Australia locked in for more ambitious climate, renewable policies

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Australia commits to ratifying Paris climate deal, which will come into force by the end of the year – a speed of action almost unprecedented on the international stage. But that means Malcolm Turnbull will have to match words with action. But how?

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Australia will be locked into significantly more ambitious climate policies by the end of the year, as one of the key conditions of the far-reaching Paris climate deal was met overnight and the remaining condition appears merely a formality.

The Paris climate deal, which aims to cap average global warming at “well below” 2°C and as low as 1.5°C, will come into force within 30 days of it being ratified by at least 55 countries representing at least 55 per cent of total emissions.

On Wednesday, the first threshold was reached when another 31 countries, including major emitters Mexico and Brazil, and many of Australia’s vulnerable Pacific island neighbours, signed the deal. That took the running total to 60, and 48 per cent of emissions, including the two biggest emitters China and the US.

Another 14 countries, including the UK, France, Germany, and Australia, then promised to ratify the deal by the end of the year. This will ensure that the second condition will also be reached and that the pact will be in place before end of 2016, just a year after the agreement was reached in Paris and then signed in April.

This is virtually unprecedented in international agreements. “This momentum is remarkable,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said. “It can sometimes take years or even decades for a treaty to enter into force. It is just nine months since the Paris climate conference. This is testament to the urgency of the crisis we all face.”

Ban said that the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement would trigger the operational provisions of the agreement and accelerate efforts to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and to build climate resilience.

This is where it impacts Australia. In excerpts of a speech he is due to make in New York (Friday morning Australia time) Turnbull said all the right things.

“We all understand what is at stake – the future of generations around the globe and the wellbeing of our planet.”

And then: “We also know that our commitment to action creates new opportunities for innovation and growth, which means more jobs. Over the past decade or so Australia has reduced emissions and grown the economy by nearly 50%.”

Turnbull says that the significant and complex threat of climate change “demands every one of us to act together towards a better world”.

“We all understand what is at stake – the future of generations around the globe and the wellbeing of our planet.” Australia will play its part, he says, describing the Paris conference of last year as “a shining example of global co-operation for the common good”.

But it is one thing to make pleasing remarks on the international stage and quite another to implement those promises and engagements at home. He has been prime minister for more than 12 months but has yet to move beyond the  policies of his climate sceptic predecessor, Tony Abbott.

Even the one initiative he has made, the $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund, is to be stripped of nearly all its funds because of a compromise the government agreed to make on Australian Renewable Energy Agency funding.

But the task for the Turnbull government is monumental. As Reputex pointed out in a report on Wednesday, its current policies will likely leave Australia one billion tonnes of greenhouse gas abatement short of its own modest target of a 26-28 per cent cut in emissions by 2030.

The individual targets committed in Paris still fall well short of the 2°C mark, and a long way from 1.5°C. According to some estimates, it will leave the world facing a warming scenario of 3°C or more. Australia, according to its own Climate Change Authority, will likely need to find another billion tonnes of abatement to meet the fair share promised by Turnbull.

We may have to wait another year to learn what it might be that Turnbull will do, or feel he can do with a one seat majority in parliament, and a large climate science denying conservative rump within his own party.

A review in 2017 could be a launch-pad for tightening baselines, shifting to some sort of trading scheme – as suggested by the CCA and Labour – and expanding and lifting renewable energy targets, or imposing tight emission regulations for vehicles, buildings or coal fired generators.

So far, though, the minister for the environment and energy, Josh Frydenberg, has committed to nothing more than a “sit-rep”, a term so oblique we had to ask what it meant. “A situation report,” we were told. In other words, an assessment of where the country is, not of what it might or should be able to do.

Yet, the case for urgent action is clear, as even Turnbull recognises. The activist group 350.org, which wants warming limited to 1.5°C, says there remains a massive gap between what the agreement calls for and what world governments are actually doing to meet these targets.

