I’ve rarely had so many international media outlets contact me than has been the case in the last few weeks. The US cable television giant CNN and the Washington Post among them.
The interest in the Upper Hunter is generated by the COP 26 (Conference of the Parties) gathering in Glasgow. Australia is a small contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions but global media players know we have plenty of skin in the climate change policy game.
Here at home, we need to keep fighting to make sure that so-called “scope 3 emissions” (emissions from our coal and gas when burned overseas) and methane from livestock are not part of the rules individual counties are expected to follow when developing their responses to any COP 26 agreement. That will be crucial to ensuring the on-going strength of our coal mining industry. Neither of the major political parties in Australia have ever suggested we place a carbon price (or tax) on our scope 3 emissions or methane from cattle. That remains the case and hopefully Australia will hold the line very firmly in Glasgow.
We also need to hope that those gathering for the COP don’t conclude that the only way to reduce emissions is to punish certain industries. Carbon constraints including carbon taxes were a 20th Century solution to what is now a 21st Century challenge. Technology is moving at sufficient pace to get us to Net Zero Emissions by 2050 without taxes. And by 2050, all of Australia’s coal-fired generators will have retired.
We’re more likely to secure sensible outcomes in Glasgow if there is an honest focus on the fact that most of the world’s energy consumption occurs not in the generation of electricity but rather, in aircraft, heavy and light motor vehicles, factories, smelters, and heating in all of its forms.
International journalists often ask me to direct them to coal miners they can speak with about the global push for more robust climate change policy. If any reader is interested in talking with these journalists (or Australian media) please drop me an email – joel.fitzgib[email protected].
I was taken back by the Government’s failure to mention forestry in its latest climate change plan. New plantation estates will not only absorb lots of carbon, they also create lots of jobs and more forests would help turn back our growing reliance on imports for the timber we need for our housing construction sector.
Trees take a long time to grow and only attract investors who are looking for long-term returns, superannuation funds among them. The best way to attract more investors and more plantings is to allow the forestry sector to fully participate in carbon markets. But the Government refuses to give the sector that opportunity.
The stubbornness flows from a misplaced belief that additional trees will compete with the agriculture sector for water (trees drink water) and land resources. This need not be true with the right policy framework. Forest and forests sector jobs exist in plantings, forest management, harvest, transport, manufacturing, wholesale, and retail. New wood products can now displace energy intensive cement and steel construction material. We need to back the plantation sector in.