Climate Change Update 2nd June 2024

Visitors are coming in steady numbers to look at our art exhibition Imagine a clean energy future. On Tuesday our workshops started with an information session on EVs. This coming Tuesday (June4th) at 12.30pm at the Raglan Gallery there is a free vegetarian lunch provided by the Cooma Multicultural Group – please come if you can!

Also attached is my monthly column/letter to the Monaro Post, reporting on what Professor Andrew Blakers said at the launch of the exhibition on 18 May. 

As you know, the coal-fired Eraring power station will be kept going for another two years at a possible cost to the taxpayer of $450 million. It is particularly infuriating because the NSW government has dragged its heels on approving renewable energy projects, particularly wind farms. Had they facilitated the process, rather than impeded it, it may not have been necessary to keep Eraring open. We issued a media release (attached.)

Here’s a good article from today’s Pearls and Irritations to read on the federal government’s climate policy and emissions reduction, by Peter Sainsbury.

And here’s an article in the New Yorker from Bill McKibben with some splendid images of climate change impacts. I hope you can read for free.

According to the Queensland Conservation Council, Australia’s coal & gas methane pollution is likely DOUBLE what we officially report to the UN. This is because our climate books are based on methods that allow companies to essentially lie about their methane pollution. If you want to help QCC’s campaign by calling Minister Chris Bowen, click here.

For those interested in both nature conservation and climate action, there’s a webinar tomorrow. Monday 3rd June 2024 12:00pm – 1:00pm. Zoom link: please join a few minutes early. See attached notice.

Here’s the weekly wrap from the Climate Media Centre, this time penned by Sean Kennedy:

Pushing for reforms to our Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC) is an ongoing battle for climate campaigners and their media teams, and while this week saw changes under the EPBC Act introduced to parliament, the much needed “climate trigger” was once again put on the back burner. 

Adam Morton got ahead of the environmental legislation debate with his piece that paints a fairly gloomy picture of the state of climate action in Australia – lamenting the lack of care from the coalition on climate and the extinction crises, and asking why the Labor government, who have taken some solid steps towards cutting climate pollution, backs WA gas expansion and fails to address the EPBC shortcomings.

On Wednesday, legislation was introduced to parliament to establish a new national Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the office of Environment Information Australia (EIA), with Labor’s in house environmental organisation, LEAN, clearly thinking these EPBC changes were heaps good. The EPA is responsible for enforcing the (flawed) EPBC act, while the EIA will determine whether Australia is being “nature positive”, a term that now officially means: “an improvement in the diversity, abundance, resilience and integrity of ecosystems”.

The Financial Review said the concept of a new environmental watchdog had fallen flat with business, conservationists and the Greens, and looked set to face opposition from key crossbenchers in the Senate. The Climate Council dubbed the bill “a waste of time”, while Lock the Gate, and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition said it would do nothing to prevent coal and gas expansions. 

Business Council of Australia chief executive Bran Black warned that a climate trigger would “simply swell the number of projects captured by the EPBC system”, saying he is “concerned that the government may be about to drop its iron-clad guarantee and now include a climate trigger as part of the Nature Positive reforms” 

The Greens have now launched a big Nature Positive demand including a climate trigger in the EPBC Act, and thankfully Albanese refused to rule it out despite the industry pushback – considering the PM first raised the concept of a climate trigger over 20 years ago while in opposition, it’s good to know he still has it in his playbook, even if said playbook seems to be forgotten at the back of his locker under his gym shorts. 

The Australian’s Editorial had a crack at The Greens and called on Albanese to find courage to stand up to them – “As a niche-interest protest party, the Greens care little about the impact their hardline positions would have on ordinary Australians.” While we expect this sort of Editorial from the Australian, 11 senate seats is hardly niche territory, and it does show the value of sending letters to the editor and opinion pieces into the Australian to balance their editorial pages for them!

While the specific consideration of climate harm when assessing projects is still absent in the latest EPBC reforms, the momentum for the all-important trigger seems to be gaining traction, even the federal court points out in the judicial review of the Living Wonders cases “the ill-suitedness of the present legislative scheme of the EPBC Act to the assessment of environmental threats such as climate change and global warming”. So while our government may be lacking the minerals to make the required changes, our judicial system clearly sees the need to reform our EPBC act to properly reflect our current climate reality.