Collective no to new fossil fuels finally burns through

The Sustainable Hour no 364 with Mark Wakeham

The Sustainable Hour no 364

[12:35] Our special guest in #TheTunnel on 26 May 2021 is Mark Wakeham who is from the Australian Council of Trade Unions specialising in working with unions on policies to help them transition to a clean energy job-rich future. Mark outlines the nature of his work right across the broad union movement both in Australia and at an international level. He cites figures that gives us reason for hope about the momentum of the uptake of renewable energy right across the world.

[31:50] Following Mark we have our youth reporter Ben Pocock with another well-researched segment. This time his focus is recycling. As well as the usual products, like glass, he also reports on how unusual items, like tooth brushes can be recycled. Once again he completes his report with very useful links that can be used to follow up his information.

We are so pleased to see Ben’s development as a reporter. Each report he delivers shows more skill development, both in terms of his content and also how he delivers it. He is an important part of The Sustainable Hour team, and we look forward to many future contributions to our show.

We open the hour with this video clip from the Scool Strike for Climate in Geelong on Friday 21 May 2021

[1:00:48] We listen to the speech Sal Fisher from Geelong Sustainability gave at the climate rally in front of Geelong’s city hall, listing ten reasons why a gas import terminal in Geelong is a dum idea.
Sign the petition against this dum idea here.

[36:57] We also welcome back our roaming reporter Rusty. This time Rusty uses his experience in local government over many years to scrutinise the climate emergency action plans that local councils have adopted. He starts off with the premise that if they are taking their declaration seriously they will allocate sufficient funds to its Climate Emergency Response Plan. He focuses on Borough of Queenscliffe and Surf Coast Shire Councils with comparisons and contrasts. He finishes off with advice for councils to lobby for changes to the State Planning Act. For Councils that have declared a climate emergency to genuinely be able to act accordingly on initiating real solutions, we need changes in the law, he says, and this will only happen if enough people become aware of it and begin talking about it and advocating for it. Rusty suggests to start a new group of scrutinisers which will look deeper into these matters. More notes here.

[04:18] Colin Mockett‘s Global Outlook begins in the Antarctic, where an enormous iceberg, 4,320 square kilometres, has broken from the ice shelf. Called A-76, it’s now the world’s biggest and it’s floating free in the Weddell Sea, where Shackleton lost his ship to pack ice. Next Colin zooms us to the United Kingdom, where British politicians and activists are pushing back against plans for a free trade deal with Australia, warning that Australian produce and products have poor climate standards. Then to the United States, where Ford announced that this time next year – the American spring of 2022 – the electric Ford F-150 pick-up will be on sale. The F-150 has been the country’s best-selling vehicle every year for the past 40 years. Ford sells about 900,000 F-150s annually. Comparatively, all the world’s automakers collectively sold 250,000 new EVs in total last year.

Then to Norway where a new study showed that intense storms and flooding triggered three times more people displacements than violent conflicts did last year, as the number of people internally displaced worldwide hit the highest level on record.

In Paris last week, the International Energy Agency, IEA, a 30-country body that co-ordinates efforts to secure energy supplies, released a report that outlined detailed steps required to reach global net-zero emissions by 2050. It said there is a “narrow but still achievable” pathway but that would include an end to all further investment in new gas, coal and oil projects. This was a significant recommendation from a body that was created after the 1973 oil crisis, effectively to keep the West’s petrol pumps flowing. In accord with this throughout Europe, many countries have detailed methods they will use to cut emissions and meet their tightened targets. These include France outlawing short air flights between cities where there is a train service, Austria making it illegal to offer cheap discounted flights, and the Netherlands planning to ban fossil fuel advertising as well as ads promoting aviation companies.

Once again Australia stands out for its unwillingness to take any responsibility for reducing our emissions – in the infamous words of one of our extreasurers, we are “leaners” on the world’s climate stage.

That’s it for another week on The Sustainable Hour. Until next week, we hope you’ll keep exploring and enjoy finding your way to become a climate revolutionary.

“The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced.”
~ Fatih Birol, executive director, International Energy Agency, May 2021

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We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millenia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceeded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that…

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”

The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore the climate emergency are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How utterly disgusting, disrespectful and unfair is that?

