And then of course there was the release of the Federal Budget which was severely criticised for being very light on climate and environmental issues. It seems that the government does not like to even use the word 'climate'. It just appears in two items in Budget Paper Number 2.
The budget allocated considerable money to fund new carbon capture and storage projects which aim to capture some CO2 at the point of emission and store it underground. The aim of this is to allow continued fossil fuel use with lower emissions, which demonstrates the priorities of the Federal government. Recent research into carbon capture and storage projects shows that the vast majority of projects fail.
There was much discussion about this and other aspects of the budget including its support for a 'gas fired recovery', which group members believe will not reduce emissions. Gas is sometimes described as emitting about half as much as coal when burned, but studies have shown its impact is much higher due to the leakage of methane during extraction and piping.
The world's leading energy authority, the International Energy Agency, issued a statement saying that rich countries like Australia have an obligation to reach net zero emissions earlier than 2050 if we are to meet the Paris target. The statement said that no new mines are needed, no new coal plants should be built and that no new natural gas fields are needed. Group members contrasted this with the continued support of the federal government for coal and gas. On the same day that the statement from the International Energy Agency was released the government announced it would be spending $600 million of tax-payer's money on a new gas fired plant in northern NSW.
Sometimes it is hard to come away from our sessions with any real hope that Australia will take effective action in relation to climate change.