The senator was quoted as saying, “We have always supported the RET and continue to offer bi-partisan support for this scheme. It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.”

Workers check on solar panels in Yulin, northwest China's Shaanxi Province. In 2014, President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao met to agree on mutual cooperation to reduce carbon emission before the G20 meeting in Brisbane. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Liu Xiao)

Beyond Zero Emission (BZE) is also driving a campaign to discourage Australians from supporting the three main power companies. Although the three companies provide energy to the majority of Australians, the group said they have been actively campaigning to dismantle the RET.

Many Australians can opt for greener alternatives to the big three power suppliers. Victoria residents can switch to Powershop or Diamond Energy while consumers from South Australia, New South Wales or South East Queensland can switch to Diamond Energy.

World leaders will gather in Paris in December this year to determine the rules for a new global agreement to limit global greenhouse emissions and temperature below two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Australia’s major trading partners have been building significant momentum to make ambitious contributions toward their post-2020 national targets. The Climate Change Authority (CCA) suggests that nationally determined contribution to reduce emissions, agreed by Australia, will be central in determining the climate policy framework that will cover and impact companies covered under any emissions reduction initiative. The Authority adds:

This is an important time to convene business, government and NGOs for a mature, constructive dialogue about what should be the nature of Australia’s commitment, why it is in our best interests to actively participate in the negotiations and to share views to understand the economic, environmental and social implications for business.

The CCA finds Australia’s emission reduction target (5 % reduction by 2020) to be too low and out of step with its allies and trading partners.

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Australia maps out smart energy plans

Re-blogging:

Climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and the University of Melbourne are launching a joint project that hopes to help developers build smarter buildings: eco-friendly and energy-efficient.

The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, to be unveiled Thursday, will showcase a blueprint aimed at helping existing buildings cut their energy usage by half. Residential and commercial buildings can achieve maximum energy efficiency in 10 years.

BZE Research Director and Lead Author Trent Hawkins notes Australian buildings are not up to the challenges of the time. They are generally “too hot in summer, too cold in winter, and use a phenomenal amount of energy to run basic services,” he explained. The plan also scraps gas-operated appliances to be replaced by more efficient and healthy technology. “This plan shows how Australia can transform our existing buildings to reduce energy bills, increase comfort and health, and generate renewable energy,” he said.

The plan projects residential building sector to cut 53 per cent of energy use, with some typical home categories seeing over 70 per cent reduction, and commercial buildings can reduce energy use by 44 per cent.

Going gas-free is a key element of moving towards zero emissions. The plan, if implemented, has multiple benefits: households get a new level of control over their energy bills, it could remove the need for the polluting and unpopular coal-seam gas industry, and it would stimulate employment in trades and services for the buildings sector by tens of thousands of jobs, BZE said.

Australian households spend $15 billion per year on electricity and gas bills. The modelling shows that this plan could save up to $40 billion over the next 30 years, compared to business as usual,” Mr Hawkins explained.

BZE introduced the idea of a 100 per cent renewable electricity grid to Australia’s political and public discussion with the 2010 Stationary Energy Plan.

Mr Hawkins concludes his group wants to start the conversation on how Australia can fix its buildings. “By taking action now, we can start to curb the environmental impact of our energy-hungry buildings – and improve life for us as occupants,” he said.

BZE is one of the grassroots’ movements that support Australia’s drive towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy source.

Solar Power

By 2020, Australia aims to generate 20 per cent of its energy needs from renewables. The Climate Commission earlier released a modelling of Australia’s future energy usage that consistently indicates increased reliance on solar energy. By 2050, solar photovoltaics are projected to provide 29 per cent of Australia’s power needs.

Last year, the Climate Commission released a report– The Critical Decade: Generating a renewable Australia– which projects the unlimited potential of renewables, particularly solar.

The report underscores a major shift in global energy policy moving towards renewables and Australia has an advantage given the enormous potential for solar generation as the world’s sunniest continent.

The report also highlights major developments in Australia such as the cost of solar photovoltaic systems which have significantly dropped over the years enabling more consumers to shift to such technology.

In 2012, over one million rooftop solar photovoltaic systems were installed, up from about 8,000 in 2007. About 2.6 million people, 11 per cent of our population, now use the sun for their electricity needs, the report said.

The Commission also admitted that while Australia generated $60 billion from the export of coal and gas, 80 per cent of global fossil fuel resources need to stay in the ground to limit global temperature increase to a relatively safe 2C.

Largest solar panels in the Southern Hemisphere

Last week, Australia reached another milestone with the announcement of large-scale solar power stations to be built in New South Wales costing a combined total of $450 million.

The Australia Renewable Energy Agency approved the fund of $166.7 million while the NSW Government committed $64.9 million to support the project.

The power stations will be built in two separate locations: Broken Hill (NSW) and Nyngan (NSW) which will generate a capacity of up to 155 megawatts (MW) (AC) of electricity. Construction in Nyngan is due on January 2014 and Broken Hill, July 2014 to be completed in 2015.

AGL Energy Pty Ltd was named to build the project and has contracted First Solar to do the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the project. First Solar will build the power stations using its thin film PV technology and will maintain the facilities for an initial five year period following construction.

The Federal Government says these will be the largest solar power stations in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mark Butler MP, Minister for Climate Change, said the project will cover a combined area four times the size of the Sydney CBD.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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.

Australia’s mining tax and CIA conspiracy

The mining tax has dominated Australia’s political landscape this week.

The Senate passed the mining tax on Monday imposing a 30 percent tax on super profits generated by mining companies from coal and iron ore. The tax revenue will be used to elevate income and pension funds of the less well-off Australians and to cut tax on small businesses.

