Joel Fitzgibbon forces the issue on Labor climate plans

Yesterday my heart sank when I heard that shadow resources minister Joel Fitzgibbon was going to make a speech at the AFR National Energy Summit proposing that Labor end the climate wars by adopting the Coalition’s target of 28 per cent emissions reduction by 2030. Frankly, I knew Mark Butler would be spewing, but Fitzgibbon is a senior cabinet minister, so which way would Anthony Albanese choose?

By the end of the day the matter was settled. I’ll link to a couple of articles later, but the most important media piece came in Patricia Karvelas’s interview with Pat Conroy, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Minister Assisting for Climate Change, on ABC RN Drive. Labor will honour our Paris commitment, that means a meaningful contribution rather than the pathetic formal commitment by the Abbott government made. labor will take a backward step on it’s 2019 election commitments.

Conroy was quite specific. During a period when policy was under review Fitzgibbon could have is view, but Labor will not be doing what he suggests.

Conroy thinks Labor’s climate policy won votes during the election apart from Central Qld and the Hunter. I’m not so sure that holds as a generalisation, but Conroy says the 28% target is out of whack with what the Australian population wants, and with Labor values.

He also pointed out that under Paris our formal commitment in 2015by the LNP government represented a level of effort that would lead to a 3°C plus global warming. Australia must commit at least to zero emissions by 2050 to conform with Paris. If Labor attained government in 2020 any 2030 target would be made more difficult by the LNP dismal performance where emissions continue to rise, so the task from 2022 to 2030 becomes harder.

The real clincher came at 13:10 on the counter, where Karvelas said she had just seen a Tweet from Albo, where he said Labor would follow the science, that climate change action was good for the economy, and that he was proud of Labor’s support for climate change.

Labor’s current 2030 target is 45% reduction by 2030, which was based on the Climate Change Authority’s advice in 2014 in the preparation for the Paris summit in December 2015. Labor’s policy has been to revamp the Climate Change Authority in government. There is no telling what the science will indicate then, or rather the revamped CCA’s reading of the science. So quantitative targets expressed now are less important than the process Labor commits to.

We should also remember that while the unions do not speak with one voice the ACTU favours strong action.

There is little doubt in my view that Labor will need to come up with an economy-wide Climate Transition Plan which will also address fossil fuel mining and Just Transition issues. That, finally, can only be done with the resources of government, but it would be appropriate to make expressions of intent in opposition.

Links include:

Here to remind us is the Australia’s record and official prospects, sourced from the government itself:

At Kyoto in 1997 Senator Robert Hill won a right to increase emissions by 8% from 1990 to 2012. It happened in the last hours of the meeting, well passed midnight, when delegates wanted to wrap things up so that they could catch their scheduled flights.

It was a con, and the COALition has been conning on climate ever since. Under Paris there was flexibility in choosing national targets. Our choice of 2005 as the starting point rather than 2000 was done to make the task easier.

However, the COALition now has no serious plan. We will meet their 26% target in electricity, but that represents only 35% or so of emissions. It is the low hanging fruit. We really need to go to zero by 2030 to meet 26% economy-wide. Instead, as I predicted, they are talking per capita reductions, which was never mentioned in the promises we made.

And counting carry-over Kyoto credits, achieved on the back of vegetation management laws in Queensland. No ther country is using carry-over credits, but there is no rule against it.

The Coalition’s form is to pretend to take action while it pursues business as usual, or even engages in intervention designed to prolong our use of coal.

41 thoughts on “Joel Fitzgibbon forces the issue on Labor climate plans”

  1. Fitzgibbon sounds like he is trying to protect his coal mining seat so I am inclined to ignore him..
    Targets for 2030 and 2050 are all very nice but, at elections what I am really interested is what the parties are going to have locked in by the end of the term of government they are seeking election for. (By locked in I mean contracts signed. I recognize that major capital works can take more that one election cycle to go from we will to being built.
    Looking at you graph it is clear that action should be taken over a range of emission sources.

