Australian news, and some related international items

Australia failing in migration and humanitarian help for Pacific Islanders in their drowning islands

Pacific Islanders forced to leave, The Saturday Paper, Chris Woods 18 Aug 17,    “Last month,” Ursula Rakova says, “when I returned home just to visit family and talk to the islanders about the situation, it was really, really hard to see a lot of the land being lost to the sea.”

Rakova is from the Carteret Islands, commonly known as Tulun, the horseshoe-shaped scattering of low-lying coral atolls 86 kilometres north-east of Bougainville. “More and more, palm trees are falling, the scarcity of food is becoming a real issue, and the schools close, and close for long periods,” she says.

With an indigenous population of 2700 on seven small islands with a maximum elevation of just 1.5 metres above sea level, there are few other places on Earth where the injustice of global warming is more apparent than on the Carteret Islands.

The Carterets have been on the front line of climate change for decades: one of the islands, Huene, was cut in half by shoreline erosion about 1984. While seawalls and mangroves had been holding the ocean back until this period, further seawater inundation and storm surges over the past few decades had salinated crops and water supplies, intermittently shut down the island’s five schools due to childhood malnutrition, and destroyed homes.

Part of the reason the area is so vulnerable is that, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported a global sea level rise of about three millimetres per year from 1993 to 2012, the fact that water expands exponentially as heat is applied means that bodies of water that are already hot rise more swiftly. For the western Pacific Ocean, this has meant an increase of about eight to 10 millimetres a year.

“The western Pacific is a lot hotter than the water is in the eastern Pacific – hotter by about five or six degrees – and where the islands are is amongst the hottest ocean water in the world,” says Ian Simmonds, professor of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne. “Hence a warming of one degree there gives you just so much more of a sea level rise.”
Simmonds notes that the same is true for the severity of storms in the region: a warmer planet means more moisture, and, therefore, stronger and more frequent storms.

In response to increasingly severe events, Carteret elders initiated a voluntary relocation program in 2006, named Tulele Peisa, or “Sailing the Waves on Our Own” – outwardly a response to failed talks with neighbouring governments dating back to 2001. The group contacted Ursula Rakova, a Huene expatriate who had gone on to direct a Bougainville-based non-government organisation, to lead the initiative. After unsuccessfully applying for land through official channels, she was given four different locations by the Catholic Church in 2007, and relocation to the first of the abandoned plantation sites started that year.

Now, after more than a decade of leading the first recorded example of forced displacement due to global warming, Rakova has almost completed housing for the first group of 10 families. She has successfully established food gardens and a mini food forest, rehabilitated plantations and begun selling crops of cocoa. New education and management facilities have been set up, and both funding and food relief arranged to be sent back to the Carterets.

But the plight of the Carterets is not unique. Three other atolls within the Bougainville area are facing similar challenges with rising sea levels, and extreme weather events have caused internal displacement everywhere from Bangladesh to Syria to Australia.

The Australian government does not, broadly speaking, have the greatest track record on the issue. Not only did then prime minister Tony Abbott refuse to meet a call from Pacific Island leaders in 2015 to reduce emissions – indirectly resulting in Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s infamous “water lapping at their doors” quip – but the current budget offers the lowest foreign aid in eight years, at $3.82 billion over 2016-17.

Yet Australia has offered a range of targeted, if less publicised, initiatives in the region, largely funnelled through the Autonomous Bougainville Government, in consultation with Papua New Guinea……..

Australia was also a member of the Nansen Initiative, a program launched in 2012 by Switzerland and Norway intended to strengthen the protection of people displaced across borders by disasters and the effects of climate change. Along with 108 other countries, Australia endorsed its Protection Agenda in 2015, leading to a range of partnerships between policymakers, practitioners and researchers as part of the follow-up Platform on Disaster Displacement.

The director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Jane McAdam, has worked with Nansen and similar initiatives for more than a decade, and advocates Nansen’s “toolbox approach”. Solutions range from better supporting disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, to developing humanitarian visas in the immediate aftermath of disasters and offering new migration opportunities such as “labour visas, educational visas, bilateral free movements agreements”.

