By insisting on ‘no harm to regional Australia’ conditions to the Morrison government’s proposed upgrading of its ‘hope’ to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 to a ‘pledge’ to do so, the Nationals have given ScoMo a ‘get-out-of-jail’ card. He has been ‘forced’, with an election looming, to do what was a political necessity to hold rural seats, while still appearing to be keeping Australia inside the climate tent rather than being singled out for punishment as an emissions laggard. In any event, all national pledges have their reservations, either explicit or implied – with all depending on future technology to fulfil them. In line with host Britain and the rest of the developed world, Australia will meet the formal requirement at next week’s UN Glasgow climate summit to make a net zero promise (and thereby satisfy the international financiers who had threatened an investment ban) but with its fingers crossed behind its back. Not that this makes Australia’s pledge any less realistic than Britain’s – or America’s (even provided Congress allows the President to be anything more than a wishful thinker at Glasgow). Enormous uncertainties permeate all the projections of net zero outcomes that are almost thirty years away.
Last week’s release of Britain’s Net Zero Pathway, with its prospects of achievement just as dependent as Australia’s (and every other pledge-maker) on as yet unviable but prospectively significant technologies (like carbon capture and storage) comprises almost 368 pages of high hopes and low evidence of how to achieve them. However, Britain does not echo Australia’s mantra that ‘technology not taxes’ will lead the way to net zero, with last week’s UK Treasury statement detailing the huge costs to revenue of Prime Minister Johnson’s pathway.
Now that Australia has joined the 2050 net zero club, the bone of contention (apart from the key issue of what will China, the world’s largest emitter, do to ensure Glasgow is another climate failure) will be demands by Britain and the US to speed up moves to zero emissions with tighter targets by 2030 – particularly that coal-fired power generation be phased out by then. Energy Minister Angus Taylor told the Australian newspaper at the weekend that he would not sign up to Glasgow climate change agreements and targets that negatively impacted miners, manufacturers and farmers and would not agree to commitments that would jeopardise affordable and reliable power.
Just as Barnaby Joyce’s Nationals demanded ‘no pain’ for the regions, so Boris Johnson, with an energy crisis and critical shortage of CO2, faces problems with his farmers; achieving net zero will result in what his report describes as ‘large changes to land use and management’ that will require significant investment. And matching the IPCC’s extraordinary lack of knowledge (revealed on this page a fortnight ago) of the land sinks that currently absorb almost one-third of CO2 emissions, the British pathway also contains a litany of similar ‘don’t knows’ on how agriculture will fare under zero-emissions: ‘The government is exploring options’ to reduce carbon emissions in agriculture and incentivise land use change to sequester more carbon; ‘We do not currently have the required data… to accurately quantify the potential contribution of [soil or blue carbon] habitats to net zero but are doing further work to close these evidence gaps’; ‘Further research is required into best practice for establishing greenhouse gas removal in a productive and biodiverse landscape (and) we will start to address these evidence gaps’; ‘We are working to build the evidence base and address continued uncertainty around how (engineered) greenhouse gas removals can most effectively and sustainably be deployed and verified’; ‘The majority of greenhouse gas removal techniques are at a pre-commercial stage and require innovation and demonstration support to be ready for commercial deployment’.
Curious that neither the IPCC nor Britain’s pathway to zero prioritises the carbon farming (human-induced regeneration of land to store carbon in vegetation and soil) to earn extra income from carbon credits that operates in Australia with the support of Energy Minister Angus Taylor and the Clean Energy Regulator.
It may be no coincidence that this offsets system is opposed by climate activists like Greenpeace and the Australia Institute which, ignoring the ‘net’ in net zero, reckon it simply helps big emitters avoid being closed down.
Cheer up. Not all company directors are on board the Business Council of Australia’s SS Woke as it ploughs through a sea of climate change rhetoric. This month’s annual report of mining company Kingsgate Consolidated features a report from chairman Ross Smyth-Kirk that puts a strongly contrary view to the ‘official’ business community line that the Australian government must play follow the (zero emissions) leader at Glasgow next week. And he has a passing slap at the alarming way Australian governments have used the Covid pandemic to turn ‘our free democratic societies into virtual police states. It clearly shows how close we are at any time to authoritarianism and totalitarianism…. 1984 was supposed to be a warning not a guidebook’.
But his main target is the investment managers, to whom investors have entrusted their savings in the expectation that they will attempt to achieve the best returns they can, but ‘who regard this objective as passé in our woke new world. Instead, with seeming encouragement, unelected international investors and, especially, union dominated superannuation funds, are using pure blackmail to enforce their particular view of the world on companies, thereby undermining the integrity of our free enterprise society —and that’s without mentioning collusion. This cause they are advocating, the “climate change” cult, is based on an unprovable hypothesis bloated by guesses about the future made by people who have been wrong for at least the last 40 years. Sadly some commentators even seem to be encouraging the introduction of so called “carbon tariffs” by people like the hypocritical European Union. If the cause is so wonderful, why do so many lies need to be told on the way (e.g. the imaginary jobs created by the use of subsidised renewables, the increased severity and frequency of weather events, etc.)? The current obsession with net zero by 2050 is, at best, a pipe dream. What should be honed in on is what is the real cost of this exercise in wishful thinking, which no one wants to admit but is known to involve trillions of dollars. The other ignored fact is that for a country like Australia the inevitable consequence will be a lowering of the standard of living’.
His conclusion: ‘The real takeout from both the Covid and climate change fiascos is to be very wary when anyone proclaims “follow the science” or “listen to the experts”’.
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