ICYMI – eco news round up, 3 August 2019

Coca-Cola and Pepsico ditch ties to plastics industry association following pressure from Greenpeace: ‘A victory for every person that spoke up’

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are to leave the Plastics Industry Association, as they seek to dramatically reduce single-use plastics in their products and packaging.

In a huge victory against plastic pollution, the two soft drinks giants are cutting ties with a trade association representing the plastic industry over concerns their memberships contradict a commitment to reducing waste.

The move follows pressure from environmental group Greenpeace, which has urged all companies to reduce their plastic footprint and eventually eliminate single-use plastics.

The Plastics Industry Association has previously lobbied for states to prohibit banning plastic bag usage and imposing restrictions on other plastics across the country.

Extreme weather has damaged nearly half of Australia’s marine ecosystems since 2011

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, says extreme climate events have damaged 45% of the marine ecosystems along Australia’s coast in a seven-year period from 2011 to 2018. Such events include the 2011 marine heatwave in Western Australia, cyclone Yasi and the mass bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

The study collated published research by leading scientists who have examined the effects of marine heatwaves, heavy rainfall from tropical storms, cyclones and droughts on coral, kelp, mangrove and seagrass communities. It found that big climate events have been exacerbating the effects of human-induced climate change. Heatwaves, for example, compounded the effects of the underlying global heating trend and left little time for organisms to adapt.

The team of scientists also examined what the longer term repercussions of these events could be. Russ Babcock, the study’s lead author, said, “Some of our models showed it can take 15 years to recover from impacts like this,” noting that during that timeframe it was likely that more extreme events would occur.

Coral reef scientist Terry Hughes, whose work was referenced in the study, said the paper showed how serious the outlook for all marine systems was. “It’s good to have the big picture and make the point that it’s a huge issue for all coastal areas of Australia. It’s not just a Barrier Reef issue.”

Clean energy set to provide 35% of Australia’s electricity within two years, The Guardian

Analysts say clean energy will be providing 35% of Australia’s total electricity needs within two years as new data underlines the pace at which solar power is transforming the national energy market. A report by consultants Green Energy Markets found that rooftop solar systems and new large-scale farms regularly pushed renewable energy to beyond 30% of generation at midday during June, one of the least sunny months.

Tristan Edis, a Green Energy Markets director and analyst, said clean energy growth would continue in the short term as a number of projects were in development and yet to come online. However, the boom is expected to end in the absence of a policy to encourage further investments. Edis explained that abundant free solar power during the day reduces wholesale prices to a level where investment in any type of new large-scale generation is not financially attractive. In the absence of federal policy to drive grid transformation, investment is therefore likely to slow until the circumstances in the market change – for example, a coal-fired power plant closes, reducing supply.

The Clean Energy Council chief executive, Kane Thornton, said although the economics of clean energy is improving, the wholesale market is still “riddled with uncertainty”. He said collaboration on energy between the commonwealth and the states was near non-existent, remarking that a sensible energy policy could accelerate investment, drive down power prices and deliver jobs in rural areas.

Climate crisis already causing deaths and childhood stunting, report reveals

According to a report produced by Monash University in Melbourne, climate change is “absolutely” already causing deaths and is predicted to result in stunting, malnutrition and lower IQ in children within the coming decades. The new study pointed to a 2018 report from the World Health Organisation, which predicted that between 2030 and 2050, global warming would cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year from heat stress, malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea. Yet Misha Coleman, one of the report’s authors, stressed that deaths were already occurring.

The report found that as well as deaths caused directly by severe weather events such as hurricanes, flooding and fires, the “more deep and insidious impact” came from the secondary impacts of climate change. “Severe weather events are causing flooding, particularly in informal settlements in the Pacific, that leads to diseases including diarrhoea, that can be very serious and fatal in people, particularly children,” said John Thwaites, chair of the Sustainable Development Institute at Monash University.

“What’s the future for our children?” said Coleman. “These events are more common, more frequent and not going to become less so in a short amount of time.”

Australian climate change policies face growing criticism from Pacific leaders

Pacific leaders meeting in Fiji yesterday signed the Nadi Bay Declaration, calling on countries to “refrain from using carry-over credits as an abatement for the additional Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets” in a clear rebuff to recent Australian comments.

Australia controversially counts some emissions reductions achieved during the past decade under the Kyoto Protocol towards reduction targets set out in the Paris Agreement.

The carry-over does not breach the Paris Agreement because there has been no international consensus on the rules, but Australia’s decision to count past emissions towards new targets has been widely condemned. However, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne brushed off the criticisms last week, saying that the Pacific states “should be pleased” that Australia is meeting their Paris commitments

As chair of the PIDF, Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama voiced the demands, asking developed economies to make their Paris emissions reduction commitments more ambitious “including and most especially our larger neighbours in the Pacific”. This sets the stage for a tense meeting in two weeks’ time, when Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison will sit down with regional leaders at the Pacific Islands.

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