Monday, September 26, 2022

Guest Post: Australia violated the rights of Torres Strait Islanders by failing to act on climate change, the UN says. Here’s what that means

Guest post by Kristen Lyons, The University of Queensland via the Conversation.

In a landmark decision, a United Nations committee on Friday found Australia’s former Coalition government violated the human rights of Torres Strait Islanders by failing to adequately respond to the climate crisis.

The Torres Strait Islanders ‘Group of Eight’ claimed Australia failed to take measures such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and upgrading seawalls on the islands. The UN upheld the complaint and said the claimants should be compensated.

This decision is a breakthrough in Indigenous rights and climate justice, including by opening up new pathways for Indigenous communities – who are often on the frontline of the climate crisis – to defend their rights.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Australia at COP27 Diary

UN climate conference, the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) is ocurring in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt from Monday November 6 to Friday November 18, 2022 (but may also go overtime into the weekend). This is my digital diary of Australia at COP27. I have attended four previous COPs, but I will be following whats going on at COP27 online. Follow with me. I'll be updating this blog post regularly over October-November 2022.

UNFCCC COP27 main website. Civil Society have organised the COP27 Coalition.

26 September - New Labor MP for Bennelong Jerome Laxale says in his first speech to parliament that the government should look to “drive down emissions over and above the 43% that this house legislated”

Revisit and Strengthen pledge from COP26: Just 23 of the nearly 200 countries which signed the Glasgow agreement had submitted updated 2030 climate plans by 23 September. Australia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates all increased targets. India formalised promises, UK clarified policies. Climate Action Tracker estimates the gap to being on track for 1.5C of global warming is 17-20 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year by 2030. At Cop26, Climate Action Tracker predicted the world was on course for 2.7C of global warming based on government policies. Climate Home News

Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group "reminds all nations that a successful COP is one that delivers tangible outcomes that includes loss and damage as a core element, pushes for stronger mitigation plans, and enables adequate adaptation to the climate crisis." @LDCChairUNFCCC tweet

24 September - Foreign Minister Penny Wong addresses UN General Assembly on reforming the UN and climate action - Blog: Foreign Minister Penny Wong addresses UN General Assembly on climate action and reforming the United Nations

23 September - Australia signs Global Leaders Nature Pledge to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. In a video statement to the UN General Assembly Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had signed the Leaders Nature Pledge in the lead up to the Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 meeting in Montreal in December that is considering a new franework agreement addressing the Biodiversity crisis. Blog: Australia commits to Global Nature Pledge to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 during UN General Assembly

Australian Government found to be violating human rights obligations to Torres Strait Islanders by failing to act on climate change. 

"In a ground-breaking decision, the U.N. Human Rights Committee has found that Australia’s failure to adequately protect indigenous Torres Islanders against adverse impacts of climate change violated their rights to enjoy their culture and be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home....The Islanders claimed their rights had been violated as Australia failed to adapt to climate change by, inter alia, upgrading seawalls on the islands and reducing greenhouse gas emissions." UN Human Rights Committee - Australia violated Torres Strait Islanders’ rights to enjoy culture and family life, UN Committee finds | Blog: Guest Post: Australia violated the rights of Torres Strait Islanders by failing to act on climate change, the UN says. Here’s what that means

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Foreign Minister Penny Wong addresses UN General Assembly on climate action and reforming the United Nations

Australia's in person delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, 77th session, was lead by Foreign Minister Penny Wong and included Yawuru elder from Broome and Senator Patrick Dodson.

Although the media reporting concentrated on her remarks regarding the need to reform the United Nations, the Ukraine War and geopolitics, a substantial amount of her speech focussed on Australia's escalating action addressing climate action both for Australia and in the Pacific region.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Australia commits to Global Nature Pledge to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 during UN General Assembly

More than 93 countries have signed the Global Leaders Pledge for Nature for Sustainable Development to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese just committed Australia to this pladge. The previous government of Scott Morrison refused to act on this pledge.

The pledge was developed by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Belize, Bhutan, Colombia, Costa Rica, the EU, Finland, Kenya, Seychelles, the UK and an alliance of organisations.

It is part of the UN convention on Biological Diversity which is considering a new global draft agreement (PDF) for adoption at Montreal, Canada, from 7 - 19 December 2022  Conference of the Parties meeting (COP15). This is a landmark agreement addressing the biodiversity crisis, an equivalent for what the Paris Agreement did for climate change.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Victoria cut emissions by 29.8% on 2005 levels by 2020. There is a pathway to decarbonisation by 2035 to meet 1.5C target.

The Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews, announced on 20 September that Victoria Smashes Emissions Targets. Victoria achieved a 29.8 per cent emissions cut on 2005 levels up to and including 2020. Victoria had set an Emissions Reduction Target of 15 to 20 per cent reduction by 2020.

Last year i reported that Victoria reduced emissions by 24.8%, on track for 45-50% reduction by 2030

The Andrews Government rebuilt Victoria's Climate Act and set a number of interim targets. 

Energy was the top sector that needed to start the decarbonisation transition process, and the Andrews Government has tackled this with growing renewables and energy storage as a proportion of our electricity production.

Victoria’s energy sector is still the state’s largest source of emissions, but continues to see deep cuts made due to the rapid upscaling of renewable energy. The sector saw renewable electricity production increase from 21.7% of total electricity generation in 2019 to 24.8% in 2020.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Natural gas, Methane emissions reduction and the need to implement methane removal

Image: large scale methane removal possible via atmospheric solar photocatalysis wind chimney

What was I doing at 4am on a Friday morning? Watching a Methane Action (US NGO) organised webinar (1) on methane reduction and methane removal.

