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Bathroom Bill Tests Clout of Rare Moderate in Increasingly Conservative Texas

Mr. Straus, 57, has put himself publicly at odds with the two most powerful Republicans in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both of whom support the bathroom restrictions. And on the eve of the special session, his ability to hold onto power is under fierce attack.In San Antonio, Republican leaders in Mr. Straus’s home county, Bexar, passed a resolution in recent days calling for “a change in leadership in the Texas House speakership,” the first time the local Republican Party has given Mr […]

The ACT Is a Beacon of Hope in Tony Abbott’s Sea of Despair

Co-authored by Josh Creaser* and Charlie Wood Last weekend, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) made history when its Chief Minister – Andrew Barr – committed to divest the Government’s investments in coal, oil and gas companies, making it the first state or territory in Australia to do so, and the 350th worldwide. On the same day, the ACT also became the first Government in Australia to set a 100% renewable energy target. The ACT is no stranger to leadership on climate policy. It also has the most ambitious emissions reductions target in the country and one of the most ambitious in the world. Yet, all of this local climate leadership in the ACT Assembly is incredibly ironic given the climate craziness playing out just a stone’s throw up the road at Parliament House. Whilst the Territory sheds fossil fuel companies from its investment portfolio and aims sky-high on solar and wind, up in the House on the Hill, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his team are busy declaring coal good for humanity. Doggedly, they are throwing their support behind foreign mining giants and multi-billion dollar coal projects, labelling renewable energy offensive and wrecking the policies that would help steer us off a path to climate catastrophe and give our kids a chance at a brighter future. But no matter how hard Prime Minister Abbott campaigns against climate solutions, he will now have to take his seat at Parliament House, knowing that the ACT will soon be 100% powered by renewable energy and free of investments in the fossil fuel companies that he’s hitched his political wagon to so hard. Of course, the ACT’s climate ambition is not simply a case of progressive politicians setting progressive policies. Certainly, Canberra has its fair share of progressive politicians. But it takes a progressive community to demand progressive politics. Legislating the city’s world leading emissions reductions target in 2011 was in large part thanks to a strong community campaign – Canberra Loves 40% – that engaged broad sectors of the ACT community over many months. So too was the case with last week’s fossil fuel divestment announcement. Twelve months ago, Chief Minister Barr dismissed fossil fuel divestment as “gesture politics, that I find frustrating.” But Fossil Free ACT campaigners persisted and it is due to their two years of hard work that, on Saturday, Barr committed his Government to divest. Indeed, in committing to divest, the ACT positions itself not only as a national leader but as a global leader. From San Francisco to Stanford, the Rockefellers to RaboBank and the $900bn Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund to Norway’s Capital Oslo, financial heavyweights worldwide are shedding their fossil fuel investments. These investors recognise that to profit from climate wreckage is morally and financially irresponsible. In committing to go 100% renewable, the ACT is positioning itself alongside some of the smartest economies in the world, like Denmark and China, who see that there’s a brighter future for their economies in industries that don’t wreck the planet. In committing to divest, the ACT is also charting a financially responsible path. Markets have financed future fossil fuel extraction on the false assumption that what fossil fuel companies have asked investors to fund can safely be burnt. But of course, if we want a liveable future, the vast majority of fossil fuels must stay in the ground. Leading international authorities, like Citibank, HSBC and the IMF, are catching on to this and warning of the financial risks that continued investment in fossil fuels pose. You need only look at the performance of companies like Whitehaven Coal, currently in the ACT’s portfolio, to see this in action. Whitehaven recently posted a quarterly loss in the hundreds of millions – the manifestation of a deeper trend that analysts are increasingly saying will spell the end of coal. With financiers like the World Bank and entire countries like Norway getting out of fossil fuels, the ACT is in good company as it backs away from this sector of the past. Company like that serves to highlight, again, the illogic of the Abbott Government’s attachment to fossil fuels. The ACT is a beacon of hope in Tony Abbott’s sea of climate despair. It is an example of the kind of climate leadership that Australia could take and it’s a shining case-study in the benefits that flow when Governments listen to their constituents rather than to the vested fossil fuel interests that are crippling our democracy, undermining our communities and wrecking the fragile climate that allows us all to call this beautiful blue planet home. Imagine the positive future we could create if all of our state, territory and local governments were to follow the ACT’s lead. *Josh Creaser is a campaigner with 350.org Australia and was closely involved in the Fossil Free ACT campaign. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Australia files joke of a climate pledge to the U.N.

Australia files joke of a climate pledge to the U.N.

By on 11 Aug 2015commentsShare

To raucous applause of denialists everywhere, Australia submitted its climate pledge to the U.N. on Tuesday. The plan — immediately and nearly universally hailed as weak by climate hawks, climatologists, and most other reasonable people — is one of twenty-six voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges, covering more than fifty countries, filed in the run-up to the climate negotiations in Paris this December. While currently non-binding, these Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are considered indicative of countries’ levels of ambition in responding to the global climate change dilemma.

Australia committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. Compare this target to the European Union’s: 40 percent of 1990 levels — when global emissions were much lower — by 2030. While Australia’s pledge may look similar to that of the United States, which committed to a cut of 26–28 percent of 2005 levels by 2025, analysts at Australia’s Climate Institute project that the U.S.’s pledge will amount to a 41 percent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. Canberra’s five years of wiggle room make for a significant break for fossil fuel companies.