“When governments fail to protect people from harm it is important that we know our rights, and how our legal system can help to deliver justice. As climate change increasingly causes direct harm to people and nature, communities around the world are turning to courts and legal systems to seek justice and compensation, and to defend their rights to a safe climate. This is leading to a growing trend of climate cases covering human rights and corporations law.”
~ The Conservation Council of Western Australia, May 2021

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Sal Fisher’s speech at the School Strike for Climate in Geelong on 21 May 2021

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International report: No new fossil fuels 

There can be no new coal, oil or gas projects if the global energy sector is to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and help avoid catastrophic climate change, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has shown in a new report. The report outlines how the transition to net zero can create 14 million new jobs by 2030, almost three times more than the jobs that will be lost as fossil fuels decline.

The report is chock full of numbers. Reaching the net-zero target, according to IEA modeling, starts with spending $820 billion on electric grids annually by 2030. Increasing the number of charging points for electric vehicles to 40 million in the coming decade from 1 million today. Building 20 giga-factories churning out lithium-ion batteries every year for the next decade. And so on.

To understand the full implications of the IEA’s report, however, it’s worth focusing on the words. “It’s not a model result,” said Dave Jones, an analyst at clean energy think tank Ember. “It’s a call to action.”

IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol said Australia had an obligation to reach net zero emissions earlier than 2050, and should phase out coal-fired power stations by 2030.

“The fact that even the traditionally conservative IEA is calling for an immediate end to fossil fuel expansion is yet another nail in the coffin for fossil fuels, the biggest drivers of dangerous climate change,” said Simon Bradshaw, Head of Research, Climate Council. 

“IEA’s report adds to a growing body of evidence that Australia’s gas-fired recovery is unnecessary and dangerous, as many energy, economic and scientific experts have repeatedly said,” Mr Bradshaw said.  

“Projects under consideration right now, like the Narrabri and Scarborough gas projects, cannot go ahead,” he added. 

“Instead of spending public money on gas, which will increase electricity prices and worsen climate change, Australia can and should be working towards net zero emissions by 2035, and capitalising on the benefits of leading the global transition to renewables,” said Mr Bradshaw. 

The report outlines how the transition to net zero can create 14 million new jobs by 2030, almost three times more than the jobs that will be lost as fossil fuels decline.

“As one of the sunniest and windiest countries on earth, Australia has everything we need to be a global renewable energy superpower and create good jobs in new clean energy industries,” said Mr Bradshaw. 

“While states and territories are getting on with job-creating clean energy projects that reduce emissions and electricity bills, the Federal Government has its head in the sand,” he said. 

“We need urgent emissions reductions this decade to curb dangerous climate change and acting fast has many benefits for Australia. By choosing to look the other way, the government is risking people’s lives and livelihoods,” said Mr Bradshaw. 

The Climate Council recently set new science-based targets for Australia. We need to reduce our emissions by 75% by 2030 based on 2005 levels, and reach net zero emissions by 2035.

→ Read IEA’s report Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector – the world’s first comprehensive energy roadmap to net zero by 2050

→ Oil Change International – 18 May 2021:
IEA’s first 1.5°C model closes the door on new fossil fuel extraction
“There is no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply in our net zero pathway.”

→ Financial Post – 18 May 2021:
Spending on new oil and gas projects needs to end immediately to avert climate crisis, IEA warns
“Only an ‘unprecedented transformation’ of the world’s energy system can achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”

→ The Guardian – 19 May 2021:
Shell faces shareholder rebellion over fossil fuel production
“Shareholder resolution calling for carbon emissions reduction targets receives 30% of votes.”

Meanwhile in Australia, new details around the Morrison Government’s plans to use taxpayer money to build a dirty and unnecessary gas power station in the NSW Hunter Valley have come to light. And its dodgier than even its biggest critics could have imagined. The proposed power station would operate about one week per year – and employ only 10 full-time workers, according to its environmental impact statement. 

At an initial cost of $610 million, it will provide enough power to run around 10,000 homes. Yes, you read that right, just 10,000 homes. While it could be among the most uneconomical power projects in history, it’s hardly enough to spark a so-called “gas-led recovery”, especially when you consider that the project’s own proponents say that it may have to run on diesel for its first six months.

Malcolm Turnbull speaking at the Smart Energy Conference & Exhibition 2021 from Smart Energy Council.

“Right-wing craziness”
Former Liberal PM Malcolm Turnbull has said that ‘right wing craziness’ drives the Morrison Government on climate. Mr Turnbull said only the threat of losing seats or power would drive the federal government to adopt what he believes to be a credible international position on carbon pollution reduction as he voiced disappointment in the lack of clean energy commitments in the budget.

