Australian environment minister Greg Hunt ran the gauntlet of committing a significant faux pas on Tuesday, forcing the Australian delegation into damage control for fear of derailing the critical Paris climate talks.
Hunt strayed from strict diplomatic discipline at a news conference in the afternoon – on the otherwise benign topic of a new document outlining Australia’s national climate resilience and adaptation strategy, and Australia’s contribution to “blue carbon”.
But the big problem came when Hunt was asked about progress of negotiations and the development of a new text that will form the basis of a Paris agreement in more than a week’s time.
This is a highly sensitive issue. The G77 in particularly, is paranoid about the prospect of a text being held in reserve by the French hosts, as it was to disastrous effect by the Danes in Copenhagen, and in negotiations in Bonn just a few weeks ago.
France has insisted that there is “no plan B”, i.e. no hidden text, and said it would work with whatever it receives from the co-chairs of the main negotiation stream this weekend. This language has been scrupulously observed by the Australian delegation.
Until this afternoon, when Hunt invited speculation of the hidden text by saying that the French were already consulting with other parties with the view of forming a text over the weekend. He described the work of the negotiating stream as a sort of “options paper”.
Nothing would be more sure of inflating the emotions of the G77 and deepening the divide between the developed and developing world. RenewEconomy and The Guardian sought confirmation from the French negotiating team, who again flatly denied the existence of a different text.
The Australian team was then into damage control, sparking a flurry of calls that basically conceded that Hunt had misspoken , and had intended only to convey that the text would ‘evolve” from that presented by the co-chairs and text is more an options paper than a text.
Hunt had earlier insisted that Australia was working a s a broker between two parties over the inclusion of a reference to a 1.5C target – demanded by more than 100 countries but resisted by large developed and developing economies – and the definition of what decarbonisation or carbon neutrality might mean and when.
That may well be the role that Australia would like to be seen playing. But Hunt’s carelessness, or as the French might politely say, a mal entendu, risked great harm in talks that are already on a knife-edge and racing into a tight deadline. He should have known better.
Is Australia ready for climate refugees?
A new study suggests that migration is already occurring in Pacific islands such as Tuvalu and Kiribati, with up to one quarter saying climate change was a factor.
It also found that more than 70 per cent of households in Kiribati and Tuvalu and 35% in Nauru felt that migration would be a likely response if droughts, seal level rise or floods worsened. But only a quarter of households in these countries, believe they have the financial means to migrate. That means the potential for refugees.
When asked about this, Hunt said: “That is something we will deal with as and when it arises. We will seek to avoid that problem for sake of environment and the sake of humanity. I don’t want to pre-empt or set out a position.”
The $1.2 trillion investment switch in the lead up to Paris
It seems that global investment funds have got the message about the importance of the Paris climate talks, and the inevitability of a big switch from fossil fuel investment to clean technologies that can usher in a decarbonised world.
In the 10 weeks before the Paris climate talks began on Monday, some 100 institutions representing $US800 million ($A1.1 trillion) made a commitment to divest from fossil fuels. Not all of those funds, mind you, but a portion. But that is a significant start.
According to two organisation co-ordinating the campaign, 350.org and Divest-Invest, this takes the total in the last 12 months to $US3.4 trillion ($A4.7 trillion) – representing an extraordinary shift in investment funds from old and polluting businesses to new, clean technologies.
And these businesses are not just doing this as a simply moral decision. As the Bank of England governor Mark Carney said earlier this year, there is a real risk of trillions of dollars of investments becoming stranded assets as climate change issues and the plunging cost of renewable energy technologies turn conventional business model upside down. (See Jon Walter’s story for more details here).
Shell’s sexist ad compares solar and wind to lonely women
This ad below has to be seen to be believed. Posted just over a month ago on Shell’s “make the future” marketing page, this 90 second video compares wind and solar to a lonely women, unable to cope when the wind dies and the sun sets.
What women really need, the ad says, is a man – reliable, predictable and long lasting. Shell calls the man “natural gas” and dubs the video “a beautiful relationship”. The film is in French, with English sub-titles, presumably to highlight the romance of it all, and in anticipation of the Paris climate talks.
It is quite breath-taking – not just the sexism, but the gratuitous comparisons. One, that a woman cannot function without a man, and that wind and solar need natural gas. I showed it to a few people who couldn’t quite believe their eyes.
Giles Parkinson is in Paris for COP21 and will be filing daily. Greg Foyster’s cartoons can be found at http://gregfoyster.com/cartoonsillustrations/