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Category Archives: Environment

Australian Koala Foundation Chair calls on Prime Minister to repeal the outdated Regional Forest Act 2002

Australian Koala Foundation Media Release

The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) has today released new research exposing the underbelly of the logging industry across Australia, revealing the stronghold it continues to have on our political leaders.

Amongst the findings of the report was the extensive reach and sheer recklessness of the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs). These agreements, struck between the federal and state governments, hold immense power over our native forests, overriding the EPBC Act.

While many believe environmental laws safeguard our precious forests, RFAs create a significant loophole. They authorise logging of native forests on public land, private land and possibly even within National Parks, all while bypassing the usual environmental approval processes. This means critical habitats and endangered species lose essential protections when they fall within an RFA zone.

The Australian Koala Foundation, backed by this new research, is calling for the urgent repeal of RFAs, saying they pose the greatest legislative threat of all to Koalas.

“Regional Forest Agreements are the best friend of Australia’s logging industry. They have not only proven to be a toothless tiger for biodiversity conservation, but rather, the single biggest risk to the survival of Australia’s beloved Koalas,” Australian Koala Foundation Chair, Deborah Tabart OAM said.

“RFAs have been extended in NSW until 2039. It is laughable to think that the proposed Great Koala National Park could have any impact whatsoever, when RFAs continue to condone the decimation of trees within its boundaries.”

“The logging industry has such a stronghold over our political leaders that the wellbeing of endangered species and their habitat is entirely overlooked. You have to ask, why does this legislation still have the capacity to override the protection of the Koala. It also over-rides common sense; that our forests are essential for our biodiversity and essential for Australia’s climate change policies.”

Deborah Tabart OAM, known internationally as ‘The Koala Woman’ has today taken to Canberra with her call for the repeal of RFAs. She has also written to the Prime Minister outlining AKF’s plea for action.

“The Australian Koala Foundation will not rest until RFAs are repealed and a Koala Protection Act is enacted, “Ms Tabart said.

On Sunday 1st September, the AKF will return to the streets of Canberra to host our inaugural ‘Koala Army March for Creatures Great and Small’. We urge the people of Australia to join us. The March will be a joyous celebration of Koalas and all Australian wildlife, underpinned by a strong message that the people of Australia demand that wildlife habitat is legally protected.”

To find out more about the Koala Army’s March for Creatures Great and Small, visit savethekoala.com/koala-army

 

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New solutions to keep drinking water safe as pesticides skyrocket

University of South Australia Media Release

Water scientists from Australia and China have proposed a more effective method of removing organic pesticides from drinking water, reducing the risk of contamination and potential health problems.

A 62% rise in global pesticide use in the past 20 years has escalated fears that many of these chemicals could end up in our waterways, causing cancer.

Powdered activated carbon (PAC) is currently used to remove organic pesticides from drinking water, but the process is costly, time consuming and not 100% effective.

University of South Australia water researcher Professor Jinming Duan has collaborated with his former PhD student, Dr Wei Li of Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology and Chinese colleagues in a series of experiments to improve the process.

The researchers found that reducing the PAC particles from the existing commercial size of 38 μm (one millionth of a metre) to 6 μm, up to 75% less powder was needed to remove six common pesticides, achieving significant water treatment savings.

At 6 μm, the PAC particles are still large enough to be filtered out after the adsorption process, ensuring they do not end up in the drinking water after toxic pesticides are removed.

Prof Duan says pollutants in our waterways are projected to increase in coming decades as the world’s population and industrial development grows.

“It’s therefore critical that we develop cost-effective treatment processes to ensure our waterways remain safe,” he says.

Their findings have been published in the journal Chemosphere.

“Pesticides cannot be removed using conventional water treatment processes such as flocculation, sedimentation and filtration. Powdered activated carbon does the job, but the existing methods have limitations. Our study has identified how we can make this process more efficient.”

Approximately 3.54 million metric tons of pesticides were applied to agricultural crops worldwide in 2021, according to the Statista Research Department.

Worryingly, despite efforts to increase their efficiency, it is estimated that only 10% of pesticides reach their target pests, with most of the chemicals remaining on plant surfaces or entering the environment, including the soil, waterways and atmosphere.

Toxicological studies have suggested that long-term exposure to low levels of pesticides – primarily through diet or drinking water – could increase the risks of cancer and other diseases.

“This is why it is important to reduce their levels to as low as feasibly possible,” Prof Duan says.

The researchers also hope to explore how super-fine activated carbon could be used to remove toxic polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) found in many consumer products, which have been linked to adverse health impacts.

“The effectiveness and feasibility of ball-milled powdered activated carbon (BPAC) for removal of organic pesticides in conventional drinking water treatment process” is published in Chemosphere. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2024.142229

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Australian Koala Foundation research calls for urgent protection of Victorian Koalas, amid flawed Koala Management Strategy

Australian Koala Foundation Media Release

The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) has today released a research paper outlining deep concern about the critical issue of habitat loss across Victoria, the true threat to koala populations.

