19/09/2018

Energy Minister's Electorate Backs Higher Emissions Reduction Target, Poll Shows

The Guardian

Energy minister Angus Taylor says the Coalition has no intention of extending or replacing the renewable energy target in question time on Tuesday. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian 
More voters in the electorate of the new energy minister, Angus Taylor, support an emissions reduction target for electricity and a higher national target than the Paris commitment than oppose those positions.
A ReachTel poll of 690 residents across the federal electorate of Hume, which reaches from Boorowa in the southern tablelands of New South Wales to Camden on Sydney’s southern fringe, was commissioned by the Australia Institute. It found the sample was divided over a range of climate and energy questions, but more people supported stronger action on emissions reduction than opposed it.
Asked whether the government’s Paris target of 26% to 28% should be increased “so Australia reduces emissions faster, decreased so Australia does less, or kept the same” – 42.3% said increased, 29.4% said kept the same, and 22.5% said reduced.
Asked whether the now dumped national energy guarantee should include an emissions reduction target, 47.8% said yes, and 39.3% said no.
There was also local opposition to coal, with 63.7% of the sample either supporting or strongly supporting a moratorium on building new coal mines, while 67.4% supported the Morrison government reviewing the Adani coal mine’s environmental approval.
Ben Oquist, the executive director of the Australia Institute, said the poll results suggested voters in rural electorates, “just like the population overall, are not enamoured with coal and they want more action on climate change, not less”.
Taylor confirmed in question time on Tuesday that the Morrison government would not replace the renewable energy target with an alternative policy after it wound down in 2020.
Taylor confirmed there would be no policy to reduce emissions in the electricity sector during an answer to the Greens MP Adam Bandt in question time on Tuesday.
Bandt asked whether the RET could be extended beyond 2020 given there was currently no policy mechanism to replace it, and the lack of settled policy could threaten investment in low-emissions technology.
The energy minister flatly rejected the idea. “The truth of the matter is the renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020, it reaches its peak in 2020, and we won’t be replacing that with anything.”
Taylor said there was no need to focus on emissions reduction, because emissions in electricity would fall by 26% “without additional intervention” – a declaration that contradicts advice from the Energy Security Board.
The Coalition’s plan to 2030 was to replace the RET with the national energy guarantee, which imposed an emissions reduction target for electricity.
But Malcolm Turnbull abandoned the Neg as one of his last acts in the prime ministership, and the policy has now been junked officially by the cabinet under Scott Morrison’s leadership.
Bandt later declared the Liberals were “openly boasting that they have no renewable energy policy”. He said the RET needed to be extended beyond 2020 “to avoid a valley of death for renewable energy”.
“Over 2018 and 2019, new renewables are going up in Australia at record rates. This is in large part due to the RET, which even the Energy Security Board and Reserve Bank have said is a big driver of future power bill cuts,” Bandt said.
“But the RET runs out in 2020 and now the minister has confirmed that there’s no renewables policy to take its place. If the RET isn’t extended, there’s a real risk that the next government will not be able to implement a new policy in time to avoid an investment drought.”
Labor also jumped on Taylor’s declaration. The shadow climate change minister, Mark Butler, branded Taylor the minister “for higher power prices and anti-renewables”.

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Angus Taylor Confirms Government 'Won't Be Replacing' Renewable Energy Target

Fairfax

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has confirmed the Morrison government will not replace the renewable energy target after it peaks in 2020, officially creating a policy vacuum that opponents say will stifle clean energy investment and lead to higher prices.
In question time on Tuesday, Greens MP Adam Bandt challenged Mr Taylor to extend the target until 2022 to avoid a disastrous plunge in renewables investment when the current target ends.
“The renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020, it reaches its peak in 2020, and we won't be replacing that with anything,” Mr Taylor said.

Minister for Energy Angus Taylor has told the House of Representatives that the Coalition will wind down their renewable energy target from 2020.

