Grand designs, grand plans

Anyone feeling a tad deflated over the relatively uneventful outcome of the UN Climate Change summit can take heart in the stepped-up ambitions of Mike Cannon-Brookes who has signaled strong interest in investing in the $25 billion SunCable project to create the world's biggest solar farm, its biggest power storage system, and a 3000-kilometre cable to export energy to Asia.

Taking a break from the United Nations climate forum in New York the Atlassian co-founder told media he will soon divulge how much equity he'll plough into the SunCable project in the Northern Territory that will supply about one quarter of Singapore's electricity through solar power, sourced from the Australian desert and transmitted underwater via a High Voltage Direct Current cable.

The 15,000-hectare solar array near Tennant Creek “generating more than 20 giga-watts" of capacity hooked up to a battery and high-voltage DC wire would be supported by battery storage equipped to handle the extreme heat of the outback.

In future the SunCable project might be extended to provide cheap large-scale energy for the production and export of hydrogen fuel to Japan.

An elated NT Energy Minister told ABC radio a power line all the way to Singapore to provide a significant portion of its energy needs represents an incredible project that is world leading and “speaks to our renewables agenda here in the Northern Territory”.

Mike Cannon-Brookes has already discussed the project with the Singapore government, and if all goes to plan Australia could be exporting electricity to the island nation, which currently derives 95 per cent of its electricity from imported Liquid Natural Gas, within a decade.

Atlassian is also one of the prominent Australian companies signing up to reaching net zero emissions, telling ABC “We have previously committed to using 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025, and we're now committing to, in line with the UN initiative, moving to a net zero carbon business by 2050, with setting a series of science-based targets.”

Mike Cannon-Brookes is vocal in his condemnation of the federal government’s failure to address climate change and reduce Australian fossil fuel exports that are calculated to produce up to 12 per cent of the global emissions.

"In a carbon-constrained world, Australia should be a winner,” he maintains.

(Hear more from Mike at the National Smart Energy Summit of December 10 in Sydney. He’s been invited to the event and we are keeping our fingers crossed.)

Back now to the UN climate forum in New York, where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened sessions declaring the world remains on track for catastrophic global warming and that "Nature is angry. And we fool ourselves if we think we can fool nature, because nature always strikes back and around the world, nature is striking back with fury.”

David vs Goliath has nothing on the forum where a young girl took to the podium to boldly declare to the assembly of world leaders "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words … People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?"

That was just one of the headlines, along with the fact Australia’s Prime Minster elected to attend a ceremony opening a cardboard box factory in lieu of attending the climate summit. It seemed a heck of an easier option, also, in his view, rather more important.

Australia was consigned to the sidelines at the forum due to its inability to present any new strategies to reach the Paris targets and where emissions are on the rise.

Matt McDonald of the University of Queensland commented Australia ‘s wallflower status at the summit cemented its global reputation as “a climate action laggard”.

Emissions trends: How are we tracking to 2030?

Another staggering moment: the Prime Minister declared it time for China to step up its emissions reductions. Clearly his minders had failed to brief him on the fact annual CO₂ emissions in China per capita comes in at 7.5 tonnes versus the 15.4 clocked in Australia.

Despite Gutteres imploring leaders to commit to new and concerted action on climate change, the Summit has been branded a fizzer in terms of any genuine call to action or meaningful commitment for change.

The outlook is bleaker than ever with the recent World Meteorological Organisation report stating emission reduction efforts must be tripled to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

We’ve dug around for the positives, however, and it appears almost 80 countries and more than 100 cities promised to achieve net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050.

Some nations pledged an end to coal use, others committed more money to the Green Climate Fund to help poor nations deal with climate change. (Australia has withdrawn funding but pledged more climate aid for the Pacific region.)

India outlined new plans for reaching emissions targets, but remains committed to coal projects well beyond 2020; and the United States has already pulled out of the Paris agreement.