This sent shockwaves to the mining industry which could have been rejoicing over mining boom worldwide.

Mining magnate Clive Palmer hits CIA of mining conspiracy

Queensland mining magnate Clive Palmer lashed out at the federal government and claimed the CIA is behind the mining tax as part of America’s conspiracy to kill Australia’s coal industry.

Palmer also accused the Greens as “tools” of the US government and the environmental activists group, Greenpeace, is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

He said he will lodge a double High Court challenge on both carbon and mining taxes.

But his accusation hits back like a boomerang.

The CIA via ABC email denied his claim prompting him to back away from inflammatory comments, Fairfax reports via SBS.

Crikey, an alternative online media said,

Now Clive Palmer again has demonstrated the eccentricity that comes from having so much money you don’t have to care what anyone thinks of you…

Palmer is doing no more than continuing Queensland’s rich tradition of conspiracy theorists, which has produced the Citizen’s Electoral Council and Pauline Hanson, to name only the most prominent of recent years. Nor is it the first time he’s accused people of being a CIA front — back in November, it was American Express who were doing the bidding of the spooks.

Palmer could probably find consolation in knowing another mining group, Fortescue Metals, confirms it has sought legal advice ahead of plans to mount a High Court challenge against the Federal Government’s mining tax, News Corp said.

Chairman Andrew Forrest of Fortescue Metals leads a protest against mining tax during Kevin Rudd’s time

Fortescue claimed the MRRT is a poorly designed tax, drafted by the big miners behind closed doors to minimise their tax exposure at the expense of the rest of the industry,” the company said in a statement.

The Government is also facing a revolt from Liberal-led mining states.

Western Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett, for one, says he will support any legal action against the tax.

Not Amused

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Bob Carr blasts Palmer’s “reckless” CIA conspiracy claims

He said the “recklessly irresponsible” claim that the CIA is sponsoring a campaign against the coal industry will trigger concern from the United States government and business community.

Carr said the comments should also make many Australians question  Palmer’s links to the Opposition. He said Palmer is very close to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Palmer is considered the largest donor to the Liberal Party.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr

Treasurer Wayne Swan has also denounced Palmer’s claims. He supported Carr’s claim the mining businessman “is in cahoots with Mr Abbott.”

Federal Greens leader Bob Brown has echoed the remarks of Carr and Swan saying Palmer is a life member and a major donor to the Queensland Liberal National Party.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace senior campaigner John Hepburn rejected Mr Palmer’s comments as “ludicrous”. He said Greenpeace would not accept money from any government, corporation or secret service.

The mining tax was initiated almost two years ago, floated by former Treasury boss Ken Henry. It originally proposed a 40 percent tax on super profits—a proposal that stirred an industry-wide opposition rocking the Labor Party’s leadership. It was the same tax proposal that ousted Kevin Rudd from prime ministership in 2010.

Rising to power, Prime Minister Julia Gillard negotiated a modified tax rate with BHP, Rio and Xstrata although smaller miners remain unhappy with the deal.

The Mineral Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) Bill 2011 and related bills are now ready for the governor-general’s royal assent. The mining tax will start from July 1 this year, Australian media report.

The federal government estimated the new tax will generate $11 billion in three years which will be used to elevate income of the less well-off Australians. It will boost compulsory superannuation contributions, infrastructure payment and a one per cent tax cut for business.

The Australian, however, is pessimistic over the tax. Its editorial page said:

While this newspaper recognises the benefit in ensuring that some of the revenue generated by the once-in-a-generation mining boom is secured for future generations, this tax will do little to drive reform in the slower sectors of the economy while the fastest-growing sector is slugged with a tax that could damage our competitiveness.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott supports Palmer

I defence of Palmer, Abbott said he was a “larger than life” character.

“I think when he says that the Greens want to stop the coal industry he’s absolutely right – of course the Greens want to stop the coal industry,” Abbott told Channel 10.

Abbott is vowing to repeal the tax if he wins the next election.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Gas or waste to power Canberra Hospital

Australia’s Capital Territory (ACT) could be one of the champions of eco-friendly energy sources. The ACT Government is now endorsing a cost-efficient power generator to service its public hospital using gas or waste.

A major signpost at TCH

The Canberra Times reported over the weekend that AECOM, a professional infrastructure consultant, has advised the Government-run Canberra Hospital to use gas or waste generator to power its facilities.

A gas generating plant will cost $48 million to service three buildings. This option will help the hospital to save $28.1 million over 20 years, the report said. Gas is the cheapest power source while a pollution-to-energy generator fetches up to $209 million.

Gas can emit up to 24,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year slashing a significant amount of emission from traditional power sources of 72 million tonnes a year.

The hospital needs basic power to produce hot and cold water while a more advanced facility will provide onsite electricity.

Other eco-friendly energy sources are also being explored like solar and wind. However, the hospital compound does not have enough space for the infrastructure. The gas and waste power generators, if approved, will likely be constructed underground connected with cables. The onsite generator will be constructed north of the hospital wing to ensure its flues will not intervene with rescue helicopters.

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

The paper also reported that Act Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher will continue to consult with the community to ensure the viability and sustainability of the project. The Minister is vouching for the proposed alternative energy sources noting that the money saved will be used instead to finance health care for Canberra’s growing population.

 The Canberra Hospital prides itself as the region’s major public hospital, providing specialist and acute care to more than 500,000 people. TCH is a tertiary level health facility, and a teaching hospital of the Australian National University (ANU) Medical School.

Source: Asian Correspondent