Australian news, and some related international items

Will Scott Morrison drop support for the Iran nuclear deal, in order to curry favour with Donald Trump?


Why do I not do pictures of Scott Morrison?  Because I can’t be bothered. Morrison will soon be gone and forgotten


Although Australia is not a party to the Iran nuclear deal, Scott Morrison is reviewing whether Australia should follow Donald Trump’s lead and withdraw its support

Known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA), this has significantly curbed Iran’s nuclear activities for at least a decade and potentially longer, while subjecting it to the most intrusive verification system applied to any country undefeated in war.

The Trump administration has renounced the agreement and reapplied economic sanctions to Iran.

The government’s policy review was announced during the October 2018 by-election for former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s parliamentary seat of Wentworth and was widely considered a ploy, ultimately unsuccessful, to retain the seat for the Liberal Party.

But even now, it’s not clear whether a real review is occurring or whether the Department of Foreign Affairs is simply going through the motions. Regardless, the result is expected this month.

It’s also not clear whether it was Mr Morrison or Mr Trump who raised the issue during their meeting, but the Prime Minister claimed it as “a success”, noting that Trump “very much welcomed the fact that, as a friend and an ally, we have always been ready to re-look at these things”.

This attempt to curry favour with the famously mercurial president is ill-advised. Quite apart from the inaccuracy of the suggestion that Australia is always willing to reconsider its policies just because it is a US ally (that certainly has not occurred over the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the US refuses to ratify), there are significant political and substantive drawbacks for Australia even hinting that its support for the Iran deal is wavering.

Australia has for decades had a bipartisan policy towards preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. It has actively supported the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treatyand the global nuclear safeguards system run by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which verifies compliance with the treaty through on-site inspections and other monitoring.

Australia has also been at the forefront of efforts to strengthen safeguards.

It was the first country to adopt an Additional Protocol, designed to enhance the system after Iraq’s near-acquisition of nuclear weapons in the 1990s, and the first to qualify for the so-called Broader Conclusion about its compliance with the Protocol’s rigorous new requirements.

Although Australia wasn’t involved in the Iran negotiations, it was consulted as the talks proceeded and vocally supported the initiative and outcome. To renege now would cast doubt on our longstanding commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, jeopardise our credibility internationally, including at the IAEA, and call into question our commitment to multilateral, negotiated solutions to international problems.

Although not perfect, the Iran agreement was the product of an extraordinary international diplomatic effort to curb Iran’s nuclear weapon activities through a multilateral verifiable arrangement.

It involved not just the United States, but three other Western allies of Australia, the European Three (France, Germany and the United Kingdom), as well as the European Union, China and Russia – all of which are sticking to the accord.

While the Morrison government might have gained fleeting kudos from the Trump administration, Australia risks confounding not just the other JCPOA parties, but friends and allies which endorsed it subsequently, including Canada, Indonesia and Japan.

The only states pleased by Australia’s move would be Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Perhaps the worst implication of rejecting the JCPOA is to cast doubt on the plausibility of multilateral negotiations to resolve the North Korean nuclear impasse.

December 6, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Queensland Supreme Court hearing Big Coal’s case aimed to shut down climate activism

The term, “climate crisis” is now the most commonly used descriptor when discussing global warming. Extreme weather events, firestorms, heat waves, flooding rain, loss of ice, snow and species are rightly seen within the frame of an emergent climate crisis. But if we are really witnessing a climate crisis – one with the potential to destroy our way of life and end our lives – how should we respond as a community?

This is a question being tested in Australia’s classrooms and Parliament right now and later today, in fact. The Queensland Supreme Court will be asked to decide whether, despite this crisis, it is reasonable for a large corporation to dictate how the community should be allowed to use social media to try and prevent this crisis.

