Mathias Cormann wants to be a chameleon on climate change when we’ve got a bin fire instead of a plan | Climate change


The window for attaining net zero emissions by 2050 and holding temperature increases to safe levels is “rapidly closing”. Evidence is mounting that the world is closer to abrupt and irreversible changes, “so-called tipping points”, than previously thought. Without further action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, “the planet is on course to reach temperatures not seen in millions of years, with potentially catastrophic implications”.

This commentary is not from the annual general meeting of the Wild-Eyed Leftists Association, or the board minutes from the Suspicious Progressives Cooperative of Lower Bermagui. It’s from the International Monetary Fund, a fortnight ago, in the World Economic Outlook.

Deeply depressing, obviously. But rather than plunging us all into existential anxiety, the IMF presented a plan, and the plan was a green recovery from the coronavirus-induced global recession.

A combination of carbon pricing and an “initial green stimulus” would turbocharge recovery, put the global economy on a sustainable growth path post-pandemic, at the same time dealing with a problem escalating dangerously on our watch. The suggested policy architecture was a carbon pricing regime that compensated households, subsidies for renewable energy production, and a 10-year green public investment program.

These ideas probably sound familiar, because Australians have seen them in action.

The Gillard government legislated a similar framework in the 43rd parliament before Tony Abbott rebranded the package a “carbon tax”, and proceeded to drive a riven Labor government out of office. Peta Credlin, Abbott’s then chief of staff, later reflected: “It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know … but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and, when he cut through, Gillard was gone.”

So let’s summarise what’s happened: Australia had a viable policy framework to execute a transition that is both necessary and increasingly urgent, and that framework is gone, because the Coalition in 2013 persuaded a majority of people to elect Abbott to repeal a “carbon tax” that didn’t exist.

That’s where we are.

It’s a bin fire folks.

Emerging from this bin fire requires two things: being honest about what has happened, and learning from that failure.

This year I spent months writing a Quarterly Essay documenting how Scott Morrison – the shape shifter par excellence – did what was necessary during the opening months of this pandemic, whether or not that action conformed with the prevailing ideology of his political movement. Lashings of income support. Free childcare. Double the Newstart payment.

The point of noting this is Morrison has agency. He could implement a green recovery if he chose to. He has significant internal authority. He could use it to do what the country needs. But he’s not doing it.

Morrison has used the cover of the pandemic to creep very marginally away from coal. But the price of that tentative unshackling is Australia transiting through the Coalition’s much vaunted “gas-led recovery”.

I still don’t know if Morrison’s “gas-led recovery” is a bit like Abbott’s “carbon tax” – and by that, I mean a marketing slogan invented for electoral purposes. Perhaps Morrison just wants to pretend he wants to lock Australia into fossil fuels for another couple of decades to hold seats in the West and regional Queensland, and to hold the blue collar constituency the Coalition has been courting since the Howard era, without doing terribly much.

But the signs aren’t great. We learned this week that in July, the Climate Change Authority told the government Covid-related stimulus measures could be calibrated to “build Australia’s resilience to the economic impacts of a changing climate and position Australia to take advantage of our abundant clean energy resources and emerging low-emissions technologies”.

Much like the IMF, the CCA said this would be a “win-win-win opportunity for economic recovery, resilience and prosperity in a low-emissions world”. But the authority’s chair, Wendy Craik, told a Senate estimates hearing she did not know if Angus Taylor, the energy minister, had even read the report. There was no official response.

Also from the week. One of the architects of the “gas-led” recovery is Nev Power, the former Fortescue executive who was drafted by Morrison to lead coordination efforts during the pandemic and plot the path to economic recovery. Power was asked by the Greens senator Larissa Waters at Senate estimates whether he’d applied a climate lens to his various deliberations.

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean by a climate lens,” the businessman replied, which might be funny, if it didn’t make me want to slam my head repeatedly against a wall.

