Thursday 18 November 2021


 North East Forest Alliance


15 November 2021


Logging is underway in compartments 3&4 of Cherry Tree State Forest, on the Richmond Range near Mallanganee.

NEFA has written to the EPA and Minister Kean asking this logging to be stopped until outstanding issues are dealt with. It is particularly concerning that buffers are not being applied to rainforest given that it is known that logging significantly increases the risk and intensity of fires, and 30% of north-east NSW’s rainforests were burnt in the 2019/20 wildfires, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

“As Koalas are present in the area there needs to be surveys to identify core Koala habitat for protection.

“The Richmond Range represents the divide between the Richmond and Clarence Rivers, with most of the logging area draining into the Richmond River. Protection of these headwater streams on steep country is particularly important to the health of these rivers. Regrettably the stream buffers have been significantly reduced, increasing logging impacts on water quality.

“NEFA audited logging of the northern part of this planning area in 2015 and identified widespread and systematic breaches of the logging rules, from which the EPA identified 66 cases of non-compliance with legal requirements for threatened plants, rainforest, habitat trees, tracks, streams and threatened fauna.

“The outcome was that the EPA issued 2 Penalty Infringement Notices ($2,000 fine), corrective action requests, and 47 Official Cautions for non-compliances. This is nothing, particularly as they got away scot free for many.

“We are now asking for compensatory habitat protection for the illegal logging of some 95 hectares of Endangered Ecological Communities and hundreds of hollow-bearing trees, as well as excessive canopy removal in habitat of the Endangered Black-striped Wallaby,“ Mr. Pugh said.

NEFA’s report requests that before logging proceeds:

• The Border Ranges Rainforest Biodiversity Management Plan needs to be complied with

• Wide buffers need to be placed around rainforest and related vegetation

• Canopy retention needs to be increased to mitigate impacts on the Black-striped Wallaby and to compensate for the past excessive logging

• Compensatory areas need to be retained for the 91.3 ha of the EEC Grey Box-Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest illegally logged

• All hollow-bearing trees need to be retained to compensate for the hundreds illegally logged

• The identified Wildlife Habitat Clumps need to be redesigned to maximise inclusion of the best habitat and remove overlaps with existing exclusions and heavily logged areas

• Areas susceptible to Bell Miner Associated Dieback need to be identified and excluded from logging.

NEFA has asked that all logging be stopped until these issues are fully dealt with.

Wednesday 10 November 2021


For months before the Glascow climate conference the Federal Government was under pressure from our allies to improve its climate action.  Even though the Prime Minister eventually secured the federal Nationals’ reluctant support for an Australian target of net zero emissions by 2050, Australia’s climate policy remains completely inadequate. 

All the Australian states and territories, regardless of the political party in government, have committed to net zero by 2050 and are working to limiting their carbon emissions.  Some have ambitious intermediate targets.  NSW, for example, recently announced it would reduce its emissions to 50% below its 2005 level by 2030.

At Paris in 2015 the Federal Government committed to a 26-28% cut by 2030. Because scientists believe greater cuts are needed in the next 10 years to keep warming below two degrees, other nations have substantially increased their intermediate targets for Glascow.   However, Prime Minister Morrison refused, saying he had made a commitment to the Australian people to leave it at that level.  The real reason is likely to be the Nationals’ strong opposition to any increase.

As it happens Australia is likely to do better than the 26-28% reduction - but that will be the result of action by the states and territories - not from the climate laggards in Canberra.

Recent polls show Australians are increasingly concerned about climate change and want more effective government action.  That is not surprising given the catastrophic bushfires, extreme weather events and lengthy droughts of recent years.  The reality of the climate crisis is forcing more people to take notice.

Business too is taking action to deal with climate risk and limiting its emissions as well as advocating more government action. The Business Council of Australia (in contrast to its comments before the 2019 election) supports net zero by 2050 and wants the government to increase its 2030 target to 46-50% below 2005 levels.