While forced climate migrants are often incorrectly referred to as “climate refugees” – a term that would require persecution – the issues are distinct in a legal sense. The first person to seek asylum on the grounds of climate change, Ioane Teitiota, of Kiribati, lost his New Zealand application in 2015.

McAdam says there is no political appetite to change the United Nations’ refugee convention definition. While there is scope to expand the definition of refoulement, governments are better suited to developing new migration opportunities.

“It’s interesting that both the Lowy Institute and the Menzies Research Centre – two think tanks, one more conservative, the other less conservative – along with the World Bank, all in the last six months or so, have each recommended that Australia enhance migration opportunities from the Pacific,” she says.

“They say this would really make a huge difference to development and assistance generally, livelihoods generally, than would humanitarian assistance – it would cost us a lot less, and it would yield a lot more.”

While Labor offered more overt leadership on the issue while in opposition in 2006, specifically in terms of training islanders for skilled migration programs, neither Coalition nor Labor governments have since restructured our migration system to the extent McAdam recommends……..

Despite Rakova’s work, which led to a Pride of PNG award in 2008, the Carteret group is struggling to fund homes for the final two families, who are sharing houses, let alone start resettling the remaining 1700 volunteers meant to migrate over the next five years. She says the delay, exacerbated by intercultural challenges and the emotional toll of abandoning ancestral homes, is causing anxiety……..

August 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Climate Denial in Australia and USA: the Differences

The Madhouse Effect: this is how climate denial in Australia and the US compares, The Conversation, Professor of Environmental Politics and Co-Director Sydney Environment Institute, University,  August 14, 2017 Michael Mann is well known for his classic “hockey stick” work on global warming, for the attacks he has long endured from climate denialists, and for the good fight of communicating the environmental and political realities of climate change.

Mann’s work, including his recent book The Madhouse Effect, has helped me, as a dual US-Australian citizen, think about the similarities and differences between the US and Australia as we respond to what has been called the climate change denial machine.

In both countries, the denialists and distortionists have undermined public knowledge, public policy, new economic development opportunities, and the very value of the environment. Climate policy is being built upon alternative facts, fake news, outright lies, PR spin and industry-written talking points.

From the carbon industry capture of the two major parties, to the Abbott-Turnbull government parroting industry talking points, to coal industry lobbyists as government energy advisers, to the outright idiotic conspiracy pronouncements of senators funded and advised by the US- based denial machine, the Madhouse Effect is in full force in Australia.

How we can expose and counter this denialist machine? To partly lay out the task, I will discuss three points of contrast between the US and Australia.

Political culture

There is a key difference between the two countries’ political cultures. As much as the denialists have determined Australian energy and climate policy, they have not been as successful, yet, at undermining deep-seeded respect in Australian culture for the common good, for science, for expertise and knowledge…….

Last year, when the government fired climate scientists at CSIRO, there was another huge public backlash. The government had to step back a bit, both on the actual science to be done and the radical agenda change away from science for the public good.

And again, when the government wanted to support the dubious work of Bjorn Lomborg, that caused an outcry from both the university sector and the public. Even though the government wound up paying more than A$600,000 on what The Australian called his “vanity book project”, they couldn’t import him and plant him at any Australian university.

As Mann says, the main issue in implementing good, sound climate policy is no longer simply the science. The main issue is the cultural understanding of, and respect for the role of science in informing political decisions.

That’s not to say there are no attacks on science – clearly, these continue (such as the recent challenges to normal Bureau of Meteorology practices). But, overall, climate denialists and their enablers are outnumbered outliers in Australia, rather the norm.

The power of the carbon industry

My second point of comparison is not quite as positive.

The problem in Australia is less a culture turning against the Enlightenment, and more the direct political power and influence of the carbon industry. ……

even here I think there is some hope. We have seen, over the last few years, an incredible coalition grow – one focused on the end of carbon mining, on protecting communities, on creating real jobs, and on supporting renewables.

Once-unthinkable coalitions of farmers and Aboriginal communities are fighting new mines, new attacks on sacred and fertile land and water.

We have intensive household investment in rooftop solar – and as the feed-in tariffs are undermined, those folks will increasingly invest in battery storage. And we’re finally seeing states move in this direction, with increasing development of utility-scale renewable and storage projects. As hard as the federal government and its allies resist, renewables are growing and the public supports this – even conservative voters.