The target involves the creation of tradeable certificates which encourage electricity from renewable sources. It aims for 23.5 per cent of Australia's energy to be sourced from clean sources such as wind and solar by 2020.
As prime minister, Tony Abbott wound back the scheme and as recently as last week reportedly agitated against it at a meeting attended by Mr Taylor.
Mr Taylor, who has campaigned against wind farms, said Australia will reach its target to cut emissions from the electricity sector by 26 per cent “without additional intervention”.
Mr Taylor has previously campaigned against wind farms. Photo: Supplied
He said a 50 per cent renewable energy target in South Australia had led to some of the highest electricity prices in the country.
Labor’s pledge for a 45 per cent emissions reduction across the economy would mean “we will all pay more for our electricity,” he said.
“We are absolutely confident that in the absence of those subsidies, we will get the investment we need in the network,” he said.
Chief Scientist Alan Finkel least year recommended the government adopt a 'clean energy target' to replace the expiring renewables target. The Coalition declined to adopt that recommendation, saying the rapidly falling cost of renewable energy meant subsidies were no longer required.
It instead developed the National Energy Guarantee, which proposed to address the so-called “trilemma” of energy affordability, reliability and emissions.
However Prime Minister Scott Morrison dumped emissions reduction from the government’s energy agenda following his ascension to the top job.
An annual index released on Tuesday put Australia in the bottom three ranking for environmental policy among wealthy nations.
The Center for Global Development's commitment to development index said the environment was “one of Australia’s weaker policy fields ... largely due to its poor performance curbing climate change”.
The government is now wholly focused on making energy supplies more reliable and affordable, including through the implementation of select recommendations from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s report into energy pricing.
Mr Taylor told Parliament the government would “back investment in fair dinkum reliable generation because that's what this country needs”.
It also intends to set a price safety net for all customers and stop “rip-offs from the big energy companies".
“We will drive prices down, that's our policy, those opposite will drive them up,” he said.

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18/09/2018

Australia's Rank On Global Development Index Hurt By Climate Change Inaction

The Guardian

Australia ranks 14 after New Zealand, with Scandinavian countries in top three spots
The report points to Australia’s low petrol taxes, high fossil fuel production and high emissions per capita. Photograph: Ashley Cooper/Alamy
Australia’s commitment to global development has improved over the past year, driven by strong trade, education and finance outreach to the developing world, but it has been criticised for its poor action on the environment and climate change.
The Centre for Global Development annually ranks 27 wealthy countries on their commitment to development across the policy areas of aid, finance, technology, environment, trade, security and migration.
The Commitment to Development Index is dominated by Scandinavian countries – which fill the top three spots – and European countries, which complete the top 12. The world’s biggest economy, the US, is at number 23 on the list: it has the worst aid and finance ranking of the assessed countries.
Australia trails New Zealand (13th), in 14th position overall, with a jump of four spots on last year. Australia and New Zealand are the highest ranked non-European nations on the index.
Report author, Ian Mitchell, said: “Australia’s trade policies are among the most development-friendly and the foreign aid it gives is high quality. But if Australia wants to become a development leader, it needs to increase the quantity of aid, and tackle environmental issues and focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
The report said that, on the environment, Australia was a laggard.
“Its low rank is largely due to its poor performance curbing climate change. It has very low gasoline taxes (only the United States and Canada have lower), high fossil fuel production and the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita of all [index] countries, although it has also had among the steepest emissions reductions over the past 10 years.
“Australia is also the third-largest tropical timber importer.”
Australia has a strong trade rating in the index, ranking third of all countries on that policy, with low tariffs and agricultural subsidies.
“It’s a leader in providing equal access to goods from development countries … its barriers to trade in services are also low,” the report said.
It also ranks well on migration “in part because of its exceptionally open borders for students from developing countries”.
“Its integration policies are also above average. But Australia could improve the number of refugees and asylum seekers it accepts. The proportion of positive asylum decisions is below average and has fallen for the past three years. The number of refugees in Australia is below average relative to population and relative to land area.”
The report also said Australia’s treatment of migrants would be improved by ratifying the convention on the treatment of migrant workers and the migration for employment convention.
Australia has dedicated just 0.23% of its gross national income towards development assistance, a decrease on 2016, and its smallest contribution in 15 years. Australia’s aid contribution has been falling for half a decade.
The UN set out the 0.7% commitment to development spending in 1970, and it has been consistently reaffirmed as a benchmark since. But few countries meet it.
“[Australia’s] foreign aid is of good quality, however,” the report found. “Australia spends 70% of its aid bilaterally and 30% multilaterally.”
Mitchell told Guardian Australia that the dominance of Scandinavian and European countries was a product of historical commitment, community expectation and conscious government policy.
“When you talk to the officials in these countries, they take it competitively, it’s something that has a profile in the public arena, it’s a matter of pride in their public policy.”
He said the 0.7% of GNI target for aid spending – when compared with Nato’s declared 2% goal for defence budgets – was a sensible and achievable target.
“I think if all the countries got there, the acceleration of development would be substantial, and we’d live in a much more prosperous world, and that would be to the benefit of everybody and every country’s national interest.”
But Mitchell said the current global uncertainty – the retreat to economic isolationism through tariffs and trade wars, and the rise of populist nationalism – was a threat to the progress and prosperity of developing countries.
“I think the move against migation, against open trade, will damage development. We’ve had a remarkable period of development over the last half a century, with open trade, rising aid levels. And I think that’s in real danger.”
The president of the Centre for Global Development, Masood Ahmed, said: “Good development policy is about much more than foreign aid.
“While aid is important, policymakers in rich countries need to assess all the ways their choices, from the environment to trade to migration, help or hinder developing countries.”

