Each week, we provide a rundown of the most essential climate news from Australia and around the globe: the good, the questionable, and the conversation starters. Here's what's been going on.
Hold onto your hats, people. There’s a bunch of climate news this week. Extinction Rebellion protestors have superglued themselves to the UK parliament. Literally. Engineers are turning old wind turbines into gummy bears (as you do). And the future of many of the world’s forests will be decided next week, when members of the European parliament vote on a revised renewable energy directive (which, at the moment, considers burning down forests a form of ‘zero carbon emissions’. Don’t ask…)
Here's your regular dose of WorkforClimate Weekly.
P.S. If you’re in the banking sector, don’t forget that applications for the Climate Safe Lending Fellowship close on 26 September. This is a hands-on, six-month development program to help banking professionals push climate agendas within their organisations. And it’s filling up fast.
The good news 😊
In what’s being called a ‘victory for the planet’, a South African court has banned oil giant Shell from searching for new oil and gas reserves along the country’s Wild Coast. Although the company had been granted exploration rights by the South African government, the Eastern Cape high court revoked those rights on Thursday, ruling that they were granted illegally. Nice.
You might have heard a bit about ‘forever chemicals’ recently (they’ve literally made rainwater on Earth unsafe to drink, so yeah, that’s a thing now). But there was a glimmer of hope this week. Scientists at Northwestern University in the US claim to have done the “seemingly impossible”: they’ve come up with a way to destroy forever chemicals (also known as PFAs) using cheap products like sodium hydroxide.
On the radar 🧐
After all the talks, and COPs, and pledges, and commitments, support for fossil fuels almost doubled in 2021, according to new data from the OECD and IEA. Yep, doubled. 51 major economies increased their financial support for coal and natural gas last year, mostly to hedge against soaring energy prices. And fossil fuel subsidies are expected to rise even further in 2022. It’s a depressing cycle, and with the war in Ukraine strangling global supply chains, it seems to be getting worse.
Superannuation giant HESTA has put four of Australia’s largest energy companies on a “watch list”, asking for firmer details on their plans to meet Paris Agreement targets. The $68 billion super fund hasn’t stopped actually investing in these companies, but has politely asked AGL, Santos, Origin and Woodside how burgeoning fossil fuel portfolios synch with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.
The head of the Australian Energy Market Operator has thrown a spanner in the works of Labor’s landmark climate bill, flagging that current clean energy projects don’t have enough capacity to replace the loss of coal-fired plants over the next decade. In other words, it’s all well and good for government to set targets, but unless private enterprise pulls its finger out and gets investors on board, we’re kind of screwed.
Still confused about carbon capture and storage (CCS)? The ABC has broken down the concept this week, while asking the zillion dollar question: “Can Australia reach net zero emissions by 2050 while continuing to burn fossil fuels?” Spoiler: not really. According to the latest data from The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the majority of CCS projects don’t perform as well as they should.
Water cooler chat 🗣️
It’s always uplifting to hear about smart, talented people tackling the climate crisis in their own way, and this week The Age has written up the profile of Sam Elsom: former high-end fashion designer turned seaweed farmer, who wants to “radically reduce global methane emissions”. Elsom’s start-up, Sea Forest, has attracted multi-million-dollar investments and picked up prestigious business awards. The basic premise is: feed cows special seaweed to reduce their harmful methane burps.
Is France banning private jets? Well, sort of. The country is cracking down on the use of private jets for short journeys. “We have to act to regulate flights on private jets,” said transport minister Clément Beaune. It comes as many celebrities, including Steven Spielberg and Kylie Jenner, have been outed for ridiculously wasteful private flights, which (Transport & Environment reports show) are up to 14 times more polluting than commercial flights per passenger, and 50 times worse than trains.
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