In fairness to Power, perhaps his confusion related more to Waters’ terminology than the substance of her question, but in August, Power was asked whether he had recommended a green recovery to the government. “No,” Power said. “We haven’t recommended a green recovery per se.”

Or, at all.

Let’s be honest.

Seated at estimates next to Power was Mathias Cormann, the outgoing finance minister. Cormann is on the campaign trail to be the next secretary general of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an outfit that has previously criticised Australia for its performance on climate change.

Startlingly, at the start of the week, Cormann told a conference organised by the German government he was on board with a green recovery.

If you were inclined to being droll, you might say Cormann broke out his inner green girlie man. The pandemic, he said, created “opportunities like the pursuit of an inclusive and future-focused recovery, including a green recovery with an increased reliance on renewables, improved energy efficiency, addressing climate change and accelerating the transition to a lower-emissions future”.

I say startlingly because Cormann has been on the wrong side of history when it comes to green recoveries with increased reliance on renewables.

The record shows the finance minister was opposed to the Liberal party supporting emissions trading in the absence of a global agreement when Malcolm Turnbull was shown the door by colleagues the first time in 2009.

Cormann prosecuted the Coalition’s opposition to the “carbon tax” in media interviews and on social media. Cormann then moved against Turnbull in 2018 when the Liberal party was again convulsed by a policy that would have mandated a not very ambitious level of emissions reduction in the energy sector – although more recent events are multifactorial.

I need to pay proper respect to these propositions: people’s views are often more complicated than daily news reports suggest; a politician’s private view may be different than a cabinet position they are obliged to defend; people can be committed to emissions reduction consistent with what the science recommends, and have differing views about the best policy mechanisms to achieve that end (which is how Cormann prefers to frame the shameful debacle of the past decade).

Also, this: if Cormann, one of the most powerful figures in the right faction of the Coalition – the political clique that stands with the resources industry and some thinktanks in doing the most to frustrate progress on emissions reduction – now genuinely believes we need to pursue a green recovery with increased reliance on renewables, then hooray. Good times.

But from what I read, the OECD is going to use the current selection process to reflect on its mission for the coming decade.

Once the world recovers from the Covid recession, and the OECD will be an influential voice in shaping that recovery, humanity will be back into the battle to keep the planet habitable for our kids and grandkids.

Tracking back to where we started this weekend, as the IMF says, we should use this opportunity to combine both imperatives. We should make this recovery from Covid green.

In that spirit, if I were the heads of delegations at the OECD in Paris, rather than indulging in the conventional networking and horse-trading, I would be looking very closely and clinically at Cormann’s record on climate action.

I would be asking myself this question: does a late conversion somehow void the Australian candidate’s previous statements, and his political movement’s decade of shame?



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Coronavirus Australia live updates: PM announces reopening plan as protesters in Melbourne pepper-sprayed | Australia news











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Indian cricket team to quarantine in Sydney after delays with Queensland Health approving coronavirus plan


Cricket Australia (CA) says the Indian touring party will quarantine in Sydney instead of Brisbane.

A spokesman told the ABC the New South Wales Government had approved CA’s biosecurity plan for the Indian team and their families.

The decision follows a drawn-out negotiation with the Queensland Government, which had been considering a similar CA proposal for a month.

When Queensland raised objections earlier this week, CA approached NSW.

The tour is due to begin in mid-November.

After the two-week quarantine, the team will play three one-day internationals, and three T20 internationals against Australia before beginning a four-Test series set down for Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

It is not yet clear where the one-day internationals and T20 internationals will be played, now that the quarantine plans have moved from Queensland to NSW.

The decision follows a comment today from the Queensland Health Minister, Steven Miles, who said it was “quite likely” a member of the Indian cricket team’s touring party could bring coronavirus to the state.

Steven Miles said it was possible a member of the Indian touring party would bring COVID-19 to the state.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

“These are folk travelling from countries with current outbreaks with large numbers of cases and so the risks are much greater,” Mr Miles said.

