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Tag Archives: emissions

Laggards or Leaders

While Joe Hockey labels Australians as “lifters or leaners”, governments are similarly judged as “laggards or leaders”. In one fell swoop this government has taken us from being a world leader to a despised laggard.

You could be forgiven for not knowing there was a climate change conference in Bonn in June. In fact, I am not even sure if we actually sent anyone. The last I heard, the delegates were standing around at Sydney airport wondering what to do because the PM’s plane had flown off to France full of photographers and businessmen, relegating the delegates to catch commercial flights, but the PM’s office, who control such things, had neglected to give approval for their expenses.

Since I had heard no reports of the conference I looked for myself. This was the first story I came across.

Australia awarded Fossil of the Day at UN Climate Talks for Trying to Reconvene Flat Earth Society

June 10 2014, Bonn – Germany: CAN bestows the first Fossil Award of the Bonn UNFCCC negotiation session to Australia in recognition of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s stupendously brazen denial of the catastrophic risks posed by climate change in his effort to form an alliance of “like minded” countries opposed to action on climate change, already dubbed by some as a new “flat earth society.”

News accounts report that the Minister has enjoined Canada in his new coalition and is reaching out to other countries including the UK and India “aiming to dismantle global moves to introduce carbon pricing.”

CAN salutes the Abbott’s commitment and consistency in his willful blindness to the catastrophic economic costs incurred by climate change.

He has also recently announced his intention to keep climate change out of the upcoming G20 talks hosted by Australia arguing that climate change is inappropriate because such talks are primarily about economics.

Prime Minister Abbott must have missed the IPCC memo which spells out that climate change is the economic problem facing our age – it’s already costing us, but it doesn’t cost the earth to save the world.

He is clearly looking for recognition of his visionary approach to climate change, and CAN is proud to be among the first to step out and congratulate his dedication to the fossilized past. [In case you were wondering – no, this isn’t a joke. Abbott has really done this. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.]”

This came on the heels of the report from the conference in Warsaw in November last year.

November 22, 2013

This year’s Colossal Fossil goes to Australia. The new Australian Government has won its first major international award – the Colossal Fossil. The delegation came here with legislation in its back pocket to repeal the carbon price, failed to take independent advice to increase its carbon pollution reduction target and has been blocking progress in the loss and damage negotiations. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

Some people have described our new Senators as a “breath of fresh air”. What I see is ill-informed naïvity. Clive Palmer has somehow convinced these “ordinary people” that Australia will be better off without a carbon price and a mining tax. Nice going Clive.

Tony Abbott has managed to do the same, telling us that our cost of living will go down, jobs will be created, and investment money will flow….but don’t bet the house on it.

This unholy alliance has sent Australia backwards but they will not prevail. Their actions will be increasingly condemned as the world forces them to take action on the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced.

Image by climate-change-guide.com

Image by climate-change-guide.com

Abbott will face enormous pressure at the G20 summit later this year, and at the climate change talks in Paris next year, despite his efforts to remove discussion from the agenda. Under pressure from Obama, in a typically immature approach to control the language, Abbott agreed to discuss “energy efficiency”.

A recent poll by the Lowy Institute showed that after six years of declining public concern about climate change, the trend had reversed with 45 per cent of people saying it is a “serious and pressing problem”.

In the meantime, it is worth remembering that smart, decent people are waiting for this temporary nightmare to pass and have viable plans for the direction our future must take.

In July 2012, Beyond Zero Emissions produced a document called “Laggard to Leader – How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity”. The main thrust of the study is:

  • Australia must stop using the promise of a global treaty that won’t eventuate to duck responsibility for its ballooning coal and gas exports.
  • A moratorium on coal and gas expansion followed by a phasedown will drive a massive increase in global renewable energy investment.
  • Australia can lead the world to cheap, abundant renewable energy by deploying off-the-shelf, zero carbon technology that will grow Australia’s prosperity.

