Australian news, and some related international items

Initiative to cope with climate refugees – Platform on Disaster Displacement.

How do we deal with the prospect of increased climate migration? The Conversation, December 1, 2016 On average, one person is displaced each second by a disaster-related hazard. In global terms, that’s about 26 million people a year.

Most move within their own countries, but some are forced across international borders. As climate change continues, more frequent and extreme weather events are expected to put more people in harm’s way.

In the Pacific region alone, this year’s Cyclone Winston was the strongest ever to hit Fiji, destroying whole villages. Last year, Cyclone Pamdisplaced thousands of people in Vanuatu and Tuvalu – more than 70% of Vanuatu’s population were left seeking shelter in the storm’s immediate aftermath.

However, future human catastrophes are not inevitable. The action – or inaction – of governments today will determine whether we see even greater suffering, or whether people movements can be effectively managed.

Human impact

International law does not generally regard people displaced by disasters as refugees, and national responses are ad hoc and unpredictable, resulting in protection gaps.

However, on July 1, a landmark new intergovernmental initiative kicked off: the Platform on Disaster Displacement. Led by the governments of Germany and Bangladesh, and with Australia as a founding member, it addresses how to protect and help people displaced by the impacts of disasters and climate change, one of the biggest humanitarian challenges of the 21st century.

The Platform does not merely envisage responses after disasters strike, but also policy options that governments can implement now to prevent future displacements………

Governments also need to develop more predictable humanitarian and temporary stay arrangements to assist those displaced across a border after a disaster. They also need to ensure that those displaced internally have their needs addressed and rights respected.

Facilitating migration away from at-risk areas can open up opportunities for new livelihoods, skills, knowledge and remittances, at the same time as relieving demographic and resource pressures.

Planned response

Indeed, in this context, the Australian government has acknowledged that the promotion of safe and well-managed migration schemes is a key part of building resilience.

The Kiribati–Australia Nursing Initiative is a good example. Kiribati is a Pacific Island nation that is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and which lacks extensive educational and employment opportunities.

The Initiative enabled around 90 young people from Kiribati to train in Australia as nurses, providing them with an opportunity to secure a job in the healthcare sector either in Australia, overseas or back home.

On a larger scale, planned relocations can also help people to move out of harm’s way before disaster strikes, or to relocate to safer locations in the aftermath of a disaster if it’s not safe for them to go home. This requires careful consultation with those affected, ensuring that their rights and interests are safeguarded.

The Platform on Disaster Displacement will implement the Nansen Initiative’s Protection Agenda by building strong partnerships between policymakers, practitioners and experts………

December 1, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

No real action from Federal govt in its new “response plan” on the Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef: Australia’s ‘response plan’ draft contains no new action or funding
‘Confidential’ draft acknowledges coral bleaching but does not make any attempt to address climate change, Guardian, 
 30 Nov 16 The Australian government’s official “response plan” to the worst ever bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef commits it to no new action, pledges no new money and does not make any attempt to address climate change, according to a draft seen by the Guardian.

The Northern Great Barrier Reef Response Plan, marked “draft” and “confidential”, begins by describing the bleaching event as “the worst ever coral bleaching” and attributes its cause to climate change.

It says: “In the aftermath of the bleaching event it is more important than ever to building [sic] the resilience of the reef.” But the recommendations appear to contain no new money for action to help build resilience.

It says the plan will be “nested under the Reef 2050 plan”, which is a document the federal and Queensland governments created to convince Unesco not to include the Great Barrier Reef on its “world heritage in danger” list.

On Thursday the government needs to report to the Unesco world heritage committee on the implementation of the Reef 2050 plan, as well as how it has been funded.

But, in June, the Guardian revealed Australia would also need to report on how it is responding to this year’s bleaching event.

At the time, Tim Badman, the director of the IUCN’s world heritage program, which advises the committee on the state of its natural world heritage properties, told the Guardian: “We would expect that that report from Australia is going to cover all the significant things that have happened since June 2015 and whether there are changes in the picture of the management or the response that is needed … The bleaching event is a new issue to be considered.”

It is not known whether this plan is what the government intends to present to Unesco in response to that requirement.

It was revealed this week the bleaching appeared to kill about 67% of coral in the northern third of the reef. Across the entire reef, early estimates suggested about 22% of coral had died but scientists now say that figure is likely to be higher.

But the government’s plan for dealing with the bleaching, at least in its draft from October, appeared unable to point to any significant new action……..

