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Monthly News Wrap-Up (Sept. 2021)

EDITION 02: September 2021

After a short break, EnergyLink Services is bringing back our Monthly News Wrap-Up (you asked for it and we answered!) and we start with looking at what has been happening in the energy sector, around the globe, in the month of September.

It's no secret that September has been a busy month in this space, but the team at EnergyLink Services have managed to select some articles that we think cannot be missed, and we present these to you in the second edition of the ELS Monthly News Wrap-Up.

(1) United Nations Warns of ‘Catastrophic Pathway’ With Current Climate Pledges

While we would have loved to start this month’s news wrap up with some positive news, we decided to go with something important instead. A UN report released in September has warned that the current climate pledges of countries around the world are nowhere close to what is required to meet the 1.5-degree target of the Paris climate agreement. In fact, the report uncovered that, without more ambitious emission reduction commitments, the world is on a “Catastrophic Pathway” to an average temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

The devastating effects of climate change are already being felt across the globe, from fatal floods to wildfires and storms. Unless action against climate change is levelled up, to a magnitude that this appropriate for this existential threat, the planet is likely to experience the full wrath of climate change, warned the UN report.

(2) Morrison and Joyce need to follow the trillions shifting to zero emissions

For those of us who believe in and care about climate change, it is always disheartening to hear about Australia’s (lack of) efforts to fight climate change. In fact, Australia was scored the absolute last out of the 193 UN member countries for action taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Sustainable Development Report of 2021. Similarly, we were also ranked second last in the Climate Change Performance Index in 2020, only one better than Trump’s America.

While this position of Australia can be attributed to a lack of leadership by our federal government, the market is sending clear signals about the inevitable future that it sees. Let’s hope that Australia will start making the required level of effort to align with the market and our trade partners, without which there may be grave consequences for our economy.

(3) High court challenge to Victoria’s electric vehicle tax

Two commoners challenging the State of Victoria in court sounds and feels like a David vs Goliath story, but in this case, the result will have large climate change implications.

At a time when governments around the globe should be offering subsidies to incentivise the transition to electric vehicles, the Victorian government has introduced, in July 2021, a new tax that charges electric vehicle users between 2 - 2.5 cents for every kilometre driven. This is being viewed as a massive step backward in the fight against climate change by many, especially because transport is the second-largest source of emissions in Victoria. The sector accounted for 25% of the state’s net emissions in 2019 and was found to be the fastest-growing source of the state's emissions, with an increase of 12% between 2005 and 2019.

A similar tax that was proposed in South Australia was recently postponed until 2027, owing to opposition in the state parliament and industry pushback. Let us hope that the high court challenge will achieve a similar or better result in Victoria.

(4) Climate funding target for poorer countries ‘likely to be met’ by 2022

The fight against climate change requires a unified effort from countries around the globe, but for many developing and vulnerable nations, climate change mitigation and adaptation cannot happen without support from Parties with more financial resources. Climate finance is hence critical to global efforts to tackle the climate crisis and is one of the three 3 key pillars of the Paris agreement.

In 2009, the wealthier nations of the globe had pledged to provide at least $100bn (£73bn) a year to the developing world by 2020. While this target has been missed for 2020, recent commitments from the developed world have raised some hopes for the coming years. The UN Environment Programme has revealed that annual adaption costs in developing nations could reach $140 - 300 billion by 2030, and $280 - 500 billion by 2050. So, it is imperative that the developed economies not only reach their current climate finance targets, but also work towards increasing their pledges.

(5) Climate change means bigger bills - and ears and tails as well

As loud and proud advocates for climate action, we are well aware of the devastating impacts climate of climate change, but this is something more unique and something even we were intrigued by. While it seems like a large part of the human race has been rather self-occupied, worrying about the impact climate change can have on them, the other species have been left to deal with this crisis on their own- a crisis that the human race is responsible for.

Researchers are finding that for thermoregulatory reasons, some species are having to adapt to climate change by growing larger appendages, relative to their body size. While there may be some comfort in the news that some animal species may be capable of adapting to the changing climate to a small extent, the researchers have made it very clear that the “Shape-shifting does not mean that animals are coping with climate change, and everything is fine.” Furthermore, the researchers have warned that there are also many species that will not be able to undergo such evolutions, due to other restrictions such as their diet, or some species may not be able to evolve in time. So, it is evident that while it is important to understand how wildlife may respond to climate change, the best way to protect species into the future is by curbing global warming.

(6) One-in-four new car sales in Europe are plug in electric vehicles

EV adoption in countries is now a key metric for evaluating progress in the fight against global warning. Owing to the punitive legislation, generous subsidies, and shorter commutes in Europe, the continent has seen a turbocharged increase in the uptake of EV, placing it well ahead of the pack when it comes to transition into cleaner transport. The rate of EV adoption in Europe is only expected to increase into the future as the EU and UK plan to phase out combustion engine cars by 2035.

Back at home, Australia is lagging behind in the transition to electric cars. Governments in the US and Europe are introducing a range of policies to provide economic incentives to encourage the uptake of EV, which is not being seen in Australia. In fact, looking at the EV tax recently introduced by the Victorian government, we are clearly moving in the wrong direction. Additionally, without policies to encourage new buyers, Australia also lags the world in electric vehicle choice. For instance, in the EU consumers can choose from 33 base models for EV, and the number grows to 43 models across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, back at home we are limited to 29 base models.

It is apparent that it all boils down to one thing: The Australian government’s inability to comprehend the urgency of the need to decarbonise our transport sector. This inability is seriously throttling our ability to transition into EV, so we sincerely hope that the government steps up its game soon!

(7) Sun Cable: World’s biggest solar and battery project expands again, gets Indonesia approval

What started as an “outsized idea” is now becoming reality for Sun Cable- A multinational Australian Singaporean company. The Sun Cable project, which was already touted as the world’s largest solar PV and battery storage project, has been expanded even further by as much as 40%. The scaled-up project, which is expected to cost $30 billion and deliver abatement of 8.6 million tonnes of CO2e per year, is all set to dwarf other planned solar projects around the globe, as it has now received key support from the Indonesian government.

Most of the project’s sub-sea route will be passing through the Indonesian waters and being an archipelagic state, much consideration is given by Indonesia to where the structure is installed in their waters. This is done to ensure that there are no disruptions to their broader national plans. Indonesia has now approved a sub-sea survey permit to run the cable through its waters, bringing the Sun Cable project one step closer to fruition.

(8) As the world turns on coal, scientists are at work on green steel

Steel is one of the key building blocks of our modern world. However, the current methods used to produce this steel are proving to be a burden on the environment. On average, nearly 2 tonnes of CO2 are emitted per tonne of steel manufactured, accounting for up to 7% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, scientists are obviously looking for ways to ‘clean up’ the steel production process, and it looks like a new path is emerging to achieve this, in the form of ‘Green Steel’ or essentially steel made using green hydrogen instead of coal.

While green steel has immense potential to help the sector reduce its carbon footprint, the transition to green steel will not be possible without the sector overcoming some significant hurdles. Firstly, we will require a government that is ready to play its very important role in facilitating the transition. For instance, the government will need to be responsible for building the workforce, funding research, and developing the required infrastructure. Furthermore, the transition will not be possible without the industry having access to access to cheap, large-scale green hydrogen. While Australia is currently trying to position itself as a major player in the green hydrogen sector, it is relatively still in the early stages.

However, while we acknowledge these challenges, we trust that if Australia starts acting immediately, it is well placed to become a key player in the inevitable green manufacturing revolution.


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