“The likelihood that one of them will test positive is much greater and so they don’t just need to work through how quarantine works for them, but also what might happen in the case of a positive case, given that that’s quite likely in fact.”

India has recorded more than 7.5 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.



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Queensland border decision still coming before election, Premier says, as LNP unveil after-school care plan


Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says a decision on the NSW border is still coming this month, as she fends off attacks from out of state over the issue as well as a new in-land highway proposal that the Federal Government says has no funding.

Speaking at the Great Barrier Reef on day 17 of the election campaign, Ms Palaszczuk hit back at NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian after comments that Queensland should pull its weight when it comes to hotel quarantine and returned travellers.

Ms Palaszczuk told the Liberal leader she had “enough of her own internal problems” to deal with, referring to the controversy surrounding her relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire.

The ongoing tensions between the NSW and Queensland premiers bubbled over again when Ms Palaszczuk was asked if NSW had its coronavirus numbers low enough to allow the border to fully reopen by November 1.

The Queensland Government was expected to make an announcement today on its border status with NSW.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk spent day 17 of the election campaign announcing a $40 million boost for the Great Barrier Reef.(ABC News: Rachel Riga)

Earlier, Ms Berejiklian accused Queensland of closing its borders “without reason”.

“I’m not going to be lectured by the Premier of New South Wales,” Ms Palaszczuk said in response.

“What happened to all working together? I mean, that’s what we do — we go into that National Cabinet, and we want to work together.”

Ms Palaszczuk said a decision on the borders would be made before the end of October after consultation with the state’s Chief Health Officer.

The stoush comes as Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack labelled Labor’s plans to build an alternative in-land highway from Charters Towers to the NSW border as a “thought bubble”, and said federal funds had already been allocated to other projects.

“There’s already some cooperation happening between the State and Federal Government in relation to [the second Bruce Highway].”

Labor’s plan for an alternative highway comes amid a proposal from Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington to expand the existing Bruce Highway to four lanes in an effort to ease congestion.

“We’ve heard in the past that the Federal Government doesn’t support Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“We’ve seen the extra billions of dollars going to Victoria and NSW … I am simply asking for our fair share.”

LNP unveils $80m after-school care plan

As Ms Palaszczuk announced a $40 million environment and tourism boost for the Great Barrier Reef, Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington unveiled an $80 million proposal to expand before-and-after school care in state primary schools.

Deb Frecklington smiles while visiting children at an early education centre during the Queensland election campaign.
LNP leader Deb Frecklington says the $80 million boost to school care would ease costs on parents.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

“High costs of care are a major barrier for any parents re-entering the workforce,” Ms Frecklington said, speaking at Tugun on the Gold Coast.

“With long-day centres you have to pay for seven, eight and nine hours, irrespective of the hours that your kids are in care.

“And that is very expensive … I was going to swear then … it is a very expensive process.”

On Wednesday, Ms Frecklington proposed a youth curfew to fight juvenile crime in Cairns and Townsville.

The proposal attracted widespread criticism from human rights groups and Indigenous activists.

It comes amid confirmation the two leaders will face off on the eve of election day in a debate to be held at the Queensland Media Club and broadcasted on Sky News.

With nine days to go before election day, Ms Palaszczuk lamented that she would not enjoy the attractions of Fitzroy Island before taking a 45-minute boat ride back to Cairns.

“Not today,” Ms Palaszczuk said when asked if she planned to go snorkelling or swimming at the Barrier Reef.

“I don’t think people need to see me in a swimsuit at this stage of the campaign.”



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NRL grand final fans urged to plan travel


With 40,000 people expected at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium for the NRL grand final between Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers, fans are being urged to plan for a COVID-safe commute.

Allow plenty of extra time to travel on Sunday, wear a mask, and make sure to distance yourselves from others, Transport for NSW warns.

