Dear editor . . .

One way of keeping climate change in the news, and fostering informed discussion about current issues, is by writing letters to the paper. Members of CCBR do so regularly.  

2020

Jan 22: To The SMH re ScoMo's attack on NSW Minister Matt Kean

What is stopping our transition from our reliance on coal to the clean energy future we need is the link between fossil fuel businesses and government. 

- Angela Michaelis, Balmain 

Jan 15: To The SMH re ScoMo's 'adaptation only' response to bushfire crisis

Scott Morrison is more interested in spending to adapt to climate change than to stop it.  This is the moral hazard facing all countries: a dollar spent on mitigation may save the world $10 in adaptation, but perhaps only saves your own country 50c.  Such parochialism costs us all more in the end.
 
His refusal to set stronger targets has helped scuttle international agreement, probably costing us more than we could ever save by it. 

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

2019

Nov 23: To The SMH re Morrison's little Australia defence

Scott Morrison (SMH, Nov 21) doesn't think that "with just 1.3 per cent of global emissions ... Australia doing something differently... would have changed the fire outcome".

Now there's a defence with a wide range of applications. What difference can it make to the budget if I lie about a couple of thousand on my tax return? What difference if I hide my lunch litter in the park flower bed?

As anyone not desperate for an excuse understands, it's the per capita emissions that matter. On that score we're at three times the world average.

Oh, and another thing Australia could do differently is to ramp down thermal coal exports. The emissions from those roughly equal our entire domestic emissions.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

 Nov 18: To The SMH re a Bushfire expert ignorant on climate

Jennifer Duke ("Truth in the news vital component of functioning economy ", Nov 18, p29) refers to the SBS article on David Packham, the bushfire expert championed by some media for his denial that climate change has made the fires worse.
A bushfire expert he may well be, but the reasoning he offers shows he is no expert on climate.

His argument is that a rise of one degree does not worsen fire seasons much, but droughts do. What he overlooks is the causal chain. "Global warming" does not mean everywhere is a little warmer, all the time, than it would have been otherwise. It means the climate can change in complex ways, which may include greater ranges in temperature and rainfall. And it does seem that weather patterns are persisting longer, leading to floods, heatwaves and droughts around the world. 

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

Nov 2:  To The SMH re Morrison's twisted sense of selfishness

Scott Morrison complains of "selfish" protesters.

Coal mining companies want to continue to profit from the digging up and burning of coal, despite the known threat to the future of the whole world's economy.

Morrison's elevation was due in part to his support for coal and opposition to renewables.

The protesters suffer harassment and risk prosecution on behalf of us all.

The Prime Minister should consult his dictionary.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove 

Oct 23: To The SMH re Connecting the dots, not ...

In NSW news today ... lives and 50 plus homes lost before summer's even started, Deputy Premier wants farmers compensated for walking off their land, house insurance premiums to double and triple but only for those who can still actually get one, NSW government to pass laws so new coal mines can open without challenge.

- Robert Garnsey, Annandale

Oct 23: To The SMH re IPC to become not-I, not-P

John Barilaro's proposed limitations to the NSW Independent Planning Commission (nsw-government-says-new-planning-laws-give-certainty-for-mines - 22 October) may provide certainty for the mining sector.

For the rest of us they bring certainty too: that the State Government doesn't understand the word 'independent', preferring decisions informed only by its own choice of factors; and that confronted by the urgent need to address the global challenge of reducing emissions, it would rather funk it and continue with business as usual.

So much for planning.

- Dominic Case, East Balmain

June 17 [published]: To The SMH: New-age farmers take the lead on climate change

Farmers are finding ways to take climate change seriously (''Bad luck or bad management: Farmers divided on drought'', June 16), as the energy industry steadily increases investment in clean renewables for power generation. Imagine what we could do if the government took the lead on changes needed to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis.

- Angela Michaelis, Balmain

June 15 [published]To The SMH re Adequacy of Environmental protection

If Adani is able to meet all the environmental requirements placed before it, then it is quite clear that our environmental requirements are not strong enough to protect our environment.

Dominic Case, East Balmain

Jun 7: To The SMH, Taylor can't have his cake and eat it too 

Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, defends Australia's ever-rising domestic emissions on the grounds that the accounting ignores how our gas exports cut emissions overseas.  It is refreshing to learn that he intends to take responsibility for the emissions consequences of our exports.

