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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Australia at Global Plastics Treaty negotiations in Paris #INC2

The second meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) of the Plastics Treaty will take place from 29 May – 2 June 2023 in Paris, France. Often referred to with the hashtag #INC2. The first meeting convened 28 November - 2 December 2022 at Punta del Este, Uruguay, which I reported on. The aim is to complete negotiations by the end of 2024 and create a global, legally binding plastics treaty. 

Australia's Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek is attending the conference, representing Australia.

The blogpost will be updated frequently over the next week.

Importance of funding active transport infrastructure in Merri-bek budget to 2027

Separated Upfield Bike Path past Moreland Station
On behalf of Climate Action Merribek I sent in a submission to Merri-bek Council on their draft budget 2023-2027 on May 19. You can read the CAMerribek submission in full: Major backtrack on active transport projects in Draft Merri-bek Council Budget jeopardizes Climate Targets.  

Tonight, 29 May 2023, I fronted before Council Budget committee to speak to this presentation. There were a substantial number of submissions on Council Budget, evidently more than half focussed on the need for funding for more active transport infrastructure as a priority with many people opting to speak in person or online to Council on their submission.

My speech is below. As I only had 2 minutes to deliver, I excised a few paragraphs as marked with brackets, and still went slightly over..

There were some excellent presentations from citizens from Glenroy, Fawkner, Coburg North, Coburg, Brunswick West and Brunswick highlighting different facets of the problem, often with personal stories.

I have also included key findings of a new Climate Council report on Decarbonising Transport which support my presentation arguments and that of the CAMerribek submission.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Logging Native Forests in Victoria to end by 1 January 2024, saving 14 million tonnes of carbon by 2030

Cudos to Premier Dan Andrews and the State Labor Government who took the giant step of announcing the end to native forest logging in Victoria by 1st January 2024. The State Government announced an extra $200 million in funding for transition of affected workers and communities in the 2023/24 budget.

In October 2022 the Victorian Forest Alliance and The Tree Projects published a report which found that an immediate end to native forest logging could prevent 14 million tonnes of carbon emission by 2030. 

 Key facts from the report:

  • Native forest logging in Victoria emitted around 3 million tonnes of carbon in 2021.
  • Emissions from native forest logging are equivalent to the annual emissions of 700,000 cars.
  • Regrowing forests on average only ever hold up to 50% of the carbon of the original forests before they are logged again.
  • Close to 90% of Australia’s wood now comes from Australian plantations.
  • Logging plantations produces 60% less carbon dioxide emissions than the logging of native forests.
Transition is always difficult process, but it can bring new opportunities in Land management and conservation of the forests, and for recreational and tourist opportunities. It also helps guarantee the purity of Melbourne's water supply. It opens up roles for indigenous knowledge in land management, conservation and for managing bushfire threat.

We are likely to see the creation of a Great Forests National Park that many conservationists and scientists have called to be established.

Submission on Synthetic Turf to Moonee Valley Council for JH Allan Reserve

The following submission to Moonee Valley Council was made 22 March 2023 regarding a plan to redevelop JH Allan Reserve, including a proposal to turn open space natural grass sports field to a synthetic turf soccer pitch. 

I followed my original submission with an addendum on 4th April due to new information before the consultation closed.

Even during that short time period a new scientific review and new research had become known regarding the threat of airborne microplastics, with synthetic turf implicated as one source for airborne microplastics. 

The redevelopment of JH Allan Reserve in Keilor East  was identified in the Moonee Valley Soccer Strategy presented to Council meeting in September 2022. The strategy identified opportunities to improve sports infrastructure at J H Allan Reserve. 

Upgrade to lighting using new energy efficient LED sports lights to the eastern sports field is under consideration to improve evening use and minimise light spill and glare.

Repurposing of the western sports field natural grass currently used as a cricket oval and open space to a synthetic turf soccer pitch is under active consideration. 

Once again we see Soccer driving the push for synthetic turf, without a consideration of possible alternatives, including new research on improved natural turf surfaces providing increased capacity.

"At this stage, no scoping or design work in relation to this potential development has commenced." said Moonee Valley Council. "initial estimates based on similar recent projects indicate this development would cost between $4-$5 million."

After 7-10 years the synthetic turf matting and infill will need to be replaced. Current cost for a soccer pitch synthetic surface replacement is $750,000 (Estimate for Clifton Park 2023/24 Merribek Council Capital Works Budget)

In Mid-2023 there will be a Report back to Moonee Valley Council following the completion of the community consultation process.