The Victorian Government’s Koala Management Strategy (VKMS) released in May 2023 completely misses the mark in securing the future of Koalas across the state.

“The current strategy appears to be a rehash of a failed 2004 plan,” said AKF Chair Deborah Tabart OAM.

“There is an inaccurate perception that Victorian Koala populations are secure and always will be. Koalas have unfairly copped the blame for damaging ecosystems across Victoria and have been labelled as ‘overabundant’ in some areas. This prompted the brutal culling of hundreds of precious Victorian Koalas, back in 2013 and 2014.”

“Whilst the attention of our political leaders and bureaucrats continues to be on passing the buck and shifting the blame, the fundamental problem is ignored – habitat destruction.”

“I have spent over 30 years of my career counting dead bodies, it’s time to count alive and healthy ones – within habitat that must be legally protected.”

In 2022 the Federal Government changed the status of Koalas from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Endangered’ – but only in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT. Ms Tabart said choosing not to list Koalas in Victoria and South Australia as endangered shows how out of touch our political leaders are with the current state of the Koala.

“Victoria’s koalas deserve better. There is not a single Koala anywhere in Australia that is safe and secure, until their habitat is protected by law. The only thing that can do that is a Koala Protection Act.”

AKF’s renewed call for the protection of Victoria’s Koalas coincides with the launch of ‘The Koalas – A Movie About Survival’, which hits cinemas across the state from today. Ms Tabart said the film will not only open the eyes of Australians about the plight of the Koala, it will fill them with tears.

“This film tells a harrowing story of the problems that are faced by Koalas across Australia. At AKF, we’re all too familiar with the problems, so we’re entirely focused on the solution – a Koala Protection Act.”

AKF is calling on anyone who is passionate about securing the future of Koalas to join them at their upcoming Koala Army March for all Creatures Great and Small. The March will be held on 1 September in Canberra and will be a glorious celebration of all Australian wildlife, with a message to our leaders that they must be protected. To register, visit savethekoala.com/koala-army

 

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‘Let’s get on with it’: Regions want real solutions, not politics

RE-Alliance and Community Power Agency Media Release

Australia needs bipartisan support for a plan to help regional communities to work with and benefit from renewable energy infrastructure in regional Australia.

RE-Alliance and Community Power Agency have been working for more than a decade with regional communities hosting large-scale renewable energy projects and have solutions ready to fund that have come from regional communities.

RE-Alliance National Director Andrew Bray said the current discussion over Australia’s energy policy highlights how vital it is to listen to regional communities in our shift to a cleaner future.

Mr Bray said 40% of Australia’s electricity was already generated by renewable sources, increasing to 50% by the end of 2025, and regional Australia is already benefiting from hosting renewable energy infrastructure.

“Rather than policies of distraction, we need to see all sides of politics focussing on getting on with the job we’re halfway through.

“In this decisive decade for emissions reduction, governments can ramp up community engagement with solutions that exist right now. This will make sure the best renewable projects are supplying clean energy to homes and businesses, whilst benefiting local communities and looking after nature,” Mr Bray said.

Dr Jarra Hicks, Director, Community Power Agency said:

“We all want a say in the big changes happening in this country. But too often regional communities feel we aren’t properly consulted. These solutions can help us take hold of the shift to renewables with both hands,” Dr Hicks said.

With colleagues working in regional Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, RE-Alliance and Community Power Agency have been advocating to government to fund three key solutions to boost positive outcomes for regional communities hosting renewables infrastructure.

1. Provide trusted, local information: Fund and resource Local Energy Hubs in Renewable Energy Zones across Australia

A network of 50 Local Energy Hubs in Renewable Energy Zones across Australia staffed by trusted, local experts on topics such as local renewables and transmission projects and household electrification could provide this information and support.

2. Create a race to the top for better practice: Make the Capacity Investment Scheme (CIS) the best it can be

Research tells us that the fastest way to deliver quality renewable energy projects is to get communities involved from the very beginning and share the benefits.

Strengthening the CIS tender guidelines is the best opportunity we have to set a high bar for community and nature outcomes in every region that will host projects. The CIS is a national framework to encourage investment in renewables. The tender guidelines determine which projects get supported, and it’s vital that those delivering positive community outcomes are prioritised.

The latest guidelines released in May now clarify and prioritise good community engagement for the first time. But, nature still needs stronger protection, and local knowledge can be better harnessed when it comes to mapping local habitats and species that need protecting.

The CIS could also include mechanisms to drive First Nations equity in renewable energy projects, similar to successful schemes in Canada and South Africa. The First Nations Clean Energy Network has been calling for a similar model in Australia.

3. Counter mis- and disinformation: Use organisations like the CSIRO, as trusted sources of information on renewables

Misinformation and disinformation can gain traction when there is an information vacuum in a community about the energy shift.

A high-trust entity, such as the CSIRO, could host a dedicated national centre to lead research on renewables and transmission projects, produce clear, publicly accessible information and undertake outreach to share these resources.