The International Energy Agency warned in 2012, “the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close”. To keep the door open, global emissions must peak and begin to decline by 2020 at the absolute latest and then keep declining to zero by between 2040 and 2050. We are in “the critical decade”. Decisions we make today will largely determine the state of the climate system within which all subsequent generations must live.

The world’s nations gathered in Durban in late 2011 to continue long-standing negotiations towards a comprehensive international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The best they could agree was that they would aim to negotiate by 2015 an agreement requiring some countries to start reducing emissions beginning in 2020. These negotiations cannot be relied upon to secure the emissions cuts that are required. “It is clear”, argue the editors of the world’s preeminent scientific journal, Nature, “that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change … now inhabit parallel worlds”.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia where the Federal Government and its State Government counterparts are aggressively supporting a massive programme of investment in new mines, wells, pipes and ports. These projects will see Australia export a staggering amount of highly emissions-intensive coal and gas during — and well beyond — the critical decade.

Australia is already the world’s largest coal exporter, responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s traded coal, and is the fastest growing exporter of liquefied natural gas. The emissions embodied in Australia’s fossil fuel exports already total much more than our “domestic” emissions. Based on data accumulated by Australian Government agencies, Australia’s combined coal and gas exports are projected to more than double between now and 2030.

To allow this to occur would be catastrophic for global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change: it would mean Australia would be causing more than 1 in every 10 tonnes of the greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted into the atmosphere in 2030 consistent with a 2°C warming trajectory.

Australia is the steward of its natural resources. They belong to all Australians and we can choose what to do with them. When our exports of coal and gas are burned, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is the product of these choices. The fact that these emissions are not counted in Australia’s “carbon accounts” under UN carbon accounting rules has previously been used as an excuse for us to ignore their consequences.

But these rules are based on the idea that all countries will have emissions reduction targets, the achievement of which will “add up” to the global cuts necessary to stay within the 2°C limit. With the UN negotiations deadlocked and no foreseeable prospect of such an international regime emerging in the necessary timeframe, this excuse is not acceptable.

Hoping, against all probability, that the negotiations will reach a breakthrough just in time, while at the same time making the problem they are trying to solve significantly worse is a dangerous, counterintuitive and counterproductive approach for Australia to take.

It is well beyond time to approach the global challenge of preserving a safe climate in a very different way. It is time to put leadership towards zero carbon prosperity at the heart of our response.

The logic of “Cooperative Decarbonisation” is simple. Each country must phase down to zero or very near zero the greenhouse gas emissions associated with every economic and social process over which it has control or influence. Instead of drawing lines at national borders, this approach recognises that, in a globalised economy, countries have shared responsibility for many of the emissions that occur in any one place. As such, countries should use every lever they have to eliminate those emissions within their “sphere of influence”, including the fossil fuels they export and the goods they import.

Clearly, international cooperation will be required — particularly to ensure that the goals of sustainable economic development are achieved and that wealthier countries assist low income countries to make this essential transition. But instead of trying to do it all in one “grand bargain” as they are today, countries should work in smaller groups, focusing their efforts on the individual sectors and processes that cause emissions — working to leave fossil fuels in the ground, preserve the world’s forests and make renewable energy affordable for all.

Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is one of only a small handful of countries that can lead this process. The main reason for this is simple: our sphere of influence over global emissions is immense. Our high domestic emissions make us an important player, on par with nations like France, Spain and South Korea. But it is our ballooning coal and gas exports that make us a truly critical influence on global emissions.

We can use this position to focus the attention of world leaders on the most important, yet least discussed part of the climate problem: the fact that only one eighth of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves can safely be burned. Australia can help make that which is currently “unthinkable” — a global fossil fuel phase out — a reality.

We need an Australian moratorium on new fossil fuel developments: a bold move from the world’s largest coal exporter that can serve as the centrepiece for a wider call to action. Such a move would maintain the current global price of coal and stop it from falling by an expected 30% this decade. It would be one of the few conceivable ways that any single country could jolt world leaders into action, creating the economic and political momentum to commence immediate global discussion on the best and fairest means to phase-out fossil fuels.