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The Big Problem With Climate Storytelling--And How To Fix It

ForbesSolitaire Townsend*

Harrison Ford against climate change GCAS2018

“Let’s kick this monster’s ass!” roared Harrison Ford at the Global Climate Action Summit yesterday.
Now, as a girl, Indiana Jones and Han Solo got me hooked on storytelling, character and yes, fighting monsters. So, the idea of climate change as a monster story hooked my imagination.
But there’s a problem.
Because if you review most climate messages in the media, then this story actually has two acts: man makes monster, then monster destroys man.
It’s a grand morality tale which neatly fits a primordial structure in our subconscious. This plot sings to something deep within us, a tale we’ve told since we sat around fires weaving myths in the dark. From the Minotaur and the crazed Golems of ancient legend to the morality plays of medieval England and the modern incarnations of rampaging Godzilla born from a nuclear test, or the AI dystopias of the Terminator or the Matrix. We learned this narrative arc in childhood, even if we only discovered the science of carbon dioxide as an adult.
Climate change isn’t presented to the public as plucky rebels against the empire. Instead climate is told as a Frankenstein story: that with our avarice and vanity, we have created the horror that will ultimately defeat us.
The narrative necessity of this climate story is hard to escape. Throughout this summer of ‘hothouse earth,’ and the decades leading up to it, this human hubris story has been the basic blueprint of climate change messaging.
For decades I’ve advised campaigners, policymakers and businesses to oppose this narrative, and tell the story of climate solutions instead. Last year, I asked the global research firm Ipsos to check which message--destruction or solution--was winning. They surveyed adults aged between 16-64 across 26 countries asking if they believed ‘we can deal with climate change’?
The results were encouraging, with the majority of us (56%) reasonably optimistic about solutions, agreeing that we might be able to solve climate change. And I expected the result showing 20% of people are now pessimists, who think we have the ability and technology to deal with the climate threat, but not the willpower to do so. Also, it’s worth mentioning that climate deniers make up only 4% of the global population (although they are remarkably over-represented in online comments sections).
But one finding was profoundly shocking. The survey revealed that 14% of people across the world are now what I call ‘climate fatalists’; who believe that humans are doomed. And as we dug into the data, we found that a staggering number of them are young. Worldwide, 22% of those aged 16-35 believe that it is now too late to stop climate change. In some countries, the number of young fatalists is even higher: with 39% of under-35s in India, 30% in Brazil, 27% in Spain and Sweden, and nearly 30% of young people in the USA believing there is no escape from this monster.
Climate Optimist Chart climateoptimist.org