August 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Parliament passes Bill accusing government of failing to protect Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef

Australian government can’t be trusted with Great Barrier Reef, says parliament
Climate Home, 15/08/2017,  Government loses vote on bill noting the government’s ‘failure to protect’ reef on day of chaos in Canberra, By Karl Mathiesen

Australia’s parliament has passed a bill admonishing the government for failing to protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change.

In a rare event in Australia’s ultra-partisan parliament, the government failed to vote down its own bill on Tuesday evening, after the opposition Labor party attached the amendment.

Labor’s amendment read:

“…the House notes that:

(1) the Government is failing to protect Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef by:

(a) failing to act on climate change;

(b) supporting the Liberal National Party in Queensland in blocking reef protections aimed at halting the broad scale clearing of trees and remnant vegetation; and

(c) winding back ocean protection, put in place by Labor, around Australia and specifically in the Coral Sea; and

(2) this Government cannot be trusted to protect the Great Barrier Reef and fight for Australia’s unique environment.”

The original bill, to which Labor attached the highly-politicised language, was a technical amendment to the act that established the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The reef, which stretches 2,300km down the northeastern coastline of the continent, has been severely damaged by consecutive bleaching events in the past two years. The death of 22% of corals in 2016 was followed this year by a second bleach, leaving scientists questioning the survival of the wonder.

Coral bleaching is caused by elevated water temperatures, which is why climate change is seen as an existential threat to coral reef systems around the world. But the recovery of bleached reefs can be assisted by management of other pressures, including overfishing and pollution.

The Australian and Queensland governments have been criticised by Unesco, the UN body that oversees the World Heritage site, for failing to stop agricultural runoff from impacting the ecosystem. A draft report released in June noted with “serious concern” that “progress toward achieving water quality targets has been slow”.

The Department of Environment and Energy press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Labor amendment…….

August 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

In India, Customs Department accuses Adani of fraud, as Adani bids forAustralian coal loan

If true, one effect of the alleged scheme would have been to move vast sums of money from the Adani Group’s domestic accounts into offshore bank accounts where it could no longer be taxed or accounted for.

Adani mining giant faces financial fraud claims as it bids for Australian coal loan, Exclusive: Allegations by Indian customs of huge sums being siphoned off to tax havens from projects are contained in legal documents but denied by company, Guardian, Michael Safi in Delhi, 16 Aug 17, A global mining giant seeking public funds to develop one of the world’s largest coal mines in Australia has been accused of fraudulently siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowed money into overseas tax havens.

Indian conglomerate the Adani Group is expecting a legal decision in the “near future” in connection with allegations it inflated invoices for an electricity project in India to shift huge sums of money into offshore bank accounts.

The directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) file, compiled in 2014, maps out a complex money trail from India through South Korea and Dubai, and eventually to an offshore company in Mauritius allegedly controlled by Vinod Shantilal Adani, the older brother of the billionaire Adani Group chief executive, Gautam Adani.

Vinod Adani is the director of four companies proposing to build a railway line and expand a coal port attached to Queensland’s vast Carmichael mine project.

The proposed mine, which would be Australia’s largest, has been the source of years of intense controversy, legal challenges and protests over its possible environmental impact.

Expanding the coal port to accommodate the mine will require dredging an estimated 1.1m cubic metres of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef marine park. Coal from the mine will also produce annual emissions equivalent to those of Malaysia or Austria according to one study.

One of the few remaining hurdles for the Adani Group is to raise finance to build the mine as well as a railway line to transport coal from the site to a port at Abbot Point on the Queensland coast.

To finance the railway Adani hopes to persuade the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (Naif), an Australian government-backed investment fund, to loan the Adani Group or a related entity about US$700m (A$900m) in public money.

While it awaits the decision on the loan, in Delhi the company is also expecting the judgment of a legal authority appointed under Indian financial crime laws in connection to allegations it siphoned borrowed money overseas.

The Adani Group fully denies the accusations, which it has challenged in submissions to the authority.

The investigation

News of the investigation was first reported in India three years ago, but the full customs intelligence document reveals forensic details of the workings of the alleged fraud which have not been publicly revealed.