“Each of the last 16 consecutive months have been the hottest in history, with 2016 shaping up to be the hottest year on record — a title that we’re getting far too accustomed to applying year after year,” said executive director May Boeve.

The Paris accord, which Australia will ratify and be beholden to, commits the world, Australia included, to zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. Even the latest CCA report indicates that coal generation will have to disappear by around 2035.

The fact remains that Australia, without strong and clear action, will blow its “climate budget” by 2030 on its current course, and will miss out on the huge economic opportunities that could have been offered a global renewable energy superpower and technology leader.

And the uncomfortable truth for Turnbull and the conservative rump he is forced to deal with is that climate change is inextricably linked with all the major issues facing the country – security, immigration and trade.

US president Barack Obama on Wednesday directed his National Security Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to systematically include “climate change assessments” in all national security decisions.

“Climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water,” the White House said in an accompanying fact sheet.

“It is well-established that climate change is a threat multiplier that catalyzes conflict and creates instability,” said  Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute.

Climate change is a underlying driver of natural disasters and extreme weather events, increases human migration, and contributes to conflicts around resources, such as food and water. Without action, these threats will surely increase.”

In Australia, something has to change, and it has to change soon. But how?

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32 Comments
  1. Rob G 2 years ago

    Turnbull is desperately hoping he gets some real pressure from other big countries. He sees this as his way of moving the dinosaur Liberal party. “It’s not my call…so don’t fire me guys”

    • Cooma Doug 2 years ago

      The world will be going up in smoke but Mal will be pm

  2. Kenshō 2 years ago

    Finally a ravenous consumption based upon burning resources and creation of unnecessary products and markets, is acknowledged as an environmental apocalypse effecting humanities water, food and international security.

    • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

      We don’t need to “burn” anything if our products are mainly created with and powered by renewable resources (solar, wind and storage). The “environmental apocalypse” will not happen if we get extremely good at recycling materials (note we are already pretty good at that already). Food will be fine if we act to stop runaway climate change in the aforementioned manner.

      International security? – sorry but that’s quite a ways above my paygrade.

      • Kenshō 2 years ago

        I’m not up on the details though here’s what the World Wildlife Fund is saying. One of my tenants is an Aquatic Ecologist PhD and he’s saying similar things:
        http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/lpr_2014/living_planet_index2/

        • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

          Oh Crickey another anecdote? Gawd give me strength.

          • Kenshō 2 years ago

            There’s plenty of science to suggest there’s problems with biodiversity. Denial is not an adaptive strategy. You want to believe a few batteries and a few more cars is going to save humanity from reining in consumption.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            Yes if all those materials from those cars and batteries are fully and properly recycled.

          • Kenshō 2 years ago

            I’m just saying we don’t want countries like Indonesia having biodiversity and environmental problems. I’ve watched Indonesian soldiers train. They’re very professional, extremely disciplined. They also have 10 times our population on less than a third of the land. They have 395k military personnel and 590k police. I don’t know what our military spending is compared to theirs though their soldiers look leaner and meaner. It’s good to have everybody happy in their environment. Stress can be dangerous.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            Oh thank Christ you think the Indonesians were going to invade us and not the flippin’ Chinese. Thank Christ you (Kenshō) were so so wrong. Thank gawd you (Kenshō) were about as wrong as wrong as could fucking well be.

            Do you need me to explain to you the relaxed confident Australian way?

            Kensho I’m starting to think that you are a Chinese implant into this conversation.

          • Kenshō 2 years ago

            Well it made me cringe when Abbott was “negotiating” with the Indonesians about boat people.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            We know what we are. (FFS I know what I am). Emergency (or otherwise) immigration doesn’t affect what I am one fucking jot. Bring all those wretched souls here and more and I won’t bat an eyelid. I already know what I am.

          • Kenshō 2 years ago

            Agreed.

      • Kenshō 2 years ago

        International security, that would be where I had to walk around with a steyr for a year or so. Fires 30 rounds in 2.3 sec.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steyr_AUG

        • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

          Bond. James Bond.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            Is that you in the photo Kensho? If yes I have a Mission Impossible for you to complete. Just pull your ear lobe and I will know back here in
            HQ that you have accepted the mission.

