TJ Ryan Foundation Board member, John Quiggin, writes in Inside Story (30.12.17) that, despite the inaction of the US and Australian governments, attitudes and technology are driving change in climate policy.
'On the face of it, there was plenty of bad news for the climate in 2017. Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement and promised to reverse the decline of the coal industry. The Turnbull government rejected proposals for an efficient transition to a low-carbon energy sector, instead announcing a half-baked National Energy Guarantee designed as a lifeline for coal-fired power. Globally, CO2 emissions appeared to rise by around 2 per cent, after remaining stable for three years in a row.
'But a closer look reveals a lot more good news than bad, with two major developments standing out. The first is an emerging global consensus, encompassing national governments, financial institutions and civil society, that the era of coal-fired electricity generation must end, and soon.
'Typifying this trend is the new Powering Past Coal Alliance, made up of national and provincial governments pledged to phase out coal-fired electricity generation by 2030. Launched with twenty members in November 2017, the Alliance expanded rapidly to include major businesses, and now has nearly sixty members. Its government members include Britain, Canada, New Zealand and a number of other developed countries, middle-income countries such as Mexico and Costa Rica, and developing countries such as Angola and Ethiopia. Not surprisingly, Pacific Island nations, endangered by sea-level rise, are well represented.
'This consensus is not yet universal. Along with the United States and Australia, a number of national governments (notably Japan, Turkey and Poland) are still trying to keep coal-fired power alive. Strikingly, most of the recalcitrant governments are led by right-wing demagogues (Australia is the obvious exception, but our policy is arguably being driven by Tony Abbott and the Liberal right rather than our notional PM), and it’s reasonable to hope that their departure will see a reversal of their countries’ positions.'