Thankfully, Australia’s global power does not arise only from our ownership of the resources that are fuelling the problem. As the beneficiary of world class solar and wind resources, we also hold the key to the most important solutions.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy are essential to decarbonising the world’s energy system. Thanks largely to the targeted investments made by Germany and other European countries when these technologies were more expensive, they have sailed down the “cost curve” and are now price-competitive with fossil fuel energy in many markets. Germany’s installation of almost 30GW of solar PV brought PV prices down by an incredible 65% over the past six years.

The other crucial technology is concentrating solar thermal (CST) with storage. This technology, which is operating today in other countries, produces 24 hour energy from the power of the sun. The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan showed that powering the Australian economy using predominantly CST is technically and economically achievable, starting now, in ten years. The greatest gift that sunny Australia could give to the world is to repeat for CST what cloudy Germany did for solar PV: through smart policies and targeted investments, enable the deployment across Australia of enough CST to make this game-changing technology cost-competitive with fossil fuels everywhere.

Cheap renewable energy will solve some of the most challenging problems facing humankind this century — from climate change, to oil scarcity, to energy poverty — and allow us to build a global economy on foundations as reliable as the rising sun.

Australia has the power to make it happen. It is up to us to insist that it does.

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Law & Order, Mars and Why Tony Abbott is Right To Put Science Under The Industry Portfolio.

“I have a great idea for reducing the crime rate!”
“What is it?”
“Well, when someone is caught breaking the law, rather than wasting a lot of money on a trial and jailing them – which is also very expensive – we just give them a large amount of money and tell them not do it again!”
“But wouldn’t that lead to people breaking the law and handing themselves in, just to get the money?”
“Oh the money wouldn’t go to everyone. Just the big criminals.”
“All right, once they’ve got the money what’s the penalty if they break the law again?”
“None.”
“None?”
“Yep, we’re more into carrots than sticks.”
“That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard!”
“Ok, well what about my idea for reducing our carbon emissions?”
“You mean the one where you pay the biggest polluters to reduce their emissions and if they don’t you just say that’s ok?”
“Yep.”
“Oh, that’s fine. That sounds like an excellent idea.”
Mm, we don’t seem to be hearing a lot about Tony Abbott’s Direct Action Plan. You know, the one that’s supposed to replace the Carbon Tax. A Google search reveals several mentions but the only recent one is in an editorial from that foreign owned newspaper, “The Australian” which begins with the rather contradictory concept.
“AUSTRALIA’s ill-fated carbon tax has proved to be a more successful tool of political rather than carbon abatement, felling spectacularly the party leaderships of Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull, Kevin Rudd, and Julia Gillard. Well intentioned in theory, it was in practice a hopelessly premature step for a country that emits around 1.5 per cent of global carbon dioxide and whose competitiveness had long rested on cheap energy. The tax boosted power prices for households and business without altering the carbon intensity of their energy supply. It has hastened the deindustrialisation of Australia’s economy, including the collapse of the aluminium and car industries, without a scintilla of verifiable impact on global carbon emissions, let alone the climate.”
I can’t see how the deindustrialisation of Australia’s economy hasn’t led to some fall in our emissions. And considering we were told by other members of Murdoch Misinformation Media about pensioners sitting in the dark with the heater off because they couldn’t afford electricity any more, it seems hard to believe that bigger users hadn’t found ways to improve their energy efficiency. But it’s good to know that our competitiveness rests on cheap energy and not cheap wages, as has been suggested by the IPA. (Or rather cheap minimum wages. I haven’t heard anyone from the IPA suggesting that Tim Wilson’s $300,000 is an excessive amount. Or even using it as example of a waste of taxpayers’ money.)
Still when the paper talks about “verifiable”, it’s important to remember that they’re not using that in a scientific way, because a debate like this is too important to be left to scientists. We need input from every day people. Like the Senator from Kentucky (Brandon Smith) that was suggesting that climate change wasn’t man-made because there are no coal mines on Mars, and:
“I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change. But I will just simply point out that I think that in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that.”
Well, a scientist might, but we know that they’re just a minority group and the silent majority are sick and tired of pandering to minority groups. So “verifiable” in this sense has nothing to do with science. It simply means that something can be found in one of their newspapers about a reduction in Australia’s emissions. And, of course, it can’t .
As for what the editorial said about Direct Action:
“And Environment Minister Greg Hunt has the hazardous task of overseeing its untried replacement, an unloved $2.5 billion direct action fund cobbled together to burnish the Coalition’s climate credentials in early 2010. Ensuring this money leads to genuine carbon abatement rather than becoming yet another form of industry assistance — subsidising green projects that would have proceeded anyway — will be challenging.”
So, even the usual cheerleaders of the Abbott Government are calling direct action “unloved”. Poor thing. We should remember it on Valentine’s Day and send it a card and some flowers.
And I would, except I don’t know where to send them because it doesn’t exist yet.
Ah well, maybe by 14th February!

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An Open Letter to Tony Abbott

If only Tony Abbott were reading this letter (image by 4bc.com.au)

If only Tony Abbott were reading this letter (image by 4bc.com.au)

Dear Tony Abbott

I notice that you’ve been getting a free run in the mainstream media over your whole career and it occurred to me that you are out of practice in responding to scrutiny. So I thought I’d do you a favour and scrutinise your supposed vision for our country, on the off chance that this experience might come in useful one day. Like, just say, if you become Prime Minister of Australia and someone dares to ask you what on earth you might actually do during your time in the top job. Assuming anyone cares.

Now bear with me as I examine your policies, as I do understand that you are very keen not to reveal these until the last minute before the election. So I’m just going to have to go by ideas that you’ve floated and talking points that your colleagues have mistakenly inserted in between the barrage of harassment, verbal abuse, smear and stunts that is your unique brand of Opposition conduct.

Let’s start with an important policy – the Carbon Price. We haven’t missed that you don’t like this policy. You resigned from Turnbull’s Shadow Ministry in 2009 in protest against his support of Rudd’s Emissions Trading policy. You won the Liberal leadership by one vote (probably Peter Slipper’s) by promising to attack this policy. You won the support of your fossilized front bench by mounting a mission to destroy the Carbon Price. And most importantly, you won the support of Gina Rinehart, someone who appears to hate the Carbon Price more than you do, by promising to ‘axe the tax’. This strategy has literally paid dividends to your party. So I can see, from your point of view, your opposition to this policy is a winner. But this is where I have a slight problem. It’s the whole ‘your point of view’ thing. You see, Tony, when I look at your policies, all I can see is that they are going to benefit you. You personally. When your policies also coincidentally benefit some of your rich mates like Rinehart, the end result is that these rich mates pay your party money to continue your quest to help them. Their support personally benefits you. You’ve made it very clear that you’re an ambitious person and you obviously desperately want to be PM. Tony Windsor has a voice mail from you that outlines this desperation succinctly. But here’s the rub. I feel you’ve also made it blatantly clear with your behaviour and ideas over your time as Leader of the Opposition that you are more interested in short term personal gain for yourself, than long term, difficult but ultimately beneficial reform for Australia.

Your Direct Action Policy is obviously bullshit and won’t go anywhere near meeting the emissions reduction target agreed to by your party. You don’t seem to mind that you’re attacking market based mechanisms (Carbon Pricing and the ETS), which is odd because your party is very fond of letting the market run free. Instead, you are advocating a centrally controlled, government funded scheme that will cost tax payers $30 billion dollars and would definitely be labeled ‘Communism’ by your friends from the Tea Party. $30 billion dollars, Tony, is a lot of electricity bills. And worst of all, you don’t seem to give a crap about the environment and the effect that Climate Change will have on my generation and future generations of Australians. (Notice how I used the word crap).