  2. John, Labor took to the last election proposed actrions across the whole spectrum.

    I heard Tanya Plibersek say Labor needs to keep on with climate change policies.

    Patricia Karvelas spoke to Mark Butler tonight. He said core position was to listen to the science and do something meaningful about Paris commitments.

    He pointed out that Labor was acting on CCA advice from 2014, and expected there would be new advice relevant to 2022 when we get there.

  3. We thought Australian cars were using less fuel. New research shows we were wrong

    In the transport sector, after decades of inaction, the Government rejected recommendations from the Climate Change Authority to impose fuel efficiency standards on passenger vehicles, leaving Australia as the only OECD country without such standards.

    It has similarly derided action to promote the use of electric vehicles.

    Instead, the Coalition is relying on the hope that carbon dioxide emission rates of Australia’s new passenger vehicle fleet will reduce over time without any effort by governments, because vehicle emissions legislation overseas, where Australia’s cars are made, is delivering technological improvements.

    Official projections state that some, but not all, of this improvement will flow through to Australia

    Australia should be using something like Offset Credit Trading to drive down the emissions of new cars as well changing Australian Standards and road rules to encourage the development of cars that are narrow enough to travel two abreast in a single road lane.

  4. John do you think that increase is linked to the increased market share occupied by the heavier suburban 4WD vehicles?

    I’m still optimistic that EV’s will become the dominant choice in the next five years.

  5. Those frustrated by Adani’s progress towards becoming productive might be cheered by this article that reports how one of America’s largest coal miners, Murray Energy, is defaulting on debts. Behind Murray’s problem is a steadily shrinking demand for coal.
    From Adani’s perspective (and other Galilee prospects) that might open up an American market. Or, it might be taken that coal is indeed too risky a proposition for them.
    Meantime the price of coal continues to drop. See:

  6. Interesting that Tasmanian opium poppy farmers are being criticised for their contribution to the US opioid crisis. Tasmania apparently supplies 50% of legal alkaloids to the world.
    The farmers are responding by claiming it is not their fault that there is so much abuse and injury. They say a wheat farmer is not responsible for obesity caused by eating too much bread.
    For a moment I thought that maybe coal miners could use the same logic.

  7. GH: Car companies tend to grow the size of car models. For example, long running models such as Hiluxes and Corollas are noticeably bigger than they were in the past. Bigger is seen as added value.
    Bought a new car a few years ago. What we wanted was a small car with advanced accident prevention features. Had to buy something quite a bit a bit bigger with higher fuel consumption.
    Something like 78% of vehicle commutes carry the driver only. You might have noticed that I frequently rabbit on about narrow track cars that are designed for commutes. (Narrow enough to travel two abreast in a single traffic lane=big reduction in congestion and, if done properly a big drop in energy consumption.) My preferred design would be short enough to angle park on a normal road while allowing at least one passenger to sit behind the driver.
    Her endeth yet another sermon.

  8. Yes I see that John. Thinking about it too, cars have I think become heavier, some of which could be attributed to safety issues as well as appointments.

  9. Geoff, that last comment was held up in moderation, because “g” looked like someone new to the computer.

    On Adani, there was a recent article (don’t have time to look for it now) that yet another insurer had pulled out of the railway project. Unless ScoMo’s government is stupid enough to underwrite it, Adani may may fail at the final post.

  10. Brian that may be the case – insurance is pretty critical to many of the stakeholders, including their engineers – GHD now I think.
    But so far Adani has been resilient to all my hexes, so I’m not too optimistic that this will be enough.
    I went to a talk the other night that focused on the fate of the black throated finch. The greatest habitat for this bird is right where Carmichael sits so its habitat will largely be lost. This held up approval for a while but eventually it got past. One of the mitigating factors that helped Adani was its undertaking to truck water into the habitat, filling troughs up for the benefit of the birds. Sounds a bit thin huh? And will they do that for how long?
    Since Morrison has taken over the LNP pro-coal policy is no longer subtle and ministers like Canavan and Taylor are doing all they can to enable more coal. I really would like to see more overt opposition to coal than seems to be out there at the moment.
    If they can’t manage that perhaps they could advance EV’s at an aggressive rate.

  11. John

    Something like 78% of vehicle commutes carry the driver only. You might have noticed that I frequently rabbit on about narrow track cars that are designed for commutes. (Narrow enough to travel two abreast in a single traffic lane=big reduction in congestion and, if done properly a big drop in energy consumption.) My preferred design would be short enough to angle park on a normal road while allowing at least one passenger to sit behind the driver.
    Her endeth yet another sermon.

    They already exist, they’re called Motorcycles.
    Your preaching to the converted here Reverend.

  12. Jumpy:

    They already exist, they’re called Motorcycles.
    Your preaching to the converted here Reverend.

    Motor bikes can fall over when they skid and provide negligible protection when they crash.

    compared with people driving cars, motorcycle drivers face a much higher risk of dying in a crash: U.S. government data from 2013 show that for every mile traveled that year, the number of motorcycle-related deaths was 26 times the number of car-related deaths [source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

    In addition, they provide no protection in bad weather which means motor bike riders have to carry wet weather gear.
    If you like, what I want could be described as a safe, weatherproof motor bike that is skid pan safe.

  13. John
    For starters, how many of those injuries and fatalities were the fault of drivers ?
    From my experience, a motorcycle rider is a better car driver, mainly ( in my opinion) because when riding a motorcycle there are far fewer distractions like phones, air con adjustments, radio or stereos fiddling, smoking, drinking, eating….the list goes on…

    In fact I’ve long thought the barriers to entry into motorcycling should be greatly reduced for learners to improve both driver and rider safety.

    Lastly, if I believed the hype, we can risk a little discomfort and safety early for a few if the climate Armageddon is going to kill them anyway.

  14. Jumpy

    Someone who had worked in the insurance industry told me (about a dozen years ago) that motorcycle riders had horrendously high death and injury rates. There was no reason for her to lie.

    No attribution of fault for the crashes, collisions, accidents etc. Just the raw probabilities.

    Good luck.

  15. Mr A,
    Someone told me recently that car driving would result in everyone dying.
    I’ve no reason to believe they were lying.

  16. Lastly, if I believed the hype, we can risk a little discomfort and safety early for a few if the climate Armageddon is going to kill them anyway.

    Umm … actually there’s no sense in risking any discomfort or safety if the climate Armageddon is going to kill everyone anyway.
    I don’t think you’ve quite understood the “hype”.

  17. BTW Mr J,

    I talked to someone years ago who told me something really interesting, but unfortunately I can’t recall anything they said.

    Just to let you know. Entirely anecdotal of course.

    Ambi of the Overflow

  18. Ambi I was going say something and I forgot. Now I forget what I meant to remember. No, I don’t take mind-altering drugs…don’t have the need

  19. My friend doesn’t have a memory.
    Instead he has a “forgettory”.

    It’s just deja vu all over again.

    What was that you said???

  20. ABC News website: item on “Snowy 2.0” from 7.30 Report (?)

    The promised Snowy Hydro 2.0 project will be an expensive white elephant according to a leading energy expert.

    The project was initially forecast to cost $2 billion and be completed in four years
    [leading energy expert] Mr Mountain says it will end up costing five times that amount and take twice as long to build
    “Here is a project that is likely to cost five times more than the then prime minister [Malcolm Turnbull] said it would, and whose capability is nowhere near what has been claimed of it,” the director of the Victorian Energy Policy Centre, Bruce Mountain, told 7.30.

    “This is a project that we can confidently forecast will be a drain on the public purse and whose service in the transition to a cleaner energy future can be met far more cheaply from other sources.

    “Snowy Hydro 2.0 was a political get-out-of-jail card, played at the public’s expense.”

  21. Brian: Larrisa Waters pointed out to me once that less emissions per kWh would be generated by exporting Qld coal to china to feed a high efficiency generator compared with shipping LNG to China to use in a gas fired generator. The killer in the case of LNG is that it takes the equivalent of 30% of the contained energy in the LNG to liquify it. (Could be a problem too with liquid hydrogen?)

  22. Ambi/GH: What brand of Bex are you using for your Bex and a good lie down?
    Just asking.

  23. I don’t seem to need Bex these days, I just lie down. If you need a hand to sleep there are some antihistamines that will gentle you off.
    As a matter of interest my mum used Bex every afternoon to ease her kidney pain. Then during the sixties there was adverse news on the dangers of the stuff, so she stopped taking it. Amazingly, her kidney pain stopped.
    There’s a good article on Bex here, and it also mentions [Vincents] APC

  24. Ambi, “energy expert” Bruce Mountain is one of the best. He easily overcomes all the disabilities of being from Melbourne.

    The Leigh Sales/Angus Taylor interview was useless. Sales didn’t know enough to be asking the questions, nor did Taylor to be answering them.

    John, I didn’t know the metric for liquefaction of LNG. That’s horrendous!

  25. Those blokes in Melbourne, some of them anyway, labour on steadfastly. Into the night by candlelight or oil lamp, without hope of reward; content in the belief that their penury may benefit those who have chosen to inhabit far distant, warmer climes.

    It’s almost Scott of the Antarctic and Captain Oates in their heedless heroism and self-sacrifice.

    All they have of pleasure is a horse race every November.
    It’s bringing tears to my eyes.
    Must go out and check the wombat litters.

  26. Ambi you mention Scott and Oates, and there were others who laboured to the Poles. At school, we were told they were heroes and to be celebrated. We soaked it up.
    Some years later, 50+ in fact I visited Alaska mid-winter. It was a warm day, temp -28F at noon. As I trudged across the packed snow to the car I drew my breath in too quickly and sort of seared my lungs with the cold air. It hurt a lot, but I sorted that out pretty quickly. Thing was though, in that brief moment, I re-thought my long-held views of those wonderful Arctic explorers, immediately condemning them not as heroes, but as fools. I know it’s a sort of heresy but you know they had no communications, no GPS, limited nutrition, no polar fleece clothes and not even a great knowledge of the terrain they had to master. I don’t mean to diminish their efforts, but really their quest(s) were perfectly irrational.

  27. GH: Back when I was a lad boys were encouraged to do adventurous, risky things as part of growing up. Some times people were hurt but most of us survived to ripe old age and, I think, strengthened by the experience. Me I explored caves, bush walked and spent a lot of time spearfishing in allegedly shark infested waters. (My mother didn’t like the spear fishing bit until I pointed out to her that the big risk of spearfishing was the risk of accidents driving to and from spearfishing sites and she found she rather liked a steady flow of lobsters and fresh fish.)
    These days the cops and the cotton wool brigade condemn young people who do the adventurous things we did as lads. Funny thing is that too many kids have substituted the risks associated with drug use and death by drug overdose.

  28. Bruce Mountain at The Conversation – Snowy 2.0 will not produce nearly as much electricity as claimed. We must hit the pause button.

    He says it will produce a fraction of the energy benefits promised.

    Turnbull’s original spiel was that it would cost $2 billion.

    The project’s cost and time estimates have blown out massively. It would now be surprising if Snowy 2.0, including the transmission upgrades it relies on, comes in at less than A$10 billion or is finished before 2027.

    But there is another serious problem. Our analysis has revealed that of the extra pumped hydro capacity promised by the project, less than half can be delivered. There is now overwhelming evidence the project should be put on hold.

    The problems we know about: cost and time blowouts
    The list of possible alternatives to Snowy 2.0 is long. Aside from other pumped hydro projects, it includes chemical batteries, encouraging demand to follow supply, gas or diesel generators, and re-orienting renewable generators to capture the wind or sun when it is less plentiful.

    Problem is that the Feds bought out NSW and Victoria, and now have major skin in the game in any energy policy consideration.

  29. Brian: Snowy 2.0 always seemed to be all about Turnbull wanting a monument rather than a practical way of helping the power system. too big, too expensive and too far away from generators or users were comments that leaped to mind.
    Now the Morrison government has leaped into what it does well, defending the indefensible. Time for a thoughtful review but I cannot see it happening unless there is a sudden collapse of the governments one seat majority. Even then the decision to stop and have a think seems a bit too adventurous for Alby.

  30. JD I grew up in a place called Castle Hill, 7 miles (ca. 11 km) NW of Parramatta. It was “greenbelt” and all bush. We would spend whole days just ranging around out there dealing with snakes, rabbits and the occasional fox. There were fresh water crays in the creeks and life was great. But nothing like going to the Poles.
    Today our house still stands but the trees and creatures way gone, so kids in that place can’t experience the “risky” boyhood I loved.

  31. I’m not an engineer but I always doubted the wisdom of Snowy 2. Even then the spend of $2 billion seemed way too concentrated in one place and from a security view, was one bomb too vulnerable. That the cost will blow out is a given but that the output will be greatly diminished makes it that much worse.
    I still support pumped hydro (PH), even when dismissed by government as “too expensive”. I see a PH site as lasting for so much longer than any other form of storage, and if constructed in a suitable place can provide very long periods of generation. The Kidston project, a relatively modest site can provide 2000 MWh over 8 hours and has a proposed service life of 80 years. See:
    I have banged of for a long time about PH and have been surprised by the muted response to PH. I think that it is assessed on its capital cost and the return from that capital. But as far as I can tell, the longevity of PH is not taken into account. ‘Same might be said for the Hornsdale battery that has an estimated service life if 15 years.

  32. These days the cops and the cotton wool brigade condemn young people who do the adventurous things we did as lads.

    I agree. But isn’t it ironic that it is our children’s generation who have wrapped their kids in bubble wrap. Where do you think we went wrong?

  33. Just in had this interesting article on what Germany has done to wind down its coal industry in a way that minimizes the pain to the coal miners.
    The key is for the government, unions, communities and workers to work together to create and industry wide strategy. Beats babbling on about “Just Transitions” and low paid, itinerant jobs in the renewables industry.
    Perhaps Joel should be putting his mind to what might be done in his patch instead of defending what has become the undefendable.

  34. John, I’ve just forwarded to you an email from the Potsdam Institute.

    With their Berlin mates they’ve just published a critique of the German climate package, which they find deficient. An English version will be published here.

    It’s good that the Germans have published a whole climate package, which I haven’t seen yet. Too bad if it’s deficient.

  35. Brian: Had a read of the English Exec summary in the stuff you sent me on German emissions reduction. They seem completely obsessed with the carbon price and had a very EU centric view of the world. (Renewable electricity auctions have become the norm for driving investment in renewable electricity in many parts of the world and was the tool that allowed Canberra to meet its 100% renewable target.) In terms of the EU I would like their emissions to be calculated on a consumption basis rather than emissions in the EU. EU would not look so shiny if the emissions generated getting their imports onto their wharves were counted.

  36. John, I think market mechanisms like emissions trading are to slow, and can’t be the main response to a climate emergency. It doesn’t disrupt the usual way of doing business, where profits are the main game.

    Extinction Rebellion want zero emissions by 2025. That plus ongoing drawdowns is what is needed to enact a climate emergency approach. The German government hasn’t really got the message.

    “Climate emergency” has now become a kind of virtue signalling.

  37. I think Joel Fitzgibbon’s intervention truly annoyed his senior colleagues, but it had the effect of flushing them out on what their basic position is.

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