Why does that matter? Considering the severity of the science, wouldn’t these young fatalists be better dubbed as ‘climate realists,’ preparing for a dystopian future they can’t avoid?
None of us can predict the future, but we can see the mess of the present. Psychologists call fatalism a ‘defeatist performance belief’ and claim it’s disastrous for mental health. Fatalistic attitudes dissuade people from trying to improve their lives, allow anti-social behaviour and even undermine physical health. It seems this climate fatalism may indeed be fatal to wellbeing, ambition and action in the young. And it could also be fatal for climate solutions, because assuming nothing is worth it, means you need do nothing. Fatalism is the enemy of action. And the climate-Frankenstein story is creeping into people’s psyche, sucking the will to act from them.
Today’s tragedy of climate change, with the moral that man is the real monster, is so narratively satisfying it’s become dangerously believable. For many environmentalists, giving up this story would be a wrench. Even those who understand the dangerous psychology of fatalism struggle with their own addiction to the ‘it’s all our own fault, and we deserve what's coming' narrative.
I sometimes feel that we are collectively doing everything we can to make the ending as poignantly noir as possible. It's as if we actually want the horrifying denouement: the narrative necessity driving us to fulfil the tragic role.
And we can’t replace this climate disaster story with a policy, a clear argument or a set of facts. We have science, politics, profit and cultural norms all in tension between the causes and solutions to climate change. A merging and rippling of factual factors like the rough surface of an unquiet sea. But below all of that, there is the deep tide of story. The story must have an ending, it must pass through its scenes, and our collective unconscious won't allow for anything else.
Only a story can beat a story.
So, what has the narrative power to replace the current plot? Climate change can’t be a comedy, a love story or a rags-to-riches tale. And the monster of our making is all too real.
But every 8-year-old knows how to kill a monster. Harry Potter knows it, Dorothy in Oz knows it, Beowulf knows it, James Bond and Sam of the Shire know it. It’s the story that killed Dracula and blew up the Death Star. At its most simple – it’s the hero’s journey.
In every group of script-writers or novelists, Joseph Campbell’s 1949 tome The Hero With A Thousand Faces is treated as a totemic icon. After a life dedicated to researching mythology, Campbell set out the ‘meta-myth’ of mankind. Simply put, this is a journey where courage, friendship and guile are pitched against overwhelming odds. This ‘overcoming the monster’ story often works best when a new generation, the youth, rally against the threat created (or allowed) by the old. You have told, read and watched this story all your life. The small against the big. The downtrodden against the overlord. Plucky humanity against the growing darkness.
If climate change were an asteroid, alien invasion or Hans Gruber type baddie we’d know exactly what to throw at it (Bruce Willis in all cases). The narrative wheels would start turning as we slotted ourselves neatly into a heroic plot track.
This is the new climate story we desperately need. Of overcoming the odds rather than being overwhelmed by them.
The story starts when we find the courage to believe in something worth fighting for: holding onto hope even in the face of unimaginable odds. To say ‘I have a dream’ or ‘it always feels impossible until it’s done’. Then we harness the power of friendship and alliances. We love a plot twist where enemies become allies. And for climate change, we’re going to need unexpected allies indeed.
And the magic elixir of the heroic story has always been guile. Tricking the monster, inventing a solution, spotting a fatal flaw and exploiting it. From Indiana Jones feigning zombiedom in the Temple of Doom, John McClane taping a gun to his back, or Eowyn revealing her gender on the battlefields of Gondor. Heroes invent and misdirect their way around unsurmountable odds. This is the most crucial part of our new climate story – and we’ve already found that magical way to trick ourselves out of the jaws of doom. Electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines are just the start of the innovation explosion coming from carbon constraint. Renewable energy is the ultimate cheat of the climate monsters’ plans (not least because our inventiveness is a more believable ploy than our self-sacrifice.)
We must teach our children this new ‘heroes’ journey’ story of climate change. And it’s not a small story, nor a short one. This is an epic. We face a gargantuan, enormous and near impossible task. We need our Henry V before the battle of Agincourt declaiming, “We few, we happy few”, Frodo holding the ring and nervously offering, “I will take it, though I do not know the way” and Ripley rising in her rig and shouting, “Get away from her, you bitch!”.
We need swashbuckling daring, bravery and courage, guile and desperate invention, unlikely friendships and alliances forged in fire.
I invite you to become the hero of this climate journey, rather than a doomed bit-part player. Instead of grief, we need your grit and bravado.
So that solving climate change becomes the greatest story of the 21st century.

*Solitaire Townsend is co-founder of the global change agency, Futerra, and author of The Happy Hero - How To Change Your Life By Changing The World.

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Climate Change Should Transform How We Live And Care For Each Other

Climate CouncilHilary Bambrick*

On August 16, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service posted on Facebook “there’s 79 bush and grass fires across the state, with 32 uncontained…And we’ve just checked. Yes, it’s still winter”.
That same day saw Queensland enact a total fire ban across the south-east.
This earliest ever start to the eastern Australia fire season is just one of the many signs that our climate is changing.