November 30, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Adani Carmichael coal mine faces many more questions and legal hurdles

legal actionCarmichael mine jumps another legal hurdle, but litigants are making headway, The Conversation,  Lecturer in Law, The University of Queensland, 27 Nov 16   The Carmichael coal mine planned for Queensland’s Galilee Basin has cleared another legal hurdle, with the state’s Supreme Court dismissing a legal challenge to the validity of the Queensland government’s decision to approve the project.

The court found in favour of the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, ruling that its approval of Indian firm Adani’s proposal was within the rules.

The decision is another setback for environmentalists’ bid to stop the controversial project. But Adani does not yet have a green light to break ground on the project, and legal questions still remain, both about this project and about climate change litigation more generally.

The Supreme Court ruling Continue reading

November 27, 2016 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Trump plans to scrap NASA climate research: Australian scientists support NASA

Australian scientists slam Trump’s plans to scrap NASA climate research, REneweconomy, By  on 24 November 2016 Australia’s top climate scientists have come out in support of their American counterparts, in response to news that the incoming Trump Administration will scrap climate research at the country’s top research facility, NASA. Trump’s senior advisor on NASA, Bob Walker, announced the plans strip NASA’s Earth science division of funding on Wednesday, in a crackdown on what his team refers to as “politicised science”.

The policy – and the language used to frame it – would be all too familiar to Australian climate scientists, who faced a similar attack on funding and staff of the world-leading CSIRO climate department, and the dismantling of the Climate Commission.

In defense of the CSIRO cuts, the Organisation’s ex-venture capitalist CEO Larry Marshall said the national climate change discussion was “more like religion than science.”

Here’s what Australia’s scientists are saying about Trump and NASA…

“Just as we have seen in Australia the attack on CSIRO climate science under the Coalition government, we now see the incoming Trump administration attacking NASA,” said Professor Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University and a former President of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“They obviously hope that pressure for action will be eased if the science is muffled.

“But with temperatures in the Arctic this week a startling 20 degrees above normal, no amount of waffle can disguise the need for urgent action to decarbonise our energy supply and immediately withdraw support for new coal mines,” Prof Lowe said.

“Why a world leader in Earth observation should do this is beyond rational explanation,” said David Bowman, a “fire scientist” and Professor of Environmental Change Biology at The University of Tasmania.

“Earth observation is a non-negotiable requirement for effective, sustainable fire management and it will be provided by other sources if the US proceeds with this path, such as Europe, Japan and China,” Prof Bowman said.

“So, effectively the US would be ceding intellectual ‘real estate’ to other nations that could quickly become dominant providers of essential information on fire activity.”

Dr Megan Saunders, a Research Fellow in the School of Geography Planning and Environmental Management & Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at The University of Queensland, said scrapping funding to climate research in NASA would be devastating…….

November 24, 2016 Posted by | climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Turnbull govt – hails climate accord while rejoicing in coal industry!

hypocrisy-scaleOn climate change policy, neither time nor Trump are on Turnbull’s side, Guardian
Lenore Taylor, 20 Nov 16  

Australia cannot hail the Paris accord as a turning point and simultaneously rejoice in a great long-term economic future for coal  

“……Abbott declared Trump’s election would “put climate change into a better perspective” and diminish the “moral panic” about global warming. Presumably the better perspective is one where we don’t do very much about it, and the “morality” not worth panicking about is the idea that we should not leave our children a world experiencing dangerous and irreversible change.

Canavan, Matt climate……… the man Turnbull has now appointed as resources minister, the Liberal National party senator Matt Canavan.

From the moment he took up the portfolio, Canavan has talked up the “uncertainties” of climate science.

And soon after Trump’s election, Canavan was hailing it as a budgetary boon for Australia, in part because coal mining would be able to continue unconstrained.

“Donald Trump is good for fossil fuels, good for steel and good for Australia,” he told the Australian.“President-elect Trump was very clear in his support for the coal mining sector, whereas President Obama had taken steps to restrict expansion of the coal industry,’’ he said.

“The newly elected president has said he’ll rescind those regulations and that’s having an effect on world markets.”

But at exactly the same time, Turnbull was announcing that Australia would go ahead and ratify the Paris agreement, despite some of his own backbenchers declaring that Trump’s victory had rendered the deal “cactus”.

The Paris pact, Turnbull declared, was “a watershed and a turning point”.

Problem is, it’s only a turning point and a watershed if nations do what they promised – that is, constrain global warming to “well below 2C”, which requires them not only to meet the greenhouse emissions reductions already pledged but also to increase them over time to actually meet that aim.

And that requires the phasing out, over time, of coal.

