Future of the Environment

Australia battles flooding - and other environment stories you need to read this week

This weekly round-up brings you some key environment stories from the past seven days.

This weekly round-up brings you some key environment stories from the past seven days. Image: Reuters

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • This weekly round-up brings you some key environment stories from the past seven days.
  • Top stories: Sydney residents have been ordered to evacuate due to flooding; fall-out from US Supreme Court emissions ruling; environmental groups press leaders to keep promises at UN Ocean Conference.

1. News in brief: Top environment and climate change stories to read this week

The US Supreme Court on 30 June constrained the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants under the landmark Clean Air Act anti-pollution law. The ruling may impact a Securities and Exchange Commission bid to force companies to disclose their emissions.

Following the ruling, China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the United States must meet its international obligations on climate change and do more than "shout slogans".

Meanwhile, EU countries on 29 June clinched deals on proposed laws to combat climate change, backing a 2035 phase-out of new fossil fuel car sales and a multibillion-euro fund to shield poorer citizens from CO2 costs.

Fossil fuels have surpassed renewables to become the European Union's largest source of power generation as the use of natural gas reached its highest point in a decade, the bloc's statistics office said on 30 June.

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The International Energy Agency (IEA) said global nuclear power capacity needs to double by mid-century to reach net-zero emissions targets and help ensure energy security as governments try to reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels.

The global offshore wind industry had a record year in 2021 in terms of new capacity but is still projected to fall short of the IEA's net-zero goals by 2030, a Global Wind Energy Council report said on 29 June.

Australia's new Labor government has appointed a top scientist to lead a six-month review of the country's carbon credits following allegations that some projects earning credits are not really adding to carbon emissions reductions.

NATO aims to cut its civilian and military greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45% by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on 28 June as he announced the first emissions targets for the organization.

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2. Sydney residents ordered to leave as Australia battles flooding

Fresh evacuation orders were issued for tens of thousands of Sydney residents on 4 July after relentless rains triggered floods for the third time this year in some low-lying suburbs.

Some areas in New South Wales state have received a month's rain in the past two days, swelling rivers and forcing Sydney's main dam, the Warragamba Dam, to spill.

Flooding in March and April in New South Wales and southeast Queensland state resulted in A$4.8 billion ($3.3 billion) in insured damage, the Insurance Council of Australia estimated.

New South Wales rain flooding environment climate change
Parts of New South Wales have had a month's rain in just two days. Image: Australian Government Bureau of Meterology

Australia has been exposed to the La Nina weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean two years in a row, which typically brings above-average rainfall on the east coast. The La Nina event ended in June, but there is a 50-50 chance it may re-form later this year, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Warm ocean sea surface temperatures and another phenomenon, the Indian Ocean Dipole, are bringing wetter than normal weather. The Indian Ocean Dipole index turned negative in May, increasing the chances of above-average winter and spring rainfall for most of Australia, the weather bureau said in June. The Australian winter runs from June through August.

An expert said the increased frequency of heavy rain was consistent with what could be expected from climate change, as warmer air holds more moisture in the atmosphere.

"Most climate models are suggesting increases in the frequency of rain events in Australia," Tom Mortlock, a senior catastrophe analyst at insurer Aon, told Reuters.

3. As UN Ocean Conference ends, environmental groups press world leaders

Environmental groups have urged world leaders to keep promises they made at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon last week, to do everything in their power to save the world's seas.

"The ocean, climate, and coastal communities worldwide need real progress, not promises, when it comes to ocean health," said Marco Lambertini, director-general of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The conference brought together about 7,000 delegates, including heads of state, scientists and NGOs. Many worried the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine could undermine efforts to fight climate change. Others, including President Emmanuel Macron of France, expressed concerns about deep-sea mining and some called for a moratorium.

Attendees at the conference assessed progress in implementing a UN directive to protect marine life.

The WWF told leaders to seize the momentum and resolve long-standing issues surrounding the protection of the high seas such as plastic pollution by swiftly enacting and ratifying "robust global treaties".

Lisbon is the last major political gathering before member states meet in August to try to hammer out a long-awaited treaty to shield open seas beyond national jurisdictions.

Greenpeace's Laura Meller said the success of the Lisbon conference would be measured in August.

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