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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tracking Australia's Environment Minister Melissa Price at COP24

So what is Australia's Environment Minister Melissa Price getting up to at COP24? Attending the Umbrella Group meetings, photo opps with Pacific Islander women whose nations will be innundated by sea level rise due to Australia's intransigence on coal and climate policy, meeting Indigenous Rangers...

Melissa Price is the Liberal MP for Durack and a former corporate lawyer for mining companies.

So far Australia has not been terribly popular at this conference with civil society and a great number of other parties.

Australia was completely silent over to 'note' or 'welcome' the IPCC Special Report on 1.5C in the SBSTA. Given Australia chairs the Umbrella group, the silence spoke heaps about Australia's role. Then the Australian ambassador for the Environment and head of the negotiating team for Australia, Patrick Suckling, was featured as a speaker on a US Government side-event promoting clean coal and CCS as climate solutions.

Given these two incidents perhaps we need to keep track of our Environment Minister at COP24.

Pre-2020 Stocktake: High-level meeting

On December 10 Ms Price attended the COP 24 stocktake on Pre-2020 implementation and ambition.

She was part of session 1, Ministerial stocktake on mitigation efforts of Parties up to 2020 to discuss the efforts of Parties to mitigate greenhouse gases up to 2020 & ways to enhance efforts.

Her statement was followed by her participation in a panel discussion.

Watch the session video, click on Melissa Price in the agenda to scroll to her contribution.

Transcript of her speech:

"Its very good to be here. I am very pleased to speak on Australia's behalf on our mitigation efforts in the pre-2020 period.

We believe that the actions by all parties in the pre 2020 period have built strong frameworks and incentives for effective global mitigation. Parties actions have increased the demand for low emissions technology and innovation. They have catalysed the development of measurement, reporting and verification systems, and they have created the institutional framework for effective finance and support.

Australia is proud of our strong record of pre-2020 climate action. We overachieved on our first Kyoto mitigation target by a significant margin. We ratified the Doha amendment to the Kyoto protocol two years ago. And we are on track to over-achieve on our 2020 target.

Australia has developed innovative policies to achieve these goals. These include the Emissions Reduction Fund which is the centre-piece of our response to climate change. The fund operates as a reverse auction mechanism to purchase least cost emissions reductions from across our economy. It has contracted over 190 million tonnes from abatement from auctions since 2015. It also helps farmers and landholders to tap into new income streams and improve the productivity of their land.

A major focus of our mitigation policy has been creating the right incentives to align economic growth with reducing emissions.

Through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the world's largest green bank, we are increasing investment in innovative technologies and catalysing new investment opportunities. The CEFC, as we refer to it, has committed over $5.9 billion to more than 110 projects worth nearly $20 billion. With each dollar of investment the CEFC makes being matched almost 2 dollars from the private sector.

Further up the innovation chain the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has invested more than $1 billion in grant funding for new renewable energy technologies, as well as projects that transform our energy grid to enable wider deployment of our low emissions technology. And our Renewable Energy Target will grow the share of renewables in our electricity mix by at least 23 per cent to the supply by 2020.

We have also been active in our support of our partners climate actions, particularly in the Pacific. In 2015 Australia pledged $1 billion in climate finance over 5 years, including $300 million dedicated to climate action in Pacific countries. This support is helping countries build mitigation capacity and implement mitigation policies and measures, as well as enabling countries to adapt to and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Working with other countries to share the measurement, reporting and verification experience, we have gained over the past 20 years, has been a significant focus for Australia.

Since 2009 we have worked with Indonesia to develop a forest monitoring system, as well as to build their capacity to share their experiences with other developing countries.

We have also worked closely with the Thai government to design and develop a greenhouse gas inventory system based closely on our own. This system provides a framework for the effective implementation of Thailand's emissions reduction measures and supports them to fulfill their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Australia has also been actively co-operating with our partners in a range of international forums to share our experiences and enhance our global action.

We are a founding member of the Mission Innovation which aims to increase public investment in clean energy research and development with 23 other countries and the EU, Australia will double our public expenditure on clean energy R&D from 2015 levels by 2020.

We are also active in the International Solar Alliance, the Asian-Pacific Rainforest partnership, the International coral reef Initiative, and the Australian developed International partnership for blue carbon.

I started off by saying that partners for 2020 efforts have created a strong framework for effective global change mitigation to incentivising demand for the low emissions technologies, catalysing the development of measurement reporting and verification systems and creating an institutional framework for effective finance and support.

And we should take stock and celebrate these achievements. Here, in Katowice, in our efforts to finalise the Paris Agreement work program we are helping to write the next chapter of international climate action. Thank you for listening."

Ms Price as part of the panel was asked about "the urgency of how we manage land and forests and the things we need to be doing now that will reap reward going forward." Here is her response:

"As I said at the outset, Australia has a very good record and we are confident about meeting our targets in respect of Kyoto. We know we are already in excess of several hundred million to Kyoto II, and I think what we are hearing here today is not one particular policy that achieves that reduction in emissions. What we have been able to achieve through a variety of policies which I said in my earlier statement, the CEFC and also ARENA, but I think what we consider to be our signature climate policy is our Emissions Reduction Fund. Just reflecting on the contribution of the land sector we know we have already committed 190 million tonnes worth of abatement in the land sector and I think it is also worthy to note that Australia also has a plan to grow 1 billion trees as well which will also contribute to that sequestration target. Thank you."

Did Ms Price actually answer the question? Not really.

I asked a question of Dr Bill Hare from Climate Action Tracker in 2017 on Australian expansion of fossil fuel production (think #StopAdani) land clearing and deforestation.

Question to Bill Hare: "I note that Australia’s rating is marked as insufficient. My question is on Australia’s fossil fuel production from coal and LNG increasing, and also massive land clearing in Queensland and NSW and what that does for our contribution."

Bill Hare: "The Australian assessment for current policies does include most of the factors you mentioned including projected emissions increase from the ramping up of Liquified Natural Gas exports. So that is already in the current policy projections, which as you see are going upwards not downwards.

"The issue that you refer to, increasing deforestation in one area of Australia - Queensland - those emissions do not appear in the national accounts to our knowledge. This is a general problem in a number of countries where deforestation reported by the scientific community or other sub-national actors isn’t fully reflected in national accounts and this is a significant issue that the Australian government and NGOs needs to pay attention to because that would lead to higher emissions in the future.

"The other point about Australia, and common with New Zealand actually, these countries have accounted for land use change and forestry emissions credits and have added those credits to allow higher emissions in their own policy frameworks which have permitted ongoing increase in emissions. If this were to continue there would be little prospect in these countries actually reducing their overall fossil fuel and other emissions. This is a particular concern if this type of architecture of creative accounting were to continue in other contexts."

A sample of replies to her tweet from this event:

Here is the current Climate Action Tracker graph for Australia which articulates the mistruths in her speech:

The Climate Action Tracker assessment for Australia says in part:
Australia’s climate policy has further deteriorated in the past year, as it focusses on propping up the coal industry and ditches efforts to reduce emissions, ignoring the record uptake of solar PV and storage and other climate action at state level. The Australian government has turned its back on global climate action by dismissing the findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and announcing it would no longer provide funds to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels and industry continue to rise and, based on the most recent quarterly inventory, are now 6% above 2005 levels and increasing at around 1% since 2014. Under current polices these emissions are headed for an increase of 9% above 2005 levels by 2030, rather than the 15–17% decrease in these emissions required to meet Australia’s Paris Agreement target. This means Australia’s emissions are set to far outpace its “Insufficient” 2030 target.

The government has abandoned any policy efforts to achieve emissions reductions in the energy and transport sectors. Instead, its plans to underwrite a new coal power plant are completely inconsistent with the need to phase out coal globally by 2050 and in OECD countries by 2030. If all other countries were to follow Australia’s current policy trajectory that we rate “Highly Insufficient”, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C.

While the federal government continues to repeatedly state that Australia is on track to meet its 2030 target “in a canter”, the Climate Action Tracker is not aware of any scientific basis, published by any analyst or government agency, to support this. Australia’s emissions have been increasing since 2014, when the federal government repealed the carbon pricing system, and the latest quarterly emissions inventory to June 2018 (published in November 2018) shows continuing increases. Emissions are projected to grow through 2030, instead of reducing in line with the 2030 target.

The federal government continues to promote coal as a solution to an energy security issue it claims exists but which has not been identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator. It proposes to underwrite new coal-fired power generation by guaranteeing to pay any future carbon price-related costs, create barriers to renewable energy and obfuscate its climate policies, the reality on the ground at the state level, public opinion and across the business sector in Australia, is very different.

The government continues to push for policies aimed at propping up uncompetitive coal-fired power. This follows a rejection of the recommendations of the 2017 Finkel report, as well as, in August 2018, dropping an alternative instrument, the National Energy Guarantee. The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF)—the so-called “centrepiece” of the Australian government’s policy suite to reduce emissions—does not set Australia on a path to meeting its targets as has been reiterated in the latest review by the Climate Change Authority (Climate Change Authority, 2017).

Instead of introducing new policies to address the structural change needed (CCA 2017), the government is now considering allowing international units to be used for compliance. The safeguard mechanism also risks counteracting the emissions reductions the ERF is supposed to deliver and further undermines the achievement of the 2030 target (Reputex, 2018) by increasing emissions allowances for large industry facilities.

Attending the Act!on Agriculture Ministerial Opening - Dec 10

Act!on Agriculture is a speaker series on how to increase agricultural productivity, reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change impacts. Seems to be driven by New Zealand DFAT according to the program on the New Zealand DFAT website. Minister Price was just corralled for the photo opportunity, it appears. Ms Price does nopt appear to be listed as part of the program.

Co-host with James Shaw (New Zealand) reception for Pacific Ministers - December 10

Meeting with Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs- Dec 11

Meeting 2 Indigenous rangers with the Australian Institute of Marine Science

Australia creative accounting of emissions credits

Sydney Morning Herald broke the story that the present government is looking to use any excess Kyoto II emissions reduction credits to meet Australia's Post 2020 Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets.

According to Hannam neither neither Environment Minister Melissa Price nor Labor will rule out counting Australia's expected credits from beating its 2020 goal under the soon-to-be-superseded Kyoto Protocol against its 2030 Paris pledge.

Read the story here: 'Fake action': Australia's secret path to hitting Paris climate goals

In the wake of this New Zealand's Climate Change Minister James Shaw has ruled out New Zealand using carryover credits to count against its Paris climate target. According to Hannam, James Shaw said such a move would make it challenging for the world to meet the important goal of reducing emissions.

The comments were made to Australasian journalists in a conference call on Tuesday after meeting his Australian counterpart Melissa Price during the climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

Read the story here: New Zealand rules out using 'Kyoto credits' for Paris, Australia shtum

Meeting with Pacific Islander women at COP24

Attending a meeting of the Umbrella Group which Australia chairs

Photo Opportunity with Poland’s Environment Minister Henryk Kowalczyk

Before leaving for Poland and COP24

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