In a second attempt to clean up a huge island of garbage swimming in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, a floating device designed to catch plastic waste has been redeployed.
Boyan Slat, creator of the Ocean Cleanup project, announced on Twitter that a 600 metre (2,000ft) long floating boom that broke apart late last year was sent back to the Great Pacific garbage patch this week after four months of repair. The device was previously deployed in September for four months, but broke apart after constant waves and wind wore it down and it could therefore not retain the plastic caught. “Hopefully nature doesn’t have too many surprises in store for us this time,” Slat tweeted. “Either way, we’re set to learn a lot from this campaign.”
The plastic barrier with a tapered three metre deep (10ft deep) screen is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8tn pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in the patch while allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.
Sydney City Council has officially declared a “climate emergency”, with the nine councillors present in the room for the vote unanimously agreeing that Sydneysiders are at “serious risk” from climate change. Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the city needed to step up and show global leadership, especially as “91 of the hottest places on Earth were in Australia”.
The Council will now call on the Federal Government to respond urgently to the emergency by reintroducing a price on carbon to meet the Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets and establishing a Just Transition Authority to ensure Australians employed in fossil fuel industries find appropriate alternate employment. The Lord Mayor said “Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased for four consecutive years. It is clear that the current Federal Government’s policies are simply not working and I call on council to declare a climate emergency, step up our efforts to hold the Federal Government to account”. Moore also outlined her commitment to the country being 100% powered by renewable energy by 2020 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
According to the International Climate Emergency Forum, over 600 jurisdictions in 13 countries have now declared a climate emergency. The Climate Emergency Declaration campaign in Australia is supported by over 50 climate action groups, including the International Climate Emergency Forum, Extinction Rebellion, and Greenpeace Australia.
An open letter signed by more than 150 religious leaders has called on Scott Morrison to acknowledge the global climate emergency and block all new coal and gas projects, including Adani’s Carmichael mine. The letter headed “no faith in coal” says “Simply put, opening up new coal reserves for mining is not compatible with any global response to avoid catastrophe. We call on you to show true moral leadership”.
The letter, signed by a range of religious leaders from bishops to rabbis to theologians, asks the prime minister to make the climate emergency his number one priority and endorses the three demands of the protesting school students: stopping the Adani mine in central Queensland, not allowing new coal or gas developments and moving Australia to run entirely on renewable energy by 2030. It accepts that the shift will be a challenge but argues that a courageous leader would be able to come up with a jobs plan based on clean energy.
The letter comes after Sydney became the latest jurisdiction to declare a climate emergency (see above). The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said “Successive federal governments have shamefully presided over a climate disaster, and now we are at a critical juncture”.
The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said. Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.
The report is critical of the “patently inadequate” steps taken by the UN, countries, NGOs and businesses, it condemns Donal Trump for “actively silencing” climate science and it criticises the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for promising to open up the Amazon rainforest to mining. However, Alston also highlights some positive developments, such as legal cases against states and fossil fuel companies and the activism of Greta Thunberg.
The report reveals that developing countries will bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis, despite the poorest half of the world’s population causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, Alston argues that democracy and the rule of law are at risk. “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”
A report by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) ranked Australia 38th out of 162 countries in terms of progress achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country is lagging well behind other OEDC (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, such as New Zealand (11) the UK (12) and Canada (22), prompting calls for all sectors to take stronger environmental action. Based on trend data available, Australia is not on track for achieving the SDGs by the UN’s target date of 2030.
John Thwaites, professor at Monash University and chair of SDSN for Australia, said “The report highlights the need for major transformations in Australia to decarbonise energy and improve the sustainability of our food production and diet”. He added “Our energy system needs to be transformed so that we turn from a very fossil fuel dependent energy system to one that is much more reliant on reusable energy”. Thwaites also highlighted the need to promote both wealth and gender equality.
The Nordic countries- Sweden, Denmark and Finland, were the leaders in the SDG Index this year and Thwaites stated there was much to learn from them. “The northern European countries show that you can be very successful economically while at the same time protecting the environment and acting on climate change,” he said.