Australia’s climate policy in limbo, carbon tax is dead

Australia’s carbon tax has been repealed leaving the nation’s climate policy in a vacuum with no concrete alternative.

Australia’s Coalition Government has begun celebrating the repeal of carbon tax which was voted down in a Senate marathon on Thursday.  It is a landmark victory for Prime Minister Tony Abbott since he assumed office last year. From day one, he wanted to abolish clean energy legislations which the previous Labor Government had enacted.

The Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2] was voted down last week, July 10, after  crossbench senators under the Palmer United Party (PUP) joined the opposition block. But Abbott was relentless over the weekend. He worked with PUP leader Clive Palmer to sort out a last minute amendment. 

PM Tony Abbott claps and celebrate Coalition’s victory to scrap carbon tax. (Photo: Supplied)

The repeal bill was defeated in both houses of the Parliament since Abbott introduced the proposed legislation.  Last week, the bill reached a double dissolution trigger, but Abbott was determined to quash the tax once and for all.

On Monday, the Senate resumed deliberations and in the final vote on Thursday, the senators from the PUP backflipped as expected.  They voted for the repeal, along with Motoring Enthusiast Senator Ricky Muir, Family First Senator Bob Day, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Democratic Labour Party Senator John Madigan. Labor and the Greens voted against.

The jubilant prime minister reiterated the tax is a big obstacle to businesses and a hand brake to the national economy. “We are honouring our commitments to you and building a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia,” he enthused. He said it would save the average family $550 a year and the first benefits would be seen in coming power bills although oppositions and observers said the savings is unclear and without consensus.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne defends carbon tax. (Photo: AAP)

While Abbott is celebrating, Greens Leader Christine Milne condemned the government and crossbench senators for “the legacy of their political career”. Milne declared the vote  a “failure” that would see Australia a “global pariah” and” backwater” going against the flow while other countries marched towards pricing carbon and stronger action on climate change. Labor senator Lisa Singh said with one vote, Australia had moved backwards and it “will today be a laughing stock to the rest of the world”.

Conservationists, grassroots to fight back

Grassroots declare Thrusday as the black day for the planet. They said Australia is the first country in the world to repeal a carbon tax, with no clear carbon emissions plan being put in place.

Greens and grassroots stormed Twitter to vent their anger over the carbon tax dumping.

GetUp is now galvanising a campaign that would be ”the largest open letter in Australia’s history”  condemning Australian government’s inaction on climate change.  The group has already gathered more than 73,600 signatures as of noon time on Thursday.

Rallies are already being scheduled on important dates when governments around the world meet to tackle climate change, including a United Nations meeting in New York this coming September, G20 summit in Brisbane in November, and Conference of Parties in Paris next year.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) joins conservationists across the nation to express dismay over the dumping of carbon tax. In an email to supporters, the ACF said,

Today our government failed us. The senate just voted to repeal our working price on carbon pollution. You, with Australia’s leading scientists, economists, health experts, firefighters and ambulance workers fought loud and clear to keep our climate safe. But the senate didn’t listen to us. Instead they chose to listen to big polluters and abolish our carbon price.

Now is the time to show Australia that while the government voted against climate action, we won’t give up. In Bono’s words “The power of the people is greater than the people in power”.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific also expressed disappointment on the government for making Australia the first country in the world to abolish a price on carbon. It told supporters that as the rest of the world moves to tackle climate change, “the Australian government is doing everything it can to remain wedded to fossil fuels.” It urged Australians, “to come together and take action to secure a cleaner, healthier safer future.”

 

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

 

Malaysian authorities accused of human rights violations

Re-blogging:

The local police in Gebang, Malaysia have been accused of suppressing basic human rights following the illegal arrests of civilians who are protesting against the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), an Australian-owned rare earths mining company.

Civilian rally against Lynas.

Over a dozen of protesters were arrested on June 22, including Australian environmental defender Natalie Lowry. She was released earlier and she is now back in Sydney safe and sound.