The 97-page file accuses the Adani Group of ordering hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment for an electricity project in western India’s Maharashtra state using a front company in Dubai.

To read the pdf click here. Continue reading

August 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

World first: shareholders sue Commonwealth Bank of Australia for misleading shareholders over climate risks

Climate change is a financial risk, according to a lawsuit against the CBA The Conversation, August 16, 2017 , Anita Foerster, Senior Research Fellow, University of Tasmania, Jacqueline Peel, Professor of Environmental and Climate Law, University of Melbourne The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has been in the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons. Beyond money-laundering allegations and the announcement that CEO Ian Narev will retire early, the CBA is now also being sued in the Australian Federal Court for misleading shareholders over the risks climate change poses to their business interests.

This case is the first in the world to pursue a bank over failing to report climate change risks. However, it’s building on a trend of similar actions against energy companies in the United States and United Kingdom.

  1. The CBA case was filed on August 8, 2017 by advocacy group Environmental Justice Australia on behalf of two longstanding Commonwealth Bank shareholders. The case argues that climate change creates material financial risks to the bank, its business and customers, and they failed in their duty to disclose those risks to investors.

    This represents an important shift. Conventionally, climate change has been treated by reporting companies merely as a matter of corporate social responsibility; now it’s affecting the financial bottom line.

    What do banks need to disclose?

    When banks invest in projects or lend money to businesses, they have an obligation to investigate and report to shareholders potential problems that may prevent financial success. (Opening a resort in a war zone, for example, is not an attractive proposition.)

    However, banks may now have to take into account the risks posed by climate change. Australia’s top four banks are heavily involved in fossil-fuel intensive projects, but as the world moves towards renewable energy those projects may begin to look dubious.

  2. As the G20’s Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures recently reported, climate risks can be physical (for instance, when extreme weather events affect property or business operations) or transition risks (the effect of new laws and policies designed to mitigate climate change, or market changes as economies transition to renewable and low-emission technology).

    For example, restrictions on coal mining may result in these assets being “stranded,” meaning they become liabilities rather than assets on company balance sheets. Similarly, the rise of renewable energy may reduce the life span, and consequently the value, of conventional power generation assets.

    Companies who rely on the exploitation of fossil fuels face increasing transition risks. So too do the banks that lend money to, and invest in, these projects. It is these types of risks that are at issue in the case against CBA………

August 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, legal | Leave a comment

Australia’s national security impacted by climate change: Senate investigation

Senate investigates climate change’s impact on national security, Michelle Wisbey@MichelleWisbey1, 13 Aug 2017,Climate change could become a “driver of poverty and inequality” and a threat to Australia’s security if it is not addressed, a senate committee was told. 

The call came as submissions closed for an inquiry examining the implications of climate change on national security. Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie sits on the committee and said defence had been proactive in the area, but needed to be better.  “Defence needs to work more productively with local government and businesses in terms of defence procurement to ensure everyone is meeting environmental standards,” she said.   “I would like to see voluntary national service implemented to ensure when natural disasters strike, we have the numbers to support SES and the communities affected.”

The inquiry will also investigate the capacity of national security agencies to respond to the risks of climate change, as well as the role of climate mitigation policies.

The Climate Council said in its submission to the inquiry that climate change posed a growing threat to human well-being, and would go on to put the Australian Defence Force under significant pressure. “These events affect individuals and societies through the displacement of people, damage to critical infrastructure, and damage to health and livelihoods,” it said. “The ADF will increasingly be called upon to deliver humanitarian assistance in response to extreme weather and its impacts both at home and overseas.”

Former Defence Force chief Chris Barrie said urgent action was needed to mitigate the “potentially disastrous consequences” of not taking action. “We are approaching a time soon when there will be a serious possibility that no amount of effort in deploying the limited resources we have available will be able to ameliorate the national security problems and challenges we are confronting,” Admiral Barrie said.

World Vision Australia recommended that a Climate Change Strategy for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade be developed and implemented.“The impact of climate change on vulnerable communities in the Asia-Pacific region is of concern to Australia, and left unaddressed will likely become a driver of poverty and inequality,” it said. “Over time, this will have implications for the security and stability of Australia’s region.”