The background to the case is this. Aurizon, the rail freight company formerly owned by the Government of Queensland, has been targeted by a number of individuals and communities because it plays a key role in the coal industry managing the 2,670 km Central Queensland coal network. It is also critical to Indian mining company Adani’s plans to ship coal from the proposed Carmichael mine to Abbott Point, as Adani plans to build a 200km line that will connect to Aurizon’s existing Goonyella and Newlands rail network.

Without Aurizon there is no Adani mine.

One of those groups protesting the proposed Adani mine, and Aurizon’s involvement in the expansion of the coal industry, is a small community group called FLAC – Front Line Action on Coal. Unlike the large environmental NGO’s, FLAC is still committed to supporting people who take direct action to prevent the expansion of the coal industry and they have had some serious successes of late.

So much so that Aurizon has taken the extraordinary action of getting interim orders against FLAC. Those orders include prohibiting FLAC from inciting anyone by Facebook, website, and Twitter to enter rail corridors across Aurizon’s network or interfering with any of the company’s coal trains.

On Tuesday the Supreme Court will be asked to make these interim orders permanent thus preventing FLAC from using social media to inform people and to be prohibited from going within 20 meters of the entire Queensland rail corridor. That’s a lot of rail corridor.

But there are concerns Aurizon will want more than just clear corridors. For many in the climate movement FLAC has become a touchstone as a moral force and an inclusive community that takes seriously the discipline and commitment to non-violent, safe, direct action. And this is what Aurizon is keen to shut down.

The company wants to prevent this small community group from encouraging, supporting or training anyone to take non-violent action to prevent this crisis. The less there are of these kinds of communities the better things are for large corporations like Aurizon.

These are extraordinary days climatically and politically. On Friday there was the sight of thousands of Australian school kids leaving their classrooms to demand governments – State and Federal – take the action necessary to secure their future. It was an action that happened with blessing of the Australian Senate.

Globally the divestment campaign has seen billions divested from companies involved in the fossil fuel business. While banks with a high exposure to fossil fuel companies have been forced to either rule out further investment or explain their plan to manage the escalating risk posed by stranded assets.

Then there’s the science. According to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report the world is confronting the real risk of mass wildfires, food and water shortages, super storms and dying coral reefs by as soon as 2040. The last week alone in Australia has seen Sydney experience a one in 100-year rain event, while Queensland continued to burn.

These are extraordinary times and the science tells us they will get even more extreme as the global political leadership fails to materialise to prevent it. It is in this context that Aurizon’s request to the Supreme Court to gag FLAC must be viewed.

The Supreme Court must decide if Aurizon, an enormously powerful and well connected corporation, should have the power to deny a small community group the right to inform Australians how to help to prevent this climate crisis.

Obviously the people who make up FLAC have a direct interest in the outcome, but should this corporation succeed in gagging free speech to this degree, we will all be the worse for it.

Finally, Aurizon’s action is based on the assumption that if FLAC stops training concerned citizens on how to take non-violent, safe, direct action, people will stop taking action. Unfortunately what may well happen is that people continue to act to prevent a climate catastrophe, but do so without the training, discipline or principles of non-violence.

December 6, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, legal | 1 Comment

Plans for Australia to become a renewable energy exporting superpower

December 6, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | 1 Comment

Labor backs Greens plan to block Coalition from underwriting coal power 

Guardian, Katharine    Murphy Political editor @murpharoo, Tue 4 Dec 2018

Crossbenchers are being asked to support a bill preventing the signing of contracts before the next election Labor and the Greens will attempt to prevent the Morrison government from underwriting new coal-fired power as the energy policy battle moves into its next phase.

Labor on Tuesday resolved to support a Greens bill stopping the commonwealth from providing financial assistance to coal-fired power plants, and there is an effort to secure the requisite parliamentary numbers for an upset as the Morrison government moves ahead with its controversial energy package. Negotiations are under way with crossbenchers in both chambers.

The government secured a rubber stamp from the Coalition party room on Tuesday for policy measures aimed to reduce power prices, including a contentious divestiture power, but Guardian Australia revealed on Monday night ministers had to rework the original proposal substantially to head off a backbench revolt…….