“If you are able to, we urge you to drive, walk, cycle or catch a taxi or rideshare to see your team play in an effort to reduce numbers on public transport,” chief operations officer Howard Collins said in a statement.

“If you must catch public transport make sure you plan ahead and please maintain physical distancing, sit or stand on a green dot, practise good hygiene, use Opal and contactless payments where possible.”

Parking at Olympic Park will be discounted to a flat fee of $20 to encourage fans to drive.

Crowds are also encouraged to arrive early for the pre-match show, and to stay for post-match entertainment to ease pressure on stadium exits and public transport.





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NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet ‘loves’ plan for 80km shared pathway from Sydney Opera House to Parramatta


The NSW Treasurer “loves” a proposal for an 80-kilometre waterfront footpath that would wrap all the way from the Opera House to Parramatta’s CBD.

Dominic Perrottet today said he received the proposal last week and it had come from Labor-linked think tank the McKell Institute.

But he thought their report was “great” and that it was something the Government should consider funding.

“We haven’t done enough to even connect the eastern harbour to the western harbour, let alone go all the way to Parramatta,” Mr Perrottet said.

“So, I think it’s going to be great for Sydney, it’s going to be great for tourists and locals.”

Mr Perrottet said the proposal would be considered for the upcoming NSW budget.

The McKell Institute report estimated the project would cost between $200 and $300 million.

It flagged potential headaches along sections of the route where owners of waterfront homes might seek to limit access to the public.

The proposed route stretches from Woolloomooloo to Parramatta.(Supplied: McKell Institute)

Mr Perrotett said the coronavirus pandemic had “taught us is to really appreciate the outdoors”.

“I don’t think we do enough here in our state, to open up and make the most of the beautiful harbour that we have.

“So, a pathway from the city to Parramatta I think would be perfect for New South Wales.”

There is about 80km of foreshore stretching from Woolloomooloo to Parramatta but access for pedestrians has only been built along 22km of that waterfront.

Locals throw support behind the plan

A woman wearing a white t-shirt with a Daisy Duck cartoon on it stands with a pram beside a river.
Yuwen Qu regularly exercises along the Parramatta River.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Parramatta local, Yuwen Qu, regularly exercises along the river with her young children and would love to be able to go further along footpaths.

“I think it’s great,” she said.

“And it would be great to bring more people into the area on weekends.”

While Ben Hudson, who was fishing for bream and carp this morning, said it would open up a lot more access to the waterways for recreational fishers.

“It’s a shame the river is that polluted that you can’t really eat any of the fish in it, but for us catch and release fishers it’s still a great fishery,” he said.

“So, that would be awesome, it would just give us more access to the river to fish.”

A number of local businesses in Parramatta were also hopeful the idea would be funded.

Vivian Maglia is the head chef at Port Bar near Parramatta Wharf and said it would bring more groups of cyclists and tourists to the area.

“COVID has affected this business immensely but with the ferry and more cyclists and people coming through of course it would be great for us,” she said.

A man wearing a backwards cap and a hoody stands before a river holding a bicycle.
Santiago Arenas said right now there are too many gaps between bike paths.(ABC News: James Carmody)

While Santiago Arenas, who was promoting his E-Bikes business along the river today, said the path could create many opportunities for him.

“There’s really nice bike paths here, but there’s just too many gaps between them,” he said.

The McKell institute report suggests the path be built in stages beginning with routes along Rozelle Bay and Canada Bay, which would connect existing or already under construction pathways.

A 6.3km stretch would also need to be built to link Homebush Bay to the Parramatta River Walk.

The report estimates between 1,645 and 3,145 jobs might be created if the project goes ahead.



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Japan Sticks to Nuclear Fuel Recycling Plan Despite Plutonium Stockpile – The Diplomat


Tokyo Report | Security | East Asia

Japan now has 45.5 tons of separated plutonium, enough to make about 6,000 atomic bombs.

