Comment: The front page of the Sydney Morning Herald devoted half a page on Monday to this juicy headline: “Backlash looms over climate policy”.
It was a story on the new Climate Institute survey showing numbers supporting climate action had jumped again, up six points to 71 per cent, adding to the similar weight of numbers found in recent surveys from the Lowy Institute and Ipsos.
The Australian Financial Review, on the other hand, had a different carbon emissions story on the front page. It was aimed at bringing undone the environmental groups starting to make serious inroads in the fight to stop coal mining.
In the crosshairs, dead centre, was the Mackay Conservation Group that last week won a legal challenge to revoke federal government approval for the Adani Group’s massive Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland.
“Taxpayers funded action to block Adani,” ran the headline, pointing out that MCG had received not just tax deductions but grants from the Queensland government.
And on and on the AFR went, with an updated version of the Monday hard copy story, online in the arvo and yet another on Tuesday.
About 700 eco groups were “effectively subsidised” through tax deductions the paper said. And worse (horror) the last Queensland Liberal National Party government actually contributed $100,000 through the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to the MCG and the Palaszczuk government provided another $50,000!
So the outrage was that the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection funded something designed to protect the environment.
Former LNP environment minister Andrew Power said that “not a skerrick” of the grant money was to have been used for litigation. MCQ says it didn’t use the grant funding for the legal case; the money for the legal challenge came from GetUp and other groups.
The article also gave more oxygen to Federal Liberal MP George Christensen who called for an end to funding environmental groups (because they’re a threat to the national interest or some such). He’s the funster who’s been throwing around the term “eco-terrorism” to rally the troops.
The MCG, he said, was trying to “kill” 50,000 jobs.
Not sure about those numbers. The mining industry has a habit of inflating the benefits of coal, we’ve seen in many reports.
An Australia Institute report, for instance, says coal employs just one per cent of Australians, even in Queensland, and accounts for only four per cent of revenue.
The legal win infuriated first the Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who should hang his head in shame as probably the worst environment minister ever.
And then the prime minister, who at least doesn’t pretend he cares for anything to do with clean or green (or clever if you take in his attacks on science).
Hunt led the chorus saying the “loophole” about failing to consider two threatened species that would be affected with the mine, the yakka skink and ornamental snake, would soon be closed.
Despite the inevitable snickering that accompanies moves to protect such exotic, unlovely-sounding creatures, most people by now realise that loosing a species is the thin edge of the wedge in environmental degradation. If enough of these critters disappear, lovely or unlovely, we’ll be next.
But all this came at the same time as the weight of money decided that the weight of public opinion was more important than a few politicians responding to the loudest lobbyists banging on their doors.
The UK’s Standard Chartered Bank today (Tuesday) said it would join the Commonwealth Bank and a dozen other leading banks in withdrawing from Adani’s plans for the devastating Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland.
350.org Australia said the decision was most welcome and that dozens of actions will take place across Australia later this week calling upon NAB, Westpac and ANZ to join their compatriots.
The AFR ran the story as if Adani was giving the Comm and Standard Chartered the boot but then said the decision was the result of a “wide-range of stakeholders, including environmental groups”.
“Representatives of Greenpeace and indigenous groups have lobbied the bank over the past 12 months to cut ties with the Adani port, mine and rail proposal”, it said.
Greenpeace Australia said the move was a victory.
“This controversial project is now a massive reputational risk for even the world’s most powerful banks,” it said.
More nails in the coal coffin – India is out
At about the same time, another nail in the coffin came banging down.
The news came as a new report suggested India would not pick up as much of the coal slack as the coal industry hoped.
The report, India’s Electricity Sector Transformation, showed the price of solar was becoming cheaper than electricity from imported thermal coal.
It said the Indian government was on track to doubling domestic coal production (bad but not importing coal), modernising the electricity grid and installing 175GW of renewable energy.
Energy Minister Piyush Goyal said in May this year: “We are confident that in the next year or two, we will be able to stop imports of thermal coal.”
Even better, co-author of the report Jai Sharda said, “With falling prices of solar, imported coal has become the most expensive source of incremental electricity generation.”
Director of energy finance studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis Tim Buckley said, “India is replicating Germany’s and China’s systematic electricity sector transformation, with the added advantage that the cost effectiveness of this is accentuated by the fact that the price of solar electricity has dropped by 80 per cent in five years.”