Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 07:00 | SYDNEY
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Sustainability

Obama's legacy: Bold leadership on climate

Battling climate change was a signature issue of President Barack Obama’s tenure, particularly during the his second term. In contrast, President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, vowed to roll back climate regulations such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP

Green power has a long way to go

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

Paris agreement: signaling change for decades to come

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

COP21 Paris update: Tough and uneven progress

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

COP21: Where style is as important as substance

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

Paris update: Anticipation and hyperbole

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. Canada 

Witness a global tipping point: The beginning of the end of coal

This is the first in a two part series by Fergus Green, climate policy consultant and researcher, London School of Economics and Political Science and Richard Denniss, chief economist, The Australia Institute. This post examines trends in coal demand. Part two will focus on proposals to regulate

G20 lacking ambition on climate change

G20 energy and resources ministers concluded the first-ever G20 Energy Ministerial in Istanbul over the weekend. Their communique is an initial response to the call from G20 leaders at last November's Brisbane summit to meet and progress nine agreed principles on energy collaboration. With

Reader riposte: Australia-India nuclear deal

By Ron Walker, currently a visiting fellow at the Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy at ANU. Ron is a former DFAT officer who worked for 20 years in Australia's nuclear diplomacy. Among the positions he occupied were the first Head of the Nuclear Safeguards Branch and Chairman of the Board of

Humanity's carbon countdown

First, the good news. We have enough fossil fuel to survive until the century's end. Today's proven reserves of coal, oil and gas combined is about 83 years (at current usage rates), so Spaceship Earth could make 2100 – the exact date that IPCC scientists have set for mankind's plan to moderate

Why we still need UN climate negotiations

The Marrakesh Accords, the Bali Roadmap, the Cancun Agreements, the Durban Outcomes, the Doha Climate Gateway, the Lima Call for Climate Action – the grand names given to decisions taken under the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) stand in contrast to the meagre progress made on

Lebanon's garbage crisis reveals political paralysis

It's 2014 and it's a beautiful summer evening in Lebanon. As the heat of the day subsides, and the rubicund sun slowly sinks into the shimmering azure sea, breathe deep and you can inhale a malodorous scent that gently wafts up from the pile of burning trash emanating from the Karantina waste

China makes its formal climate-change pledge

China's long-anticipated formal pledge to international climate change negotiations, it's 'intended nationally determined contribution' or INDC, has arrived. China's target is a 60% to 65% reduction in the emissions-intensity of the economy by 2030 pegged at 2005 levels, with carbon dioxide

MRC bows out of Don Sahong discussions

There has been little news of the much criticised proposed dam at Don Sahong in the far south of Laos since the beginning of the year, when the Mekong River Commission (MRC) arranged for a series of public meetings to be held in member countries to discuss the dam. From the start, these meetings

The road to Paris: Ten days and counting

The latest round of negotiations for the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change closed in Bonn last Friday with mixed results. With ten formal negotiating days left until crucial climate negotiations resume in Paris later this year, the clock is ticking. Bonn Climate Change Conference, 1 June

Is the G20 getting serious about climate change?

The G20 does not have a great track record when it comes to climate change. This is a problem, because the group includes the world's main greenhouse gas emitters. G20 countries have agreed to a global target not to warm the earth more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels as part of the UN

Inclusive growth should not be the G20's game

In 2002 David Dollar and Art Kraay, both at the World Bank at the time, published an article in the Journal of Economic Growth called 'Growth is Good for the Poor'. Dollar and Kraay showed that if an economy's growth increased by a percentage point, then growth of the incomes of the poor increased

Post-2020 emission target a test for Australia

Failure to pay proper, high-level attention to negotiations under the UN's climate convention (UNFCCC) seriously endangers Australia's national interest in areas beyond climate change. This is the important headline conclusion from a timely Lowy Institute paper by Howard Bamsey and Kath Rowley. The

Cyclone Pam: A photo essay from a volunteer

By Eva Westfield, who was an Australian volunteer based in Port Vila. Consistently rated the most dangerous countries in the world in terms of disaster risk, Vanuatu is no stranger to the destruction caused by natural hazards. Talk of Cyclone Pam hitting Vanuatu started about a week before it

