About 650 people packed into a Melbourne university lecture theatre to see the launch of the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan on July 14. Held jointly between Beyond Zero Emissions and the Melbourne University Energy Institute, the event heard from a number of speakers about how renewable energy could power Australia.
In late June, two important events related to renewable energy took place. On June 24, the Senate passed changes to the government's renewable energy target, removing the bias towards small-scale energy systems that put many wind farm projects on hold. The scheme set a 20% renewable energy target by 2020.
NASA climate scientist James Hansen has called them “factories of death”. British columnist George Monbiot has said “everything now hinges” on stopping them. US climate writer Bill McKibben is prepared to be arrested to have them shut down. But Australian state governments don’t get it — they are still enchanted by coal-fired power stations. Climate campaigners say Australia should urgently replace existing coal-fired power plants with renewable energy, but 12 new “death factories” are slated to be built in Australia over the next few years.
On June 25, federal trade minister Simon Crean signed a deal to export up to 20 million tonnes of dried brown coal to Vietnam. The deal was signed with ironically-named Victorian company Environmental Clean Technologies (ECT). Fifty people protested outside the venue in Southbank where the deal was signed, despite the rain and only a few hours notice of the event.
The Canadian province of Alberta is well known as a climate-destroying behemoth. The tar sands developments in its north are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. Less well known are the ambitions of its neighbouring province, British Columbia. It shares similar fossil fuel reserves and ambitions as Alberta. Vast coal and natural gas reserves are being opened at breakneck speed. Construction is underway or planned for accompanying road, rail, pipeline and supertanker transport routes.
Kiama Municipal Council will sign an open letter to the NSW government calling for no new coal-fired power stations. Greenpeace, who initiated the letter campaign, says the NSW government plans to approve two new coal power stations in Lithgow and the Hunter Valley. If built, they would spew over 20 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution into the atmosphere each year. Kiama Deputy Mayor, and Greens candidate for Gilmore, Ben van der Wijngaart moved the resolution, which was carried only after Mayor Sandra McCarthy, an independent, used her casting vote in favour.
Protests will take place across the country on July 17 to demand the federal and Victorian state governments close down Australia’s dirtiest power station and replace it with clean energy by 2012. The call for a national day of action was issued by groups active in the “Replace Hazelwood” campaign, including Melbourne’s Climate Action Centre and Environment Victoria. The call has been endorsed by the Community Climate Network, which brings together more than 100 climate action groups nationwide.
On June 15, climate sceptics held a forum at the Brisbane Irish Club. This forum was the subject of a protest by climate change activists. Ewan Saunders is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Brisbane who helped organise the protest. His speech is reprinted below. *** Ian Plimer, Bob Carter, Peter Ridd: these are the real climate fraudsters, never mind the so-called scandals around a few emails last year.
Put Rudd on a boat so that he can see what it feels like to be a refugee trying to run from imperial slaughter, on a leaky boat in shark-infested waters How can these arseholes be so heartless? — lock people up in bureaucratic darkness They say they're Christian, but where’s the compassion? They put Aboriginal people back on rations It’s the Lib-Lab; hypocrisy reigns supreme, they've got their redneck corporate Australian dream they want to make you think you're playing on the same team as them as they are skimming off your share of the cream
The most serious controversy that has emerged in the climate movement this year is probably about the role of natural gas in a transition to a zero-emissions society. The national climate summit in March did not debate gas, but decisions taken there have influenced the debate. A decision of that summit was to campaign to “replace Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power station, Hazelwood, with clean energy by 2012”.