Now, let's start with all that coal...

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

Mar 16 [published]: To Northern Daily Leader, 

Barnaby Joyce is content to keep stoking the climate fires because other countries are doing it. He went to Riverview College but obviously learnt nothing. People learn by example and leadership is the act of setting the right example for those who follow. Barnaby is no leader.

- Robert Garnsey , Annandale

 

Mar 13: To The SMH, in defence of the RBA chair

Trevor St. Baker lambasts Guy Debelle as misunderstanding how the grid works, arguing "wind and solar cannot support an electricity supply system's voltage and frequency".

First, the RBA chairman said nothing that implied any view on that. He was merely opining on the consequences to the economy of the likely climate trend, as is entirely appropriate to his role.

Secondly, St. Baker seems strangely unaware that a mix of gas peaking, batteries and synthetic inertia is well able to maintain voltage and frequency. Fortunately, those who manage our grid do get this. But who will this government believe, those whose job is to run the grid or those whose business is to build coal power stations?

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

Mar 12: To The SMH, Qld Nats pick losers

Queensland Nats are pushing for subsidies for new coal power to bring down prices. Any fool can make power cheaper by shifting the burden to taxpayers.

PM Morrison insists any financial support will go to baseload plant on a technologically neutral basis, but that's a contradiction. Energy experts agree baseload is not essential for reliability, so that requirement is already a technological choice.

Heavy Government investment in Snowy 2.0 will compete unfairly with other storage media such as batteries and solar thermal with molten salt.

All the while, the Australian fossil fuel industries reap billions in tax concessions, direct and indirect handouts, and permissions to pollute the environment for no charge.

All this from the champions of the Free Market.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

Mar 7:  To The SMH, Hunter coal plant to cripple PM's canter

The proposal for two 1,000MW coal-fired power plants in the Hunter Valley would add approximately seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. It seems Scott Morrison may be about to find a lot of extra weight in his saddlebags as we"canter" to the finishing line of our Paris agreement. Especially as we are already going backwards.

- Dominic Case, East Balmain

Feb 28 [published] To The Australian Minerals Council should ask the experts

If Tania Constable (Feb 27) thinks no one has an answer for what developing countries should do if denied our coal she cannot have been asking anyone likely to know.

In many parts of Africa, remoteness makes solar and battery minigrids a far better prospect. In India and China, air pollution is a horrendous problem, making those countries keen to shift to renewables as fast as possible.

Even where more coal power could lead to a raised standard of living in the short term, these same countries face some of the worst devastation from climate change in the decades to come.

As CEO of the Minerals Council, perhaps Ms. Constable finds it more convenient to restrict her inquiries.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

 Feb 21: To The SMH re States taking the climate lead

Your editorial (Feb 21) rightly encourages states to step into the Federal breach in energy policy but worries about coordination within the Eastern states grid, the NEM.

Since Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT are already more progressive than NSW, and Tasmania has so much hydro, much should be achievable through COAG working with the AEMO and AEMC.

There are obstacles. The AEMC has proved slow in adopting necessary rule changes; the Energy Security Board is locked into only cutting emissions by 26%, although to meet the 2C Paris commitment electricity emissions need to come down by about 45%, and anyway it should be 1.5C; the agenda-driven concern with 'weather-dependent' generation overlooks the unreliability of coal and gas in hot weather and the far more numerous outages that are network failures.

The good news is that grid stability can now be maintained with wind and solar more cheaply by adding synchronous condensers (flywheels, effectively) than by capping their percentage of supply.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

Feb 17: To The Herald Sun re Coal and the National Interest

Your correspondent Peta Credlin (Feb 16) takes it for granted that opening up new coal mines is in the National Interest.  It rather depends on one's timescale: income and jobs for a few years, versus climate disaster and economic collapse for centuries.

-  Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

Jan 27: To The Courier Mail re Australian coal use and export

Your correspondent Peta Credlin (Jan 26) argues that, as the world's largest exporter of coal, it would be absurd not to burn it domestically.
Afghanistan is the world's largest exporter of illegal heroin. Does that make it smart for Afghans themselves to partake?
The more rational argument is that, as one of the countries least able to cope with greater extremes of weather, it is absurd for us to be digging coal up in the first place.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove 

2018

Dec 21: To The Daily Tele re the real causes of high power prices

If Anna Caldwell (Opinion, Dec 20) thinks that renewables are the cause of our higher power prices she has not been paying attention.
 