However, not all the protesters were freed in good faith. Last week, six were released on three conditions – bail amounting to RM 2,500 (€576) each, a ban from posting on social media, and monthly reporting at the local police station.

The six are members of the Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly), a Malaysian environmental movement protesting against Lynas. They were detained on charges of illegal assembly and rioting following their participation in the protest calling for the company to cease work on the plant and leave Malaysia.

The group opposes the operations of Lynas plant, which the group claims produces tonnes of toxic waste.

A couple joins the rally.

Two protesters were hospitalised after the protest and  a human rights defender sustained serious injuries in the head, resulting in concussion, according to reports. All were charged were violating the country’s penal code.

The lawyer for the human rights defenders rejected the conditions, arguing that the injunction is an unconstitutional infringement of  the right to freedom of expression. The case hearing will resume on September 2.

Front Line Defenders is concerned that the charges and bail conditions are targeting the protesters  in order to obstruct and limit their human rights, specifically their campaign to protect the environment of the local community in Kuantan.

A vigil rally pressing for the release of Australian environmental defender Natalie Lowry.

Front Line Defenders has urged the authorities in Malaysia to immediately drop all charges against the 15 human rights activists.

Link: Asian Correspondent

1.2 million Malaysians send eviction notice to Lynas Corp

Australian-owned Lynas Corp cannot get away from its “socially unlicensed” operation in Kuanton, Malaysia, An eviction notice signed by 1.2 million Malaysians across the nation has been sent urging the company to shut down and leave the country immediately.

The signatories press the Australian company to respect local people’s basic human rights and dignity, and to do environmental justice.  They slammed the company for posing health and environmental hazards. Lynas’ operation involves toxic and radioactive rare earth, they said, and that they will fight to the end not to allow their children to be harmed or their land to be destroyed for profits.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (left) and Natalie Lowry (right) flash an eviction notice in Sydney. (Photo: Supplied)

Apart from health risks, they claim the operation is illegal, if not anomalous, for not having a proper licence. They said the business took off without a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) put in place and not complying with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommendations. The signatories also pointed out the project lacks long-term plan for the permanent waste disposal of radioactive waste.

Sydney-based environmental activist Natalie Lowry was released on June 30 after six days in detention. She was arrested along with 16 other Malaysians for joining a peaceful protest. She is back home and held a press conference with Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon at the Lynas headquarter located along Pitt Street.

In a statement, she thanked supporters of her release, including hundreds that joined vigils across the country, the 34 Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGO), and other various groups and individuals.

She also appreciated the support of international colleagues and friends, especially Friends of the Earth International and Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific for their quick response in getting a petition going and networking across member groups across the world.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (right) joins the press conference with environmental activists at the Lynas office in Sydney. (Photo: Supplied)

Lowry said she has no regrets for her act of solidarity with Malaysian people. She also urged all Australian citizens and residents to take responsibility to hold Australian corporations accountable for the impacts of their developments and operations in other countries. She added:

As an international community we must start considering the impacts of rare earth refining and look at worlds-best-practice to contain and deal with the waste and move towards alternatives including urban mining and the recycling of rare earths, especially that rare earths are used in so many green technologies.

The Save Malaysia Stop Lynas activist group has also urged the Malaysian Government earlier not to extend Lynas licence which is due to expire in September this year. The group lamented and claimed Lynas has failed to disclose to the public the identification of the site for the Permanent Deposit Facility (PDF) for its radioactive Water Leach Purification (WLP) waste as required under the terms of its Temporary Operating License (TOL).

As early as 2012, the issue of radioactive waste storage disposal has never been resolved. It was suggested that wastes have to be shipped back to Australia.

However, even the former Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Norman Moore, asserted at that time that “Australia does not support the importation and storage of other countries’ radioactive waste”. He passed on the responsibility to the Malaysian government to take care of the processing plant that is operating in its territory.

Rhiannon reiterated what Lowry had said that the Australian company has no right to destroy the home of Malaysians or to endanger their health and well-being. She also called for the immediate pullout of the company from Malaysia.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent/The Green Journal

Gore, Palmer forge clean energy alliance

Former US Vice President Al Gore’s recent visit to Australia could be a saving grace to the country’s clean energy future. Gore did not only get the support of more than 500 new climate leaders from 24 countries, but more notably he got the backing of  controversial mining magnate, Clive Palmer, who leads the Palmer United Party (PUP).

Gore told his followers during the 3-day Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Melbourne last week he believes in Palmer’s genuine intention to help reduce dirty carbon emissions. He added he appreciated the opportunity to meet Palmer to discuss solutions to the climate crisis: 

“As a national leader, he clearly understands the critical importance of ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come. Mr. Palmer and I don’t agree on everything, but I’m very encouraged by his willingness, and that of his party, to preserve many of the climate policies in Australia.”

Al Gore and Clive Palmer hold a joint press conference in Canberra. (Photo supplied)

The announcement elicited media sensations describing the Gore-Palmer meeting as an inconvenient partnership. But grassroots are more than happy to welcome the alliance.

GetUp, for example, said people fought so hard to keep clean energy initiatives, but all environmental  laws are facing the chopping board;

Saving the price on pollution we fought so hard to achieve is unfortunately looking less and less likely – but Palmer’s Senators have announce that they have conditions…

Gore and Palmer reached a compromise on clean energy issues. Palmer vowed to support the Renewable Energy Target (RET), uphold the Clean Energy Finance Corp, and to save the Climate Change Authority.  PUP Senators are expected to block moves that will abolish these “clean three.” PUP,  however, is not supportive to carbon tax, but instead favours Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Palmer also dismissed Direct Action plan which he claims to be a waste of money.

Al Gore trains new climate leaders in Melbourne.

Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive officer of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said Palmer has taken a big step towards securing a cleaner, healthier future for all Australians. But she is disappointed his party will support the repeal of the carbon tax, and the current emissions trading scheme structure could go with it.

The carbon price is working now. Pollution from electricity fell by 5% in 2013 alone. If Mr Palmer is serious about Australia tackling climate change, he must be serious about retaining the laws that are already doing the job.

Palmer has three Senate votes which is crucial in balancing the Senate. GetUp said, “ if our new Senate votes with Palmer, this will mean we can still make significant progress towards a clean energy future that will fund renewable energy projects, create jobs and stop Abbott from taking Australia back into the dark ages. “

The Senate will convene on July 7 to determine the fate of the clean energy future.

Gore recruits new climate leaders

Meanwhile, 525  new leaders are added into Gore’s climate army. Gore encouraged them in their resolve to help fight what matters to them: environment and climate change. The new leadership corps involve a wide range of professional demographics, including teachers, communicators, IT experts and technicians, farmers, artists, musicians, businessmen, and bureaucrats, among others as well as youth and students.

Al Gore leads the Climate Reality Q & A panellists.

It is the fourth training in Australia that calls for serious concerns on climate reality: severe heatwaves, bushfires, drought, and floods.  O’Shanassy said it is no coincidence that ACF are training leaders: “ We need them now more than ever. Over the next few weeks the government will try to bulldoze Australia’s climate laws. While some senators are pushing their support for clean energy, nothing can be taken for granted until the votes are counted on July 7th. The carbon price is still in peril and we must keep fighting.”

Pricing carbon sets the agenda.

Gore expects Australia to play a global leadership role on the most pressing issue of the time.  He said “We have more reasons than ever to believe we’re putting ourselves on a path to solve the climate crisis.”
He underscored initiatives of  US President Obama who has committed to cut carbon emissions and encouraging global action to tackle global warming. He also noted China to have established emissions trading schemes, along with the European Union and parts of the United States like California. He concluded that Australia is taking action as well:

Two million Australian households now have rooftop solar PV systems, just one example of the rapid growth of clean renewable energy worldwide. Australia and its citizens have long been leaders on this issue. It is my hope that its climate policies will continue to reflect that and serve as an example to the rest of the world.

Blog Link: The Green Journal/ Asian Correspondent

Gore praises Obama ahead of climate leaders training in Australia

Former US Vice President Al Gore is scheduled to visit Australia this month to lead a climate leadership training drive, shortly after US President Barack Obama’s historic announcement early this week directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate massive cuts on dirty carbon emissions.

Climate Reality Project Chairman and former US Vice President Al Gore (Photo: CRP)

The 25th Climate Reality Leadership Corps training program will kick off on June 25-27 in Melbourne in partnership with Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) to teach participants about the science of climate change and how to communicate its effects.

US President Barack Obama announces historic cuts in carbon emissions (Photo: AP)

Gore’s leadership training  will mark another important event following initiatives of various NGOs towards decarbonising Australia. Last month, US economist Jeffrey Sachs led the launch of a low carbon economy initiative.

Gore, the Climate Reality Project chairman, praised  Obama’s announcement to cut the nation’s dirty carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels by 2030. This is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year. The former VP said the clean energy initiative is the most crucial step towards combating the climate crisis.

We simply cannot continue to use the atmosphere as an open sewer for dirty and dangerous global warming pollution that endangers our health and makes storms, floods, mudslides and droughts much more dangerous and threatening – not only in the future, but here and now.

Gore reiterated that actions are taking place worldwide to address climate change but remained wary about special interest groups that continue to deny and spread misleading information to muddle and obfuscate the issue. He said denial of the linkage between carbon emissions and climate change is like denial of the link between tobacco and lung cancer. He warned that further inaction would be extremely dangerous and destructive for America and the rest of the world. He added that there are now technologies that can offer alternative sources of clean, efficient, and competitive renewable energy.

He backs Obama for facing challenges through a series of critical actions and empowering the EPA to enforce limits on CO2 emissions for new power plants and accelerating the shift to  renewable energy.  He said America has taken another historic step in leading the world towards a green and sustainable economy.

Not all businesses are happy

Smoke billow from coal-fired power plants (Photo: AP)

Not all businesses are happy and merchants of doubt are expected to block climate initiatives. Christopher Helman of Forbes notes the “casualties” of the plan: “Coal miners and owners of coal-fired power plants. Don’t expect their shares to sell off on today’s rule revelation though — EPA has been telegraphing its plans for months, so the bad news is baked in.”

…..it is clear to analysts that coal will bear the brunt of this anti-carbon crusade, while natural gas will be the big winner. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for about 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in America. Per megawatt-hour, coal plants emit about 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide. Compare that to natural gas turbines, which emit just .4 metric tons per mWh.

The EPA reportedly estimates that investments needed to meet the emission limits will cost about $8 billion a year, but would save 6,600 lives and more than $50 billion a year in health care costs tied to air pollution.

While the announcement is widely praised, not everybody is positive. Bloomberg reported how the US zero emission would only be defeated by the rising emissions of China, India, and Indonesia, for example.

Burning fossil fuels in the U.S. released 5.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2012. China emitted 9.0 billion tons and by 2020 is forecast by the U.S. Energy Department to reach 11.5 billion metric tons, while the U.S. stays flat. India, Indonesia and other developing nations are expected to grow, as well.

Were U.S. emissions cut to zero, “global emissions would continue to increase,” Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program, said in an e-mail. “So, the direct impacts of the new power plant rules on atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations will be small.”

Optimism in the Pacific

Solar panels station on Port Augusta, Victoria (Photo: Supplied)

Scientists in the Pacific welcome Obama’s clean energy plan. Radio Australia interviewed Dr. Padma Lal,  an independent researcher on Climate Risk in the Pacific, who applauds the announcement and said it is urgent to take action to make the plan a reality.

She noted other countries – the major polluters – have already started taking action to reduce their carbon emissions, such as China, India, Brazil.

…..we would like to see other countries such as Australia and European nations to follow suit. Perhaps it’s a bit too early to say that this is actually going to happen, it’ll be interesting to see in tangible terms what actions are taken by the American state. From the Pacific point of view it really is urgent that they do take such measures…

Gore leads climate training in Australia

The former US VP will lead the leadership training in Australia, alongside world-class climate scientists, political strategists, communication experts, community organisers and activists. He said:

We have taken these trainings around the world, and in every community committed leaders are standing up to take action on the climate crisis. Our goal is to provide them with the best possible tools to become even more effective leaders in their schools, businesses, houses of worship, and local and national governments.

The intensive program is expected to formally train a new group of Climate Reality Leaders, who can become change agents in their own communities. They will emerge from the program as “energised and skilled communicators” with the knowledge, tools and drive to educate diverse communities on the costs of carbon pollution and what can be done to solve the climate crisis.

Australia leads the world’s highest per capita carbon emissions (Image: Supplied/ Carbonworks)

ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said that is the absence of government support to educate and train leaders on the urgency of climate change, her organization welcomes Gore’s project to Australia.

Australia is on the front line when it comes to climate change impacts, yet our national government is unravelling hard-won progress to price pollution and boost renewable energy. In the absence of government leadership on climate change, the people need to lead the way.

 

 

Blog Link: The Green Journal/ Asian Correspondent

Deutsche bank rebuffs Adani’s funding request

The Deutsche Bank of Germany announced it will not lend money to the Indian mining firm Adani Group to finance the development of Abbot Point Terminal I. The decision came after an AGM held on Thrusday.

We stress that we take the future of the Great Barrier Reef very seriously. We observe that there is no consensus between UNESCO and the Australian government regarding the expansion of Abbot Point. Since our guidance requires such a consensus as a minimum, we would not consider a financing request. – Deutsche Bank Group

Deutsche Bank Group convenes AGM 2014 (Photo: Deutsche Bank Group FB)

Adani is one of the last remaining investors standing for the port terminal, along with another Indian firm, GVK Group.

Other investors have long abandoned their stakes, including mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Lend Lease and Anglo American. Market and financial analysts said the multi-billion dollar investment is unfeasible due to the end of the mining boom, with the downward spiraling of coal market prices worldwide. Galilee Basin in northern Queensland, where coal will be extracted,is also extremely remote and without basic infrastructure.

Tony Brown, tour operator for the Whitsundays, speaks at the bank’s AGM 2014 (Photo: Market Forces)

Australian mining goddess Gina Rinehart, herself, sold most of her coal assets in 2011. GVK bought them.

But despite Indian interests, the project has been stalled for two years. Adani is required to complete all environmental approvals and then raise AU $8 billion of additional debt and equity financing, and hence allow construction to commence on the Carmichael coal, rail and port proposal. Read the scale and magnitude of funding HERE.

There are speculations that the two companies tried to sell their equity holdings. GVK allegedly offered Coal India Ltd, but was rebuffed due to its uncommercial value. Adani is also rumoured to have approached several Chinese firms, including China Railway Corp.

Early this month, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) warned investors it is too risky to invest in the project. Local banks which were appointed to finance the project include National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank, and Westpac Banking Corp- on top of a few other international banks.

Tim Buckley , director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said that India cannot afford the price of imported coal:

India’s perilous economic and financial situation creates further uncertainty for companies relying on its ability and willingness to import coal, with its associated implications for inflation, current account deficits, economic instability and energy security’.

He also said that “imported coal would require double the current price of India’s wholesale electricity, which categorically discredits the nonsense argument that it might alleviate India’s energy poverty.” Buckley has produced detailed reports on Adani and GVK.

Whitsundays tour operator Tony Brown joins the rally in Germany (Photo: Market Forces)

Various environmental and civic groups have written the Deutsche Bank not to lend Adani.  Australian-base civic groups also linked with their European counterparts to “pressure” the bank. Some travel operators in Queensland further travelled to Germany to join the rally.

At the end of the AGM on Thrusday, the bank released the Deutsche Bank’s Environmental and Social Reputational Risk Framework (ES Framework), which stipulates the bank’s  environmental and social due diligence as an integral part of the approval process for doing business.

One of the specific guidelines recently adopted addresses activities in the close proximity to World Heritage Sites. It precludes transactions within or in close proximity to World Heritage Site unless there is a prior consensus between the relevant Government and UNESCO that such operations will not adversely affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the Site. This implies that we would not consider a request to finance an expansion unless we had the assurance of both the government and UNESCO that it would not adversely affect the Value of the Site.

Read: Deutsch Bank official stand and UNESCO’s State of Conservation

Blog Link: The Green Journal/ Asian Correspondent

US economist launches low carbon mission in Australia

While the global community is stepping up plans and actions to respond to climate change, Australia is responding otherwise. Under the current political leadership, Australia’s attitude towards global cooperation has been recalcitrant.

The Tony Abbott’s budget cuts on environment , along with the anti-climate change initiatives, remain a controversial issue triggering non-stop protests and rallies nationwide. But in the midst of chaos, the budget welcomes the re-known economist and professor, Jeffrey Sachs, who arrived in Australia  to launch a clean energy initiative.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs leads the launching of low carbon project in Melbourne (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

“This is not a great budget, but a great debate,” Professor Sachs quipped.

Noting the crucial role of Australia in preventing a tipping point of the planet, Sachs led the launching of ‘How Australia can Thrive in a Carbon World, Pathways to Prosperity in 2050’ in Melbourne on May 21. The launch was sponsored by Monash Sustainability Institute and The Myer Foundation.

Obviously disappointed and not amused with the budget, Sachs said Australia has a critical role in leading the world towards a low carbon and yet still a prosperous global economy. For one thing, Australia’s per capita emissions are amongst the highest in the world driven by agriculture, industry and coal-based electricity.

He said decarbonisation has been underway,  including Australia’s trading partners with a goal of economic prosperity - yet with improved air quality, energy security and improved standards of living. The project underlies a tough challenge for Australia’s competitiveness driven by emissions from the country’s key exports, including coal, gas, oil and beef. The Monash University team, however, underscores that Australian economy is resilient and diverse, besides the largest industry which occupies 52 percent of the  GDP is the service sector. The carbon emissions sector such as mining, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry share lesser portion to the GDP.

The mission of the project is to map up viable pathways to reduce dangerous carbon emissions. Pathways may include increasing energy efficiency, shift to low carbon resources, and non-energy abatement and sequestration. Sachs said there has been a lot of talks going on and what the global community needs to see is a showcase of a pathway that is viable and achievable. The working paper outlines:

This means that each country will gain insights such as what China is predicting in terms of renewable energy growth, what Europe and the US are assuming with regards to take up of energy efficiency, and what India’s demand for coal may be.

Decarbonization is coordinated globally but driven locally with the participation of 13 countries which collectively represent more than 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The project is being coordinated by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) – which is an international network of universities and research institutions. Countries participating include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States. 

SDSN appointed ClimateWorks Australia and the Australian National University to jointly lead Australia’s involvement, with modelling by CSIRO and the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University. After the launch, the project expects each of the participating countries to prepare summaries of example pathways modelled and demonstration of the technological solutions for deep decarbonisation. The summaries will be included in a SDSN ‘Phase 1’ report to be released in July 2014. It will be presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in preparation for the UN General Assembly meeting and Climate Change Summit in New York City this coming September. Australia’s story will be presented to a global audience.  

Q & A during the launch. Professor Jeff Sachs is seated second from the right. (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

Q & A during the launch. Professor Jeff Sachs is seated second from the right. (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

Professor Sachs is known for his work on poverty eradication, including his bestselling books – Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet and The End of Poverty. He is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Abbott’s 2014 budget: Climate change not a priority

It is not a big surprise when the Coalition Government of Tony Abbott sliced a huge amount of budget for the environment.

Reacting to the budget, mining magnate Clive Palmer, who leads the Palmer United Party, said the 2014 budget is delivered for the lobbyists and donors of the Liberal Party. He, however, failed to realise that the mining sector, which he likewise represents, is a big budget benefeciary.

Clive Palmer with Jim Mclnally and Sisie Douglas announcing the United Australia Party in Brisbane, 26 April. (Photo: Mark Calleja/ goldcoast.com.au)

Palmer wrote in  The Guardian:

As the government prepared its first budget, the spin doctors were working overtime, preparing for the moment when Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey would throw away the promises and the policies they took to the election. At parliament house, lobbyists queued to see ministers and bombarded new members of parliament with detailed submissions…

The budget, which was delivered in Parliament last week, hits the Green sector hard – not to mention a range of other victims under Australia’s welfare system.

Australia’s climate change policy and investments in renewables are now facing uncertain future.

Investment in renewables has been scaled down to save about $1.3 billion. The government has also turned its back from its commitment to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) with funding of $2.55 billion now set to spread out over 10 years instead of four years as promised.

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

 

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is no longer needed and its function will be streamlined under the environment department. ARENA was set up in 2012 to drive research and investment in renewable technologies. With bipartisan support, it was set up as an independent agency to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and their uptake. Ivor Frischknecht, the agency’s chief executive ,said abolishing the agency will reduce Australia’s ability to lower cost energy in the long term.

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme is designed to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. The RET scheme is helping to transform Australia’s electricity generation mix to cleaner and more diverse sources and supporting growth and employment in the renewables.

More bad news comes with AGL backflipping from its commitment to renewables. It announced over the weekend Australia’s RET is not achievable.

Leading utility AGL Energy has called for the scrapping of federal government support for rooftop solar PV, and has indicated the large scale renewable energy target (RET) should also be diluted or deferred because it would be impossible to meet the current 41,000GWh target in the current timeframe. – Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy

This will make Australia to slip further as an enemy of clean energy Already, the country ranks ninth  in renewable investments last year ahead of Italy, but behind the likes of South Africa, Canada, India and Germany.

 In contrast to renewables, the mining sector get a big  boost with $100 million allotted over four years for minerals exploration. Small explorers will not make any taxable income access to a refundable tax offset for their Australian shareholders.

Abbott has also spared mining an increase in  the diesel fuel excise. Currently, commercial vehicles used in mining and agriculture get a rebate on the diesel fuel excise that drops it to six cents per litre. Before the budget there had been calls to raise this in line with the petrol fuel excise.

 Extreme heatwaves hit Australia (Image: ABM)

 

The Minerals Resource Rent Tax, otherwise known as mining tax, which was introduced during the Government of Kevin Rudd and passed the Parliament under Julia Gillard has been tabled in Abbot’s agenda. The abolition of mining tax is projected to save $3.4 billion over the next three years. Read ABC’s summation of the budget.

With the G20 summit to be held in Brisbane this coming November, Abbott has already informed the EU he wants environment and climate change to be taken off  from the agenda- besides he already informed the IPCC and the rest of the world he does not believe in climate change. 

 

 

Jeffrey D. Sachs – Australia in the Age of Sustainable Development

Here’s an upcoming event in Melbourne

sachs

Jeffrey D. Sachs – Australia in the Age of Sustainable Development

SDSN Australia/Pacific – Monash Sustainability Institute and ACFID

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM (AEST)

Melbourne, VIC

As humanity pushes against planetary boundaries, how can we achieve economic growth that is both environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive? Join us to hear Jeffrey D. Sachs, world-renowned economist, leader in sustainable development and senior UN advisor discuss the new age of sustainable development and what it means for Australia.

Humanity has entered a new era of both risk and possibility. Extreme poverty is down by half since 1990, and the IT revolution allows new possibilities as never before. Yet social inequalities are soaring; the environment is under great and growing stress; and governance is so far unable or unwilling to adapt. Jeffrey Sachs will discuss the new age of sustainable development, and Australia’s role in achieving sustainable development both domestically and globally.

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs serves as the Director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, and held the same position under former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, as well as co-founder and director of the Millennium Villages Project. Sachs is also one of the Secretary-General’s MDG Advocates, and a Commissioner of the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Development. He has authored three New York Times bestsellers in the past seven years: The End of Poverty, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, and The Price of Civilization.

Presented by the Monash Sustainability Institute as the Australia/Pacific Regional Centre of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network with the Australian Australian Council for International Development and proudly supported by the City of Melbourne.

Have questions about Jeffrey D. Sachs – Australia in the Age of Sustainable Development? Contact SDSN Australia/Pacific – Monash Sustainability Institute and ACFID

Abbott’s budget cuts hit the nation

Whatz-a-buzz this week?

abc

The environment is not only under attack from the Tony Abbott Government. The Federal Government also released the commission’s report, outlining 86 recommendations aimed at saving the budget tens of billions of dollars a year and achieving a surplus of 1 per cent by 2023-24.

Areas in the firing line include family payments, child care, health care, education, unemployment and pension payments, aged care and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Life is getting tougher for the most disadvantaged, the ABC reported

The attack on public broadcaster – the ABC itself - is also on the spotlight. So there you go, a threat to liberty on free speech, balanced reporting, and fearless views. Without ABC, most Australian news would only come from the profit-oriented Murdoch and Fairfax media.  So, here’s from GetUp! delivered to my mailbox:

Dear Rowena,

This budget, ABC funding is under attack. But we can be there to protect it.

On 7 May – in the critical week before Budget – GetUp members like Donald will be ramping up the campaign to protect our ABC by taking the fight straight to their Federal representatives. In more than sixty electorates, GetUp members have stepped up to organise exciting events to deliver the 240,000 person strong petition to Protect our ABC.

But to make these petition deliveries real show-stoppers, these GetUp members are counting on you to join them.

Can you join a team of local GetUp members and deliver the ABC petition to your MP?

What: Join local GetUp members to deliver the 240,000 signature strong ABC petition to your MP’s office
Date: Wednesday 7 May
Time: 9:00-9:30am
Location: Your local MP’s office (details provided on the RSVP page)
RSVP: Click here to join a team

Already, 240,000 passionate GetUp members have signed the online petition to Protect our ABC – and it’s shaping up to be the biggest and fastest growing petition in our movement’s history! That’s why, just a week out from budget, we need to take our campaign to the doorsteps of our decision makers and into the hands of Federal MPs – in cities and regional towns across Australia.

By presenting our petition on the same day, at the same time, right across Australia, we’ll create a media frenzy and prove, once and for all, that protecting the ABC is supported Australia-wide. These petition deliveries will send MPs across the political spectrum a message they can’t ignore and a mandate to defend our national treasure.

Attending your local ABC petition delivery is as easy as 1, 2, 3! All you have to do is sign up to your electorate’s delivery, note the address of your MP’s office, and be there bright and early to meet your fellow GetUp members on Wednesday 7 May.

RSVP to attend your local petition delivery team on 7 May.

With the future of our ABC at stake, it’s time to prove Australians are ready to fight for it.

See you there,
Jess, Sophie, Emma and Michael for the GetUp team

PS – Can’t make it next Wednesday 7 May but still want to get involved in the campaign? Tell us why you want to Protect our ABC by submitting a photo or message here: www.getup.org.au/abc-submit