This same month, Europe has suffered through record heat, Athens burned, fire tornadoes engulfed California, and Tokyo recorded its highest ever temperatures.
Sweden enlisted overseas firefighting personnel and expertise to cope with their increasingly fire-prone landscape, manifesting as firestorms in the Arctic Circle.
In Kerala in India’s south, massive floods displaced 800,000 people and directly killed more than 350.
Around the same time, the entire state of New South Wales was declared to be in drought.
These aren’t isolated, statistically unusual events that just happened to coincide. Records are now continually being broken as we experience new extremes. They are off the charts, and we better get used to it.
Here in Australia we’re being newly challenged by increasingly hot days, severe bushfires, storms and floods, and prolonged drought, while sea-level rise is threatening housing and infrastructure in our coastal cities.
Our new extremes of heat and other severe weather mean we now need to re-imagine how our towns and cities function, ensure we provide essential climate safety services, and rethink how we go about our daily lives and care for others.
Escalating temperatures are putting more lives at risk. Older people and those with chronic health conditions are especially vulnerable, but so are people living in poor thermally performing houses, or in less green parts of the city, or who don’t have air-conditioning or can’t afford to run it, or who don’t feel safe to open their windows at night, or who are less mobile, or who are socially isolated, or who don’t have a home, or who work outside.
In recognition of increasingly hot summers, Queensland has just opened up a conversation about changing the start date of the school year to attempt to shorten the season where children’s capacity to learn, and their wellbeing, is adversely affected by heat.
Similarly, we also need to rethink how we structure our daily activity, including what standard work and school hours look like, so as to minimise exposure to dangerous temperatures while working or during the commute.
Rescheduling sporting events to protect both the players and the crowds from worsening heat should no longer be delayed, highlighted by the on-court temperatures hitting 69 degrees C during the most recent Australian Open.
Next year’s review of national building standards is none too soon, as we’re a long way from ensuring structures are suitable to the current climate in which they are situated, let alone what’s on the way.
Take a journey through the expanding footprint of Western Sydney and you’ll see large houses with black roofs and no eaves on small blocks with no trees, oriented inappropriately so as to maximise developer income, and each with air-conditioning to make up for poor design and materials. Just this last summer the temperature in Penrith soared to 47.3 degrees; the last thing cities need are more energy-inefficient hot boxes.
We also don’t need to grow our cities ever outwards and over prime agricultural land, or further into bushland that is increasingly fire-prone.
A more thoughtful, climate-ready approach to urban development would ensure cooler cities through ample greenspace and heat-reflective materials, welcoming and accessible public amenities where people can escape from the heat, and mixed-use street plans that encourage community-building and active transport rather than isolation and car use.
Such a city would run on affordable and effective public transport that reduces congestion, improves mobility and withstands climate extremes. Within these cities, small scale urban farming and community gardening can bring people together, forge stronger links with food production and the environment on which we depend, and provide refuge for key pollinator species of bees and birds.
We need to prioritise investment in affordable, reliable renewable energy to address the health impacts of climate change and minimise risk to the most vulnerable.
As outdoor temperatures soar, nights no longer cool down, and heat waves become seemingly interminable, cheap and clean energy will directly save lives. Now is the time to invest in this clean energy future for all rather than continue to prop up a dirty, dangerous and increasingly expensive fossil fuel industry.
A well planned, timely energy transition will be good for workers and their communities, and provide much needed certainty in the energy sector.
Major climate related events should no longer come as a surprise; the reactive, short-term responses to acute events, such as the tax levy implemented following the 2011 Queensland floods, are inadequate and unsustainable.
We need to plan now for future climate shocks even if we’re not one hundred per cent sure the shape that they will take or where they will occur. They may seem unpredictable yet the fact of these events is entirely foreseeable.
When a major event strikes, we also need to move beyond our traditional stoic tendency to simply rebuild and replace what was lost and face the hard truth that it might instead be time to up stumps and move.
That once peaceful bushland community may be at risk of repeated catastrophic infernos. That one-in-a-hundred-year floodplain may soon see a major deluge every 7 years.
That family farm that was managed productively for 100 years may never again see significant rainfall. A dose of climate reality is unpleasant but necessary medicine. We need to know our place, understand more deeply the environment on which we depend, and become more adept at being caretakers of the land.
In our increasingly hostile climate, we will also need to take greater care of others. Checking up on family and looking out for our older neighbours during a heat wave or other emergency saves lives. This neighbourliness should extend regionally, as Pacific islands are lost to sea level rise, and island livelihoods are lost to unprecedented cyclones.
As a wealthy and robust neighbour, Australia can afford to provide refuge to people whose nations are damaged by climate change. Given our role as a major emitter of greenhouse gases through both our home industries and our exports, it is also the morally right thing to do.
It’s not only the wellbeing of people that matters and that requires our additional care during extreme weather, but also animals.
What do we do when we can’t take a beloved pet to an evacuation centre? What happens to the horses when a farm is threatened by bushfire? How are dairy cattle managed and given relief during extreme heat? How do we provide care for bush animals injured in fire?
Unfortunately as resources of land, water and food become more severely threatened by climate change, we risk shifting away from a culture of offering care and shelter and towards greater conflict, with civil disturbance, war and mass population displacement the likely outcome when people fight for survival.
The changes we need to make to meet the challenges of climate change are not just structural, but cultural as well, and require a shift in thinking from short term electoral cycles to long term adaptive planning; from mere survival to a society that flourishes.
Rethinking how we structure our physical, economic and social worlds to be more mindful of the environment, build strong communities and a culture of care, and reduce socioeconomic disadvantage, will have a profound impact on how we as a nation experience and cope with our increasingly hostile climate.
Some of these things, such as checking in on our neighbours more often, require just a little tweaking in the way that we do things. Others, such as rethinking our transport and energy systems, are necessarily transformative.
We can plan now for the inevitable to ease these transitions, to be adaptive rather than merely reactive. We can choose the directions we take and the Australia we wish to live in. The time to do this is now.

