ICYMI – eco news round up, 10 May 2019

UK sets new record by going whole week without coal power

The UK has completed its longest stretch for energy production without coal since the days of the Industrial Revolution in 1882.

According to the National Grid, as of 1pm on the 8th of May, the UK had been producing energy for 167 hours without coal power plants supplying any at all. Instead, the majority of the country’s power has come from combined cycle gas turbines, with renewable, nuclear, and solar power also contributing significantly to meeting the demand.

Coal power plants are increasingly being sidelined in the British energy sector and by 2025, the UK hopes to completely cut the cords with this source of energy. The government believes the last coal plant in the UK could close as early as 2022 due to emissions charges.

In a statement, the business and energy secretary Greg Clark praised the achievement. “Going a week without coal for the first time since the Industrial Revolution is a huge leap forward in our world-leading efforts to reduce emissions, but we’re not stopping there”. A spokesperson for the National Grid told Bloomberg: “As more and more renewables come onto our energy system, coal-free runs like this are going to increasingly seem like the new normal”.

Hundreds protest against plans to drill in Great Australian Bight

Hundreds of people have gathered on an Adelaide beach to protest against Norwegian energy giant Equinor’s plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight. Equinor, who says the Bight “could be one of Australia’s largest untapped oil reserves”, wants to drill a well more than 370km off the coast of South Australia.

Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens senator, says the majority of South Australians oppose the prospect. She said on Sunday, “We don’t want oil washing up on our beautiful beaches and we know, in an era of climate change, we just can’t afford to be expanding oil drilling or coal mines or any other fossil fuels”. Likewise, the South Australian director of environmental advocacy group Wilderness Society, Peter Owen, said there are “unprecedented levels of community concern” over the project. “It’s very remote where they’re proposing to drill, so if it all goes wrong out here, there’s nothing they can do”.

Australia’s capital cities face water restrictions as dams near 50%

Sydney, Darwin, Brisbane and Melbourne are all facing the prospect of dams below 50% capacity after low rainfall and high temperatures have hit the country. Sydney is particularly suffering, with the lowest inflows since 1940. Melbourne Water warned that its level of storage water “hasn’t been this low since April 2011” and in Queensland, the south-east has also reached a 10-year low.

Dry conditions and lower-than-average rainfall are expected to persist through the autumn and into winter, with the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate outlook predicting a “drier than average” May for eastern Australia. Peter Hatfield from Sydney Water told radio station 2GB “we just haven’t had enough rainfall in the past couple of years.” He said that people need to “become mindful of water and treat it like the valuable resource that it is”.

Australians overwhelmingly agree climate emergency is nation’s No 1 threat

New polling from a respected foreign policy thinktank reveals that two-thirds of people say global warming is a serious problem and 2019 is the ‘climate change election’.

The poll undertaken for Lowy says 64% of adults rank climate change number one on a list of twelve threats to Australia’s national interests, up six points from last year’s survey and a jump of eighteen points since 2014. This is the first time climate has topped the list of threats since the research began in 2006 , with six in ten people saying Australia needs to address the threat of climate change, even if that means incurring significant costs. The results come as a shocking new report from the United Nations finds biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, with one million species at risk of extinction, and human populations in jeopardy if the trajectory is not reversed.

Climate change has been front and centre in the federal election, with the Coalition campaigning to discredit Labor’s policy of imposing an emissions reduction target of 45% on the basis that the costs of action are too high. The Greens argue that Labor’s policies are not ambitious enough and have called on Labor to establish a collaborative strategy development process for climate policy. Nevertheless, the Lowy Poll indicates a majority of the sample believes Labor will do a more competent job at managing the threat of global warming than the Coalition.

Bill Shorten has declared that Australian politics is “broken” after a decade of partisan brawling about the issue, and the system won’t be restored to functionality until the parliament legislates a credible climate policy.

A person walks past a mural showing Scott Morrison holding a lump of coal. Climate change has been front and centre in the 2019 Australian federal election campaign. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

PM’s office silent after apparent reference to environment bill that doesn’t exist

Scott Morrison said he had “been taking action” on a landmark UN report about the extinction of a million different species but his office has since declined to say what legislation he was referring to.

On Monday, the UN released a comprehensive, multi-year report that revealed human society was under threat from the unprecedented extinction of the Earth’s animals and plants. The next day, Morrison responded saying “We already introduced and passed legislation through the Senate actually dealing with that very issue in the last week of the parliament. We’ve been taking action on that.” However, no legislation regarding animal conservation or the environment passed in the final week of parliament.

Tim Beshara, the federal policy director of the Wilderness Society, said Morrison appeared to have “alluded to a bill that doesn’t exist”. He added “It looks like the prime minister of Australia is so desperate to move the debate off the environment as an issue that he has alluded to a bill that doesn’t exist so that journalists would stop asking questions about it.”

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