August 14, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Rising sea levels endanger Australia’s surf life-saving clubs

OUR FUTURE | Rescuers may need saving from climate changes, Bendigo Advertiser 13 Aug 2017, Rising sea levels and warming oceans are putting Australian surf life-saving clubs under increasing pressure, creating dangerous surf conditions and hindering the ability of life-savers to provide supervision and safety to beachgoers.

Life-saving clubs provide a valuable community service, yet their coastal position renders them vulnerable to the effects of intensifying climate change………

changing wave and tidal patterns are already eroding the sand dunes in front of our club house. This is due to rising sea levels, driven by worsening climate change.

This creates an aquatic environment that is increasingly difficult to contend with, creating deeper troughs, shallower sandbars and faster-forming rips.

Climate change is also driving hotter summers, with the Bureau of Meteorology showing January’s average temperature to be 0.78 degrees above average. This creates scorching conditions more often, prompting many Australians to flock to the beach to seek relief.

Lifesavers and lifeguards are becoming busier with a greater number of beachgoers. Hotter temperatures are increasing the incidence rates of sunburn and heatstroke, and more people in the water will likely result in more aquatic rescues.

Sophie Welsh is cadet co-ordinator of Point Leo Surf Lifesaving Club, Victoria.

August 14, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Legal case – a world first – against the Commonwealth Bank, over its failure to disclose climate risks

New CBA case a warning: Step up on climate change, or we’ll see you incourt John Hewson, Despite the scale and urgency of the climate crisis and popular support for action, governments and financiers are failing to act. This will have to change  John Hewson is a professor at ANU and a former Liberal leader, In a global first, Australian mum-and-dad shareholders Guy and Kim Abrahams have launched a case against the Commonwealth Bank, arguing that the bank has breached the law by not disclosing the risks climate change poses to its business. Continue reading

August 12, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, legal | Leave a comment

Inquiry into the security ramifications of climate change – warning on Australia’s risks

Australia faces potentially disastrous consequences of climate change, inquiry told
Former defence force chief decries Australia’s response to climate challenge as a ‘manifest failure of leadership’, Guardian, 
Ben Doherty and Michael Slezak, 11 Aug 17.

Military and climate experts, including a former chief of the defence force, have warned that Australia faces potential “disastrous consequences” from climate change, including “revolving” natural disasters and the forced migration of tens of millions of people across the region, overwhelming security forces and government.

Former defence force chief Adm Chris Barrie, now adjunct professor at the strategic and defence studies centre at the Australian National University, said in a submission to a Senate inquiry that Australia’s ability to mitigate and respond to the impacts of climate change had been corrupted by political timidity: “Australia’s climate change credentials have suffered from a serious lack of political leadership”.

The inquiry into the security ramifications of climate change also heard from some of the country’s leading climate scientists, who warned the security threats posed by climate change had been underestimated, and complained Australia had been “walking away” from exactly the type of research that would help the country prepare……

Barrie said the security threat of climate change was comparable to that posed by nuclear war, and said the Australian continent would be most affected by changing climate.

 “We will suffer great effects from these changes, such as new weather patterns; droughts, sea-level rises and storm surges, because we have substantial urban infrastructure built on the coastal fringe; ravages of more intense and more frequent heatwaves and tropical revolving storms.”

But he said the existential impacts of climate change were likely to be first, and most severely, felt across Australia’s region, the Asia-Pacific rim, the most populous region in the world, and one that will be home to seven billion people by 2050……..

The Australian Defence Force has been examining the potential insecurities caused by climate change for a decade. Within Defence, there are serious concerns over the vulnerability of military bases to climate impacts, and the military’s reliance on fossil fuels.

But Barrie said political action lagged far behind and Australia’s hyper-politicised debate over climate had hampered decisive government action.

“Our current posture is a manifest failure of leadership,” he said……..

Jane McAdam, director of UNSW’s Kaldor centre for international refugee law told the inquiry climate change functioned as a “threat amplifier”, that magnified risk and exacerbated existing crises.

“Disasters become disasters on steroids: more frequent and more intense. Climate change is also a process. Slow-onset impacts such as sea-level rise or desertification take place over time, resulting in a gradual deterioration of living conditions that ultimately renders land uninhabitable.”……

McAdam said most displacement and migration would occur within countries, not across national borders.