          • Kenshō 2 years ago

            Yes that’s me playing with some of the bulgarians (I think) weapons in 92/93

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            and that’s helpful to renewable energy and battery storage how?

          • Kenshō 2 years ago

            That’s what politicians mean when they say international security. There’s soldiers keeping diplomatic relations and ensuring the flow of oil and so forth. Like the article says. It’s a certain balance we hope isn’t disturbed.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            Your AK47 and grenade launcher notwithstanding, fossil fuel powered everything is ripe for disruption. That is free market economics my friend. For example, so many people thought nuclear was the answer until Britain’s Hinkley showed everybody that nuclear in economic terms is as dead as a fucking doornail.£92.50per MWh Looks like you and I are stuck with renewables and storage seeing as we both want clean energy at a cheap price. Se la vie.

          • Kenshō 2 years ago

            I’d like peace tho I’m not sure technology is the answer although I agree RE will help allot

      • RobSa 2 years ago

        Monkeys at the zoo wouldn’t make a mess of their enclosure if only they ate, defecated and played in the correct manner.

        • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

          I agree cootchey scratchey dootchee. You are smatchey dootchee wootchey wise oh our leading monkey.

    • Cooma Doug 2 years ago

      Kensho
      Im interested to see your views on a certain group in view of your insight as expressed recently here. I mean that in a positive way.
      Check out SST and tell me your impressions. (Stop these things)

      • Kenshō 2 years ago

        Had a quick look then and it seems to be giving coal and nuclear a boost at the expense of wind. Doesn’t seem genuinely focused on establishing balance with nature.

  3. Geoff 2 years ago

    yep, we are seeing it now, Australia being forced to toe the line. Stupid thing is, any aspiration that he had to go green is now being done by default which he will use towards his advantage. Sorry mal, you can’t pull the wool over our eyes that easily…

  4. Phil 2 years ago

    Get those on the dole that cant get work planting trees.

    Call it the 1 Billion trees project.

    And would be a great future resource for timber which you can consume on a replace as use basis when no doubt Co2 wont be an issue at some future time.

  5. john 2 years ago

    So the agreement means Australia one of the really badly performing countries on the international stage has to do something |||| !!!!!!
    Shock horror lets talk about any thing else but this as i read from the posts under my comment.
    For peats sake it is about mitigating our emissions people.
    So policy, industry and domestic.
    What are you doing in your Industry situation or Domestic then wider scale the political scale?

    • Kenshō 2 years ago

      What do you reckon led to this? Your speaking with the same tone as the Total Environment Centre (TEC). It is necessary for the community to ask what is actually happening with these decision making processes. But on you go, speaking logic to them.

      “Yet, the Australian Energy Market Commission announced that it was rejecting the proposal by TEC, the City of Sydney and the Property Council of Australia to introduce local generation network credits (LGNCs).”
      https://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/energy-market-rule-maker-says-no-to-real-reform-again-68626

  6. Kenshō 2 years ago

    Lets imagine a portrait of Turnbull’s cabinet or even those who work in the AEMC:
    What sort of car do they drive? Do they hope for a favourable “long run marginal cost (LRMC)”?
    Is their house an energy guzzler which they also hope to obtain a favourable LRMC?
    What sort of stocks are they invested?
    What’s the background expertise of their careers?
    What ideology do they support?
    What are their colleagues into?
    What area do they live?
    Where do their kids go to school?
    Do they wish to maintain their current lifestyle?
    How will they?
    What if they chose a path and their families fate is largely decided?

    We’re just asking them to put the economy and the environment before their families short term wellbeing and lifestyle that’s all.

  7. Radbug 2 years ago

    It’s all over the web. Global demand has flatlined. The Central bankers have thrown in the towel. The UN is now advocating an infrastructure boom. I hope this means more railways and solar farms and not more Melbourne East/West Links.

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