The latest world energy outlook from the conservative International Energy Agency shows that under the scenario necessary to meet the existing Paris targets (still not enough to limit warming to 2C), fossil fuels decline from 67% of the energy mix to 24%, and 16% of that 24% is carbon capture and storage, the viability of which remains uncertain.

A Climate Analytics report has found that developed countries will have to stop burning coal for electricity by 2030, China by 2040 and the rest of the world by mid-century in order to meet commitments made in Paris.

To underline the obvious, we really cannot simultaneously hail the Paris agreement as a turning point and rejoice in a glorious long-term economic future for the coal industry. Except that is exactly what the Turnbull government is doing…….

November 20, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australian doctors warn about climate change and health

world-in-bedAs doctors, we are worried about climate change, The Age, Marianne Cannon and Joseph Ting, 20 Nov 16   

We are already treating the symptoms. Doctors, standing alongside nurses and other health professionals, are on the frontline in treating people with injuries and disease from severe weather events – such as droughts, bushfires and heatwaves – plus water borne illness… the list goes on.

Worse is coming and that’s why for the past 20 years, the health and medical community has tried to raise public awareness of this issue. Unfortunately, the clearly documented and growing health effects aren’t often spoken about in Australia. In part, this is due to scarce funding, a hostile political environment and the formidable size and scope of the “modelling exercise” required to begin to describe what will happen if pollution continues at current rates.

However, whilst climate change and health research in Australia is limited we only need to look to our recent history as a portent of things to come. Continue reading

November 20, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia near the bottom of the list in international climate policies

Map Turnbull climatePoor ranking for Australia in climate action index released at Morocco talks international ranking of government actions on climate change has put Australia fifth last out of 58 countries. 16 NOV 2016

 Australia’s climate change policies continue to be ranked as very poor in an international comparison of 58 countries.

The latest climate change performance index ranks Australia fifth last – the same rank as last year – in a list of nations responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.

We’re ahead of Korea, Kazakhstan, Japan and Saudi Arabia but well behind France, Sweden and the UK which topped the index.

The report, released at United Nations climate change talks in Morocco, says Australia improved in the areas of renewable energy and cutting emissions but did worse in energy efficiency. Experts reviewing policies pointed to a wide gap between Australia’s national and state level plans for tackling climate change.

“While the former were rather unambitious and uninspired; the latter managed to some extent to take independent action,” the report states.

Australian Conservation Foundation says the report shows the world is watching as Australia’s carbon pollution rises.

“The government spruiks its climate credentials but Australia remains a laggard on cutting climate pollution,” chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said.

While the government’s ratification of the Paris agreement was welcome, Ms O’Shanassy said Australia couldn’t meet its commitments under that deal unless it systematically closed coal-fired power plants and replaced them with renewable power.

November 18, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia’s action on climate change should promote Indigenous carbon farming on Aboriginal lands

book-biggest-EstateBurning country not only maintains its health but makes a statement that country is being cared for. The “biggest estate on earth” didn’t happen by chance, rather, through good fire management practises, the land was kept in good order, a bit like housekeeping.

It’s time to invest in Indigenous carbon farming on Aboriginal lands, Guardian, Rowan Foley. 16 Nov 16 

Australian businesses can take action on climate change by supporting Indigenous carbon farming while contributing to sustainable development goals.

Here’s a touch of irony in the fact the Australian government has invested $200m in the international Green Climate Fund, a United Nations fund to assist developing countries in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.

There is, however, no equivalent investment fund by the government, or corporate Australia, towards developing sustainable economies on Aboriginal lands through one of those mitigation practices, namely carbon farming.

Investment in a sustainable Aboriginal carbon industry would directly impact climate change, Indigenous poverty and the management of traditional lands and waters. These are all key parts of meeting Australia’s commitment to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), specifically SDG13 (climate action), as well as SDG8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG14 (life below water) and SDG15 (life on land). Continue reading

November 18, 2016 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australian Aboriginal Presence at COP22 Climate Summit Marrakesh

First Nations Peoples must demand our participation in the planning of Australia’s climate change strategies, which they have agreed to, at the Paris conference.’
Anderson,Michael Ghillar Michael Anderson | Sovereign Union  8 November 2016:  “First it’s important to know that the delay in countries signing the Paris Agreement was caused by both Australia and the USA threatening to walk away if other parties refused to permit various out clauses.

“Notable and critical examiners of the Paris Agreement all agree that the symbolism was great for the world facing catastrophies because of climate change, especially those of the small Pacific Islands and low coast lands.

“In reality the Paris Agreement leaks like a sieve and permits too many escape clauses for the major polluters and countries  promoting extractive industries, despite the overall great objectives of the Paris Agreement.