The energy minister, Angus Taylor, who has signalled coal will be in the mix, with a possible indemnity against the risk of a future carbon price, declined to answer questions from journalists on Tuesday about whether the government would enter binding contracts with proponents before the next election, which would be difficult to unwind if the Morrison government loses next year.

The Greens, with support from Labor, are attempting to head that sortie off at the pass with the new private members’ bill. Discussions with the crossbench are under way in both chambers – but it is unclear whether the foray will succeed.

Greens MP Adam Bandt, who could be a crucial vote for the government on the divestiture package because the party is not opposed to the idea, warned the Coalition not to “rely on support from the Greens on energy issues while … trying to sign contracts for new coal-fired power stations”. ……..

December 6, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, election 2013 | Leave a comment

Legal challenge against Adani coal mine plan, over water use

Adani coal mine water licence faces Federal Court challenge over move to bypass EIS, ABC , By Kate McKenna 4 Dec 18 The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has launched a legal challenge to a Federal Government decision to bypass an impact assessment of planned water use by Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland.

Key points:

  • Federal Minister made an “error of law” in bypassing EIS, ACF alleges
  • Adani licensed to take up to 12.5b litres a year from Suttor River
  • Indian miner says it can only take water after other licensed users

The ACF applied to the Federal Court, challenging Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price’s decision not to activate the “water trigger” for the proposed pipeline infrastructure, which avoided a full environmental impact assessment (EIS).

The move comes less than a week after Adani announced it would push ahead with construction of a scaled-down version of its Carmichael project.

Last year, the Indian mining giant was granted a water licence by the Queensland Government, meaning it could take up to 12.5 billion litres a year from the Suttor River.

Under federal law, coal mining projects must undergo a full environmental assessment if they are likely to have a significant impact on water resources.

But in September, the Federal Government decided the water trigger did not apply to the Carmichael project, instead saying it would only require “preliminary documentation”……..

December 6, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment

Schoolchildren at UN climate summit, including Toby Thorpe from Tasmania

December 6, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Students left hanging during Canberra trip to confront Morrison on climate change

Guardian, 5 Dec 18,  Group rallies outside Parliament House after being told they needed to have a prearranged meeting organised. High school students from across Australia calling for emergency action on climate change have travelled to Canberra to confront the prime minister after he criticised them for skipping school to stage national strikes.

Students from Scott Morrison’s southern Sydney electorate of Cook – as well as Townsville, Melbourne and Brisbane – arrived at Parliament House on Wednesday morning to meet with him.

Morrison said he would sit down with the school students……..

But one group of 11 students gathered out the back of Parliament House in the hope of speaking to Morrison had not yet had any luck.

Fourteen-year-old Tully Bowtell-Young travelled solo from Townsville for the chance to share her concerns with the prime minister – using her own pocket money to help cover costs.

“I think it’s worthwhile because nothing I have now is going to mean anything if I don’t have a future in this world,” she said.

The striking students want federal policymakers to stop the Adani coalmine and move Australia from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy.

“We have been trying so much for the possibility of meeting with [Scott Morrison] but if we don’t get that opportunity after coming so far and going through so much to be here I think we will be a bit disheartened,” she said.

The group of students tried numerous times to call the prime minister’s office but were told they needed to have a prearranged meeting organised – in some instances they were hung up on.

Senator Jordan Steele-John and independent MP Kerryn Phelps both came out to meet with the students.

December 6, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Top Trump aide Michael Flynn backed secret U.S.-Russia nuclear marketing p-lan

Mideast nuclear plan backers bragged of support of top Trump aide Michael Flynn, Warren Strobel, Nathan Layne and Jonathan Landay, 3 Dec 17, Washington: Backers of a US-Russian plan to build nuclear reactors across the Middle East bragged after the US election they had backing from Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn for a project that required lifting sanctions on Russia, documents reviewed by Reuters show.