This webinar had Sir David King, a former chief scientist for the UK, doing a presentation. I first came across Sir David King's statements on the approaching climate crisis around 2004.(2)

Friday, September 16, 2022

Microplastics pollution threat fails to be included in Hockey Feasibility study for Moreland Council

On Wednesday night I made a statement to Moreland Council meeting on Agenda item 7.9 Hockey Feasibility Study for a second Field Hockey pitch in Moreland.

My concerns were that Council needs to consider all the information on health and environmental impacts of synthetic turf, as well as the well argued social benefits, as part of good governance for making an informed  decision. This includes assessing carbon footprint, greenhouse gas emissions climate impact, urban heat, microplastics pollution and reduction in biodiversity, and disposal at end-of-life.

The Feasibility Report had a number of errors which I tried to highlight in my statement, the major one being the complete absence of the microplastics pollution threat. 

A Swiss/German study published October 2021 found that between 50 kilograms to over 1 metric ton per year was the average fibre loss from a synthetic pitch. (Bertling et al 2021) This is separate from infill loss assessed at 2.98 tonnes average per year from the same study (which would mainly apply to soccer artificial turf rather than hockey). 

There are several more errors in the Feasibility study I did not go into.

The health and environmental impacts that were mentioned, were not adequately detailed or quantified which was in sharp comparison to data provided to justify the social benefits. 

My Literature Review: Synthetic Turf carbon footprint, environmental, health, microplastics and biodiversity impacts, published April 2016, highlighted numerous impacts including in the areas of urban heat, microplastics and carbon footprint. The Literature review also explored how use of synthetic turf is an aspect of the Plastics crisis, is concurrent with and related to the climate crisis.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

UN Secretary General highlights climate crisis at WMO United in Science Report 2022 launch

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) recently launched the United in Science report (13 September)  The United Nations Secretary General articulated the climate impacts being felt this year, the climate crisis we are facing and the imperative to reduce emissions more rapidly and stop ALL new fossil fuel projects.

The United in Science report highlighted that:

  • Greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise to record highs. 
  • Fossil fuel emission rates are now above pre-pandemic levels after a temporary drop due to lockdowns.
  • Ambition of new mitigation pledges for 2030 need to be four times higher to limit global warming to 2 °C and seven times higher to get on track to limit global warming to 1.5 °C..
  • 2018–2022 was the fourth warmest 5-year period on record and 2015-2021 were the seven warmest consecutive years on record.
  • Some regions saw greater glacial mass loss than others. For example, Western Canada experienced an exceptionally warm and dry northern hemisphere summer in 2021, which further exacerbated mass loss of glaciers across the region.
  • In 2018-2021 the Arctic sea-ice extent was below average and in the Antarctic, minimum sea-ice extent reached record lows.
  • There is a 48% chance the annual mean global temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) for at least one of the next five years (2022–2026).
  • there is a 93% probability that at least one year in the next five will be warmer than the warmest year on record (2016).
  • As the climate changes, tipping points, or irreversible physical changes in the climate system, cannot be ruled out. Potential tipping points include the Amazon rainforest, melting of polar ice sheets and changes in major weather systems, such as the monsoon.
  • With 3.3 to 3.6 billion people living in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change, adaptation to climate impacts is more important than ever.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

PFAS, synthetic turf and a new planetary boundary proposed and being exceeded

Very concerning. Increasing production and use of Forever chemicals, that is, the thousands of chemicals in the PFAS class: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. These are not natural chemicals, and they do not break down in the environment. The chemicals are widely used. According to the Department of Health they are not manufactured in Australia, although plenty of products that use PFAS are imported.

PFAS is spread widely through water pollution and oceans and as aerosols in the atmosphere contaminating soils. PFAS chemicals are found very widely across the earth in rainfall. So, our water resources  are now contaminated.

My attention was drawn to this Euronews article. It sums up the recent scientific findings and outlines the issues: Rainwater everywhere on Earth unsafe to drink due to ‘forever chemicals’, study finds

Fluorine signatures and PFAS chemicals have been found in synthetic turf matting and fibers in the USA and in Sweden. With the study in Sweden the researchers say the presence of PFAS chemicals "we believe these results to be broadly translatable to Artificial turfs globally".

Friday, August 26, 2022

Synthetic turf and microplastics under investigation by NSW Chief Scientist

The Office of the Chief Scientist in New South Wales is currently investigating the use of synthetic turf and its environmental impacts, including the generation of microplastics. 

Professor HUGH DURRANT-WHYTE, Commissioner, Natural Resources Commission, and NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer answered questions at the NSW Budget estimates on Tuesday 23 August, 2022.

Durrant-Whyte explained: "It is about suitability for purpose in general, and the Office of the Chief Scientist, in general, doesn't make policy recommendations; it will make science recommendations. There is a lot to do with, as you say, not just microplastics but a whole range of other things, like local temperatures and things like that which impact significantly, but also there is a useability element which is important, so communities actually having access to playing fields and things like that. A lot of things have to be balanced out. Our role in this is to collect the evidence, collect the views, and to genuinely provide the scientific recommendation on which Government can make a policy decision."

The collection of information has been ocurring since the start of 2022 explained Durrant-Whyte. This has included involvement of a number of university groups plus collection of international data.