“Longer-term movement will generally be gradual rather sudden, and movement that is sudden (for instance, in the aftermath of a disaster) will often require temporary relief rather than permanent migration. There is scant evidence to justify claims that there will be mass outflows of people across international borders which will threaten international, regional or national security, or generate new risks of Islamist terrorism or fundamentalism.”……

August 11, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | 1 Comment

Sunshine Coast church communities unite in concern about climate change

Why Sunshine Coast church groups fear climate change, Bill Hoffman | 8th Aug 2017 CONCERN for the welfare of future generations and protection of the environment were the principal concerns that drove more than 1000 people of faith on the Sunshine Coast to sign a petition calling on the Federal Government to do more to address the looming impact of climate change.

August 9, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Australia’s ski industry faces continuing problems due to climate change

Snowy retreat: Climate change puts Australia’s ski industry on a downhill slope, SMH, Peter Hannam, 8 Aug 17 Australia’s ski resorts face the prospect of a long downhill run as a warming climate reduces snow depth, cover and duration. The industry’s ability to create artificial snow will also be challenged, scientists say.

Resorts are also going to become more reliant on big snow dumps such as this weekend’s blizzard – after a poor start to the season – as the frequency of smaller, top-up snowfalls diminish.

A snow retreat has been observed for half a century, with rising temperatures rather than reduced precipitation to blame, according to a major CSIRO-Bureau of Meteorology report. Under high greenhouse gas emissions pathway, snow at lower-elevation sites such as Mt Buffalo could all but disappear by 2050.

Warming springs have led to stark impacts at the end of the ski season. Early October snow depths fell 30 per cent during the 2000-13 period compared with 1954-99, a separate study in 2015 found.

Snow is a “threshold variable”. A slight temperature rise can turn snowflakes into rain that washes away, rather than adds to, snow cover.

That’s why all climate projections point in one direction, says Tom Remenyi, a researcher at the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. It’s both “encouraging and terrifying” that observations have matched models, giving researchers confidence about their bleak predictions, he said…….

Snow guns are becoming less efficient as humidity rises, reduce output of artificial snow by as much as 70 per cent as they ice up, Dr Remenyi said.

New “snow factories” have been introduced to Mt Buller and Mt Selwyn in Victoria, and more are likely. They create ice shavings with longer durability than gun-fired snow.

But warming temperatures will raise costs to maintain artificial snow cover, Dr Remenyi said. A study he helped write on the potential impact of climate change on Victoria’s resorts found that “by 2020- 2030 conditions suitable for snowmaking are projected to decline substantially”………..

‘Fragile ecology’

And as the NSW Nature Conservation Council notes in a new study on the effects of a warming planet, impacts in alpine regions aren’t restricted to humans’ winter pastimes.

The endangered pygmy possum, for instance, has had its range shrunk to a little as 10 square kilometres.

“The wildlife that lives in the Australia snowfields are at the front line of global warming because they are so sensitive to rising temperatures and changed snowfall patterns,” Kate Smolski, council chief executive, said.

“If deep, long-lasting snow cover disappears, the fragile ecology of snowfields will unravel because the plants and animals that live there have nowhere else to go.”

August 9, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Victoria | Leave a comment

Legal action against Commonwealth Bank over its failure to disclose climate change risk in report 

Commonwealth Bank faces legal action over failure to disclose climate change risk in report  By Emma Younger, Two shareholders have launched legal action against the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for allegedly failing to adequately disclose the risk climate change poses to its financial position.

Proceedings have been filed in the Federal Court on behalf of shareholders Guy and Kim Abrahams claiming the bank did not disclose the risk in its 2016 annual report.

The shareholders alleged it was a breach of the Corporations Act which required businesses to give a true and fair view of their financial position and performance.

Earlier this year, one of Australia’s financial regulators warned climate change could threaten the stability of the entire financial system, as it prepared to apply climate change “stress tests” to the nation’s financial institutions.

Case could set precedent

Geoff Summerhayes, an executive board member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), said it expected big companies to carefully consider the risks and warned company directors could be liable if they failed to do so.