Rooftop PV has reduced the summer peaks, so cut out some of the extreme price spikes in the wholesale market.  Modelling what we would be paying for power now were there no PV shows there has been a net saving for all customers, not just those with PV.
The consensus of experts is that the main causes of the rise in price over the last decades have been excessive provision of poles-and-wires and the uncertainty in the generation market that has resulted from abrupt climate policy reversals.
Right now, the tranche of new renewables shortly to come onstream is expected to lower prices somewhat. The Federal government's current antics threaten that process.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

 Dec 17: To The Daily Tele re Climate Myopia

Tim Blair (Opinion, Dec 16) frets about his 2018 Christmas being ruined by climate activists. The activists are more concerned that such short-sightedness will ruin everyone's Christmases for centuries.  

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

 

Dec 9 [published]: To The SMH re awarding of a contract to rebuild the Allianz Stadium

The CO2 emissions of steel and concrete production, not to mention truck movements, are frightening. The construction sector makes up over 18 per cent of Australia's carbon footprint.

At a time when Australia is attracting international criticism for its failure to adequately act on climate change, we should cancel contracts for the new stadium.

While we improve our building practices and materials, let's save our emissions for buildings we actually need.

- Angela Michaelis, Balmain.

Dec 4: To The Aus Fin Review re Adani's Carmichael mine

As a volunteer climate activist, I can assure Lucas Dow ("End the myths and welcome the reality of Carmichael mine", 3/12/2018) that it's not just the Adani mine. I oppose any new coal mine in Australia. Adani just had the bad luck to propose the biggest in the Southern hemisphere.

Due partly to activism, and partly to wise financial decisions not to back it with funding, Adani has now had to scale back. But it still represents the first mine in the previously untouched Galilee Basin.

The one environmental approval that the Adani mine has not had to face is the vital one of how much its product (and the process of extraction) will contribute to carbon emissions. Currently the world has enough coal already in production that, if burnt, would tip us over 2 degrees C of global warming. Adani's full capacity of 2.3 billion tonnes of coal can produce 7.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, a cost thinking Australians cannot accept.

Yes, we need more jobs in Queensland, and elsewhere. But they should be jobs with a future, and encouraging workers to think that is in coal mining is to put our heads in the sand. Let's instead put our efforts into a just transition for those workers in the industry, into training for 21st century jobs, and into construction projects that benefit Queenslanders, not billionaire mine owners.

- Angela Michaelis, Balmain 

Dec 3 [published]: To The SMH Indirect imapcts can kill a reef too

You report federal Environment Minister Melissa Price as arguing that the Adani mine would have ''no direct impacts'' on the reef (''Youth activists target Labor as minister says reef is safe''). When the impact is likely to be lethal, the directness is moot.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

Dec 3: To The Canberra Times re the non-burden of renewable energy schemes

Katie Burgess (Dec 3) cites a report that the ACT's renewable energy and efficiency schemes added $72 to the average electricity bill.  It arrives at this by simply adding up what the ACT government has spent on these schemes.  

That analysis does not take into account that the addition of renewable energy has depressed the average price of power generation.

Rooftop solar has trimmed the annual peak demand.  This significantly cuts the summer wholesale price spikes and reduces the need for grid upgrades.  Reduced demand resulting from the efficiency programme will have also held the price down.
In order to determine the net effect on power bills, one would have to model what the price of power would have been without these schemes.  In NSW, rooftop solar has lowered the average bill.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

Dec 9 [published]: To The Daily Tele re Brain Training

Peta Credlin (1st Dec) assumes school students' concern over climate change can only be a result of "brainwashing" by teachers.  

Good teachers encourage an appreciation of science and scientific method.  Perhaps that has resulted in students trusting the overwhelming consensus of the international scientific community that far more urgent action is needed.

If that's brainwashing, we need a lot more of it.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

Dec 1: To The SMH re the lethal indirect impacts of Adani on The Reef

You report Environment Minister Melissa Price as arguing that the Adani mine would have "no direct impacts" on the Great Barrier Reef. When the impact is likely to be lethal, the directness is moot.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

Dec 1: To The Daily Tele re the lame "we only emit 1.8%" excuse

Your correspondent Satya Marar trots out the feeble excuse that Australia only directly accounts for 1.8% of greenhouse emissions. By the same logic, a taxpayer could argue that there is no point in their paying tax since it would only be 0.0001% of the total tax take.