Weak target aside, “even worse is the lack of policy instruments outlined to get us there,” argued Yannick Spencer, an Australian Master of Public Policy candidate at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, in an email to Grist. “In fact the policy instruments in place will get us nowhere near there, while being highly economically inefficient.”

The Australian INDC leans heavily on the government’s US$1.86 billion Emissions Reduction Fund, the country’s main climate strategy, even though analysts expect it to be “fully eroded” (read: out of money) by next year. The fund operates via a reverse auction, in which companies offer to undertake emissions-cutting projects and bid for taxpayer dollars to fund those projects. Not only is the fund running out of money, but its impact is dubious. The policy suite will allow Australia’s top 20 polluters to actually “increase their carbon emissions without penalties,” reported the Australian Financial Review.

Despite the backlash, the Australian government stuck to its coal-fired guns. “Australia is making a strong and credible contribution to the international effort to tackle climate change,” said Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a statement. “We are committed to tackling climate change without a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme that will hike up power bills for families, pensioners and businesses.”

Ignoring the fact that the INDC is neither strong nor credible, the position is at least a step up for Abbott, who previously called climate change “absolute crap.” (The PM also notably said, “I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated,” but we’ve only got time to cover one type of denialism today.)

Coal made up more than 60 percent of Australia’s energy mix in 2014. Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest private-sector coal company, quoted Abbott in a recent submission to the White House Council on Environmental Quality protesting the inclusion of greenhouse gases in National Environmental Policy Act analyses:

As Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently explained, … “Coal is good for humanity. Coal is good for prosperity. Coal is an essential part of our economic future here in Australia.”

The same can’t be said for the rest of the South Pacific. “If the rest of the world followed Australia’s lead, the Great Barrier Reef would disappear,” said Tony de Brum, foreign minister for the Marshall Islands, in a statement addressing Australia’s INDC. “So would my country, and the other vulnerable atoll nations on Australia’s doorstep.”

Australia Sets Emissions Goal, but Climate Scientists Say It Falls Short

, The New York Times.

Anger as Australia unveils ‘weak’ climate pledge



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Fracking blowout in Texas causes huge dead zone (PHOTOS)

The same week that Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill stripping local communities of their ability to control the oil and gas industry, a fracking well exploded in south Texas, spraying a toxic mix of chemicals and forcing the evacuation of 20 families. A dead zone is visible on June 1, 2015 around an EnCana frackng well blowout that occurred May 19, 2015 in a rural area near Karnes City, Texas. The well, one of two that blew out that week, exploded outside of Karnes City in the Eagle Ford shale, one of the most heavily fracked places in the US. The fracking well spewed enough oil, gas, and chemicals to leave a ¼ mile gash of dead vegetation and contaminated land. The blowout also released an unknown amount of methane, a green house gas 85 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Site of EnCana fracking well blowout EnCana, the company responsible for the blowout, has barred impacted residents from returning to their homes, pets, and possessions for more than three weeks. Some may never return to their homes, as full decontamination is impossible. In Texas, a fracking well can be as close as 300 feet from a home. The impacts, from air pollution, to noise, to major well blowouts, caused the Texas city of Denton to pass a regulation that kept fracking out of the city limits. The Denton resolution was voted on in a local ballot measure, and reflected the democratic will of the citizens of Denton. […]

Texas Governor Signs Limited Medical Marijuana Bill Today

Texas’ Governor signed a medical marijuana bill (if you want to call it that) bill into law today. The bill adds Texas to the growing number of states that have approved a low THC medical marijuana bill. As many activists have pointed out, this bill will not help very many people, if anyone at all. […]

Texas Governor: No Marijuana Legalization Or Decriminalization This Session

Texas is a pretty harsh place when it comes to marijuana policy. To make matters worse, Texas does not have a citizen initiative process. Most marijuana reform victories have come as a result of citizen initiatives. That means that the only way to reform marijuana laws in Texas is via the Texas Legislature. This session […]

Al Gore Says ‘History Will Not Be Kind’ To These Politicians

Former US vice president Al Gore is seen as he arrives for an address by US President Barack Obama at MacGavock High School in Nashville, Tennessee on January 30, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) | MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images

Former Vice President Al Gore (D) issued a sharp warning to lawmakers challenging the validity of global climate change in an interview with Australia’s Fairfax Media this week. In the interview, Gore specifically targeted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott for his anti-climate change record, ahead of Abbott’s meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday.

“I am not a citizen of Australia, and I don’t feel I have the privilege of entering your political debate,” Gore said. “But we have had deniers of the climate crisis in office in the U.S. as well. History will not be kind to those who looked away, much less those who sought to prevent [action on climate change].”

Earlier this week, Obama referred to international greenhouse gas reduction as probably “the most significant long-term challenge” facing the U.S. and the world, during an interview on Showtime’s docu-series “Years of Living Dangerously,” which aired Monday.

Abbott dismissed the notion during a speech at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, arguing that an emphasis on environmental regulations could “clobber” the Australian economy.

“Climate change is a significant global issue — it is a very significant global issue. Is it the most important issue the world faces right now? I don’t believe so,” Abbott said.

Gore, who has repeatedly criticized Abbott’s refusal to link severe climate crises with global warming, warned the Australian leader that he does not “pretend to know what the basis of his thinking is, but Mother Nature has a louder voice.”

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also weighed in on Abbott’s resistance to climate change progress in an interview with ABC1’s “7.30” program Wednesday.

“As I understand it, Australia will go from being one of the great leaders in the world in tackling this problem, to one of the great laggers in addressing efforts to reducing the pollution that is threatening the planet that we’re living on,” Waxman said.