*Professor Hilary Bambrick is Head of the School of Public Health and Social Work at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). She is an environmental epidemiologist and bioanthropologist researching health impacts and adaptation, especially in more vulnerable communities. Working in Australia, the Pacific, Asia and Africa, her research is focused on the health challenges facing communities and the ways in which to strengthen climate resilience.

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17/09/2018

Australia Has No Climate-Change Policy — Again

NatureAdam Morton

Scientists say the country will now struggle to meet it commitments to the Paris agreement.
Large parts of Australia are enduring a crippling drought. Credit: David Gray/Reuters
Australia’s new prime minister has abandoned the country’s policy for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. Climate scientists say the move means the government has effectively dropped its commitment to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
“They’ve walked away from Paris without saying it, hoping no one would notice,” says Lesley Hughes, a climate-change scientist at Macquarie University in Sydney. Without a policy to cut carbon dioxide pollution, the government is dropping its international commitment by default, she says.
Australia now becomes the second advanced economy after the United States to drop emissions-reduction policies since the 2015 Paris climate conference. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to start removing climate regulations in March 2017 and pulled the US out of the Paris agreement in June 2017.
Australia’s effective abandonment of Paris can be traced back to late August, when the ruling conservative Liberal Party abruptly replaced former leader Malcolm Turnbull with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The leadership change came after some party members objected to a policy that would have required electricity companies to meet emissions targets. Morrison subsequently said that he was abandoning the policy, called the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), and would instead focus on reducing the cost of energy for the public.
The NEG is the fourth national climate policy rejected by Australia’s conservative government since it was elected in 2013, and comes as large parts of country feel the effects of global warming — a crippling drought grips the eastern states and dozens of bushfires have erupted unseasonably early in those regions.
Some government members have even suggested that the country should join the Trump administration in officially withdrawing from the Paris agreement. Morrison has rejected this idea. He says Australia is on track to meet the target it announced before the Paris conference: to cut emissions by 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030.
But there is little evidence to suggest the government will be able to meet this target without new policies. In August, government advisers said it was unlikely that the electricity sector, responsible for one-third of Australia’s emissions, would reduce its emissions by 26% unless a policy was introduced to drive cleaner energy generation over the next decade.
National emissions have risen each year since 2014, when the government repealed laws requiring big industrial emitters to pay for their emissions. There are also no significant policies to reduce the other major sources of pollution, such as transport, agriculture, heavy industry and mining, which together generate nearly two-thirds of Australia’s carbon emissions.
Although the NEG was a modest policy, proposed after several more effective schemes failed to win political support, it had the potential to win the backing of the centre-left opposition Labor Party, says John Church, a specialist in sea-level rise at the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. That would have enabled the policy to pass through parliament and into law. The policy also had the support of the business community, which has been calling for climate and energy strategies that encourage investment in new and cleaner power plants, he says. “Walking away from it was a disaster.”
Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, an authority on heatwaves, also at the CCRC, says government motivation to do something about climate change seems to have disappeared altogether. When she briefed senior officials on the latest climate-change science in August, she left the meeting feeling optimistic that more policies were coming. “People were trying to get things done, but now that’s not the case at all,” she says. “I’m extremely frustrated.”

Public concern
The decision to drop the policy also goes against the public’s support for action on climate change, says Hughes. A poll of 1,756 people, published on 12 September by research and advocacy organization the Australia Institute, found that 73% of respondents were concerned about climate change and 68% wanted domestic climate targets in line with the country’s Paris commitment.
But Australia’s lack of climate policy could be short-lived. A national election is due by May 2019, and recent polls suggest that the Labor Party, led by former union boss Bill Shorten, is favoured to win. Labor says it would set a new emissions target of a 45% cut by 2030, although it has not revealed how it would reach the target. In the meantime, some states have mandated ambitious renewable-energy targets, and business leaders say investment in clean energy is increasing because it is now the cheapest option.

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'Tsunami' Of New Wind And Solar Projects Drives Renewables Output To A Record

Fairfax - Peter Hannam

Large-scale solar's contribution to the grid is just beginning to soar. Photo: Supplied
Talking points
  • Wind, solar and hydro supplied 25.6% of the National Electricity Market in August.
  • South Australia led mainland states, with renewables including solar supplying 58% of power.
  • SA and Victoria, the mainland states with the largest clean energy share, had the lowest wholesale prices.
  • New renewables planned to be online by the end of 2020 would equal almost a 10th of generation over the past year.
Renewable energy supplied more than a quarter of the National Electricity Market last month amid windy weather and a "tsunami of new wind and solar projects" reaching completion, The Australia Institute said.
The progressive think tank's latest energy and emission audit found renewables including hydro and rooftop solar generated a record 25.6 per cent of electricity supplied to the market that serves about four in five Australians.
Clean energy's share of total grid supply for the 12 months to August was 16.1 per cent, beating the previous peak reached in the 12 months to 2014 when hydro plants went full-bore to take advantage of the carbon price before its scrapping by the Abbott government.
When rooftop solar is added, the 12-month share rose to 19.7 per cent - or not far shy of the 2020 Renewable Energy Target set for large-scale renewables.

Source: The Australia Institute
Wholesale prices - which are one component of what households and businesses pay for power - were lowest last month in South Australia at $72 per megawatt-hour. The state sourced 55 per cent of electricity from renewables and 58 per cent when rooftop solar was added, Hugh Saddler, an analyst with The Australia Institute, said.
Victoria's price of $79 per MW-hour was next lowest among mainland states. Renewable projects are surging in that state, with their share of supply jumping by a half in three years from 12.3 per cent to 18.9 per cent.
NSW had the most expensive wholesale power last month at $82 per MW-hour. Clean energy - including hydro running hard - reached only 14 per cent of supply in the state. NSW sources 12 per cent of its power from Victoria or Queensland, the report found.
There were record levels of renewable energy in August. Photo: Supplied
Coal debate
Dr Saddler said since the end of April, new wind farms had lifted capacity by 14 per cent while new solar farms had almost doubled capacity, though from a much smaller base.
"There's no sign of any slowdown of new projects coming on line," he said, noting these would include the 928 MW of new capacity announced last week by the Andrews government as part of its Victorian Renewable Energy Target.
Over the next two years new renewables would increase capacity by almost a 10th, or the equivalent of twice the size of AGL's ailing Liddell coal-fired power plant, the report estimates.
Despite the surge in renewables, the Morrison government continued to discuss the prospect of new coal-fired power stations, a stance at odds with market trends.
"The future is about coal - but about when the coal-fired power stations close," Dr Saddler, who is also an honorary professor at the Australian National University, said.
The rise of renewables meant emissions from the electricity sector continued to retreat, with wind and solar nudging out black coal-fired power. Still, rising fossil fuel use in the transport sector meant total energy combustion emissions "are basically flat", he said.

'Bodyblow'
In a separate blow to coal-fired power, Japan's Marubeni Corporation, one of world's largest developers of coal plants, was reported to be withdrawing from new projects.
Japan's Nikkei said Marubeni would also halve the ownership of plants it already held by 2030 and accelerate its shift to renewable energy.
Tim Buckley, an analyst with anti-fossil fuel group the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said the news that Marubeni was shifting its global weight behind renewables was "a bodyblow to the global coal industry and a profoundly important endorsement of the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement".
"It is inevitable that other global coal plant developers like POSCO of South Korea, Siemens of Germany and GE of America will be forced to evaluate their own position in light of Marubeni’s decision," he said.

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