In 2020, the world will see the largest annual drop in carbon dioxide emissions in history. The havoc wreaked by the coronavirus and its accompanying lockdowns has seen fleets of planes grounded and factories shudder to a halt. Levels of mobility in the world’s largest cities have fallen below 10
In late 2017, China released its national emissions trading system (ETS) plan, laying out a three-stage transition from regional pilot systems that began in 2013. The national ETS announcement came at a time of intense global interest in China’s climate action, especially given the November 2020
I have known two “professors of everything”: George Seddon and Robert May. Seddon, who ended his days in Fremantle, Western Australia, had chairs in geology, English, environment, and philosophy. The connection, he told me, was language. May’s fields were chemical engineering, physics, maths,
I am writing this from inside an apartment in Melbourne, Australia. A crisp, cool breeze ripples in through the window, as it has done in all autumns past and will do in autumns to come. In between, though, there is something new: a season of unravelling.
We are all speaking an altered language
Wind speeds over 215 kilometres per hour, more than 180,000 people affected, communities and their infrastructure hit hard, and countries in lockdown – Cyclone Harold is the most recent climate-fuelled calamity to wreak havoc in the Pacific islands. Combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, this
Some words capture the zeitgeist, or the spirit of the times. We’ve been talking about “globalisation” for decades now, until it’s become a comfortable part of our intellectual furniture. Pretty soon we might have to get used to talking about “de-globalization”, though, as trade wars and
They called the last one Martha. I’d never heard of the passenger pigeon until a couple of years ago, these small birds that once flew in great nomadic flocks across North America in numbers dense enough to blacken the sky, taking hours to pass. Estimates suggest that anywhere between 3 and 5
Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has repeatedly pledged that his country would lead global efforts to address climate change. Increasingly, however, Japan is facing scrutiny over the gap between its lofty rhetoric and the reality of its climate policies, which include ongoing support for coal-
Change of pace
If Australia’s bushfire crisis has done one thing to inadvertently calm the national zeitgeist during the holiday season, it is in the way climate change has suddenly returned to supplant China as the country’s biggest wicked problem.
But in reality, these two big-C issues
Jakarta welcomed the new year with a new record — the heaviest rains in decades. The deluge left parts of the Indonesian capital under 5 metres of water, which triggered landslides and cut off whole neighbourhoods. Before the water finally receded this week, at least 60 people were dead and
Julie Bishop’s seemingly belated call for Australian leadership on climate change has drawn some predictable criticism. Why, it might reasonably be asked, didn’t she do something about it when she had the chance as foreign minister? It’s a good question. The answer, and Bishop’s own defence
The annual Lowy Institute poll has tracked Australian attitudes on the environment for more than a decade, a mirror of the political vicissitudes in the country. The 2019 results led Matt McDonald to ask, are Australians more worried about climate change, or climate policy?
One fascinating feature
As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films, or TV programs this year.
Ross Garnaut’s Superpower has already been reviewed on The Intepreter. But can I include it in the context of “favourites for 2019”? This book marks not
Is the world currently too awful to contemplate for the so-called “snowflake generation”, which apparently can’t face the realities of life in even the most fortunate of nations? Should responsible parents attempt to insulate their offspring from some of life’s less pleasing aspects for as
Two years ago, Scott Morrison walked into the Australian parliament brandishing a lump of coal. “Don’t be afraid. Don't be scared. It won’t hurt you. It’s coal,” Morrison said, the nation’s treasurer at the time. We can only assume that he didn’t know then that in 2019 he would be
Book Review: Ross Garnaut, Superpower: Australia’s Low-Carbon Opportunity, La Trobe University Press, 2019)
If anyone in Australia deserves the somewhat overused epithets of “public intellectual” or even “policy entrepreneur”, it’s Ross Garnaut. Over a long and distinguished career, he
There has been a surge in climate litigation in national courts over the past few years, especially in the United States. Accompanying this has been growing interest in litigating climate change in international forums, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Chinese officials have recently given some important indications about the design of China’s much-anticipated – and much-hyped – national carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS), scheduled to be launched next year.
Crucially, the scheme, which will initially cover facilities in the power-
Democracy is in trouble. Far from sweeping all before it in an unstoppable historical wave, confidence in democratically elected politicians is collapsing among the young, and authoritarian regimes are on the rise. The decision in Australia to hold a Senate inquiry into the links between national
Indonesia’s dry season has never been easy. Dry winds blow from Australia and rainfall is almost nonexistent, which leads to major forest fires, choking air pollution, and searing heat, along with the energy-sapping effect the season has on residents.
For many parts of Indonesia, one problem has
It was indeed an emotional moment when Pacific leaders and delegates were greeted by small children of Tuvalu – submerged in water surrounding a model of their sinking islands with their call to “Save Tuvalu, save the world”, upon their arrival to the 50th Pacific Islands Forum held this month
Shame is a powerful emotion, but is it powerful enough to save the planet? Almost certainly not. But the question has assumed unexpected prominence as the sensitive Scandinavians and the schoolgirl activist Greta Thunburg spearhead a campaign to encourage us to fly less, simply because it’s the
If only a minister of the Morrison government would be as forthright in identifying climate change as a massive destabilising force in Australia’s region as the Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell has been.
In a private speech in Bowral in June, General Campbell is reported to have sounded
The agonising and often exhausting wait for the monsoon has long inspired India’s writers and poets. But it’s the country’s farmers who know all too well the impact a delayed or indeed a failed monsoon can have on millions of lives.