To gauge the relevance of that 1.8%, we can divide the world notionally into 300 countries of 25 million each. The average of these would account for only 0.3% of total emissions, and make Australia the highest emitter by some margin.

Further, the 1.8% does not include twice that from our coal exports. While not covered by our Paris commitment, they do constitute "contributory negligence". Beyond that, by taking on a fair share of action, Australia could be a credible voice in the global discussion, helping other countries reduce their own emissions.

It is not as though this is some kind of foreign aid with no return for Australia. Even the 2C warming once considered tolerable is likely to wipe out the Great Barrier Reef and expose us to floods and bushfire seasons never before experienced.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

Nov 29: To The SMH re PM's advice to striking schoolkids

The Prime Minister wants striking schoolchildren to leave mending the climate to the grown ups.  Not sure whom he has in mind.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  


Oct 25 [published]: To The Oz re Nuclear power cost

In the debate The Australian calls for over nuclear power (Editorial, Oct 21), the economics may be hard to pin down.  

Nobody seems to know what the premiums would be for adequate liability cover on the open market because all governments indemnify the operator or offer cheap rates.
Supporters of nuclear power make decommissioning costs disappear by applying the same discount rate as for expected earnings. That is an accounting solecism. The sinking fund to cover decommissioning would have to be invested at low risk.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

Oct 4 [published]: To The SMH Kelly oblivious to the climate

Perhaps Kelly could swap his job in an air conditioned office with a blue collar worker, gardener or farmer.

Since 2001, 16 out of 17 years have been hotter than average, and we break new temperature records every year.
Try working outside this summer, Craig.

Angela Michaelis, Balmain

 

  Oct 2: To The SMH; Our emissions are rising, at a canter

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says that people "choose and pick their figures to make a political argument" (ABC Insiders, last Sunday). He sets a perfect example when he boasts that per capita greenhouse gas emissions are the lowest in 28 years, and we are on track to meet our Paris commitment "at a canter".

But per capita emissions mean nothing to the atmosphere. 540 Million tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere have the same effect on global warming, however many people are responsible for it. It's total emissions that we need to deal with. And total emissions, which is what our Paris commitment is about, have been rising steadily since early 2014 - the entire term of the Abbott - Turnbull - Morrison governments. Our Paris target is getting further away. The PM's talk of canter is pure cant and hypocrisy.

- Dominic Case, Balmain East 

 Sep 1 [published]: To The SMH re Energy Minister's ideology

The new Energy Minister Angus Taylor has pointedly dropped any mention of emissions reduction from the government's energy policy.

This is a serious omission: most Australians now recognise that the changing climate is not just a future threat but a present reality that must be urgently addressed. Australia has among the highest per capita emissions in the world, and with abundant renewable energy sources is in an ideal position to take effective action.

Instead of falsely blaming rising prices on "ideological objectives", he should recognise that new, renewable sources of electricity are now significantly cheaper than aging fossil fuel sources. In fact, if there are any ideological objectives to be identified, they lie in his grievous omission of this aspect of energy policy. 

- Dominic Case, Balmain East  

 Aug 31 [published]: To The Daily Telegraph:Taylor has a duty to consider emissions

When Angus Taylor says he is focusing only on price as Minister for Energy, he is neglecting part of his role as a government minister - to make policy which will keep Australians safe.

If manufacturers were allowed to pollute our rivers without controls because it would make the goods they produce cheaper, we'd object. If car manufacturers and petrol retailers were allowed to pump out carcinogenic petrol fumes, because it made driving a car cheaper, we'd object. So I object when the Minister says he's not interested in what emissions the energy we use produces.

Faced with the reality of drought and temperature extremes made worse each year by greenhouse gas emissions from coal, our new Minister should, in line with the wishes of the majority of Australians, be aiming for energy that is clean and renewable as well as cheap.

- Angela Michaelis, Balmain

Aug 31 [published]: To The SMH Power down: minister's priority

Angus Taylor, the new Energy Minister, has declared cutting power prices his top priority (''Coalition reloads on power price cuts'', August 30). Smart move. Renewable projects already committed are predicted to achieve this over the next few years, making him seem a hero. But he won't be able to take credit unless he is also seen to have taken some action, however irrelevant in practice.