 

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Bushfire survivors call out Peter Dutton’s abandonment of communities on the frontline of climate change

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action Media Release

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) has spoken out in response to Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s statements in The Australian today that the Federal Liberal Party would dump Australia’s interim emissions reduction targets. The organisation, founded and led by bushfire survivors, has labelled the move reckless and devastating.

“Here we are watching communities face climate-fueled disasters roll around again and again, with insurance costs rising and homes in some regions becoming uninsurable, yet the Opposition Leader is prepared to delay climate action until the 2040s. To say our members are distraught is an understatement,” said Serena Joyner, Chief Executive Officer of Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action.

“What’s particularly hard to understand is how the Coalition can justify the ever growing expense of worsening climate disasters. The bushfires of 2019-2020 and the 2022 Northern Rivers floods each cost insurers more than $4 billion, and the cost to farmers of the Black Summer fires was $5 billion. Nearly 60% of all local government areas were disaster-declared in 2022 and councils everywhere have been unable to keep up with repairs to local infrastructure.

“And insurance costs are just beginning when accounting for the personal financial and emotional costs to people and communities across the country from more frequent and destructive fires and floods. There’s only so much we can take. Does Peter Dutton expect our regions to just give up and move to the city?

“Scientists tell us if we delay urgent climate action we guarantee that global temperatures will keep rising. That would condemn Australia to face summers like Black Summer on a regular basis, if not worse. It is beyond belief that the Opposition Leader thinks that is an acceptable future for this country.”

About Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action:

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) is a non-partisan, community organisation made up of bushfire survivors, firefighters and their families working together to call on our leaders to take action on climate change. BSCA formed shortly after the Tathra and District fire in March 2018, and its founding members were all impacted by bushfires, including the Black Summer bushfires in 2019-20, Blue Mountains in 2013, Black Saturday in 2009 and Canberra in 2003.

BSCA has been at the cutting edge of legal reform to reduce climate emissions and hold governments, agencies and companies to account. In 2023 the NSW Environment Protection Agency was the first such agency in the country to introduce a climate policy, which it was required to do as a result of landmark court action taken by BSCA.

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Study reveals first emissions snapshot of Australian coal mines

Monash University Media Release

  • Monash researchers have compiled the first snapshot of annual emissions generated by 140 coal mines across the country.
  • Their analysis uncovered clusters of coal mines in NSW and QLD were surrounded by densely populated urban areas, raising health concerns.
  • The findings suggest the proximity of coal mines to nature and forest reserves could impact the concentration of carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants circulating in the air.
  • This study highlights the need for urbanisation and vegetation surrounding coal mines to be monitored closely.
  • The study also found Queensland’s highest emitting mine extracted half the volume of coal in comparison to Victoria’s biggest polluter, suggesting possible scope to reconsider mining low quality coal.

Researchers have compiled the first snapshot of greenhouse gas pollution generated by 140 coal mines across the country, in an effort to shed light on the environmental footprint of Australia’s coal mining industry and its potential impact on human health.

The researchers visualised their emissions estimates on Australian population and vegetation maps to highlight areas at risk of higher concentrations of carbon dioxide. They found that some coal mines were located in proximity to major townships but lacked surrounding vegetation, potentially exposing nearby communities to higher levels of CO2 in the air.

Their analysis uncovered significant clusters of coal mines in NSW and QLD were surrounded by densely populated urban areas, raising health concerns. Carbon offset appeared to be better in NSW which was surrounded by dense forestry and nature reserves in comparison to more barren lands surrounding QLD mine clusters.

According to the International Energy Agency, coal is the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution. The study revealed Australia’s three largest emitting coal mines (located in VIC, NSW, QLD) could be seeping the combined CO2 equivalent of around 30,000 cars annually.

Even with the gradual decline of coal reliance, researchers believe the volume of greenhouse gases emitted by both abandoned and operating mines would not necessarily decrease over time.

“Our research suggests that the location of coal mines and their proximity to nature and forest reserves plays a more significant role than once thought when it comes to the amount of carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants circulating in the air surrounding these mines,” Mr De Mel said.

“It’s a concerning prospect to think that atmospheric CO2 concentrations from mining activities could actually increase if any forest clearing were to occur, especially around densely populated regions where there is a risk of unsafe air quality.”

The study led by Monash civil engineering students, Duvin de Mel and Josiah Butter, analysed data to estimate annual greenhouse gas emissions of individual coal mines. Their calculations also incorporated the volume of coal extraction annually for each mine, along with the quality of the coal extracted.

Coal quality is known to play a significant role in emissions output. The data uncovered that Queensland’s highest emissions offender extracted almost half of the volume of coal in comparison to Victoria’s biggest polluter, but emitted higher levels of CO2 overall. This suggests there’s scope to re-consider the mining of low quality coal, which produces higher concentrations of harmful pollutants to generate electricity.

Mr Butter said the study underscored the urgency for action to mitigate the environmental impact of coal mining on surrounding ecosystems and human health.