The monsoon is India’s life-giver, its rebirth and its
The latest Lowy Institute poll indicates that Australians are increasingly concerned about climate change and its implications. Three figures are particularly telling.
First, and perhaps most striking, Australians have identified climate change as the most critical threat to Australia’
Adaptation to climate change was for a long time considered as an abstract issue for the future, something that would need to be worked out later by someone else. Adaptation, in short, is a process of preparing to live with a changing climate where most of our definitions of typical weather and
Climate change is one of the world’s most pressing challenges, and one which impacts humanity as a whole. A recent United Nations study indicates that decreasing biodiversity in our food supply is augmenting the peril posed by climate change and a growing population: nearly a quarter of wild food
China is frequently hailed as a leader in international efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, playing a pivotal role in negotiating the Paris Agreement, and pledging that carbon emissions will peak by 2030 and decline rapidly thereafter. The country has quickly become one of the
As Beijing clamps down on air pollution, it is seeking to replace coal power plants with cleaner natural gas, especially for heating during winter. Consequently, China has intensified relations with Russia, one of the world’s leading gas exporters, to expand energy ties.
But although upping gas
A hand-crafted map on the wall of the Vietnam Academy of Agriculture Sciences (VAAS) neatly captures the country’s strategic vulnerabilities as it emerges as a dynamic new regional player. The map is fashioned out of grains of rice to demonstrate Vietnam’s agricultural production prowess, but it
If global temperatures increase by 2 degrees and sail on past it, the ability to learn how to survive under such conditions becomes exponentially harder.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report on Monday explaining the science around what
When Pacific island leaders gathered in Nauru this month, they issued a security declaration affirming climate change as the “single greatest threat” to the region.
That climate change is a threat to Pacific islands is in some ways obvious; indeed the climate change wording in the “Boe
A new report co-authored by Lord Nicholas Stern made headlines earlier this month with the projection that efforts to transition to a low carbon economy within the next 15 years could add $26 trillion to the global economy. The report is underpinned by the concept of “green growth”, an
Imagine living on a low–lying atoll island in the Pacific and having just survived a severe cyclone. Your island is in ruins and you have lost everything. Humanitarian help is insufficient, your children need urgent medical care, but hospitals are not functioning, and your only hope is to join
The recent release of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map has relieved some “strategic anxiety” around China’s growing influence in the Pacific islands. Beijing committed only 8% of total aid to the region between 2011 and 2018.
If we want to live in a more peaceful world,
The scenes in Japan in the wake of torrential rain that has caused landslides and widespread flooding are heartbreaking. The rains have been described as unprecedented, and the death toll has continued to rise as emergency workers and volunteers search for those who are still missing.
In 2009 the first democratically elected President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, held an underwater cabinet meeting. The stunt was crafted to draw international attention to the plight of many low-lying island nations as climate change causes sea levels to rise, threatening their continued
Australian officials have paid increasing attention to the links between climate change and security. The 2016 Defence White Paper and the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper both clearly set out a view that climate change will contribute to insecurity in the Asia-Pacific region, and specifically
He was hailed as the ‘hero’ of the Kyoto climate talks 20 years ago, but the diplomat who oversaw negotiations for the world’s first legally binding emission cuts had some remarkably simple approaches to success.
The first was to cut back on time. Raul Estrada Oyuela reduced the length of
Southeast Asian governments are starting to wake up to the vast potential of solar energy, under pressure from civil society groups that insist it is time to get on board with a global revolution in renewable energy.
Cambodia's former Energy Minister Pou Sothirak, now head of the Cambodian
At the start of a Global Security course I ask my undergraduate students what they think are the greatest threats to global security. This year I went a step further, surveying academic colleagues around the globe. The results were telling in terms of what was emphasised and what was missing.
One factor driving energy policies across the world is repeated claims by activists that green energy is gaining substantial market share over its despised fossil fuel competitors.
These claims, made for the likes of the Danish, German, Californian and even Chinese grids, are distorting the energy
Years from now, the Paris climate conference may be seen as the point where ambitious long term global climate policy was finally enshrined in an international agreement, and where the world found a formula that enables consistent action. True, there is a massive gap between present policy ambition
It's done: for the first time, the world has a truly universal agreement on climate change. It's not perfect, but the agreement will boost the momentum to modernise and clean up economies. Clean energy in the global power sector, already outstripping fossil fuel investments, is now set to become the
Last week, Lowy Institute non-resident fellow and international security professor Alan Dupont wrote an article in The Australian calling for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to provide an authoritative pronouncement on climate change as a national security issue. Doing so, Dupont stated, would help
People often ask me what I think a successful Paris climate agreement would entail. I’ve said there is a handful of key elements, each tough but possible to get global agreement on, without which it would be difficult to credibly claim success. While I still think all the elements in that handful
By Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus, an intern with the Lowy Institute's East Asia program
Coverage of the Paris climate conference by China's media has been largely positive, with reports portraying China as a driving force in climate negotiations, willing to work with the international community to
The pace in Paris is picking up. Delegates are moving from meeting to meeting, negotiating on the elements of the agreement. Even big delegations are struggling to keep up.
We will not get a good sense of what will have been accomplished this week for a day or so but it is fair to say that
The Paris Climate Conference is underway. This is the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to which 195 states are signatories and, like previous COPs, it has been hailed as the most important climate conference in history. This is
The delegates have arrived and the behind the scenes discussions in Paris are well underway. Negotiators are meeting to discuss strategy and informally coordinate positions. The aim is to ensure formal negotiations proceed smoothly after the fanfare of the leaders' statements tomorrow.