“I’d say only the prospect of electoral defeat, whether that’s at the hands of the Labor Party, which would seem implausible, or independents who are supporters of climate action,” Mr Turnbull said in response to a question about what would prompt more government action after a speech at a conference hosted by the Smart Energy Council.

A Building Back Better report by Dr. Rebecca Huntley highlights that 

  • Strengthening Australia’s climate targets and policies to net zero by 2050 would result in $63 billion in new investment opportunities in the next five years.
  • Focusing national policy change on renewable energy could reduce the average annual electricity bill for households by at least $550 a year.
  • Inaction on climate change could cost Australia 310,000 jobs annually by 2050.

→ Sydney Morning Herald – 12 May 2021:
Climate change: Malcolm Turnbull slams Coalition’s ‘right-wing craziness’ towards climate action
Energy expoert and author Ross Garnaut’s recent presentation at the Geelong Library

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Mountain glaciers melting at record speed

“A new study published in Nature shows that nearly all of the world’s glaciers are losing mass – at an accelerated pace. Researchers in Canada, France, Switzerland, and Norway collected 20 years of satellite images taken from a special camera on a NASA satellite. Over 210,000 glaciers around the world (excluding Greenland and Antarctic) were involved in the study and lost an average of 267 gigatonnes of ice per year. The impact on the rising sea levels was about 0.74 millimetres per year (or 21 percent of overall sea-level rise observed during the period). Global thinning rates doubled in the last 20 years.

Rising sea levels pose a threat to the welfare of people in regions like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Panama, the Netherlands, and some parts of the United States. But shrinking glaciers are not just causing the oceans to rise. Millions of people depend on snowmelt for clean water. “They provide cool, plentiful water for many systems throughout the planet,” says Brian Menounos, professor of Earth sciences at the University of Northern British Columbia and. “Once those glaciers are gone, you don’t have that buffering capability.”

“Ten years ago, we were saying that the glaciers are the indicator of climate change, but now actually they’ve become a memorial of the climate crisis.” – Michael Zemp, World Glacier Monitoring Service Director

Will the world be able to deliver on target?
So, with science explaining the necessity to increase the scale and speed of climate action; those renewed and adjusted climate action pledges are no luxury.

Up until now too many individual countries that vowed to meet the Paris agreement fell short of setting adequate goals to meet that challenge. Even if every country met its goal, total global emissions would still push warming well above 2°C.

The newly announced emission goals set the strategic direction to meet the Paris’ accord. However, reaching the targets will be challenging to the extreme. Setting the goal is the easy part. As it is, a lot of countries struggle to meet their (inadequate) goals. And as the newly set intentions are light on detail, the question remains how to deliver on them. Yes, power generation industries face the biggest challenges, but all sectors and economies will be called on to reduce emissions. In many cases the pathway to get there has yet to be determined.

Even so, the fact that leading countries and economies are setting goals for the next underscores the urgency of and the growing international momentum behind climate action.

The challenge beyond: “Even if we get to net zero, we need carbon removal”
The remark came from John Kerry (special climate envoy to the Biden administration) during the climate summit: “Even if we get to net zero, we need carbon removal”. He warned that net-zero emissions by the middle of this century will not be enough to avert catastrophic warming. “To preserve a safe and recognizable global climate, the world will need to start removing the carbon dioxide we’ve spewed into the atmosphere over the last 200 years, which has created an insulating layer around our planet.”

While it is difficult enough to get countries to reduce consumption of oil, gas and coal, carbon removal is yet another challenge to gear up for. It requires more attention and action than we currently see.”
~ Team ClimateLaunchpad, 11 May 2021

“To protect and surf” – on Youtube

#ForNature – on YouTube

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How should we respond to the climate crisis?

Avaaz asked millions of its members across the world, and in 17 languages, what the top priorities should be for the months ahead. 150,000 people responded. These two campaign ideas had the most support:

70.71% voted for: Accelerate the green energy revolution by ending multi-billion dollar subsidies for fossil fuels and ensure government spending is in line with climate science.

57.64% voted for: Win climate laws with teeth that hold governments accountable to their environmental commitments in the courts.

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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.



List of petitions where you can add your name

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Live-streaming on pause


The Sustainable Hour is normally streamed live on the Internet every Wednesday from 11am to 12pm (Melbourne time), but due to the corona lockdown, the radio station has been closed.

» To listen to the program on your computer or phone, click here – or go to where you then click on ‘Listen Live’ on the right.

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