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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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.
Dear Mr Palmer, May I call you that? It’s not Sir Clive yet is it? I’m
sure it will be in the offing should you aspire to a knighthood – it’s
Tony’s best reward for pre-eminent people like you. May I congratulate
and commiserate with you on your entry into the sordid world of…
how's Abbott's Australia traveling so far? asks Kaye Lee. In a
nutshell, judging by her evidence below, very badly. We have been
condemned worldwide for our moves to repeal the 'carbon tax', our
abolition of climate change bodies and the Clean Energy Finance
Corporation (CEFC) (even though it’s making a substantial profit), our
reading a few similar posts I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and try
something in the open-letter style, in the vain hope that it might make
its way to its intended recipients via the magic of the interwebs.
Since I don’t have time to provide statistical analysis what follows is
very much a…