Despite the urging from our allies as well as from an increasing numbers of concerned Australians and a wide range of business interests, the Prime Minister went to the Glascow climate conference with a completely inadequate climate “plan” which unsurprisingly failed to impress.

At the conference the Australian Government refused to sign a pledge to cut methane emissions, as well as dismissing calls to phase out coal and improve its 2030 targets.

The Federal Government remains an outlier both at home and among major advanced economies, locked in to its obsession with gas and coal.

    Leonie Blain



Tuesday 19 October 2021


Quarterly Essay 81 -  Getting to zero: Australia’s Energy Transition was written by Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist from 2016-2020.

Part 1 of Nick Reeve's  comments on the expert's reviews  was posted on October 11.



Two important issues from Alan Finkel’s essay need to be resolved:

Time: how long do we have? Can we afford to be patient, as Alan Finkel recommends, or must we act now, as Tim Flannery, Scott Ludlam, Greta Thunberg and an army of climate warriors insist; and -

Gas! Is there a role for gas, (LNG and LPG)? Is gas essential as an emergency transition fuel? Does it have a longer term use, as part of the new ‘hydrogen economy’, and as a major export earner?

These two issues: time and gas, are intimately related. For some time now the goal set by the Paris-15 agreement has been expressed as reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions to ‘Net Zero by 2050’. For some reason this target date, ‘2050’ has not been accepted by the Prime Minister, (Scott Morrison), nor by those fossil-fuel backing members of the LNP, (and some in the ALP), nor is that date advocated as a target by ex-Chief Scientist Alan Finkel. This reluctance to commit to 2050 when the rest of the developed nations are adopting it as a target date seems curious! That is until we connect it to the continued use of gas.

Adopting 2050 as a target is incompatible with a ‘Gas-Led Recovery’ because it doesn’t leave sufficient time to make money from new gas exploration and infrastructure before the gas plants and pipe-lines have to be abandoned, and the gas left in the ground. Evidence of this is clear from industry’s reluctance to commit to new gas infrastructure, leaving the government having to spend $600 million on a new gas plant to be built at Kurri Kurri.

The time we have left to transition from fossil fuels is determined by the ‘Carbon Budget’, i.e. our share of the total amount of CO2-e emissions that can be released into the atmosphere without exceeding 1.5 degrees centigrade of Global Warming.

Back in 2014 it would have been possible to reduce our emissions at a steady amount each year, stretching the budget to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. However, as pointed out by Ian McAuley in his review of Alan Finkel’s Quarterly Essay, since the carbon tax was repealed in 2016 by Tony Abbott, emissions have been increasing, so that there is no longer any possibility of adopting a steady rate of reduction to ‘net-zero by 2050’. To avoid over-spending our (GHG) budget, we now have to reduce emissions more rapidly. According to the Climate Council and the Climate Target Panel, our remaining budget only lasts to 2034; not nearly long enough to make an acceptable return on  new gas plant.

What matters if we are to keep our commitment to the Paris Agreement is the Carbon Budget. The consequence of everyone exceeding the budget could be catastrophic. The conclusion is: ‘time is up’! We no longer have the luxury of choosing how long we have to reach our target of ‘net-zero emissions’. Achieving ‘net zero by 2050’ is already too late and the time we do have left does not allow a decent return on the outlay of gas exploration and supporting infrastructure.


                - Nick Reeve


Monday 11 October 2021


Quarterly Essay 81 -  Getting to zero: Australia’s Energy Transition was written by Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist from 2016-2020.

Nick Reeve looked at comments on Finkel’s views.


Alan Finkel’s Quarterly Essay was reviewed in the following Quarterly Essay by twelve experts in the field of climate science and economics.

He receives praise for his clear presentation of the issues: Global Warming, Climate Change and the Theory of The Greenhouse Effect; leaving no room for the opinions of climate sceptics and denialists. He is also given credit for his optimism concerning the technical feasibility and availability of solutions for transitioning from our present global economy, dependent on fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas. He argues that an economy based on renewable energy, (RE) including hydrogen is technically feasible, and will become increasingly competitive with energy from fossil fuels. Initially hydrogen will be produced with methane gas plus Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Eventually ‘clean’ hydrogen will be produced from renewable energy in quantities and at a cost to become the energy source of the future, replacing both oil and gas.