“We believe these findings could assist policymakers and mining companies in understanding the potential climate and health risks posed by coal mining activities and inform future mitigation strategies,” Mr Butter said.

“Taking care of our natural environment is critical to protecting human health. This study highlights the need for urbanisation and vegetation surrounding coal mines to be monitored closely, along with supporting further exploratory research.”

The study also found underground coal mines emitted more than three times the amount of carbon dioxide than surface coal mines.

The research was conducted under the guidance of Professor Mohan Yellishetty, Co-Founder of the Critical Minerals Consortium at Monash.

“Australia’s disused mines could become community assets rather than liabilities if properly planned. A nationwide priority should be to support the exploration of solutions to rehabilitate these mines,” Professor Yellishetty said.

“This macro-level research opens up new avenues for future exploration and I applaud our forward-thinking students for contributing important insights.”

 

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Global research warns climate change is increasing groundwater temperatures

Charles Darwin University Media Release

A world first global groundwater temperature model projects that shallow groundwater will warm on average by between 2.1 and 3.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Charles Darwin University (CDU) Outstanding Future Researcher Dr Dylan Irvine and University of Newcastle’s Dr Gabriel Rau collaborated with colleagues from Canada, Germany, and Austria to develop the model, which aims to reveal the long-term implications of on-going shallow water groundwater warming caused by climate change.

The model projects the highest warming rates will be in Central Russia, Northern China and parts of North America and the Amazon rainforest, with Australian groundwater temperatures also expected to rise.

Dr Irvine from CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods said an increase in groundwater temperature can be a cause for concern.

“Groundwater is the water that is present beneath the Earth’s surface in pore spaces in rocks and soils. It is critical for life on earth,” Dr Irvine said.

“Groundwater temperature can influence a ecosystems, aquatic processes and water quality. If groundwater temperatures increase, then unfortunately many temperature sensitive groundwater dependent ecosystems may be threatened.

“A lot of focus on climate change has rightfully been to do with weather events and the availability of water, but we do need to think more broadly about the impact that climate change will have on groundwater.”

Unfortunately, for Australia the model projects that like other countries our groundwater temperatures are expected rise.

“Our groundwater here will warm but how much depends on whether or not humans can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help mitigate climate change,” Dr Irvine said.

“These temperature increases can impact vital processes such as groundwater chemistry and metal leaching and microbiology which affects water quality.”

“If temperatures increase then we may see significant impacts to our local aquatic animals including their spawning processes which will impact industries and communities that are reliant on these ecosystems.”

Co-author and hydrogeology Lecturer from the University of Newcastle, Dr Gabriel Rau, warned that warming groundwater temperatures could adversely impact many ecosystems that rely on groundwater.

“Rivers rely on groundwater to keep flowing during dry times. Warm waters hold less dissolved oxygen. We’ve seen in the Murray Darling how low oxygen in water can contribute to fish deaths,” Dr Rau said.

According to the World Health Organisation, currently only 18 out of 125 countries have temperature guidelines for drinking water.

If groundwater continues to warm, it could also compromise the safety of drinking water.

“Our model estimates that by 2099, 59 to 588 million people worldwide will live in areas where groundwater exceeds the highest threshold for drinking water temperature guidelines set by any country,” Dr Rau said.

“As groundwater warms, there is increased risk of pathogen growth which impacts drinking water quality – potentially affecting the lives of many people.”

“This is especially concerning in areas where access to clean drinking water is already limited, and in areas where groundwater is consumed without treatment.”

Dr Rau also explained that rising groundwater temperatures also pose an economic risk.

“Many vital industries like agriculture, manufacturing, and energy production rely on groundwater for their operations. If the groundwater they depend on becomes too warm or more contaminated, it can disrupt their activities and potentially lead to economic losses,” Dr Rau said.

To illustrate the potential change in groundwater temperatures due to climate change, the research team, led by Dr Susanne Benz from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, has developed an interactive online application to show the projected temperature changes.

This Google Earth Engine app provides zoomable maps of annual mean, maximum and minimum groundwater temperatures at different depths and seasonal variability for selected years and climate scenarios, that the team hopes will facilitate further research.

The research paper titled ‘Global groundwater warming due to climate change can be found in the journal Nature Geoscience.

 

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Climate groups say Australia must advocate for loss and damage finance for Pacific at Bonn Climate Change Conference

Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) and Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) Media Release

Civil society groups from across Australia and the Pacific are calling on the Australian Government to champion loss and damage finance for Pacific Island countries at the upcoming Bonn UN Climate Change Conference, saying there is an urgent need to support frontline communities grappling with the escalating climate crisis.

In a joint letter led by Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) and Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN), supported by over 25 other organisations, civil society groups are urging the Australian Government to support Pacific countries’ call to include loss and damage in a new global climate finance goal under negotiation. They also want to see the Government increase its climate finance contributions to align with its AUD $4 billion annual fair share, and to provide a significant, additional contribution to the global Loss and Damage Fund.