A lawyer for Environmental Justice Australia, David Barnden, said the Federal Court action would be a test case which could have wide-ranging repercussions.

“This case is the first of its kind to test the extent of climate change risk disclosure in annual reports,” he said. The claim sought an injunction to stop the Commonwealth Bank from making similar omissions in future annual reports.

The bank’s 2016 annual report discussed climate change as an environment, social and governance priority.

‘Financial interest’ in climate change

Mr Barnden said it should have been disclosed as a major or material risk.

“Generally climate change risks pose financial risks to a bank like CBA by virtue of the bank receiving mortgage repayments from people who own residential housing on the coast — those houses might be at risk from things like sea level rise,” he said.

“There’s other financial risks that CBA has in terms of its loans to fossil fuel companies.

“So as the market adjusts to a low carbon economy, the bank may not receive those repayments.” Shareholder Guy Abrahams is a climate change advocate who bought shares in the bank 25 years ago.

“As their customers and as their shareholders and even people who invest through their superannuation would have a financial interest, most of them, in the Commonwealth Bank, this is a matter of public interest,” Mr Abrahams said.

“This is a really important issue and I think the bank should lead by example.”

Mr Barnden said there was also reputational risks for the bank with shareholders raising concerns about the bank’s position on funding Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine.

“We say that the Adani mine is a substantial matter of concern for the Australian public and that the shareholder needs to know how the bank is dealing with that concern,” he said.

The Commonwealth Bank has been contacted for comment.

August 9, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia must wake up to the climate disaster facing Pacific Islanders

Australia doesn’t ‘get’ the environmental challenges faced by Pacific Islanders  Steven Cork, Adjunct Associate Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Kate Auty, Vice Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Melbourne, August 7, 2017 What actions are required to implement nature-based solutions to Oceania’s most pressing sustainability challenges? That’s the question addressed by the recently released Brisbane Declaration on ecosystem services and sustainability in Oceania.

There once was an Island

Compiled following a forum earlier this year in Brisbane, featuring researchers, politicians and community leaders, the declaration suggests that Australia can help Pacific Island communities in a much wider range of ways than simply responding to disasters such as tropical cyclones.

Many of the insights offered at the forum were shocking, especially for Australians. Over the past few years, many articles, including several on The Conversation, have highlighted the losses of beaches, villages and whole islands in the region, including in the Solomons, Catarets, Takuu Atoll and Torres Strait, as sea level has risen. But the forum in Brisbane highlighted how little many Australians understand about the implications of these events.

Over the past decade, Australia has experienced a range of extreme weather events, including Tropical Cyclone Debbie, which hit Queensland in the very week that the forum was in progress. People who have been directly affected by these events can understand the deep emotional trauma that accompanies damage to life and property.

At the forum, people from several Pacific nations spoke personally about how the tragedy of sea-level rise is impacting life, culture and nature for Pacific Islanders.

One story, which has become the focus of the play Mama’s Bones, told of the deep emotional suffering that results when islanders are forced to move from the land that holds their ancestors’ remains.

The forum also featured a screening of the film There Once Was an Island, which documents people living on the remote Takuu Atoll as they attempt to deal with the impact of rising seas on their 600-strong island community. Released in 2011, it shows how Pacific Islanders are already struggling with the pressure to relocate, the perils of moving to new homes far away, and the potentially painful fragmentation of families and community that will result.

Their culture is demonstrably under threat, yet many of the people featured in the film said they receive little government or international help in facing these upheavals. Australia’s foreign aid budgets have since shrunk even further.

As Stella Miria-Robinson, representing the Pacific Islands Council of Queensland, reminded participants at the forum, the losses faced by Pacific Islanders are at least partly due to the emissions-intensive lifestyles enjoyed by people in developed countries.

Australia’s role

What can Australians do to help? Obviously, encouraging informed debate about aid and immigration policies is an important first step. As public policy researchers Susan Nicholls and Leanne Glenny have noted, in relation to the 2003 Canberra bushfires, Australians understand so-called “hard hat” responses to crises (such as fixing the electricity, phones, water, roads and other infrastructure) much better than “soft hat” responses such as supporting the psychological recovery of those affected.