Having Milleara Gardens Kindergarten located next to the Western oval where the Synthetic turf conversion is proposed should also raise concerns in particular about possible urban heat impacts on learning and airborne microplastics pollution and childrens health. This was not included in my submission or addendum.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Guest Post: Despairing about climate change? These 4 charts on the unstoppable growth of solar may change your mind


Andrew Blakers, Australian National University

Last year, the world built more new solar capacity than every other power source combined.

Solar is now growing much faster than any other energy technology in history. How fast? Fast enough to completely displace fossil fuels from the entire global economy before 2050.

The rise and rise of cheap solar is our best hope for rapidly mitigating climate change.

Total solar capacity tipped over 1 terawatt (1,000 gigawatts) for the first time last year. The sector is growing at around 20% a year. If this continues, we’ll hit 6 terawatts around 2031. In capacity terms, that would be larger than the combined total of coal, gas, nuclear and hydro.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Australia ramps up funding for energy efficiency in Budget 2023. Baba Brinkman: Insulate it

The Australian Government in Budget 2023 put forward: Aus$1bn in “low-cost loans for double-glazing, solar panels and other energy efficiency improvements that will make homes easier – and cheaper – to keep cool in summer and warm in winter”; and Aus$300 million for energy efficiency social housing upgrades;

On the down side, a new coking coal mine was just approved by the Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek that will boost emissions. This is the Isaac River mine in the Bowen Basin of Queensland. (ABC News) Coal tracker estimates this mine will produce Lifetime emissions. 7 million tonnes. Coal produced. 3 million tonnes. Lifetime is 7 years.

Energy efficiency is not sexy,, and is complex to do to avoid rorting and addressing equity. But must be done.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Melbourne Protest at Korean Government agencies funding the Santos' Barossa Gas project

“The Korean government agencies funding and insuring the Barossa gas project face significant and mounting risks on two fronts — native title and climate-related risks.” says an April IEEFA report.

The Barossa Gas project is located in Sea Country associated with the Tiwi Island in the Northern Territory. This Gas field has extremely high levels of CO2. 

A protest was held organised by the Beyond Gas Network outside the South Korean Consulate on St Kilda Road, Melbourne on Thursday 4 May, 2023. A letter addressed to the President of Republic of Korea via the Consul general was attempted to be presented.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Australia talking renewables at Petersberg Climate Dialogue 2023 while new gas projects launch

Senator Jenny McAllister at
Petersberg Climate Dialogue

The Petersberg Climate dialogue is ocurring in Berlin, Germany over 2-3 May 2023. About 40 countries are represented. Australia is represented by Senator the Hon Jenny McAllister, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy.

The Dialogue is co-hosted by Germany and the incoming UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) President, which for 2023 is the United Arab Emirates.

Actions under discussion include on climate change mitigation, energy transition, adaptation and loss and damage, and climate finance.

According to the press release Minister McAllister will participate in high-level political discussions on global energy transitions and adaptation action and co-facilitate discussions on new funding arrangements to address loss and damage arising from climate change impacts.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Email to the Treasurer for Budget 2023: stop subsidising fossil fuels

Dear Treasurer, Jim Chalmers
I know this is a late request and that the major decisions for Budget 2023 have already been made and signed off.

Yet as an Australian citizen who takes a strong interest in politics and Federal Government decisions, I feel it is important to register my suggestions for the budget. 

Addressing the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises are uppermost in my mind. But I am also aware of cost of living pressures, the housing crisis, the health crisis and level of poverty that low jobseeker, single parent and other government allowances engender,and the extent of the government deficit. And the change in global geopolitics has meant increased defence spending. 

Addressing all these issues requires hard choices. I'd like you firstly to reconsider the Stage 3 tax cuts, which addresses the revenue side. These were legislated prior to the pandemic. I don't think they were good taxation policy even when formulated, now they are disastrous.They greatly increase inequality while reducing government revenue at a t8ime of large deficits.

I know that tax subsidies to Fossil fuel companies are running at about $11 billion per year. We need to stop offering carrots to fossil fuels. I know it is difficult cutting a program of subsidies, but perhaps there can be staged phaseout over a the forward estimates? Now would be the time to start such a phaseout as part of addressing budget repair.

I would also like to see  the Petroleum resource rent tax (PRRT) legislation updated to better capture windfall profits of fossil fuel companies. It is a disgrace that Australia does not have a sovereign weath fund that shares the huge profits that have been made in mining and export of our fossil fuel and mineral resources.

Minister, I know the Regional development Fund , CEFC and ARENA are helping to fund renewables expansion, renewable hydrogen, green steel. This investment is vital to develop a renewable-powered export industry.. Green steel and aluminium made by us is natural value adding supporting Australian jobs and industry.

My last request is that the Budget establish a National Energy Transition Authority to effectively manage the impacts for workers and communities of phase-out of coal and gas in our electricity sector as we ramp up renewable energy solutions supported by pumped hydro and grid level batteries, and micro-grids.

Treasurer, I know your government is already acting on climate change, but the speed of action in multiple sectors is also important. I have read the latest IPCC 6th assessment Synthesis report and understand the climate crisis we are in. Given this, I think my suggestions above are moderate and sensible.

Yours sincerely,
John Englart

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Guest Post: Labor’s scheme to cut industrial emissions is worryingly flexible


BHP steelworks at Port Kembla Phto: John Englart

Rebecca Pearse, Australian National University

The federal government today proposed new rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s polluting industrial sector. The rule changes apply to a measure known as the “safeguard mechanism”, and are supposed to stop Australia’s top 215 emitters, such as new coal, oil and gas projects, from emitting over certain thresholds, or “baselines”.

The safeguard mechanism was established by the Abbott Coalition government in 2016. It’s been widely criticised for lacking teeth – indeed, industrial emissions have actually increased since the mechanism began.

The safeguard mechanism was reviewed last year and Labor had promised a revamp. The fine detail of the changes is crucial, because it will determine how well Australia brings down its emissions on the path to net zero.

So would Labor’s proposed reforms, if implemented, be effective and equitable? Unfortunately, it appears no. They involve only very modest changes to a very flexible regime, and many issues plaguing the safeguard mechanism under the previous government continue.

Ozone action on track, helping avoid 0.5C of global warming by 2100 says UNEP

Ozone recovery is back on track says the latest UNEP assessment report on ozone depletion and recovery.

Rogue emissions from China of ozone-depleting chemicals had threatened to delay recovery by a decade. But the emissions were stopped, says the New York Times.

“That ozone recovery is on track according to the latest quadrennial report is fantastic news. The impact the Montreal Protocol has had on climate change mitigation cannot be overstressed. Over the last 35 years, the Protocol has become a true champion for the environment,” said Meg Seki, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Ozone Secretariat. “The assessments and reviews undertaken by the Scientific Assessment Panel remain a vital component of the work of the Protocol that helps inform policy and decision makers.”

Monday, January 9, 2023

Chubb Review into the integrity of Australian Carbon Offsets sends mixed messages

Chubb review into the integrity of carbon offsets ignores the elephant in the room argues the Climate Council: too many major emitters are buying ACCUs so that they can continue to pollute as usual.

“The Chubb Review has provided some positive recommendations for improving the integrity and transparency of carbon credits. But the most important question is: where and how will carbon credits be used?" says Climate Council Head of Advocacy Dr Jennifer Rayner

“Big polluters shouldn’t be able to keep polluting as usual by offsetting much or all of their emissions under the Safeguard Mechanism."

The Chubb Review found the carbon offsets scheme was "fundamentally" well designed when it was first introduced, but called for more data transparency which would improve integrity, recommending that "the default should be that data be made public, including carbon estimation areas" and the government should consider a national platform to share this information.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

2002 Cabinet Documents: Climate change impacts acknowledged by Foreign Minister Downer and Environment Minister Kemp as Australia refuses to sign Kyoto Protocol

Howard Cabinet in 2002

Cabinet documents released by the National Archives from 2002 shine a light on the conservative Liberal-National Party Coalition Government of Prime Minister John Howard in refusing to sign on to the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol, and also the decision not to proceed with a High Speed East Coast Train network linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.

The Cabinet documents highlight that Cabinet Ministers Alexander Downer (Foreign Minister) and David Kemp (Environment and Heritage Minister) acknowledged that climate impacts would be felt by Australians, no matter what measures were taken. Rather than planning for the future as suggested by a Treasury Department submission, little action was taken regarding expansion of the fossil fuel sector, or long term inter-capital transport planning.