Unfortunately this may consist of subsidising new coal power, a much more expensive prospect, shifting cost from electricity consumer to taxpayer.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove

 

Aug 27: To The SMH re Feds forcing States to frack

Our new PM has renewed his threat to withhold GST revenue from States that do not maximise their income - specifically, by banning fracking. But the logic only works if the full costs and benefits are taken into account.  States should require bonds to be lodged sufficient for complete rehabilitation.  Too often, the taxpayer has been left to pick up the bill.  
Although it's way beyond what the States require now, the risk to water tables makes fracking particularly worrisome, so it would be an entirely reasonable measure, and very likely to make it uneconomic. 

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

Aug 19: to The Canberra Times re technological neutrality and the NEG

Stephen Galilee (18 Aug) calls for a technologically neutral solution to grid security, avoiding ideological preferences.  Unfortunately there can be different opinions on what is neutral and what ideology.

The Energy Security Board goes part way to specifying the solution to grid reliability - every generator must have contractual back-up.  That is not the only way to ensure enough total generation to meet a given demand.  Further, it ignores, for now, demand management solutions and blackouts caused by distribution failures.  The ESB's solution favours traditional baseload, so despite the good intent, it is not technology neutral.

True neutrality would also add up the total cost of generation - including the direct health harms from pollution and longer term environmental costs - and balance all against the financial cost of the occasional outage.
Meanwhile, the dogged insistence by the right wing of the Coalition that coal has to be supported is pure ideology.  This even creeps into the article's quote from Josh Frydenberg, where he transmutes the ESB's caution against closing coal power stations prematurely into a mandate to keep them operational beyond economic sense. 

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

Aug 15: To The SMH re Sen Kelly's causality error

Craig Kelly observes that nations that have led the move to renewables tend to have dearer electricity.  Hardly surprising.  Not all nations have cheap and plentiful fossil fuels, so the switch to renewables made economic sense there first.

Did this help to hold down prices? It seems to have in South Australia. From 2006 to 2016 power expenditure rose 49% in SA in real terms, compared with 66%, 73%, and 87% in NSW, Victoria and Queensland respectively. 

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

Aug 8: To The Age re PM's claim the NEG will save $550 per household

Malcolm Turnbull accuses the Victorian government of denying households $550 a year in power savings by opposing the National Energy Guarantee in its present form.

According to the Energy Security Board, only $150 of that comes from the NEG itself; the other $400 will happen anyway as a result of new renewable energy generation already committed.

Besides, there is no reason to suppose that the changes the State government seeks would miss out on much, if any, of the extra $150.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

Aug 7: To The Daily Telegraph re potential for NEG to save on bills 

Your faith that the NEG will make power cheap ("Greenies push Labor to keep power prices high") is misplaced.  
The board's own estimates are that most price easing will come from the renewables already to come online in the next few years.  The NEG is mostly geared to firming power production (not actually supply; it won't stop the distribution failures that cause most outages).  That, and an emissions cut target of only 26%, will inhibit further renewables that would bring power prices yet lower.
At the same time, with a national commitment of a 26% cut, only cutting 26% from electricity generation pushes the same burden onto sectors that will find it much harder. We will all pay for that in other ways.
And if the Coalition backbench succeeds in subsidising new coal power, that just shifts the impost from electricity bill to tax bill.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

July 28: To The Canberra Times re fuel excise and electric vehicles

Eryk Bagshaw (27 July) describes fuel excise as "used to pay for roads", giving the impression that it represents a fair means of covering that cost.  This is not the case.

If charged in proportion to road damage, HGVs would pay $1.50/km but passenger vehicles only 0.05c/km, a ratio of 3000:1; yet HGVs enjoy an excise rebate! That would shift much freight to rail, significantly cutting the cost of road maintenance.

If we accept that passenger vehicles should continue to subsidise commerce so massively, we should at least consider all the public costs driving creates. The Department of Infrastructure estimates petrol and Diesel health harm from particulates and noxious gases at 10c/L. That is probably out of date, as more harms are discovered every year. Using the US Environmental Protection Agency's figure for the Social Cost of Carbon (i.e., climate damage) we can add another 12c/L.

True, an electric vehicle charged from the coal-fired grid of today also results in CO2, but that is not inherent in the vehicle, and would not apply to all. The way to make that fair is to reintroduce a price on carbon.

Besides, fuel excise only raises about half the revenue. The rest comes from rego, stamp duty, GST and tolls, all of which are charged equally on electric vehicles.

On balance, the charging split between petrol, Diesel and EVs is already about right.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove  

July 24 [published] To Canberra Times Rooftop solar saves us all money

You report ... that the ACCC calculates the ACT's scheme as costing non-PV households $34 a year. This should not be taken at face value.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal concedes that rooftop solar feed-in does much to reduce power prices for everyone. It achieves this by having shaved off what used to be the peak demand in mid-afternoon. This reduces the eye-watering peaks retailers have to pay the generators and lowers poles-and-wires costs.

The saving results both from the fed-in power and the self-consumed.

To find the net cost of the scheme as a whole to other households would require estimating what the grid prices would be now if domestic solar had never taken off.

Far more likely, they only calculated the savings to other households if the scheme were abruptly terminated, yet the existing PV generation and feed-in were to continue.

Derek Bolton, Birchgrove, NSW

July: To Anthony Albanese, seeking a clear statement of opposition to the Adani coalmine 

July 22 [published]To SMH re Frydenberg's view of 26% Paris commitment:

I wondered how Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg could describe as ''ambitious'' Australia's Paris target to reduce our emissions by 26% by 2030 (''Barrier reef headed for 'collapse''', July 21-22). Then I realised he is 26% Minister for Environment and 74% Minister for Energy - and most of that is Minister for Fossil Fuels. 

 - Angela Michaelis, Balmain

July 13 [published]: To SMH re Coalition's push to subsidise new coal:

Dear Prime Minister: do you have a mandate to use taxpayers' funds to build new coal-fired power stations (''PM backs cheaper power'', July 12)? Better check with us first. 

- Janet Simpson, Glebe 

July 12 [published]: To SMH ACCC picks a solution instead of defining the problem

The ACCC has recommended to hold down power prices by scrapping the federal subsidy for domestic PV (Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme) early. But by their own figures it would only save households 40 cents a week, and overlooks that the subsidy roughly pays for itself in health savings by displacing coal.

Conversely, the ACCC proposes government support for new generators with ''firm product'', insisting this is a technologically neutral requirement. But firm product from an individual generator is unnecessary; it is the firmness of the grid as a whole that matters, and this may be more cheaply achieved by a mix of technologies: demand management, solar PV, solar thermal, wind, hydro, pumped hydro, batteries and gas peaking.

- Derek Bolton, Birchgrove


July 4: To SMH re solar feed-in

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton doesn't want to favour consumers who've installed rooftop solar at the expense of those who can't access it "including renters and apartment dwellers" ("Critics slam decision to cut solar feed-in payments', SMH 4/7/18). A forward-thinking minister would want to spread the benefit of low-cost green energy to those groups.

In Victoria, for example, not-for-profits are leading in schemes that tackle the "split incentive" - that is, in ensuring that when landlords install solar, they get an increase in rent while the tenant gets a reduction in power bills. Cheap long-term finance for landlord solar installations through a reduction on council rates is another option.

In apartment buildings, solar which powers common areas can give a return on investment passed on through reductions in strata fees.

Attractive feed-in tariffs, and regulations that favour innovative schemes, create a climate to encourage these win-win solutions. And overall, all power consumers benefit from the increasing percentage of low cost solar in our grid mix.

 - Angela Michaelis, Balmain

June: To Josh Frydenberg re Adani attempt to avoid impact assessment on huge increase in water take

May 27 [published]: To SMH re Perrottet's "big Sydney" vision:

Your article ignores the elephant in the room: climate change. If Perrottet cares about the future for his children, reducing our emissions as well as adapting to our escalating climate emergency had better be on his agenda.

- Angela Michaelis, Balmain  

 April 12 [published]: To Australian Financial Review: It's yes to jobs, but ones for Queenslanders

The one environmental approval that the Adani mine has not had to face is the vital one of how much its product (and the process of extraction) will contribute to carbon emissions. The world has enough coal already in production that, if burnt, would tip us over 2 degrees of global warming. Adani's full capacity of 2.3billion tonnes of coal can produce 7.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, a cost thinking Australians cannot accept.