The Bonn meeting, which kicks off in Germany on Monday, is one of the last major opportunities for countries to build consensus ahead of November’s COP29 conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, where a new global goal for climate finance, the ‘New Collective Quantified Goal’ (NCQG), is set to be agreed.

As the third biggest exporter of fossil fuels globally, Australia has played a significant role in creating the climate losses and damages that will be and are being experienced by vulnerable communities.

The climate crisis has already had devastating impacts on Pacific communities. These communities face increasingly frequent and severe storms, coastal erosion, drought, and marine life loss. The organisations behind the letter say the Bonn conference is a crucial opportunity for Australia to demonstrate its commitment to the Pacific by advocating to integrate loss and damage into the NCQG and by contributing significantly to the Loss and Damage Fund with new and additional finance.

While Australia supported the establishment of the global Loss and Damage Fund at COP28, it has yet to contribute to the Fund, and its 2022-23 climate finance contributions were only about 15% of its fair share of the current global USD 100 billion annual climate finance target which applies through to 2025.

The organisations say that Pacific Island countries have consistently emphasised that climate change is the greatest threat to their livelihoods, security, and wellbeing, and have been strong advocates for loss and damage finance given the immense recovery costs and the severe impact on Pacific economies, societies, and cultures. In 2023, Vanuatu faced two Category 4 cyclones within just 24 hours, affecting 80% of the population and causing widespread destruction. Fiji, still recovering from Tropical Cyclones Yasa and Ana, has schools operating in makeshift tents years later, jeopardising children’s education.

Dr Sindra Sharma, Senior Policy Advisor Pacific Islands Climate Action Network said:

“Including Loss and Damage in the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) is crucial for addressing the urgent needs of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other vulnerable nations. Prioritising grant-based, non-debt-creating finance for Loss and Damage shows a genuine commitment to climate action and helps build a sustainable and equitable future.

“The time for empty promises is over. The developed world must prove their understanding by aligning with SIDS’ priorities, as expressed here in Antigua and Barbuda. Australia, a member of the Pacific Islands Forum and our closest neighbour, has repeatedly heard these priorities. They now have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership through tangible action, aligning with our needs for new and additional climate finance.

“This new era of climate finance must deliver new, adequate, and primarily public-funded, grants-based and mobilised through a “polluter pays” principle, holding those most responsible for this climate injustice accountable to their obligations under the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement. It is a matter of justice, equity and responsibility. We call on the Australian Government to step up, take decisive action, and ensure climate finance truly becomes the catalyst for the urgent climate action our planet desperately needs.”

Lyn Morgain, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Officer said:

“Supporting Pacific communities recovering from climate disasters isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s our responsibility. As those responsible for the coal and gas industries causing these problems, Australia must step up and champion loss and damage finance for Pacific Island countries to cope with climate change.”

“Australians believe in taking care of our neighbours. When we see Pacific communities suffer climate disaster after disaster, we must be leaders in calling for a global mechanism to ensure they get the funding they need to recover.”

Michelle Higelin, Action Aid Australia Executive Director said:

“Australia’s fossil fuel industry is directly responsible for climate losses and damages, and it’s time our country took responsibility for this impact. If the Government is serious about showing its commitment to Pacific communities, Australia must support the inclusion of loss and damage in this landmark new finance goal.

“The new global climate finance goal is a critical opportunity to break the status quo on climate finance, and bring justice to communities most vulnerable to climate impacts. Australia has the capacity to lift its ambition and take a stand in support of our Pacific neighbours – we just need the political will.

“This is a matter of climate justice, and of gender justice. The impacts of climate change in the Pacific are disproportionately affecting women and girls, their livelihoods, safety, and wellbeing, by deepening existing gender inequities and impacting women’s lives. While women bear the brunt of climate disasters and face displacement and insecurity, they are leading the fight against climate change. We must support women on the frontlines of this crisis and ensure they have the resources to rebuild and respond.”

 

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Climate Failure: Eraring Power Station to Stay Open Beyond 2025

Climate Council Media Release

The Climate Council has labelled the NSW Government’s decision to keep Australia’s largest coal-fired power station operating well past its scheduled 2025 closure date as a failure of climate leadership.

Climate Councillor and Economist Nicki Hutley said: “This decision is a triple failure: it fails policy, it fails climate leadership, and it fails to protect the health and wellbeing of communities across NSW and the nation. As NSW residents endure worsening climate impacts – like the Black Summer bushfires and last year’s Great Deluge – driven by climate pollution, the state and federal governments have failed to build enough clean energy to ensure this coal clunker closes on time.

“As a result, every NSW taxpayer will bear the financial burden of this decision, which undermines climate targets for both NSW and Australia and delays the shift to cleaner, lower cost energy.”

Head of Policy and Advocacy at the Climate Council, Dr Jennifer Rayner, said: “The science is clear: every tonne of coal burned pushes us closer to climate disaster. The latest analysis from the energy market operator shows solar, wind and storage projects in the pipeline can more than meet the electricity needs of every home and business in NSW.

