Wednesday, April 21, 2021

PM bets on carbon capture dream

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced $539.2 million in funding for controversial carbon capture and storage as well as hydrogen projects, as pressure rises on his government to act on emissions ahead of a major global climate summit. The funding includes $275.5 million towards developing four hydrogen production hubs in regional areas, and $263.7 million towards carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects and hubs. The coal sector has long looked to CCS technology to reduce its emissions but there are limited examples of it being applied at commercial scale, while hydrogen can be generated from renewables but the federal government has been trying to include fossil fuels in the mix. The Australian pitched the announcement as a bid to “stare down domestic and international pressure for fixed targets” to reduce emissions. It comes as the UK announced it would cut carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, ahead of a US climate summit this week where Australia’s preference for technological investment over targets is expected to come under increasing pressure. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned “when countries continue to rely on coal for a significant amount of their energy ... they will hear from the United States and our partners about how harmful these actions are”.

In a landmark verdict a jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. In an arrest captured on video that sparked worldwide protests, Chauvin, who is white, pushed his knee into the neck of a dying George Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed Black man, for more than nine minutes outside the grocery store where Floyd had been accused of buying cigarettes with a fake $US20 banknote. The jury deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days to reach the verdict, after considering three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses including bystanders, police officials and medical experts, along with hours of video evidence.

Former government adviser Brittany Higgins could meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison as soon as next week to discuss sexual assault reforms, after expressing disappointment that the talks have taken so long to schedule. Higgins, who alleges she was raped by a colleague in a federal minister’s office, has written to Mr Morrison’s chief of staff to seek a meeting in Canberra from April 28 to 30, and is asking to bring advocates for reform to offer support. “It is disappointing that I haven’t heard back from his office despite the Prime Minister’s repeated commentary about a proposed meeting,” Higgins told The Sydney Morning Herald. Higgins said she replied to an email from Morrison’s chief of staff on April 13 before following up on Tuesday. In her latest letter she says she will push for an independent and confidential internal ombudsman or other standalone complaints body for ministerial staff.

Chad’s military leaders claim that President Idriss Deby has died on the battlefield, just one day after the 68-year-old was proclaimed the winner of a presidential election that had given him a sixth term in office. In an account that could not be independently verified, the army said that Deby had fought heroically against rebels but was wounded in battle, before dying of unspecified wounds. The military quickly named Deby’s son, Mahamat Kaka, as the country’s interim leader, closed the borders and installed a 6pm curfew. “Chad is not a monarchy. There can be no dynastic devolution of power in our country,” the rebels said in a statement.

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“After Trump was swept from power, Joe Biden entered the presidency with an enormously detailed plan for climate change. It included stopping all subsidies to fossil fuels, a massive rollout of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, generating 100 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2035, more energy-efficient buildings, new climate risk reporting standards for business and industry and much more ... The new US administration’s ambition did not stop at America’s borders.”

“Revenge, so the expression goes, is a dish best served cold. Six months after her ‘humiliation’ by the prime minister and ‘bullying’ by Australia Post’s chairman, Christine Holgate gave ice-cold vent to her fury. And while the former chief executive of the nation’s mail service came to the senate inquiry into her demise attired in the white livery of a suffragette, gender discrimination was far from the whole story.”

“Ali’s introduction to tapestry came after the destruction of the family home in Quetta by suicide bombers – all that remained was a collection of rugs and weavings. Speaking at Brisbane’s IMA, the artist remembered his surprise at the resilience of these textiles. With this significant increase in scale, Ali’s textiles – which evoke the power of the Afghan war rugs that emerged after the Russian invasion of the 1970s – encourage a meditation on labour and time.”

“Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has ‘concerns’ over the prime minister's suggestion that home quarantine for some international travellers could just be months away. ‘I think the jury’s out on that one,’ Ms Palaszczuk told Today, after PM Scott Morrison outlined the possibility that vaccinated returned travellers would quarantine at their own homes by the second half of the year … Ms Palaszczuk finds herself in step with Victoria and Western Australia, who are known to be hesitant about stopping enforced hotel quarantine.”

“Robodebt campaigners and federal MPs have hit out at Services Australia over so-called ‘vanishing’ Centrelink debts … independent senator Rex Patrick said he had several constituents ‘contact me wondering why their debts have vanished from their MyGov account. Services Australia has advised my office that this is because the debts have been quarantined, but not waived. It’s hugely disrespectful for Services Australia to change the status of someone’s debt, particularly when the change may give people false hope.’”

“It remains common practice to offset vegetation lost by planting new vegetation. Let’s consider the Birthing Tree in that context. It is an old-growth river red gum that is up to 800 years old. It has a girth of more than 7 metres and stands more than 30 metres tall. It has been culturally modified, with fire, creating a small room in the base of the trunk. Thousands of Djab Wurrung babies have been born, over multiple generations, within it. The placentas of those babies have been buried under the Directions Trees around it. How do you offset that?”

“Police officers in Hradec Králové were left stunned after a local man surrendered a pink Soviet T-34 tank and a self-propelled gun as part of the country’s weapon amnesty. ‘When we filmed a video on gun amnesty and said with exaggeration that [we will accept even a] tank, we didn’t expect it to inspire the people [to do so]’ ... the police said.”

Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.