Climate Joy Week #7: Torres Strait Islanders Take Australia to Court, Funding for the Everglades and More Positive Climate News

Climate Joy Week #7: Torres Strait Islanders Take Australia to Court, Funding for the Everglades and More Positive Climate News

This edition of Climate Joy comes on the back of Australia’s federal election and what is being described as the country’s very own ‘Brexit’ and ‘Trump’ moment, voting in a party with the weakest climate policies.

However let’s not forget that there is widespread coverage on climate issues and for this reason, is enough to continue feeling hopeful. We hope this week’s Climate Joy edition supplies the motivation you need to keep your chin up and keep fighting for a better planet. 

1. Torres Strait Islanders File Human Rights Abuse Against the Australian Government Over Climate Change

An indigenous tribe in Australia’s Torres Strait Islands have won a landmark case against the Australian government which entitles the tribe to take further legislative actions against the federal government before the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The Torres Strait Islanders are aggrieved and believe the failure of Australia in tackling the issues created by climate change has put their island homelands and culture in imminent danger, translating to abuse in their fundamental human rights of freedom to preserve their way of life. 

The islanders opine that the Australian government has no policies in place to meet the country’s emissions reduction target and is instead, continually pushing in favor of the interests of the fossil fuel industries. In their complaint before the Committee, the islanders ask that the UN find in their favor and hold that international human rights law require Australia to reduce its emissions to at least 65% below 2005 levels by 2030.

ClientEarth, the environmental law non-profit organisation backing the case, said it is the first of its kind to be lodged with the UN linking alleged government inaction on climate change to the violation of human rights.

This may not have not been such joyous news except that over the weekend, Australians (probably inadvertently) re-elected into power the party with the least favourable climate and environmental policies. Bearing this latest development in mind, one can’t help but admire the tenacity of this small group of islanders. The learning lesson here is that you don’t always need strength in numbers to hold the ‘big dogs’ accountable for their ill actions.

2.New Coalition of CEOs Push for Change in Climate Policy 

A coalition of major corporations and environmental groups was launched last week with the primary objective of seeking better legislative action towards climate change. The group is laying out six principles to guide the US Congress, the biggest of which is a price on carbon emissions across the US economy that achieves at least 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

The Coalition, known as the CEO Climate Dialogue, includes heads from notable companies including Shell, Unilever, Citi and Ford Motor Company. The Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy are among the environmental groups that helped convene the group.

It remains to be seen whether this coalition will take climate action or is just another feel good organisation for the purposes of PR. But since these people wield a lot of power, I believe they can actually achieve a lot if they want to and so far, I see no reason to doubt their resolve to effect positive change.

While skeptical in handing the reins of climate action to companies who already benefit from the status quo, something good may still come out of this, such as the public being able to make them accountable for any promises made in the coalition. 

3. White House Changes Course, Backs Push for $200m in Everglades Funding

President Trump, just a few days ago, publicly stated his intention to support the $200 million funding of a project to restore the Everglades. The President relayed this to the public in his customary tweets where he said, “Congress needs to help us complete the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration project ASAP! Good for Florida and good for the environment”.

This recent development came shortly after the President received letters and proddings by Florida’s state and federal lawmakers to fund the project.

The project which began during the Clinton administration, is slated to last 20 years and was predicted to cost about $8.7 billion. It was supposed to map out a way to re-plumb the Everglades with a system of pumps, levees, canals and wells that would help the flow mimic its original one. 

Last year Congress appropriated close to $139 million for the project. This year, the Trump administration in its 2020 budget proposal slashed spending by the Army Corps of Engineers by 31% and failed to include money for an Everglades reservoir to reduce polluted water from being flushed from Lake Okeechobee to coastal estuaries. The proposal earmarked just $63 million to help restore Florida’s wetlands, and included projects not part of Everglades restoration — completing two small reservoirs east and west of Lake Okeechobee and restoring bends in the Kissimmee River.

It was far short of the $200 million requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers for Everglades work and didn’t include a 17,000-acre reservoir on sugar fields south of the lake to help reduce the polluted runoff that contributed to last summer’s algae blooms and red tide that choked Florida’s coasts and waterways.

Now there are a few doubts (and justifiably so) as to whether Trump’s supportive tweet would in fact translate to positive action but let’s keep little wins such as these in sight, as we continue to work and hope for the actualization of public promises such as this one.

4. Renewable Energy Job Growth Continues

The trend of massive growth in jobs in renewable energy continues. This time, we bring this good news from the state of North Dakota. In the oil-rich state, the renewable energy sector now employs 9,000 North Dakotans, marking a 4.3% increase compared with the previous year, according to data from think tanks Clean Energy Trust and E2.

While the employment figures for the oil industry are still much higher (30,000+), the numbers have fallen considerably, from 62,000 in 2014. In power generation, wind energy now accounts for 26% of power in the state, up from 22% in 2016. On the other hand, coal-generated electricity has fallen from 70% in 2016 to 66% last year. With quantitive data, it’s easy to see that renewables are the future, even in traditionally oil and gas states like North Dakota. 

And that’s it for this week’s edition of Climate Joy. Drop by next week for more good climate news and until then, make sure to spread climate optimism by sharing this article!

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Feature image of Landing Barge at Anchor off St Pauls, Moa Island, Torres Straits Australia. Credit: Shutterstock.

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