Japan’s government said Wednesday it will pursue a nuclear fuel recycling program that would involve extracting plutonium from spent fuel, despite international concerns about the country’s already huge plutonium stockpile and lack of prospects for effectively consuming it as nuclear fuel.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu, at a meeting with the governor of Aomori prefecture, home to Japan’s pending nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, reaffirmed that new Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s government will pursue the country’s nuclear energy policy.

“The government will firmly promote our nuclear energy policy and fuel cycle programs,” Kato said. He said Japan will make effort to reduce volume and toxicity of high-level nuclear waste, and extract plutonium from spent fuel from a resource conservation point of view.

But critics say continuation of spent fuel reprocessing only adds to Japan’s already large plutonium stockpile. Japan also lacks a final repository for high-level nuclear waste.

Wednesday’s meeting came after the Nuclear Regulation Authority granted a safety approval this past summer for the Rokkasho fuel reprocessing plant, operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., located in northern Japan, for a planned launch in 2022. The authority also gave a preliminary permit for the Rokkasho MOX fuel production plant, also planned for completion in 2022.

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Japan now has 45.5 tons of separated plutonium — 8.9 tons at home, and 36.6 tons in Britain and France, where spent fuel from Japanese nuclear plants has been reprocessed and stored because Japan lacks a plant to produce MOX fuel containing plutonium at home. The amount is enough to make about 6,000 atomic bombs.

Despite security concerns raised by Washington and others, the stockpile is hardly decreasing due to difficulties in achieving a full nuclear fuel recycling program and slow restarts of reactors amid setbacks from the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Japan reprocesses spent fuel, instead of disposing it as waste, to extract plutonium and uranium to make MOX fuel for reuse, while the U.S. discontinued the costly and challenging program. Allowed under international safeguard rules, Japan is the only non-nuclear weapons state that separates plutonium for peaceful purposes, though the same technology can make atomic bombs.

Japan has pledged not to possess excess plutonium and to put a cap on the amount of extraction from spent fuel. The Rokkasho plant operator rules out any proliferation risks, citing tight safeguards and close monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

By Mari Yamaguchi for the Associated Press in Tokyo, Japan



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Elon Musk’s satellite internet plan gets green light from Canadian regulator


The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has approved an Elon Musk-owned company’s application to provide low Earth orbit satellite internet to rural Canadians.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) is Musk’s rocket and spacecraft company.

One of the company’s projects is to bring high-speed internet service to hard-to-reach rural areas around the globe by launching thousands of small satellites that will orbit just 550 kilometres above the Earth, vastly speeding interaction with residential computers on the ground.

Traditional telecommunications satellites orbit at more that 20,000 km above the Earth.

The CRTC approval letter is dated last Thursday and addressed to SpaceX’s chief financial officer, Bret Johnson.

“The Commission received 2,585 interventions regarding Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s BITs application,” reads the notice.

“After consideration of the comments received, the Commission has approved the application and a BITS licence is enclosed.”

The vast majority of the interveners were individual Canadians living in rural areas of the country who support the application.

Aiming for network of 12K satellites

SpaceX has been launching trains of 60 satellites roughly twice a month since May 2019.

The most recent launch took place at Cape Canaveral on Sunday aboard the company’s Falcon 9 reusable rocket.

That brings the total number of orbiting Starlink satellites to 835. Eventually, there will be 12,000 satellites in the network.

It is not clear how soon Canadians will be able to access Starlink’s service.

SpaceX has said it will begin beta tests on the service with volunteer households in Canada and northern areas of the United States this fall.

Musk, who is also the force behind electric car manufacturer Tesla, has been cautious about predicting how well the service will work, telling attendees at the Satellite 2020 Conference in Washington, D.C., in March that it is aimed at the three to four per cent of rural customers “who simply have no connectivity right now, or the connectivity is really bad.”

SpaceX did not respond to a CBC request for comment Monday.



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