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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.

At the UN Climate Conference last year (COP27), one of the few positive actions decided upon was the establishment of a funding facility for Loss and Damages. Setting up this facility will be an important goal for COP28 to achieve. COP28 will also examine the Global Stocktake (GST) which was an established process to review actions as set out in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Assistant Minister McAllister said she was also looking forward to strengthening Australia's relationships with key international counterparts and showcasing Australia’s renewed climate leadership, including the recent passage of the reforms to the Safeguard Mechanism.

What may not be highlighted by Senator McAllister is the extent of fossil fuel expansion ocurring, even despite the new Safeguard Mechanism compromise legislation, which will exacerbate the climate crisis. 

  • Woodside Energy Scarborough Gas project almost ready, adding an additional 1.37 billion tonnes of CO2e emissions over its estimated lifetime. (ACF, June 2022 - webpage)
  • Santos Narrabri Gas Field has been recently approved, will add about 5 MtCO2 annually to Australia’s direct emissions (Professor Penny D Sackett, August 2020 - PDF)
  • Beetaloo Basin gas fracking given green light. In a high scenario this may cumulatively amount to 1.4 billion tonnes CO2e over the first 20 years, equivalent to more than 2.5 times Australia’s total annual emissions. (Reputex report for Lock the Gate, Oct 2021 - PDF)
  • Meanwhile, Emissions from Chevron's Gorgon gas project with world’s largest industrial carbon capture system rise by more than 50%. Chevron has failed to meet all targets in CCS for this project. (Guardian)
  • Approval given August 2022 for Perdaman's $4.5 billion Urea fertiliser plant on the Burrup Peninsula that will use gas feedstock. (See Nitrogen Fertilizer Urea production Locking in Fossil Fuels greenhouse gas emissions for industrial Food production)

Today the Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, announced her government was giving a green light for gas fracking production in the region between Katherine and Tennant Creek. This is despite concern from indigenous owners, threats to underground water acquifers, and concern about environmental and climate impact. 96 leading Australian scientists and experts have called for the Northern Territory Government to follow the science and ban unconventional gas development because of its unacceptable impact on the climate. 

According to the statement, "The Beetaloo Basin could add 89 million tonnes of emissions to our atmosphere annually, equivalent to four times the current emissions of the Northern Territory and 18 per cent of Australian emissions."

Setting a Renewables Target for COP28

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock openned the dialogue by asking whether a global renewables target should be set at COP28. "Our goal for the COP in Dubai needs to be the start of the end of the era for fossil fuels" she said.

Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, Managing Director and Group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company is the COP28 President-designate. He chose his words carefully and was more circumspect. While he emphasised importance of reducing emissions and the need to triple renewable energy by 2030 and double it again by 2040, he used words like decarbonisation and avoided any reference to phase-out of fossil fuels. 

This is all predicated on ramping up carbon capture and storage technology, which has been shown to have problems in sequestration effectiveness, scale up to commercial levels needed, and cost. (Forbes: Renewables Capacity Must Be Tripled By 2030, Says COP28 Chair Youtube; Euronews: Energy debate: should the world call time on fossil fuels? Youtube)

The Guardian reported a comment in response from Germanwatch NGO climate analyst Petter Lyden:

Petter Lyden, the international climate policy lead at the campaigning organisation Germanwatch, warned against relying on technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide as a substitute for reducing emissions. “We cannot prolong the use of fossil fuels with the use of CCS and CCU [carbon capture and storage/utilisation] and we need to make that clear. There might be a need for them in some sectors where emissions are very difficult to avoid, but I think there are some not-so-helpful initiatives floating around ahead of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue,” he said.

Germany's special envoy on Climate Jennifer Morgan explains the Petersberg Dialogue in three questions and answers

Restructuring development finance

One of the important issues on the agenda of this meeting and future climate meetings is to address international development finance. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley's detailed at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue (May 2, 2023 via Zoom) the importance of changing international development finance. Australia's Climate Minister Chris Bowen was supportive of restructuring development finance institutions in his speech at the UN Climate summit in 2022.