Australia is not meeting its IEA oil reserve targets

The plunge in the global oil price is a hot topic. Between June 2014 and January 2015, the price of crude has dropped by 57%. Most of the attention has been on the boon for consumers, with a litre of petrol in some parts of Australia now counted in cents, not dollars. But while Australia is

India nuclear deal needs serious parliamentary scrutiny

The Australian parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) will soon review the proposed treaty between Australia and India on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, signed by Prime Ministers Abbott and Modi in New Delhi on 5 September 2014. A 1984 cartoon on Australia's

Cambodia's controversial dam seems set to go ahead

What is happening with Cambodia's Lower Se San 2 dam? Elliot Brennan's citation of a Bangkok Post report of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's speech at the opening of the Stung Russey Chrum Krom hydroelectric dam in Koh Kong province in Tuesday's Southeast Asia links is interesting for a number

City limits: How big will China's megacities get?

Chinese urbanisation will be a globally consequential trend in the 21st century. The path policymakers follow is of profound importance. A noisy debate about city planning has been ongoing for years, essentially between laissez-faire advocates of 'mega-cities' and those arguing for more

Oil drops 50%, world shrugs

What does the fall in the price of oil do for global economic growth? If the price of oil had swiftly risen by 50%, economic commentators would be calling this an economic disaster. In fact the price has fallen by 50% since June last year, yet this ray of good news hasn't pierced through the

Lima climate conference: Slow movement on Planet UNFCCC

As haggard negotiators left the UN climate change conference in Lima in the early hours of Sunday morning, many observers noted the contrast between the political acrimony that characterised the final days of these tortured discussions and the sense of optimism that many felt going into the talks

China's coal addiction

A recent paper in Nature says that 'no other country is investing so much money or generating so much renewable energy' as China. 'Its build-up of renewable energy systems at serious scale is driving cost reductions that will make them accessible to all.' The International Energy Agency reckons

The environment and the news cycle

I loved this bit from US environmental activist Bill McKibben, who is guest blogging on Andrew Sullivan's site: Every day there’s something more immediately important happening in the world: ISIS is seizing an airbase this morning, and California is recovering from an earthquake, and Michael

A breakthrough in Chinese climate policy? Not likely

I argued back in April that China's 'synthetic natural gas' (syngas or SNG, which is gas made from coal) is 'bad economics, bad science and an environmental catastrophe'. I also said that 'what is striking is the ambition of Chinese plans versus the widespread scepticism of SNG worldwide and

Just how expensive is renewable energy?

I raised this topic recently when The Economist pointed to a new Brookings study which argued that the cost of renewables had been severely underestimated. There was some pushback in the comments thread, and now I see that Green Tech Media, an American green energy industry website, has also

From the comments thread: Green energy

Two reader comments I'd like to flag in response to my piece highlighting new research by the Brookings Institution's Charles Frank, written up in The Economist, which suggests renewable energy is still way too expensive to take over from coal, oil and gas. Here's OfKember: The basic inadequacy

Green power still too expensive

This piece from The Economist would have been useful context for the green-energy puff piece broadcast on the ABC's flagship current affairs show Four Corners on 7 July. The Economist has highlighted new research from the Brookings Institution which looks at the full cost of generating various

Climate action: Public opinion is not the problem

A newly released IPSOS Global Trends Survey  shows, according to a Guardian columnist, that Anglophone countries are particularly inclined towards climate denialism: When you click on the interactive version on the IPSOS website, you see that the bottom red line (for the US) shows 32%

China: Climate wrecker or climate leader?

Lisa Williams is author of the new Lowy Institute Analysis, China's Climate Change Policies: Actors and Drivers. The views expressed here are her own and do not reflect the views of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or the Australian Government. As the world prepares to fight for (

Carbon tax repeal: Learning from Europe

In September 2010, the Australian Labor Party's Greg Combet sat down with The Australian's Samantha Maiden to explain why the coal industry 'absolutely' had a future. Given Australia is a leading coal exporter, this should have been unexceptional, except that Combet had been put in charge of the

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