Turning the corner
Obviously, climate policy in Australia is not going well. In the US, the Trump Administration is keen to reverse the progress made under Obama. Yet for the planet as a whole, the news hasn’t been better for a long time. And there is every reason to hope that Trump and Turnbull will fail on this, and on much else.
Two big pieces of good news this week
* For the third year in a row, global carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have remained nearly stable, despite continued economic growth.
* Large-scale cancellations in China and elsewhere have greatly reduced the number of proposed coal-fired power plants
A lot more needs to happen, but with the cost of renewables steadily falling and awareness of the health and climate costs spreading, there’s every reason to hope that the decarbonization of electricity supply will happen more rapidly than anyone expected. After that, the big challenge is to electrify transport. The technology is there, so this is mostly a matter of renewed political will.
As regards the politics, Trump’s failure on Obamacare suggests he will have a much tougher time reversing Obama’s climate policies than he expected; the same has been true for Abbott and Turnbull in Australia. Despite the policy shifts, coal-fired power plants keep closing and there is no likelihood of new ones. The only contribution made by Abbott and Turnbull has been to create enough uncertainty to choke investment in renewables, thereby reducing the security and coherence of the electricity supply system, already in a mess thanks to two decades of misconceived market reforms. Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro proposal, even if it’s only a thought bubble, totally undercuts the free-market and anti-renewables line he and his government have been pushing ever since his capitulation to the denialists as part of his deal to get the top job,