Similarly, participants in the Brisbane forum noted that Australian aid to Pacific nations is typically tied to hard-hat advice from consultants based in Australia. This means that soft-hat issues – like providing islanders with education and culturally appropriate psychological services – are under-supported.

The Brisbane Declaration calls on governments, aid agencies, academics and international development organisations to do better. Among a series of recommendations aimed at preserving Pacific Island communities and ecosystems, it calls for the agencies to “actively incorporate indigenous and local knowledge” in their plans.

At the heart of the recommendations is the need to establish mechanisms for ongoing conversations among Oceanic nations, to improve not only understanding of each others’ cultures but of people’s relationships with the environment. Key to these conversations is the development of a common language about the social and cultural, as well as economic, meaning of the natural environment to people, and the building of capacity among all nations to engage in productive dialogue (that is, both speaking and listening).

This capacity involves not only training in relevant skills, but also establishing relevant networks, collecting and sharing appropriate information, and acknowledging the importance of indigenous and local knowledge.

Apart from the recognition that Australians have some way to go to put themselves in the shoes of our Pacific neighbours, it is very clear that these neighbours, through the challenges they have already faced, have many valuable insights that can help Australia develop policies, governance arrangements and management approaches in our quest to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

This article was co-written by Simone Maynard, Forum Coordinator and Ecosystem Services Thematic Group Lead, IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management.

August 7, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Did Queensland Resources Council urge Great Barrier Reef experts to ignore climate change?

Queensland Resources Council denies urging Great Barrier Reef experts to ignore climate change, ABC, By Louisa Rebgetz, 2 Aug 17, The mining industry’s lobby group urged key advisors on the Great Barrier Reef not to consider climate change in the Reef 2050 plan, according to documents.

However, the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said its position on climate change had been misrepresented in the notes, taken at Reef Advisory Committee (RAC) meetings in May this year.

The RAC’s role is to advise marine park authorities on ways to address risks to the reef and to assist with policy development.

The ABC has obtained an earlier copy of two reports by the Reef 2050 Independent Expert Panel and the RAC from meetings to advise on responding to mass coral bleaching events on the reef.

Committee members expressed the view both the Australian and Queensland Government’s position on coal extraction was “not consistent with its position on protecting the Great Barrier Reef” and stated the Adani’s Carmichael coal mine “should not proceed”.

The documents contained notes detailing the QRC’s position and stated the QRC did not support the committee making statements regarding climate change.

According to the notes, the QRC argued there was no direct scientific link between coal mining and climate change.

“NOTE — Queensland Resources Council believes that the Reef 2050 Plan should continue to focus on actions to support coral resilience but should not deal with direct action to address climate change,”…….

August 7, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Australia’s national security is threatened by climate change

Climate change a serious threat to national security: Climate Council, 5 Aug 17  INTENSIFYING climate change poses a serious threat to Australia’s national security and we are not sufficiently prepared, according to a new submission released from the Climate Council.

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzies said urgent reforms are needed in order for Australia’s defence forces to deal with the vast and far-reaching impacts of climate change.

She warns more resources and stronger planning is needed to enable the defence force to tackle the increasing threat as extreme weather events, such as bushfires, floods and cyclones become more intense. “The Australian Defence force will have to play an increasing role at home and in the Pacific as extreme weather events become more frequent and forceful,” Ms McKenzies said.

“This requires more resources and strong planning. To bury our heads in the sand would risk not being able to cope effectively.

“When it comes to tackling this threat, Australia is at risk of being labelled Missing In Action, all while the UK and US militaries have spent years preparing for intensifying climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels.”

It comes after 2016 was named the hottest year on earth, smashing consecutive records set in 2015 and 2014, as a result of rising greenhouse gas levels from the burning of coal, oil and gas. See below story.

McKenzie said the Climate Council’s recommendations span from military planning and operations, through to training, testing and acquisition.

“These recommendations have already been rolled out and implemented in the US and the UK. Australia cannot ignore these critical footsteps already taken by our strategic allies,” she said.

“We’ve even seen the fingerprints of climate change in Syria’s civil war. The country’s severe drought, which was exacerbated by climate change, contributed to instability in Syria.”

“This should serve as a warning signal for the Australian Defence Force. Australia and its military must be equipped and prepared in the face of worsening climate change.”


August 5, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment