Australia going dark on climate change

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The Australian government is choosing to remain silent on climate change in the hope that it can fly under the radar.

This week we saw Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the helm of a government poised to give $1bn to the giant Carmichael coal mine, a Federal Budget that didn’t mention climate change, and silence from Turnbull as rumours escalate that Trump is about to withdraw from the historic Paris Agreement on climate change. It’s a lot to take in, but we’ve got you covered.

Here’s the low-down:

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You’d be forgiven for being confused about what the Federal Budget means for the environment. Normally, the media includes the environment as either a winner or loser in their Budget coverage, but there has been an eerie silence instead. That’s probably because there really isn’t much mention of the environment, or climate change, at all. In fact, Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison didn’t even mention climate change once. He calmly delivered his speech without acknowledging the elephant crashing through the room.

So what’s actually in there?

On the objectively awful front, we saw more cash for fossil fuels in the form of a boost to gas investment. The government has also decided to de-fund the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. Unfortunately, it’s business as usual from a government bent on ignoring climate change. 

In a small ray of hope though, Port Augusta’s solar thermal funds were confirmed. Well done to the community and Repower Port Augusta for working tirelessly to achieve this outcome!

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The government’s ongoing silence means a continuation of the billions of dollars in government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry[1]. It also means that at a crucial moment in time, when the Great Barrier Reef has undergone an unprecedented second mass coral bleaching event in just two years[2], the opportunity to actually do something to address climate change has escaped the government.

To make matters worse, the government could be about to hand over $1bn to the Carmichael mega-coal mine through the secretive Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF).

Watch: 5 things you should know about NAIF

It’s beyond belief that in 2017 this dodgy deal could even be on the table. Meanwhile, international cooperation on combating climate change is under attack.

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Any day now, Trump is expected to announce that he will pull the USA out of the Paris Agreement, or that the USA will backtrack on its commitments. Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama delivered an urgent message for Malcolm Turnbull as Fiji prepares to host the most important climate talks since Paris:

My message to Donald Trump, and the message that I hope Malcolm Turnbull will also convey, is ‘Mr President, do not abandon the Paris Agreement, please stay the course’.

Malcolm Turnbull met with Trump last week, but instead of joining the groundswell of opposition to Trump’s actions, he sat smiling. France, China and the least developed countries in the world have joined Fiji in speaking out strongly against Trump’s anticipated move, not to mention a growing number of US businesses.

At the same time, Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg admitted that the Australian government might not meet its commitments to achieve net zero emissions by 2050[3], as agreed under the Paris Agreement. Some Liberal MPs are even using the Trump rumours as an opportunity to try to put Australia’s crucial role under the Paris Agreement in doubt[4].

145 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and has an aspirational goal to work towards keeping it to below 1.5. This was a movement led by our Pacific Island neighbours who will be among those most impacted by the effects of climate change. The Agreement also creates procedures to fund efforts to stop runaway climate change, and also to assist countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change that are already occurring, and that will occur in the future.

Of course, it’s not perfect and work is ongoing to work out how to implement it properly, but it’s a hugely important step forward for action on climate change and Australia should be positioning itself as a leader in the fight. Instead? Silence.

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Australia’s transition away from coal towards renewables is well underway. South Australia reached its 50% renewable energy goal 8 years early[5]. And with funding for Port Augusta’s solar thermal now confirmed, this is only going up!

Around the world, progress towards a cleaner future is unstoppable. Here’s just a taste of what the future looks like:

 

  • Solar and wind power are now cheaper than fossil fuels without subsidies in more than 30 countries[6].
  • Growth of global fossil emissions has stalled, thanks to the growth of renewable energy and a shift away from coal[7].
  • Coal is in decline. Check out the Boom & Bust Report for more[8].

Thousands of people are joining the movement for a better future and taking action to demand real leadership from the Australian government. There has never been a more important time to get active and make your voice heard. We must keep up the pressure. Silence on one of the most important and difficult challenges of our time is simply not an option.

Here are 3 things you can do right now to make a difference:

  1. Send Malcolm Turnbull a direct email urging him to defend the Paris Agreement on climate change
  2. Tell Malcolm Turnbull not to give $1bn of public money to prop up a giant coal mine
  3. Join the #coalfree movement – a vision for the future free from the shackles of the dirty past

For a green and peaceful future!

[1] https://www.marketforces.org.au/ffs

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/10/great-barrier-reef-coral-bleaching-worsens-as-scientists-fear-heatwaves-impact

[3] http://reneweconomy.com.au/coalition-backtracks-on-paris-deal-abc-cuts-corners-on-energy-60654/

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/08/liberal-mp-says-australias-part-in-paris-climate-pact-would-change-if-us-quit

[5] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-10/south-australia-renewable-energy-target-reached-early/8429722

[6] https://www.weforum.org/press/2016/12/a-convenient-truth-fighting-climate-change-turned-into-a-profitable-business/

[7] https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2017/march/iea-finds-co2-emissions-flat-for-third-straight-year-even-as-global-economy-grew.html

[8] http://endcoal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/BoomBust2017-English-Final.pdf