“As Aboriginal Peoples of the world the Paris Agreement acknowledges us in the preamble where it states:

“The Paris Agreement affirms the importance of traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples as well as local knowledge systems in adaptation to climate change.
Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge related to their food sources and subsistence practices, flora and fauna and   relationships with their traditional lands, waters and other natural resources are the basis of their traditional economics as well as their cultures, identity and spirituality. Indigenous Peoples’ inherent rights to their lands, cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, land, resources and subsistence practices are affirmed and recognised in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The Paris Agreement specifically recognises the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge in adaption actions and in recognition of the need to strengthen such knowledge, technologies, and practices it establishes a platform for  the exchange of experience and sharing of best practices on mitigation and adaptation in a holistic integrated manner.” … “

November 16, 2016 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Queensland government gives Adani coal mine special privileges

Qld Labor exempts Adani mine from  public submission and appeals on groundwater  Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) 9 November 2016:
“The Queensland Labor government last night passed the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and
Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (EPOLA Bill) and Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (WLA Bill).

coal CarmichaelMine2

““The Queensland Parliament has passed last minute amendments to the Labor Government’s groundwater protection laws.
The effect is that the public, be they conservation groups or local landholders, won’t have any submission or appeal rights
on groundwater licences relating to the Adani Carmichael mine,” said Jo Bragg, CEO of Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) Queensland.

“Adani will still be required to obtain an associated water licence, introduced through the EPOLA Bill.
However, an exemption has been explicitly carved out for Adani
which removes the public and the Court’s power to undertake normal scrutiny of this licence. … ”

Water reforms passed
– exemption from public scrutiny for Adani and retrospective dewatering approval
demonstrate regulatory capture by mining industry  Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) 10 November 2016:

” … two last minute amendments are highly concerning as to their impact on proper management of our water resources
in Queensland from mining impacts, and suggest regulatory capture:

“X   Exemption for Adani from public and Court scrutiny of groundwater impacts of Carmichael coal mine …

“X   Retrospective approval of dewatering activities for many mines in Qld! … ”

Green groups fume over Adani’s water licence exemption

November 14, 2016 Posted by | climate change - global warming, politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

At last – Australia to ratify Paris climate change agreement

logo Paris climate1Australia to ratify Paris climate change agreement, despite concerns Donald Trump will withdraw, ABC News, 9 Nov 16 

The 2015 agreement came into force last week and has been ratified by 103 countries and covers 70 per cent of global emissions.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the agreement as “a watershed and turning point” that spurred international action on climate change……

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the agreement was in Australia’s national interest and would provide opportunity for Australian businesses.

“We believe through the use of technology and research and science and innovation, there will be many opportunities for Australian businesses,” she said……

November 10, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Will Australia back coal at the UN climate talks?

coal plants LatrobeWhat’s in store at the Marrakech climate talks – and will Australia still back coal?, Guardian,  Graham Readfearn,6 Nov 16 

The US presidential race is guaranteed to prove a distraction at the Morocco COP22 gathering, where action is on the agenda. he Australian government takes a delegation to the United Nations climate change talks in Morocco starting Monday – two weeks that are sure to be dominated by, well, who knows?

Because, during the first week, the United States will go to the polls to pick a new president – an event that will act like a giant weapon of mass distraction in Marrakech.

The Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has pledged to pull the US out of the UN process on climate change and cancel the global deal agreed at the last talks in Paris…….

aside from the distraction of US politics, what else for Marrakech – a meeting known as COP22 (so called, if you must ask, because this is the 22nd meeting of the conference of the parties to the UN framework convention on climate change)? And what about Australia’s position?

Since the Paris agreement was gavelled last December, the process to ratify the deal has been ongoing.

This process, known as “entry into force”, required at least 55 “parties” representing about 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions to ratify the agreement.

This threshold was met on 5 October and the deal will enter into force right about … now!…….

Australia has still not ratified the Paris agreement but there are reports this could happen before the talks close on 18 November……

Australia pledged that by 2030, it would cut emissions between 26% and 28% below where they were in 2005.

While the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stands by the target as being ambitious and fair, there are many critics who say it’s anything but……

Australia remains an influential country in the talks, owing in part to its position as chair of the umbrella group of countries – one of many negotiating groups.

As yet there has been no formal announcement from the Australian government on who will attend, but there is an expectation among some that the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, will be there for the “high-level segment” that starts in week two.

The Australian delegation will also have a new diplomat in charge. Replacing Peter Woolcott as climate change ambassador is Patrick Suckling, who took over the role in February after serving as Australia’s high commissioner in India.

