Monday 24 Jan 2022 | 02:59 | SYDNEY
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Climate change

Australia should build its green infrastructure presence

A group of former diplomats are among the many parties making a persuasive case for Australia to adopt a more climate-conscious foreign policy. One particularly beneficial endeavour in this respect would be to fully embrace the increasingly popular and strategically potent financing of regional

A climate changed – Best of The Interpreter 2021

With Australia spared the urgency of a major bushfire disaster over the summer, Roland Rajah foresaw a rapid and positive shift for the country in the economics of climate change. Australia’s natural cost advantage in renewable energy means we would be well-placed in a decarbonised world to

Trouble on the Mekong

Two reports released last month by The Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental organisation that works with the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam to jointly manage the river’s resources, serve as a crucial health check on the state of Southeast Asia’s longest

India, China cop finger pointing in climate politics

Two weeks of negotiations in Glasgow meant that COP26 resulted in a resolution – of sorts. Nations agreed to resume next year with stronger 2030 emissions reduction targets in a global bid to try to alleviate the worst consequences of the climate disaster. It wasn’t the achievement that was

Glasgow delivered, but what, exactly?

The Glasgow climate conference – the 26th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Climate Convention – was held in uniquely difficult circumstances compared to its 25 predecessors: during a global pandemic, facing a two-year backlog of work due to its postponement from 2020

It’s time to talk about existential risk

Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi was having lunch with his colleagues in 1950 when he asked a now famous question: where is everybody? He was referring to the apparent contradiction that, despite the mathematical probability that humans should have seen evidence of intelligent extra-

The dynamics of dust

Many effects of a warming climate are well understood – increased temperatures, longer fire seasons, drought, rising sea level and intense storms. But drier conditions are also increasing the amount of dust blowing around the globe. In 2009, a dramatic “Red Dawn” dust storm overwhelmed Sydney

Is Russia finally getting serious on climate change?

At last month’s annual Valdai forum in Russia, President Vladimir Putin said it was “impossible” to deny climate change when disasters had become “almost a norm”.  Acknowledging the reality and hazards of climate change is a big change for Russia’s leader.  But how

Just how serious is Xi about climate change?

As the leaders of world’s largest carbon emitters meet in Glasgow in the coming days, it is still undetermined whether the single most influential individual of the group will show up. Despite pleas from his counterparts to attend in person, it currently appears that China’s President Xi Jinping

Protecting people who lose their homes to climate change

A long-awaited report released last week in the United States by the Biden administration recommends a new legal pathway for humanitarian protection for people facing serious threats to their life because of climate change. The US has a compelling national interest to strengthen protection for

Glasgow: a tipping point for serious action

In a little over a week, the most consequential climate meeting in human history begins in Glasgow, Scotland. The Earth has warmed by up to 1.3°C since 1880. Devastating fires, cyclones and weather are wreaking havoc around the world. And current emissions trends put the world on a path toward 3°C

Australia, Indonesia and climate change

In February 2020, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo made a state visit to Australia and addressed a joint sitting of the Australian parliament. This was a rare privilege granted to only a few world leaders, and Indonesia’s popular president – known as Jokowi – used the opportunity to

The right climate for central planning

If there really is a marketplace for ideas, it’s fair to say that central planning hasn’t been flying off the shelves of late. It’s not hard to see why. The murderous regimes of Stalin and Mao are not good advertisements for the brand, or for the possible merits of socialism, for that matter.

Coming up for air: global action to stop pollution

The Indonesian government lost a “citizen lawsuit” last month against 32 Jakarta residents after the court ruled that the defendants, which included President Joko Widodo, had responsibility for controlling air pollution in the capital city. The decision also pointed a finger at the governors of

Risks versus opportunities in national security thinking

National security thinkers follow a distinct pattern when they consider Australia’s future defence requirements. For most, the preferred point of view is risk-based. A policy response is framed in military-diplomatic terms, generally a proposal for increased capability and support for the ANZUS

The right climate for Indonesia-United States cooperation

Indonesia is feeling a little ignored. The recent visit by US Vice President Kamal Harris to Vietnam and Singapore led to speculation that Indonesia was not a priority for the Biden administration. “Snubbed again, Joe?” read one local headline. A few weeks beforehand, US Defence Secretary Lloyd

Can the US and China cooperate on climate?

Outlining the Biden administration’s approach to China, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in March that the United States would be “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be”. Climate change looked like an obvious vector for bilateral

Economic diplomacy: Burning down the house

Follow the money Forget Extinction Rebellion, carbon border adjustment mechanisms and doctors’ wives in inner city Liberal seats. When Prime Minister Scott Morrison locked onto the existential message in this week’s United Nations climate change report it seems to have been about how foreign

South Korea’s green goals

Last year, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in launched a climate-change policy branded as a “Green New Deal” as part of a wider stimulus package for the country’s pandemic-afflicted economy. This sat alongside a commitment to achieve a net-zero carbon emissions target by the year 2050

Lessons from the recent cyclone in Timor-Leste

The cyclone which hit Timor-Leste on 4 April was traumatising. We were awakened at 3 am by heavy rain and winds gusting at more than 125km/hour. Water began to flood into our house, and 15 minutes later we had to escape by swimming. The water reached almost two metres. Throughout, I had to keep

China’s climate pivot could reshape the economic future

Diplomacy is not always diplomatic. This fact of international life was on full display during the recent meeting of top US and Chinese diplomats in Alaska. It has also frequently characterised the long-running United Nations climate negotiations – often with the same protagonists. A Chinese

High hopes and hot air on climate change

Amid a very bad week for news about Covid-19, there was a long-awaited ray of hope about climate. Within an hour of US President Joe Biden’s opening to the Virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate, there was new optimism – but no certainty – that catastrophic global climate change might be

Washington risks an unsustainable climate policy

A couple of months after the inauguration of the new Biden administration, the 18 March Alaska summit provided the first big test of US-China relations. While most of the talks between senior officials were in private, tense exchanges during opening remarks suggest bilateral ties won’t fast

The greening of Bill Gates

Book review: Bill Gates How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (Penguin 2021) One of the more significant aspects of Bill Gates’ How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is the simple fact that he wrote it. After all, amid all of the significant work done by the Gates Foundation, it is hard not to

Australia’s place in a decarbonising world economy

A welcome change is underway in the international effort to combat dangerous global warming. It will have big implications for the Australian economy. The United States, European Union and China – the world’s three biggest emitters – are now all targeting net zero emissions by mid-century (

Book review: The Ministry for the Future

Book review: Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future (Hachette, 2020) The Ministry for the Future is a novel set in the near future which describes the disastrous consequences of a warming planet and the steps humanity takes to mitigate them. It is ultimately an optimistic story about

Climate change, a constant battle

2020 had a whole lot up its sleeve. When the year started, there was one big, burning issue in Australia: the bushfires ripping through swaths of countryside, torching towns and choking cities with smoke. Alex Oliver, Lowy’s Director of Research, had a close encounter during what was supposed to

The case for going all-in on renewables

Current perceptions of renewables have been driven by the need to address climate change, a narrow view that overlooks benefits such as reducing our reliance on imported energy and creating thousands of high-tech jobs. As countries grapple with the outwardly ineffective efforts to pass climate

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