The documents, which have not previously been made public, reveal new aspects of the plan, including the proposed involvement of a Russian company currently under US sanctions to manufacture nuclear equipment. Continue reading

December 6, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Record global carbon emissions in 2018

Carbon emissions will reach 37 billion tonnes in 2018, a record high, December 6, 2018  The Conversation, Pep Canadell, CSIRO Scientist, and Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project, CSIRO, Corinne Le Quéré, Professor, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, Glen Peters, Research Director, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo, Robbie Andrew, Senior Researcher, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo, Rob Jackson, Chair, Department of Earth System Science, and Chair of the Global Carbon Project,, Stanford University.

Carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from fossil fuels and industry are projected to rise more than 2% (range 1.8% to 3.7%) in 2018, taking global fossil CO₂ emissions to a new record high of 37.1 billion tonnes.

The strong growth is the second consecutive year of increasing emissions since the 2014-16 period when emissions stabilised, further slowing progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement that require a peak in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. Strong growth in emissions from the use of coal, oil and natural gas suggests CO₂ emissions are likely to increase further in 2019.

Strong energy demand is behind the rise in emissions growth, which is outpacing the speed at which decarbonisation of the energy system is taking place. Total energy consumption around the world increased by one sixth over the past decade, the result of a growing global middle class and the need to provide electricity to hundreds of millions of people living in poverty. The challenge, then, is for all nations to decarbonise their economies while also satisfying the need for energy, particularly in developing countries where continued growth in energy supply is needed.

These analyses are part of the new annual assessment of the Global Carbon Project (GCP), published today in three separate papers. The GCP brings together scientists who use climate and industrial data from around the world to develop the most comprehensive picture of the Earth’s sources and sinks of greenhouse gases……….more

December 6, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

wales government planning – an effective ban on new coal mines

BBC 5th Dec 2018 An effective ban on new coal mines in Wales getting planning permission isto come into effect. The measure is part of the Welsh Government’s new planning policy, published on Wednesday. Applications for opencast and deep-mine coal mining will only be allowed under “exceptional
circumstances”. Environment Secretary Lesley Griffiths said the policy will
ensure “we have well-designed spaces which will benefit future
generations”. It comes after the assembly passed legally-binding carbon
emissions targets on Tuesday. Planning Policy Wales governs what councils
can allow through planning permission.

December 6, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

UNSW deal for next generation solar cells to help halve cost of solar power — RenewEconomy

UNSW deal for mass-production of next generation solar cells will help cost of solar power – already the cheapest in the world – to halve again. The post UNSW deal for next generation solar cells to help halve cost of solar power appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via UNSW deal for next generation solar cells to help halve cost of solar power — RenewEconomy

December 6, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The verdict is in: Renewables reduce energy prices (yes, even in South Australia) — RenewEconomy

Our research finds, emphatically, that in electricity there is no dilemma between decarbonisation and lower wholesale prices. The “tri-lemma” concept is already past its prime. The post The verdict is in: Renewables reduce energy prices (yes, even in South Australia) appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via The verdict is in: Renewables reduce energy prices (yes, even in South Australia) — RenewEconomy

December 6, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 5 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Why This Republican Mayor Spoke at Bernie Sanders’s Climate Town Hall” • Georgetown, Texas, went solidly for Trump in 2016, and for Romney in 2012. But last year, the Austin exurb became one of the greenest places in the state: It was the first Texan city to convert to 100% renewable energy to […]

via December 5 Energy News — geoharvey

December 6, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why South Australia energy transition is seen as model of success around the world — RenewEconomy

South Australia’s energy transition is shrouded in myths created by those who want to slow or stop the switch to renewables. It is actually a model of success. Here’s why. The post Why South Australia energy transition is seen as model of success around the world appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Why South Australia energy transition is seen as model of success around the world — RenewEconomy

December 6, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment