Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Asian banks are backing aussie coal mining while the big four banks abandon it

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says “financial markets are currently assessing a range of challenges and opportunities related to climate change and policy responses to it. Climate risk has become one of the key issues raised in my discussions with CEOs, investors and counterparts, here and overseas. It is no different for boards and executives of Australian firms in their discussions with global investors.”

Reserve Bank of Australia Deputy Governor Guy Debelle revealed that “to date, we have only isolated examples of divestment from Australia because of climate risk, but the likelihood of more significant divestment is increasing”.

While Commonwealth Bank chairman Catherine Livingstone has vowed to “support the transition” to a low-carbon economy by gradually phasing out loans to fossil fuel producers.

What’s the reality?

Australia will not experience capital flight because we refuse to commit to net-zero – the latest argument from the “modern Liberals” who are only in parliament because ScoMo rubbished Shorten’s net-zero target in 2019.

Just ask Whitehaven Coal.

Although almost everyone in the media and circles of politics are declaring Australia will be deprived of finance if it continues to back fossil fuels, Whitehaven plans to raise up to $1 billion in Asian bonds in the year ahead and expects Asian lenders will support its coal growth plans for decades.

According to Whitehaven’s Chief Financial Officer Kevin Ball, “our view here is the Asian debt capital markets will provide the funding for Asian debt capital and Asian resources for decades to come”.

“We expect that to grow and expand over the next decade, so that is really why we want to try and put a foot in that,” he said.

Even better, Whitehaven will be in a “net cash position in the March 2022 quarter” (a great result given the company had net debt of $808.5 million at June 30) due to record high thermal coal prices, which have been driven by a global energy crisis sparked by the closure of coal and nuclear plants and their unreliable replacements: solar panels and wind turbines.

So, there you have it.

“King coal is not dead” as the do-gooders continue to profess.

Although Australia will cop some flack from the world’s woke banks if we refuse to go net-zero, other banks will happily pick up the slack because they understand renewables are nowhere near producing enough power to underpin industrial economies.

And if Australia continues to sell our high-quality coal and iron ore to growing Asian economies, we’ll have a significant strategic advantage in the Asia-Pacific region as more start to rely on us.

This is precisely what has happened in China last week, after the Chinese Communist Party’s coal-fired power plants ran out of coal amidst a global shortage.

The CCP lifted the ban on Australian coal (which was put in place after ScoMo asked for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 almost a year ago).

According to analysts, some 450,000 tonnes of coal had been discharged at the same time the price of coal from Indonesia jumped sharply, due to increased Chinese demand.


Australia snubs methane reduction pledge at COP26 climate change conference

Nearly 90 countries have signed a key climate change commitment at the COP26 conference, however Australia was not one of them.

Nearly 90 countries have joined a US- and EU-led effort to slash emissions of methane by 30 per cent by 2030 from 2020 levels at the COP26 conference in Glasgow.

Methane is more short-lived in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide but 80 times more potent in warming the earth. Cutting emissions of the gas, which is estimated to have accounted for 30 per cent of global warming since pre-industrial times, is one of the most effective ways of slowing climate change.

The Global Methane Pledge, first announced in September, now covers emissions from two-thirds of the global economy, according to the US official.

Among the signatories is Brazil – one of the five biggest emitters of methane, which is generated in cows’ digestive systems, in landfill waste and in oil and gas production.

The other four – Australia, China, Russia and India – have not signed up. Australia had been under pressure to sign up but Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said the only way Australia could achieve that target would be to reduce numbers of cattle and sheep.

“At present, almost half of Australia’s annual methane emissions come from the agriculture sector, where no affordable, practical and large-scale way exists to reduce it other than by culling herd sizes,” Mr Taylor wrote.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said his Nationals had insisted Mr Morrison not commit to reducing methane at the Glasgow summit.

Inaction on methane was one of the conditions the rural-based Nationals had placed on support for Morrison’s Liberal Party’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.

“The only way you can get your 30 per cent by 2030 reduction in methane on 2020 levels would be to go and grab a rifle, go out and start shooting your cattle because it’s just not possible,” Mr Joyce said.

US President Joe Biden said the pledge was a key part of reducing carbon emissions.

“One of the most important things we can do between now and 2030, to keep 1.5C in reach, is reduce our methane emissions as soon as possible,” said Mr Biden, referring to the central goal of the 2015 Paris agreement.

He called the pledge, which has so far been signed by more than 80 nations, a “game-changing commitment” that covered countries responsible for around half of global methane emissions.

European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said that the methane cut would “immediately slow down climate change”.

“We cannot wait until 2050. We have to cut emissions fast and methane is one of the gases we can cut the fastest,” she said.

Heads of state and government are gathered in Glasgow for a two-day high-level summit that host Britain is hoping will kick start ambitious climate action during the two-week COP26


Covid rapid antigen tests: how do they work, and can Australians rely on them?