The Carbon Price was a difficult reform for the minority Labor government to implement. Good reforms are often challenging political battles to win. Successfully implementing the policy, of course, was made a lot harder by your anti-Carbon Price circus, but thankfully the Labor government prevailed, the sky didn’t fall down and Whyalla hasn’t been wiped off the map. In fact, emissions are already reducing. Good result! But rather than applaud this policy success, and acknowledge the good that it will do for reducing Australia’s emissions, and also the importance of acting as a responsible global citizen, you are basing an election campaign on a promise to kill this crucial, once in a lifetime reform. To deliver what exactly? Slightly cheaper electricity bills. So you’re appealing to the electorate’s lowest common denominator – their hip pockets – today – rather than being a leader and making the necessary tough decisions to ensure the safety and economic security of our nation’s future.

What about the National Broadband Network? Your so-called mate Turnbull is trumpeting this reform around town as a waste of money. Like a used car salesman trying to undercut a dealer down the road, Turnbull is offering a cheaper, lesser quality broadband network, in the place of the one that experts in the technology sector say is the only viable option for sufficiently increasing broadband speeds Australia wide. Getting the National Broadband Network right the first time, rather than paying less and installing a lemon, is, in my view, very important for the future efficiency and productivity of Australia’s economy. Your party likes to talk about increasing productivity doesn’t it? But again, you take the easy road to policy popularity and mislead the Australian public into thinking that you can wave a magic wand and fix everything with your supposedly bottomless pit of revenue. It’s clear that experts and you don’t see eye to eye. But I can tell you, the electorate is going to be rightly pissed off if you rip apart a high quality, revenue generating broadband network, and replace it with one that keeps Telstra in the arrangement, relies on rotting copper and will result not only in lower speeds but in tens of thousands of ugly fridge-like cabinets churning away on suburban streets and sucking power. That’s right, the NBNCo cabinets currently being installed around the country are small and don’t require power. The fibre being installed currently is waterproof, so it won’t cut out when an area floods (due to Climate Change) and will provide the fastest possible signal to most of the country. But you plan to replace this technically superior product with a dodgy ‘solution’ that will require a new coal fired power station just to run it, and will keep Telstra happily maintaining copper that is way past its used by date. In fact most experts are now questioning whether Turnbull’s Fibre-To-The-Node solution will end up costing more than the current NBN. It’s interesting to note that you don’t seem to give much thought to what might happen on the other side of September 14. There’s only one thing you care about. You and you being in power, right now.

I noticed that one of your policies (or so called ‘Discussion Papers’) about a northern Australian economic zone accidentally got leaked to the media this week. I see you have been busy denying that this plan will ever be put into practice, but excuse me if I don’t believe you. You see, we know how much Rinehart means to you (your pocket) and your future plans for your career. We know how important getting rid of the mining super profits tax is to Rinehart. Funny that you and your colleagues have been calling on Wayne Swan to resign because the Mining Tax so far hasn’t brought in enough revenue. Don’t you think this attitude is pretty rich coming from the party who has promised to get rid of the tax, and it’s resulting government revenue, altogether? No doubt you think you can get away with such hypocrisy since the mainstream media never call you out on anything. But we all know how much you would like to support Rinehart in her quest to pay little or no tax at all. So we can see that you’re working behind the scenes to bring Rinehart’s plan for this country to fruition. It’s really not a good look that you’d prefer to support Rinehart’s ever growing multi-billion dollar fortune, rather than sharing the benefits from the sale of mineral resources with all Australians. I think the electorate would think this was a pretty bad look too if the mainstream media bothered to make as big a deal out of it as they would if they had any professional integrity and journalistic skill.

The more I scrutinise the bare bones of un-costed ideas that claim to count as political policy, the better I get to know you Tony. You’re that five year old who takes the one marshmallow now, instead of deferring gratification in order to wait for two in the future. You’re offering the Australian people a magic pudding economy of higher government spending, lower taxes, a better economy, lower cost of living and no concerns about Climate Change, that anyone with half a brain can see that you have no hope of delivering. Yet you are so blinkered by blind ambition and selfish yearnings for personal success that it’s clear that you don’t give a shit about Australia. And this is why I think you don’t deserve to be captain of a CFS unit, let alone Prime Minister of this country.

Yours Sincerely
Victoria Rollison

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