During his time in New Delhi Suckling made several statements supporting the controversial Carmichael mega-coalmine project in Queensland, being proposed by Indian company Adani.

“This project will drive economic growth and create more than 6,000 jobs in Australia,” he said in 2014. “It will also boost India’s development by providing electricity to 100 million Indians.”

In one report in the Economic Times, Suckling was quoted as saying the Australian government was trying to tighten legal rules around who could and could not challenge coalmines through the courts (a theme that has re-emerged in recent weeks).

“We are actively thinking of possible ways to limit the scope of litigation to only those with a real standing in a project,” he was quoted as saying.

Language like this tends not to go down well with the army of NGOs, campaigners and civil society groups who attend the climate talks and have given Australia more then a fair share of “fossil” awards over the years.

The perception among many has been that Australia has sought to defend the coal industry too many times at UN meetings.

Will Australia stake its reputation on coal again?

November 6, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia cannot pretend much longer that it is acting against climate change

Map Turnbull climateThe Paris climate deal has come into force – what next for Australia?, The Conversation, , 4 Nov 16   “………  From Paris to Australia Australia is expected to ratify the Agreement later this year. When it does so, it will be committing itself to regularly increasing its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, improve climate adaptation, and provide climate finance.

Like other nations, Australia will have to review and toughen its climate targets every five years, starting no later than 2020, and report back regularly on its efforts.

While Australia’s 2020 and 2030 emissions targets are seen as weak by international standards, doubts have still been expressed about the federal government’s ability to reach them.

Modelling suggests Australia’s emissions are projected to rise to 21% above 2005 levels by 2030 – rather than fall by the 26-28% proclaimed in its official target.

Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund has been criticised as being underfunded and focused on the wrong projects. Recent analysis of the contracts awarded through the scheme’s “reverse auctions” confirms that little real additional abatement has been achieved.

Moreover, likely future changes in land use and forestry (mainly reductions in land clearing) will be insufficient to achieve these goals in isolation or to contribute significantly to future ones. The current policy mix means that tougher – and perhaps even existing – national targets could only be met by buying international carbon credits.

In addition, Australia’s reports to the UN will have to reflect “environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency in accordance to rules to be adopted by parties to the Agreement”. The transparency and accountability of Australia’s emissions reporting was recently questioned by the United Nations and by other parties to the Climate Convention. This too will have to improve.

Like other parties, by 2020 Australia will also be invited to provide the UN Climate Secretariat with a long-term low-carbon strategy to run until 2050. Designing an effective transition strategy will require extensive consultation with state and territory governments, industries, and other stakeholders. Such attention to detail, although essential for building wide and deep support for a future low-carbon economy, has so far been well beyond the ability of politicians stuck in Canberra’s toxic climate policy culture.

In all, the Paris Agreement, although voluntary, can be thought of as a global climate safety net held by all nations. This inclusiveness means that Australia will no longer be able to point to the absence of other states as an excuse for its recalcitrance. It will increasingly be held to account by other nations, and the need for meaningful action will become ever more irresistible, as the net gradually tightens.

November 5, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia could be excluded from UN climate talks: has not ratified Paris agreement

Climate deal must pass, expert tells govt

Australia risks being excluded from the first meeting of countries signed up to a landmark deal on climate change because parliament is yet to ratify the agreement, an international agency warns.

The annual United Nations climate change conference starts in Marrakech on Monday and will also serve as the first official meeting of parties to the Paris agreement struck in 2015.

That deal comes into effect on Friday after 55 per cent of the world’s emitters ratified it but Australia isn’t among them, with the government blaming the timing of the federal election for the delay.

Map Turnbull climate

 It hopes to have parliament ratify the deal by year’s end.

Oxfam Australia’s climate change adviser says the failure to ratify is a disappointment that risks Australia being excluded from the international meeting.

Simon Bradshaw said there was also a bigger issue around the “yawning gap” between Australia’s commitments and the demands on climate action under the Paris agreement.

The deal signed by global leaders agrees to limit global warming to two degrees and commit countries to updating emissions reduction targets every five years. “Australia’s continued recalcitrance risks not only greater harm to vulnerable communities, but also threatens our own economic prosperity in a world shifting ever more rapidly away from fossil fuels,” Dr Bradshaw said on Thursday.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Senate inquiry into bushfires hears of climate change impacts

climate-AustClimate warning at bushfire inquiry, Examiner, Doug Dingwall@dougdingwall

November 3, 2016 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Tasmania | Leave a comment