“Keeping the coal fires burning at Eraring sends the wrong message when urgent action is needed to fight the climate crisis. This must never happen again – in NSW or any other state. Governments must now throw everything at accelerating the shift to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This will create new clean energy jobs, help lower power bills and, most importantly, tackle the climate crisis.”

 

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Hancock Prospecting in Ecuador: Seven Years of Reported Violations

Melbourne Rainforest Action Group Media Release

Research and advocacy organisation, Rainforest Action Group, has just released a new in-depth article covering Hancock Prospecting’s controversial activities in Ecuador since 2017.

Hancock Prospecting, through its 100%-owned subsidiary Hanrine, is exploring for copper and gold in eleven mining concessions in northwestern Ecuador.

Compiling seven years’ worth of frontline reporting, the article documents events where Hanrine was directly or indirectly involved with violence, alleged irregularities in dealings with the judicial system, and civil rights violations.

“Hanrine’s alleged actions have included blockading access roads to communities, using the state police and military to force its workers and machinery through towns and villages, manipulating the Ecuadorian judiciary, trying to gain access to water sources reserved for agricultural use without following due process, and criminalising people who peacefully protest saying they don’t want mining on their properties,” says Liz Downes, campaigner for Rainforest Action Group.

“While many of these actions have been widely reported on Ecuadorian news media and social media, they have been allowed to continue to expand their projects with little oversight and a large degree of impunity. Meanwhile, there is scant recourse for people in Ecuador (or anywhere overseas) to lodge complaints within Australia about impacts or violations caused by Australian mining companies,” says Liz Downes.

“Australia is already the world’s biggest metals mining jurisdiction, responsible for the production of around 40% of global metal resources in 2022. As demand for “critical” minerals grows, Australian mining companies are exploring or developing projects across most continents,” says Liz Downes.

“This expansion is creating so-called sacrifice zones, where people and environments are plundered to serve corporate profits and geopolitical agendas. While companies are keen to state how clean and green they are on their websites, the reality on the ground is often very different – and it is difficult to challenge the public narrative,” says Liz Downes.

In March and April 2024, Hancock Prospecting acquired a further five exploration concessions in Ecuador, in a mega-biodiverse region known for hosting decades of resistance against mining. The company also invested $186 million in a copper exploration project in the south of Ecuador.

For Gina Rinehart, majority owner and chairman of Hancock Prospecting, these copper acquisitions are part of a recent broader push to invest in battery metals, including lithium and rare earth metals.

The Rainforest Action Group (MRAG) is a grassroots working group affiliated with the Rainforest Information Centre (RIC). It was formed in 2018 as a response to RIC’s call out for support in growing a campaign to save Ecuador’s megadiverse rainforests in the Amazon and Western Andes from swathes of mining concessions.

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Renewable aviation fuels prepare for take-off in Australia

University of South Australia Media Release

Aviation experts from the University of South Australia (UniSA) will work with their Chinese counterparts over the next two years to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel industry in both countries.

The collaboration, announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Saturday, comes on the back of a $1.7 billion Federal Budget allocation to prioritise renewable fuels for the aviation industry over the next decade.

UniSA Aviation Professor Shane Zhang has been awarded a $230,000 National Foundation for Australia-China Relations grant to lead the project, exploring the commercial opportunities of using bio feedstock to replace conventional kerosene jet fuels with ‘green’ fuel.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) are still in their infancy, accounting for less than 1% of jet fuels worldwide, although the European Union (EU), Singapore, the US and UK are moving towards mandating SAFs within the next few years.

Prof Zhang says the Federal Government budget announcement follows the establishment of the Australia Jet Zero Council in 2023 to deliver net-zero aviation in Australia, supported by a $30 million funding injection.

“Sustainable aviation fuels can potentially cut carbon emissions by up to 80% and are essential if we are to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in Australia 2050,” Prof Zhang says.

The alternative liquid jet fuel is derived from several sources or feedstock, including waste oil and fats, woody residues, algae and municipal waste. It needs to be mixed with conventional fuel (50%) to avoid any modifications to the engine and aircraft, in line with international regulations.

While these renewable fuels are not yet produced in Australia, Jet Zero Australia is working with US biotechnology company LanzaJet to build a new SAF facility in north Queensland, and Wagner Sustainable Fuels and Boeing Australia are also collaborating on a site in Toowoomba. The NSW Government has pledged up to $100 million to start local production.

Aside from the $1.7 billion, the Albanese Government has also allocated $18.5 million over four years to develop a certification scheme for sustainable aviation fuels and renewable diesel. A further $1.5 million will go towards a two-year analysis of the costs and benefits of introducing mandates.

“There is a lot of potential to produce sustainable aviation fuels in Australia and China, as both countries have large quantities of bio feedstock and the market is untapped,” Prof Zhang says.

“Australia is among a handful of countries globally to support the transition to SAFs, but the financial commitment to develop a local industry does not extend to a mandate at this stage.”

This contrasts with the EU, which has mandated that 2% of all departing flights from Europe will use green fuels by 2025, up to 70% by 2050. Singapore has also set a 1% SAF target for all departing airlines from 2026, increasing to 3-5% by 2030, and the UK has mandated that 10% of its airline fleet use SAFs by 2030, increasing to 22% by 2024.

Airservices Australia has set a target of reducing CO2 emissions per flight by an average of 10% by 2030. Globally, aviation accounts for approximately 3% of global emissions, but this could rise to 22% by 2050 as more people fly and other sectors decarbonise more quickly, Prof Zhang says.

“Unlike ground transportation, there are limited alternative fuel options for the aviation sector. Sustainable fuels are one of them, but they are up to five times more expensive than traditional fuel and airlines are reluctant to invest in them until they become cheaper and more readily available.

“Likewise, biotechnology companies need a guaranteed market from airlines before they commit to developing SAFs, so the hesitation runs both ways.”

Prof Zhang and his Chinese colleagues will organise and develop eight events in Australia and China over the next two years, bringing industry, farmers and stakeholders together to look at how sustainable aviation fuels can be commercialised.

“The technology is ready and mature, and the Federal Government has sent a clear signal about its support for greener aviation fuels. We just need to overcome the challenges and find the right path,” Prof Zhang says.

 

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Climate pollution and petrol bills coming down as New Vehicle Efficiency Standard set to pass Parliament

Climate Council Media Release

AUSTRALIA IS OFF AND RACING on the road to cleaner cars that are cheaper to run, with the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard securing the support of Federal Parliament today. This reform is decades overdue, however, with the standard set to start next year, Australians will finally have access to more low and zero emissions vehicles already being sold in their millions overseas.

Climate Council CEO, Amanda McKenzie, said: “Australia has locked up the garage for good when it comes to expensive, polluting cars. This is a win for the climate, a win for our health, and a win for all Australians – whether they drive a car or not.

“This law will see Australia slash climate pollution from one of our biggest sources, steering the transport sector towards a cleaner future. We look forward to seeing the positive impacts this important change will have on our hip-pockets, our health, and our environment.”

Climate Council Head of Policy and Advocacy, Dr Jennifer Rayner, said: “The New Vehicle Efficiency Standard sends a clear message to car manufacturers: it’s time to clean up your act. Manufacturers can no longer treat Australia as a dumping ground for dirty, inefficient cars.

“This reform is an important step towards slashing climate pollution further and faster this decade, and a great example of what a progressive Parliament can deliver when it puts our kids’ futures first. We need to see more action like this, more often.”

 

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A Future Gas Strategy that sends us Back to the Future

Climate Council Media Release

Sharply rebuking the Albanese Government’s endorsement of gas beyond 2050, the Climate Council has labelled today’s Future Gas Strategy announcement as a regressive echo of the past.

Climate Council Head of Policy and Advocacy Dr Jennifer Rayner said: “Today’s announcement is more Back to the Future than Future Made in Australia. Australia is already using less gas, so the suggestion we need more of it sounds like Scott Morrison’s ‘gas led recovery’, not Anthony Albanese’s ‘renewable energy superpower’.

“More gas means more climate pollution and a more dangerous future, it’s that simple. The Albanese Government has a choice: cut climate pollution and seize the decade by scaling up clean energy, or support new gas projects. It can’t do both.

“Now is not the moment to add to our climate crisis by burning more gas. Signing Australia up to a future made on gas ignores climate scientists, who warn we are at risk of smashing through 1.5C of warming.

“The strategy seems to ignore forecasts of a global oversupply of gas and the government’s own plans to develop the workforce and supply chain for clean industries, which can power the next era of Australian prosperity if we go all in on them now.

“This can be Australia’s moment to start a sensible phase out of gas as we scale up the clean alternatives. More gas is a bad bet, against a safe climate future and a thriving clean economy.”

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading community-funded climate change communications organisation. We provide authoritative, expert and evidence-based advice on climate change to journalists, policymakers, and the wider Australian community.

 

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Climate-hit communities aghast as Labor’s Gas Strategy undermines urgent climate action

Climate Communities Alliance Media Release

People whose communities have been hit by floods, fires, heat, and sea level rise have spoken out at their dismay over the government’s Future Gas Strategy.

Australians and our Pacific Island neighbours are on the frontlines of climate change – we can’t afford to keep expanding the highly polluting industries that are making climate change worse. Across the country communities are reeling from repeated climate-fueled disasters. Torres Strait Island communities are facing the loss of their homelands.

The science is clear – we need to move away from fossil fuels like gas, not lock in further exploitation for decades to come.

This is a betrayal of the Australian people, but also of our Pacific Island neighbours, who are so very vulnerable to the climate impacts of rising seas.

Dr Aunty McRose Elu, senior Torres Strait Islander elder, community advocate, and former Queensland Senior Australian of the Year, said:

“Last week in court the government heard that we are highly likely to be forced from our islands in 26 years due to climate change. Today the government has approved more gas projects, beyond our pollution budget, which will directly worsen the climate crisis in the Torres Strait.

