Monday, November 30, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Meet and bleat
Australia’s emissions targets have been soft – they’re about to get harder

Image of Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

With another summer of heatwaves and bushfires getting underway, Labor opened Question Time this afternoon by asking why the Morrison government had spent “not one cent” of the $400 million available for bushfire resilience and recovery, and why it had rejected a recommendation of the bushfires royal commission to establish a sovereign aerial firefighting capability. On the first point, Emergency Management Minister and deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud responded that the government had spent $1.2 billion of a separate, broader $2 billion disaster recovery fund and that “whatever needs to be spent will be spent”. On the second point, Littleproud said it was “incorrect” that the government had rejected the royal commission’s recommendation that 128 of 158 firefighting aircraft should be Australian, and that the decision should be left to the peak council of Australian fire commissioners. Littleproud said the government would take the advice of the professionals, warning the Opposition, “Don’t use the desperation of politics to actually politicise something that should be above that.” Okay, but last week, as The Saturday Paper reported, Nationals leader Michael McCormack was wedging the Opposition for all he was worth, declaring: “The Nationals are all as one when it comes to coal and when it comes to what we need to do for regional and rural economies … Labor, well, they wouldn’t know the regions if it bounced up and hit them in the face and certainly they don’t support coal.”

The energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, today released the June 2020 quarterly update for the national greenhouse gas inventory, showing that Australia had exceeded its Kyoto target for the 2013–20 period, which was to reduce 2000 emissions by 5 per cent (equivalent to reducing 1990 emissions by 0.5 per cent according to this analysis by the Parliamentary Library). Recognising that we are a fast-growing, fossil-fuel dependent economy, the Kyoto Protocol set the bar for Australia very low. Constant Coalition bragging about meeting and beating these soft targets is ridiculous. As The Australian reported this morning, emissions fell by 3 per cent to 513.4 million tonnes in the 2020 financial year (including a 6.2 per cent drop in the COVID-impacted June quarter), the lowest since 1998, and 16.6 per cent below 2005 levels. Taylor claimed that the data showed Australia was on track to achieve the Paris target of lowering emissions by 26–28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, but the policies that will get the country there are all courtesy of the states and territories, who have adopted a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. As the AFR reported on the weekend, the energy industry is adopting the target unofficially. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and Resources Minister Keith Pitt refuse to budge. 

The Carbon Market Institute has released its 2020 Australian Climate Policy Survey, which found that 76 per cent of 234 business respondents think the Morrison government is not sufficiently integrating climate goals in its economic response to the pandemic, and a whopping 88 per cent say Australia should have a target of net-zero by 2050, up from 83 per cent last year.

Shadow climate change and energy minister Mark Butler said that, after seven years, the Coalition “still haven’t delivered a national climate change policy to modernise our economy and cut pollution. Instead of real climate policy that will grow jobs, modernise industry and lead the recovery, Scott Morrison is counting on emissions reduction from the recession, the drought and Labor’s Renewable Energy Target to deliver pollution cuts.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt said Australia’s drop in emissions is driven by COVID-19, and that our emissions targets, already some of the weakest in the developed world, are under renewed pressure after the US election of Joe Biden who has called on nations to lift 2030 targets. “COVID is not a climate policy,” Bandt said. “As Australia emerges from the worst of the pandemic, emissions are set to rise again because the government has no climate plan.”

“The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Australian government has sought an official apology from the Chinese government over a tweet by a foreign affairs ministry official (see below) and has also asked Twitter to pull down the tweet.

“Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.”

Lijian Zhao, deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ information department, tweets in response to the Brereton report, accompanied by a fake image of an Australian soldier cutting the throat of a child.

Waleed Aly on what happens *after* cancel culture
From boycotting celebrities to calling out poor behaviour, cancel culture has become a controversial phenomenon in the age of social media. But the ideas behind it have been around for a long time. Today, Waleed Aly on the origins of cancel culture and what’s really driving it.


The projected cut, over 10 years, to the Australian National Audit Office’s budget since 2013, according to Parliamentary Library analysis commissioned by Labor backbencher Julian Hill, who is calling for the ANAO to become a department of parliament.

“[The disability royal commission] has recommended that the Australian government ‘explicitly commit to ensuring that all agencies responsible for planning and implementing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and any future emergencies establish and implement formal mechanisms for consulting with and involving people with disability and disability representative organisations.’”

Chair of the disability royal commission Ronald Sackville makes 22 recommendations to address the government’s “striking” failure to consult at the beginning of the pandemic.

The list

“The cough of our downstairs neighbour rises faintly through the floor. In the dawn the flat appears to expand and contract, as though the beast we are lodged within has itself found a deep and enviable pranayama. Doubtful, now, whether space ever left an impression on the mind, or if it was always the case that the mind gave shape to space; if one’s inner moods gave space its character.”

“He would rather forgo his parliamentary pension than admit it, but our prime minister is unobtrusively softening his hardline stance on climate change. Not to the point of bipartisan agreement in the national interest – that would be too big an ask – but there are signs that the decade-long pitched battle may de-escalate to a heavily armed truce.”

“As Victoria emerges from the catastrophe, during which more than 800 people died, its leaders have signalled they will not wait for the federal government to re-engage with its responsibilities in aged care and industrial relations. The declaration is short and sharp – a combination of incentive and wedge politics – but born of hard-won understanding.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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