Australian news, and some related international items

A Covid-19 Green Recovery for Australia

Seizing the moment: how Australia can build a green economy from the Covid-19 wreckage, As the government prepares plans for economic recovery, investors and green groups alike say this is a once-only opportunity to move towards zero emissions

This is the first a new series, The Green Recovery, looking at the environmental challenges of a post-pandemic world, Guardian, by Adam Morton 13 May 20  There is a growing case that recovery from the coronavirus offers Australia a chance to succeed where it has failed for more than a decade: to break away from the climate wars and head in a new direction.

Here and overseas, the idea of helping jumpstart an economic rebuild after the pandemic-forced shutdown by also tackling the other great existential challenge of the time is gaining currency across the political spectrum.

It has been supported not just by climate activists and conservationists, but by industry, banks, energy companies, unions and major investors.

Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund, articulated the push in late April while addressing the heads of 30 countries at the annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue. She rejected the suggestion that the health crisis and the economic crash caused by the “great lockdown” that followed meant steps to fight the climate crisis should be paused.

“Nothing is further from the truth,” she said. “We are about to deploy a massive fiscal stimulus which can help us address both crises at the same time.

“If this recovery is to be sustainable – if our world is to become more resilient – we must do everything in our power to promote a green recovery. In other words, taking measures now to fight the climate crisis is not just a ‘nice-to-have’. It is a ‘must-have’ if we are to leave a better world for our children.”

Implicit in Georgieva’s call is that this may be a one-off opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid what scientists warn would be a catastrophe for vast swathes of the planet.

Others agree. The German government has called for recovery programs to invest in future-proof jobs that would cut emissions, rather than return to business as usual. Britain has proposed an accelerated take-up of green technologies, saying it could have a profound impact on “our societies’ future sustainability, resilience and, ultimately, wellbeing”.

The idea of a green stimulus has been supported by governments in countries as diverse as PakistanPortugalCanada and the United Arab Emirates, backed by major business energy giants including BP and Shell, and promoted by the World Bank, which has published a series of blog posts with detailed suggestions of how to respond.

Significant money supports this stance. Global investor groups representing members responsible for more than $55tn in assets warned governments to avoid focusing on short-term, big-emitting projects when backing clean growth, which could create jobs while improving things that have a less obvious monetary value – such as clean air. Again, the opportunity borne from crisis was central to the message. “The path we choose in the coming months will have significant ramifications for our global economy and generations to come,” the groups said in a statement……

States lead, federal government drags its feet

In Australia, the discussion about a green recovery did not begin as urgently as elsewhere, reflecting perhaps the country’s notoriously difficult climate politics and a media tendency to treat climate as a second-order issue unless it is the subject of a political fight.

That began to change last week. Industry groups the Smart Energy Council and Clean Energy Council hosted online summits on green recovery themes with attendances in the thousands. Speaking at both, Innes Willox, the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and setting a path for net zero were overlapping issues that should be dealt with together to boost growth.

The AIG is among a number of Australian interest groups, research organisations and experts working on what a sustainable rebuild could look like, built on evidence that renewable energy is now the cheapest source to invest in.

Just as striking as Willox’s call was that, across the two summits, every state and the ACT was represented either by a premier, energy minister or, in Tasmania’s case, state-owned clean energy agency. Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk spoke about the potential to develop a battery manufacturing industry and claimed green hydrogen resources would eventually surpass the state’s liquefied natural gas exports. South Australia’s energy minister, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, praised his Labor predecessors for helping develop the state into a world leader in renewable energy generation (while taking a swipe at them over cost) and said he hoped the state would run on 100% clean electricity before 2030.

Fellow Liberal Matt Kean, from New South Wales, said his government was considering its electricity strategy and net zero plan in the wake of the pandemic to see what measures could be brought forward to support the economy. He said they would be subject to three tests: “Will they deliver decarbonisation? Will they deliver jobs? And will they deliver faster economic growth?”

On Thursday, the Tasmanian Liberal government went further, launching a draft renewables energy action plan for reaching 200% renewable energy generation by 2040, a goal that means the creation of a vast clean export industry. The state’s energy minister, Guy Barnett, said the shift to renewable energy was more important than ever in the wake of the pandemic.

“As a result of Covid-19, there are unprecedented challenges facing Australian households and industries. By seizing Tasmania’s immense potential, renewable energy can grow our economy, attract investment, create jobs and support Australia’s transition to renewable supply,” he said………

Practical solutions on the horizon

Groups working on what a green recovery might look like for Australia include Beyond Zero Emissions, which is developing a “million jobs plan” that it says could make the country a renewable energy superpower. The interim chief executive, Eytan Lenko, says there could be more than 300,000 jobs in a national “deep energy retrofit” drive to improve the efficiency of 3m buildings, starting with social housing, low-income homes, schools and hospitals, so they no longer have to pay electricity or gas bills……..

May 14, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming

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