Can ‘fire-fighting’ sheep protect us from climate threats?

It's been a big week of climate news. Here's a wrap-up of what's happening – in three minutes or less.

The WfC Editors
August 17, 2022
3 min read
A flock of sheep staring into the camera

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.

This week’s news is all about billion-dollar batteries, shutting down coal-fired power plants by the end of the decade, and… a flock of hungry sheep who are protecting Barcelona from the threat of wildfire?

Let’s dive right in.

The good news 😊

BlackRock Real Assets, an arm of the $14 trillion BlackRock investment fund, announced it will invest $1 billion in nine battery-storage projects across Australia. The commitment is the largest investment BlackRock has made into battery storage, and will help drive Australia’s transition to clean energy. Charlie Reid, BlackRock Asia-Pacific’s co-head of climate infrastructure, said: “Australia is becoming a key market for renewables, batteries and net-zero technologies globally. It’s a very interesting point in time for the Australian market and the Asia-Pacific market.”

The Greens have proposed a plan to shut Victoria’s remaining three coal-fired power stations by 2030. The Energy Legislation Amendment (Transition from Coal) Bill 2022 is set to form a central pillar of the party’s climate policy, which sets out a timeline for the closure of the three brown coal-fired thermal power stations in the Latrobe Valley. Tim Read, the Victorian Greens climate spokesperson says, “It would be helpful for everybody if there was a planned and realistic end date for each of these stations. No one believes that the Loy Yang stations will still be going in the 2040s.” Here’s hoping!

On the radar 🧐

Australia’s renewable energy industry is set to explode (in a good way), but questions are now being raised as to who will fill the thousands of jobs that need to be created. Bernadette O'Connor from the Australian Renewables Academy says there’s an opportunity to move people from the existing energy sector across to renewables. “[We look at] what level and what skills. Who is not in the sector, but could be in the sector, because they've got skills that could transition,” she says.

The Albanese government has announced they’ll continue to support new fossil fuel projects, so long as they ‘stack up’ from an economic and environmental perspective. In a speech to the resources industry last week, Labor’s federal resources minister Madeleine King said, “The government understands that natural gas is the ally of renewable energy and will support the addition of more intermittent energy sources.” She also said she’d work with producers, state and territory governments to ‘encourage new supply’. Correct us if we’re wrong, but surely ‘environmental’ fossil fuel projects is an oxymoron? Hmm.

Water cooler chat 🗣️

In news that will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, it’s been revealed that Australia’s biggest electricity companies aren't reducing emissions in line with the Paris agreement. A joint study from the University of Oxford and Princeton University has found that 9 out of 10 major Australian electricity providers – including AGL, Origin and EnergyAustralia – are failing to reduce their GHG emissions fast enough. The study’s lead author Dr Saphira Rekker said, “These results are alarming and show the stark reality of how businesses continue to operate without a clear plan for decarbonisation.”

Should we be looking to sheep for inspiration in how to be more resilient to the effects of climate change? Hungry flocks of them – as well as goats – have been deployed across parts of Barcelona to munch up as much vegetation as possible. While it’s no miracle solution, the age-old strategy could help protect parks and scrublands from wildfire by leaving open spaces that act as firebreaks.

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