A 2020 report by Oxfam International found that 80 per cent (US$47 billion) of all reported public climate finance was not provided by wealthy countries in the form of grants, but mostly as loans and other non-grant instruments, which increases the debt burden of developing countries.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sets the scene

The following pre-recorded video speech to the Dialogue from the UN Secretary General set the scene:

Excellencies, The climate crisis demands honesty. We can only solve problems if we name them and look them squarely in the eye. The truth is, on climate, we know what to do, when to do it, and why. But for too long we have looked the other way.

We know, because the International Panel on Climate Change, tells us, that breaching 1.5 degrees, even temporarily, could be disastrous. Yet, temperatures are set to rise 2.8 degree by the end of the century if we maintain the present policies.

We know that the 1.5 degree limit requires halving global emissions by 2030.  Yet, they are on course to rise 10 percent by then, compared to 2010.  

And we know that a 1.5 degree pathway is possible. Yet, we will only achieve it with a quantum leap in climate action globally. 

We must be upfront about what this requires:

  • It requires cooperation – rising above geopolitical divisions;
  • Climate justice – developed countries and international financial institutions delivering on long-overdue finance;   
  • And cleaning-up our economies – breaking our fossil fuel addiction and driving decarbonization in every sector.

Excellencies, We must act on science, facts and truth.

I have proposed to the G20 a Climate Solidarity Pact – in which all big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions, and wealthier countries support emerging economies to be able to do so. And last month, I presented a plan to super-charge efforts to achieve this through the Acceleration Agenda. 

This proposes that all countries hit fast-forward on their net zero deadlines:

It asks developed countries to commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040, the limit they should all aim to respect;

And emerging economies to commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2050 – again, the limit they should all aim to respect.

This is in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances, as reaffirmed in Paris

The Acceleration Agenda

The Acceleration Agenda urges countries to pool their resources, scientific capacities and technologies. It asks them to phaseout coal by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 in all others; To make electricity generation net-zero by 2035 in developed countries and 2040 in all others, while providing access to electricity for all. To stop permitting, funding, and expanding coal, oil and gas – both old and new;

And to speed-up the decarbonization of major sectors – from shipping, aviation, and steel, to cement, aluminum, and agriculture – working with the private sector.

The Acceleration Agenda also calls for an overhaul of the priorities and the business models of multilateral development banks, so the trillions of dollars in private finance, which have long been talked about, finally flow to the green economy.

It calls on developed countries to deliver the $100 billion this year, as pledged in Glasgow; To replenish the Green Climate Fund; And to deliver on their finance commitments on adaptation. Despite the promise made in Glasgow to double adaptation finance by 2025, parity between adaptation and mitigation finance remains too far off.

Excellencies, I will welcome first-movers on the Acceleration Agenda to the Climate Ambition Summit I am hosting this September in New York – those with concrete actions and commitments.

Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement

And COP28, two months later, will see the first Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement, showing us plainly where we stand in the fight for 1.5 degrees.  It will also launch the next cycle of national climate plans – or Nationally Determined Contributions – which must reflect the acceleration we need.

By the end of COP28, I count on all G20 leaders to have committed to ambitious new Nationally Determined Contributions, covering all greenhouse gases and the whole economy, and indicating absolute emissions cuts targets for 2035 and 2040.

And I urge all parties to ensure that COP28 delivers on loss and damage funding. Remember one simple fact: addressing loss and damage is about saving lives. And do not allow the historic COP27 agreement to be derailed.

Excellencies, On climate, we know the truth. Please, act on it, now.

Thank you.

Final media Conference on Outcomes

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and COP28 President-designate Dr Sultan Al-Jaber of the UAE will hold a joint press conference on the meeting, followed by a speech by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the outcome of the climate meeting.


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