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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Australian Government Minister unaware of ratification of Paris Agreement

In September 2017 Steven Ciobo, the Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment made a decision to allow taxpayer funding of coal projects.

After this decision became known he was asked on 6 June 2018 to give reasons for it.

The reasons reveal the loss of capacity of the Coalition Government to obtain economic intelligence needed for policy decisions.

Steven Ciobo mistakenly believed (his answer to the question is shown in full below) that decisions by a number of banks and others to not invest in thermal coal mines was a consequence of social pressure rather than economic pressure.

Australian banks have made climate-related investment policies for coal projects in the interests of their shareholders following from the Australian Government's ratification of the Paris Agreement. (See "Ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change") This ratification was made on 10 November 2016:
The Australian Government today reaffirmed Australia’s strong commitment to effective global action on climate change with the ratification of both the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol.
Further information on the Government's commitment to the Paris Agreement describes "key outcomes" for coordinated global action including:
A global goal to hold average temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep warming below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
This "coordinated global action" has a number of economic impacts and it is these that underpin decisions by banks to reduce investment in thermal coal projects - NOT "social pressure" as Steven Ciobo mistakenly believes.

The economic intelligence he should have been across includes the material produced by the International Energy Agency following the Paris Agreement. Note that the announcement by the Westpac bank to which Steven Ciobo took umbrage is made with this material clearly in mind:
Global coal demand and share of coal in world energy demand by scenario

Westpac launched its updated Climate Change Action Plan on 28 April 2017. It said:
"the International Energy Association’s (IEA) modelling indicates that under a two degree scenario thermal coal demand will peak in the current decade and decline thereafter."
The economic pressures that result from global action are being felt beyond Australia. The Turnbull Government is poorly advised in deciding to risk taxpayer funds in a futile last-stand against change:
Over 18,000 jobs cut in industries building thermal power plants

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

The Hon Steven Ciobo MP

National Press Club interview

6 June 2018
QUESTION: Amy Remeikis from The Guardian. Just to come back home for a moment, last year you reversed the Efic decision to allow for onshore resource investment. I'm just wondering what is the rationale behind that decision given that major Australian financial institutions have been pulling away from that sort of investment since 2015, and if you didn't consult with your department, who did you get advice from, if at all?
STEVEN CIOBO: Sure. Well, the rationale for it was because the decision by a number of banks and others to not invest was a consequence of social pressure rather than economic pressure. And the reason I can say that is because, contrary to The Guardian's claims and reporting, I did actually obtain advice. In fact, my decision to alter the statement of expectations for Efic went through Cabinet. And of course by definition I received advice from the department in relation to it, and they, in fact, highlighted it was a consequence of social pressure rather than economic decision-making that led to that. So that's the reason why we made the change. Because in essence it is obviously preposterous to deny viable resource projects - completely separate to the issue of coal - from securing financing for export, which creates livelihoods, drives, in many respects, rural or urban economies. I think Australia owes it to our people to do everything we can to provide and uphold their standard of living.