From Monday, Australians can buy rapid antigen Covid-19 tests at retail stores including supermarkets and pharmacies, and also online. Previously, only health professionals were able to administer them. Australia’s drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), has so far approved nine different home rapid antigen tests for sale.

They cost roughly $30 for a packet of two, and between $50 and $100 for five, depending on the retailer and brand. They have a shelf life of about two years.

So who will benefit from them, and in what situations is it best to use them?

How do they work?

Currently most people are diagnosed with a PCR test, usually administered by a doctor or nurse, which involve taking a swab of the nose and throat. PCR tests are government-subsidised and are the gold standard for diagnosis – they can diagnose Covid-19 even in the early stages of the virus, sometimes even before someone feels unwell. They detect the virus almost 100% of the time when it is is administered properly.

The downside is the sample needs to be sent to a laboratory, taking between several hours to a couple of days to get a result.

Meanwhile, rapid antigen tests are most useful for detecting the virus when someone has a high viral load. Outside of this phase especially, they are not as accurate as PCR tests. There is a higher risk of false positive and false negative results.

The benefit of rapid antigen tests is they are quick, convenient, and don’t require a laboratory. The home tests involve self-performing a nasal swab using a small cotton bud that is placed into a chemical solution. The result displays within 10 to 15 minutes.

How will the home tests fit in with the pandemic response?
Rapid antigen tests are already being used by workplaces such as fly-in fly-out mining sites, supermarkets, aged care facilities and distribution centres, especially in states and suburbs with high Covid-19 case numbers.

In these workplaces, the tests are provided free by the employer. They are usually administered daily, or each time someone has a shift. This regular testing increases the probability of detecting the virus. They are performed or supervised by a registered health practitioner, increasing the chance of an accurate result.

“This is where the rapid antigen tests have real utility, and I advocate their use in these settings and workplaces absolutely, mainly when there is a lot of Covid around in the community,” Dr Emma Miller, a public health epidemiologist with Flinders University, said.

“But for the average punter at home, they will be less useful really than they might appear, and it’s difficult to see why you might use one. First of all, they’re quite expensive. And as an epidemiologist with an elderly mother in hospital with stroke, I won’t be purchasing them, because PCR tests are still the most accurate and best for peace of mind.”

They could do more harm than good, she said, if people were to return a false negative, then visit a vulnerable person or go to a party.

In a press release, Roche, a manufacturer of one of the approved rapid antigen tests for sale, said self-testing could be useful before attending parties, before travelling to regional parts of Australia, for families with young children at school who have not yet been vaccinated, and in offices and other work settings as part of return-to-work plans.

What should I do if I test positive from an at-home test?

While there will be no requirement to formally report the result of a rapid antigen screening test to the health department, a NSW Health spokesman said people who test positive from a home test should arrange a PCR test “as soon as possible”.

NSW Health and other state and territory health departments do collect and report positive PCR test results, and can then begin contact tracing.

The World Health Organization recommends that if you have Covid-19 symptoms but test negative from a home test, you should follow up with a PCR test to be sure.

The TGA says home rapid antigen tests are a useful initial screening tool, while the traditional PCR test is a diagnostic tool. Manufacturers and sellers cannot advertise home rapid antigen tests as a “diagnostic” test.

They also can’t claim one test is better or more accurate than other approved tests on the market.


Parents who home schooled deserve payment, says Professor Lyndall Strazdins

She says that parents who oversaw education - often while doing their own job from home - have been "overlooked". They should have been given a wage subsidy for their "invisible" work.

"Parents couldn't stick their kids on a computer and leave them for eight hours while they were working. They had to motivate, support them and be there to help them learn."

"Where was HomeTeacher?" Professor Strazdins asked.

"There could have been an opportunity for parents to take parental leave, similar to what they can access after having a baby, so they could take an absence from their work and actually do the other job of home schooling.

"Parents have faced the impossible conflict between trying to manage their job and trying to manage their children's future."

New South Wales has announced a one-off payment of $250 to people who home-schooled students. The professor said that was a "promising start".

But more was needed to help parents, she felt "particularly women and single parent families".

"When we entered lockdowns across much of the country, parents were suddenly forced to take on an entirely new job in an entirely new environment, without training, while managing their day job."

Another ANU specialist echoed Professor Strazdins.

Professor Peter Whiteford, an expert on social policy, said: "The pandemic exposed many of the weaknesses in our system of social protection. We need to think about what the future holds and if our social policy settings are able to cover the new risks we will face."

About a fifth of Australian households have children of school age - almost two million households, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics,

Professor Strazdins also argues that the lockdowns and the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic had entrenched long-standing inequality, with women still having to do the majority of "invisible" work.

"The new normal looks a lot like the old normal. This invisible work often falls to women," she said.




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