Yes, we need more jobs, but they should be jobs with a future. Let's put our efforts into a just transition for those workers in the industry, into 21stcentury jobs, and into construction projects that benefit Queenslanders, not billionaire mine owners.

- Angela Michaelis, Balmain

 April 12 [published]: To The SMH Transitioning Newcastle from Coal

There's another reason why shifting freight to a Newcastle container terminal makes sense. As the world moves away from fossil fuels, Hunter Valley coal mining will inevitably reduce over the next decade. The Newcastle region needs a planned transition to alternative employment.

- Angela Michaelis, Balmain

 April: To SMH re Canavan's attack on lobbying by Green groups 

March: To The Oz re how domestic PV saves others more than the subsidies cost 

Jan: To The Oz re subsidising electric vehicles 

2017

Nov: To Chinese Ambassador and China Machinery Eng Corp (CMEC) re Adani finance 

Oct: Letter to the board of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF)

Aug: Report to Albanese re poll on Adani mine:

In May, you mentioned to us that you heard less from members of the community about climate change than you had in the 2007-08 period.
We assured you that we would keep you in touch about what we heard, and we write now to let you know of the results from a survey we undertook during July in your electorate. The great majority of those surveyed were new to Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle, and have not written previously to you.
The issue was primarily the Adani mine, and we thought that you should know that of the 360 voters we spoke to, an overwhelming 97% were opposed to the coal mine, and 98% to the proposed $1 billion Naif loan.
Further, 97% told that they wanted their local politician - and this means you - to take a stand to stop the proposed Adani mine. Some said it was a significant voting point for them - others said simply that "in this day and age, supporting the mine is absolutely stupid".
These figures exceeded even the proportion (95%) that agreed with the statement "It's time to make the transition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar".
These are views expressed by your constituents: and we are hearing very similar results from groups all around the country conducting similar surveys.
When we met, you told us how you stand keenly behind Labor's plans for renewable energy, and we are pleased that you again supported it recently when you spoke to Sky News.
But we are concerned that your voice has been silent on what else Australia must do to reduce not only our emissions, but those we might export. The Adani mine, like any new coal mine, cannot be part of the world's future, and we urge you to say so publicly.
We will continue to campaign on the Adani mine and on other climate issues in the lead-up to the next federal election. When that comes, we would love to be able to report that you are at the forefront of a strong Labor policy that truly addresses the urgent transition from fossil fuels.

Survey results 

MayTo The Oz, responding to a call for new coal fired power stations in NSW  

Feb: To SMH responding to four climate Furphies

FebTo SMH: Stop Westpac funding Adani coalmine 

FebTo SMH: Climate Security is paramount 

Feb 13 [published]:  To Brisbane Times Coal is good, don't burn it

Scott Morrison's parliamentary stunt with a lump of coal (nutty slack, perhaps) did prove coal is safe.  As coal.  Scott, the problems start when you burn it.

Derek Bolton Birchgrove

JanTo SMH; If US backtracks from climate action we need to do more, not less

2016

NovTo SMH re Electric Vehicles and fuel excise 

Oct: To SMH re opinion piece blaming wind farms for SA power outage 

OctTo The Oz, on why international activism against Aussie coal is justified

Jul: To SMH: Canavan fails to understand risk management 

AprTo SMH re $7bn tax breaks to mining 

2015

Sep: To SMH; IPART undervalues PV feed-in by ignoring lowered peak demand 

Apr: To SMH; Gov't's ERF thinks 100 years is forever 

Apr: To SMH re Greg Hunt's flunked math 

2014

Feb 26 [published]: To Sydney Morning Herald Drought assistance in the context of a changing climate

Tony Abbott justifies supporting drought-afflicted farmers but not exchange-rate-afflicted industry on the basis that drought is a natural disaster (''Tony Abbott announces $320m drought-relief package'', February 26). But the naturalness is beside the point. The economic rationale for drought, or flood, or bushfire assistance is that the event was worse than ordinarily expected and the business is viable in the long term.

The recent mining boom, by pushing up the dollar, took a heavy toll on other Australian industry. Its extent and longevity were unusual, and it coincided with the GFC. Now that it's over, those industries are viable again, but need assistance to get going. That ticks both boxes.

If only the Coalition had supported the original Mineral Resources Rent Tax, the worst might have been avoided.

Meanwhile, judging the long-term viability of some farms may depend on whether one accepts the facts of climate change.

Derek Bolton Birchgrove