Around 60,000 Australians marched yesterday across the country calling on their government not to go backwards on climate action, according to organizers. Australia has taken a sudden U-turn on climate policy with the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September, including legislation to end its carbon pricing, cutting funding to renewable energies, and obstructing progress at the ongoing UN Climate Summit in Warsaw.
Abbott, who has expressed skepticism of anthropogenic climate change in the past, ran in part on ending Australia’s carbon price which only into effect in 2012. Last week he introduced new legislation to that effect, saying, “No one should be in any doubt—the government is repealing the carbon tax in full.”
The fledgling program sets a price on carbon for the nation’s top 300 emitters.
“The simple truth is this: that we cannot leave a matter as important as climate change to the fickleness and whim of Australia’s politicians,” Tim Flannery with the Climate Council told an estimated 30,000 people in Melbourne. “We must stand up and be counted [and take] every effort to speed the uptake of renewable energy.”
Open pit coal mine in Australia. The nation is the fourth largest producer of coal and the biggest exporter. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Previously known as the Climate Commission, the council was a government program with a mandate to provide independent and expert advice on climate change. However, the Abbott administration quickly shuttered the Climate Commission, leading the group to resurrect itself as a non-profit group.
In addition to its efforts to end Australia’s climate pricing, the Abbott administration also revealed last week that it would lower its carbon target to cutting CO2 emissions by 5 percent based on 2000 levels. However, independent analysis of the government plan to achieve even this scaled-back target found it would likely fail.
Furthermore, the Abbott administration has cut renewable energy funding by $435 million under the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
The government’s new position on climate change has made waves at the 19th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw, Poland. Australia has been criticized for not sending a minister to the meeting, for failing to support a green capital fund to help poor countries adapt to climate impacts, and for backtracking on previous commitments.
Nations worldwide, including Australia which has one of the highest per capita emissions levels in the world, have committed to keeping global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. However, experts and policymakers say the world is moving too slowly in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy to keep this pledge.
“Tony Abbott wants to be defined by climate denialism, and the community wants to be defined by climate activism,” the head of Australia’s Green Party, Christine Milne, said yesterday. “This is really a showdown.”
The last twelve months in Australia have been the hottest on record with experts predicting that 2013 will likely be the warmest in Australia since record-keeping began.
(11/14/2013) For many concerned about climate change, Australia has suddenly become the new Canada. With the election of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister in September, the land down under has taken a sudden U-turn on climate policy, including pushing to end its fledgling carbon emissions program which was only implemented in 2012 and cutting funding for renewable energy. These move come at a time when Australia has just undergone its warmest 12 months on record and suffered from record bushfires.
(11/18/2013) In 2009, Japan pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 25 percent based on 1990 levels within 11 years. Four years later—including a nuclear meltdown at Fukushima—and Japan has reset its goal with a new target to cut emissions by 3.8 percent based on 2005 levels at the UN Climate Summit in Warsaw, Poland. But, the new target, which received widespread condemnation when announced on Friday, actually results in a 3.1 percent rise in emissions when viewed from the widely-accepted 1990 baseline.
(11/18/2013) In October, a global risks analysis company, Maplecroft, named Bangladesh the world’s most vulnerable nation to climate change by 2050. The designation came as little surprise, since Bangladesh’s government and experts have been warning for years of climatic impacts, including rising sea levels, extreme weather, and millions of refugees. However, despite these very public warnings, in recent years the same government has made a sudden turn toward coal power—the most carbon intensive fuel source—with a master plan of installing 15,000 megawatts (MW) of coal energy by 2030, which could potentially increase the country’s current carbon dioxide emissions by 160 percent.
(11/13/2013) In 2011, the top 11 richest carbon emitters spent an estimated $74 billion on fossil fuel subsidies, or seven times the amount spent on fast-track climate financing to developing nations, according to a recent report by the Overseas Development Institute. Worldwide, nations spent over half a trillion dollars on fossil fuel subsidies in 2011 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
(11/12/2013) Yesterday, the Filipino delegate to the ongoing climate summit, Naderev ‘Yeb’ Saño, dared climate change deniers to take a hard look at what’s happening not just in the Philippines, but the whole world. Over the weekend, the Philippines was hit by what may have been the largest typhoon to ever make landfall—Typhoon Haiyan. Reports are still coming in days later, but the death toll may rise to over 10,000 with whole cities simply swept away.
(11/11/2013) Following the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan—which is arguably the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall—Filipino delegate, Naderev ‘Yeb’ Saño, has vowed to go on a fast at the UN Climate Summit that opened today in Warsaw, Poland. Saño made the vow during a powerful speech in which he said he would fast, ‘until we stop this madness.’
(11/11/2013) On October 22nd Bangladeshi and Indian officials were supposed to hold a ceremony laying the foundation stone for the Rampal power plant, a massive new coal-fired plant that will sit on the edge of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. However, the governments suddenly cancelled the ceremony, instead announcing that the project had already been inaugurated in early October by the countries’ heads of state via a less-ornate Skype call. While the governments say the change was made because of busy schedules, activists contend the sudden scuttling of the ceremony was more likely due to rising pressure against the coal plant, including a five-day march in September that attracted thousands.