Dissident government MPs, including the former prime minister Tony Abbott, are continuing to stir the pot on energy despite last week's party room sign off on the new national energy guarantee. The chairman of the backbench committee on environment and energy, Craig Kelly, used Tuesday's party room meeting to argue the government should cut off support to some renewable energy investments in 2020, rather than the current plan, which is to run down the scheme until 2030. Kelly was backed in his view by the former resources minister and now Queensland backbencher Matt Canavan and by Abbott who, according to accounts of the exchange, said the government needed to be prepared have a fight with political opponents about subsidies for renewables. The three MPs argued that people who entered the renewable energy scheme when John Howard set up the mandatory renewable energy target in the early 2000s only had an expectation the scheme would continue until 2020. The Rudd government later extended the scheme out to 2030.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency was born in a crisis. In the wake of the 1973 oil shock, as Arab petroleum producers withheld supply from countries that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war, the then US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, called on the OECD to set up a new body to ensure its members would always have the reliable and affordable energy they needed. Over time, as the agency has expanded its focus to map broader energy trends, it has sometimes faced accusations of conservatism – that it has underestimated the uptake of renewable energy, and has been overly bullish about the future of fossil fuels. But last month it released a report that pointed to a rupture more far reaching than the 70s oil embargo. It suggested investment in new coal power across the globe has peaked and is on the verge of a steep decline.
Citizens are increasingly taking governments to court over climate change inaction, with financial lenders – and possibly big firms – next in the firing line. Last year, the Australian Conservation Foundation lost a legal battle over the Australian government's approval of the Adani Carmichael coal megamine. And worldwide, almost 700 institutions in 76 countries have committed to ending their investment in fossil fuel companies. The growth of such litigation worldwide shows that many citizens hope courts can force governments and corporations to act on climate change, says Sydes.
New coalmines will leave more people in poverty, Oxfam has said in a new report, calling on Australia to commit to no new coalmines and to end public subsidies for coalmining. The report comes as the Queensland and federal governments continue to push for the controversial Adani coalmine in the Galilee basin, signalling potential infrastructure support and "royalty holidays". The government's support for the mine, which would be the biggest in Australia, has been met with a fierce campaign of resistance from environmental, legal, social justice and human rights groups. The Oxfam report, More Coal Equals More Poverty, says the climate change impacts of coal-fired power will disproportionately affect the world's poor and – with most of the energy-poor households in developing countries beyond the reach of electricity grids – new coal-fired power plants won't bring them energy. "Renewables are the clear answer to bringing electricity to those who currently live without it," the report says.