“I am in the Torres Strait right now witnessing torrential rains and rising sea levels. I would like the Government to come here and see for themselves the climate impacts on these low-lying islands.

“We know they can be doing so much more to keep us all safe from climate harm. Our only chance for survival is to act very quickly to put us on the right path and limit global heating to 1.5 degrees.”

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action President Jo Dodds said:

“Once again, the safety and security of Australian communities is forced to take a back seat to the voracious profit motives of the gas mining sector.

“The Australian Government knows exactly how dangerous the new Future Gas Strategy is because they have admitted in several recent court cases that they accept the climate science in the IPCC Reports. This research says that ongoing fossil fuel mining and use will cause even more dangerous and destructive bushfires, floods, storms, droughts and sea level rise.

“Survivors across this country are devastated that our lives, our families, our futures mean so very little in the face of company profit.”

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action CEO Serena Joyner said:

“This is a betrayal of our communities by the Albanese government, caving in to gas lobby pressure. They promised to act meaningfully on climate, but today’s announcement backs in decades more fossil fuel extraction, including support for new gas projects.

“Australians are already paying a heavy price for climate damage through losses, rebuilds, higher insurance and building in climate resilience, yet it seems the government is happy to keep pouring fuel on the fire. The clean energy solutions are available now and our communities are relying on urgent emissions reduction for a safer future.”

Chels Hood Withey of the Community Disaster Action Group in the Northern Rivers said:

“Labor’s plan for more gas until 2050 is unacceptable for flood-impacted communities. Investing in climate-destroying fossil fuels condemns us to worsening disasters. We demand an urgent and immediate transition to renewables to protect our communities. No new coal and gas.”

Miriam Torzillo representing Reclaim Our Recovery, Lismore said:

“The people of the Northern Rivers came together at the Bentley blockade to successfully keep their country gasfield free. Since then we have lived through two climate disasters; the fires of 2019 and the catastrophic floods of 2022. We know from experience how deeply climate disasters change communities. Therefore we join with all climate impacted communities and those fighting against extractivism to call out the lie of The ‘Future Gas Strategy’.”

Alliance organisations include Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, Currie Country Social Change, Grata Fund, Plan C, Lismore’s Reclaim Our Recovery, Northern Rivers Community Disaster Action Group.

 

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Compost: a climate action solution

Composting’s role in the fight against climate change will be in focus during International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW), to be held from May 5-11 in Australia.

Amid the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as flooding, droughts or bushfires, composting offers a practical, hands-on response to climate change mitigation where every household can join the global effort.

“As a community we can all contribute to a healthy planet by keeping food scraps away from landfill and one of the ways is through composting,” says Chris Rochfort, CEO of the Centre for Organic Research & Education (CORE).

“Composting can help reduce landfill methane emissions and restoring soil health, which will help build resilience to climate change, reduce reliance on synthetic fertilisers, and sequester carbon by removing it from the atmosphere.”

Composting can benefit the climate in many ways:

  • Reduces the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill, which when disposed to landfill breaks down anaerobically and releases methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential around 28 times that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.
  • Improves drainage and aeration in the soil.
  • Produces a nutrient-rich soil amendment.
  • Retains soil moisture and reduces plant diseases/pests.
  • Reduces heat island effect in urban areas.
  • Increase resilience to the effects of climate change such as drought and extreme weather.

“By returning nutrients back to the soil through composting it improves plant health and promotes biodiversity. If we reduce and recycle waste, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions at landfills, promote uptake of carbon dioxide by vegetation, and make our environment more resilient to the effects of a changing climate,” Mr Rochfort said.

He added: “Compost is one of nature’s essential building blocks that can solve so many of humanity’s current challenges from climate change, such as soil moisture loss and contaminated run-off and sediments entering our waterways.

“This is on top of compost being a fantastic amendment to add to soils to assist plant growth, nutrient retention and storing carbon. There’s no other product that can fulfill as many functions as compost can.

“Urban communities in particular generate massive amounts of food organics and garden organics (FOGO). As a community we need to participate in FOGO recovery systems where these wastes are processed into compost that adds valuable nutrients to the soil. This is good news for healthy food, future water supplies, environmental wellbeing, and human resilience.”

ICAW is a week during which Australians are encouraged to promote the importance and benefits of composting in their local communities. CORE, a public charity, has been championing this international awareness campaign exclusively in Australia for the past 19 years. ICAW has contributed to reducing organic waste going to landfill and at the same time improving biodiversity in soils and building up resilience to extreme weather events.

ICAW thanks sponsors of this year’s event, with Platinum sponsors comprising the Queensland Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Penrith City Council and Northern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils; Gold sponsor is the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA); and Bronze sponsor is Ku-ring-gai Council in northern Sydney.

Highlights
• International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) to be held from May 5-11, 2024
• Spotlight on composting’s role in household fight against climate change
• Nationwide event promotes benefits of composting in local communities

 

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