Finkel says that renewable energy will first be used to replace coal for electricity generation (with gas as a back-up for when ‘the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow’). Next, transport will be converted to electricity, with small vehicles using batteries and larger ones using (hydrogen) fuel cells.

Then hydrogen will be used to replace coal and gas in industry: in a revitalised steel industry, and for aluminium smelting and cement production. Finally hydrogen (and ammonia) will become used as a transportable fuel, both in Australia and as a major export. All this is technically possible now, however a prodigious amount of renewable energy will be required: seven times the current production from solar, wind and hydro, and another three times that amount to provide for replacement of fossil fuels in transport, industry and for export. All this says Finkel “will take some time; so we need to temper our ambition with patience”.

Unfortunately ‘time is what we do not have’, argue Alan Finkel’s critics. It is this call for patience in the face of the imminent threat to our survival, together with the reliance on methane gas, itself a potent greenhouse gas, that arouses strongest criticism from many of the twelve reviewers of his Quarterly Essay. Finkel, who has the last word and is able to comment on the reviews, is dismissive of calls for more urgent action; “immediate closure of coal-fired power stations is impossible”. In response “That is a straw man argument,” says Tim Flannery (of the Climate Council). Immediate closure is not suggested. What is required is for electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2035 or sooner, not 2050 or some time later. To procrastinate means not only breaking our ‘Paris 15’ agreement but risks further warming of the planet and triggering a catastrophic cascade of tipping points from which there may be no recovery.

By appealing for plenty of time to achieve the transition to an economy powered by renewable energy, under-pinned by gas, Finkel gives comfort and credibility to those with an interest in continued use of fossil fuels, and enables the policy of a ‘Gas-Led Recovery’.

On the other hand, with only a short transition to 100% renewable energy, new gas infrastructure: wells and pipelines, and the gas itself will become ‘stranded assets’. Finkel and the ‘gas lobby’, including politicians from both major parties, claim that methane gas is required both as a stop-gap measure, to back-up the grid, ‘when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine’, and to replace the lost supply when older coal-fired power plants are retired, and before sufficient renewable energy has been developed. Critics point to the recent decision to subsidise, (with $600 million of government money,) the building of a new gas-fired power station at Kurri Kurri in NSW, against the (then) advice of the authority responsible for maintaining grid supply, the AEMO, who advised that by the time the old power stations are retired there will be sufficient sources of renewable energy, backed up by new grid inter-connections and large scale batteries. Toxic gas is not required.


            - Nick Reeve


Monday 27 September 2021


In early August Hoot Detective, a Science Week 2021 citizen science project, was launched. This project, which is involved with identifying owl calls, is a partnership between the Australian Acoustic Observatory, Queensland University of Technology, the University of New England and ABC Science.

Citizen scientists with a connected device listen to a ten second grab of audio that has been selected as having a ‘sound of interest’ in it. They are asked to listen for any owl calls and then choose the sounds found in the audio from a short list of owls, frogs, insects, koalas and more.

The audio comes from the Australian Acoustic Observatory which has been collecting sound from around Australia for two years.  It has more than 400 sensors in 360 sites across the country.  As each sensor collects over two terabytes (2000 gigabytes) of data per year, the observatory’s database is already immense.

Scientists will use the recordings to understand what creatures are where throughout the country and how our environment is changing in response to bush fires, floods, invasive species and climate change.

The audio for Hoot Detective involves data from 10 sites from across the country including Reedy Creek in Queensland, Tarcutta Hills in NSW, Arkaba in South Australia and Newhaven in the Northern Territory. The owls the project is interested in are Powerful Owl, Barking Owl, Southern Boobook, Eastern Barn Owl and Masked Owl.

Participants are given trainScience Week 2021ing and information on the website  Those concerned they may not have identified a call correctly are assured that at least ten people will do each audio file.

The work of the citizen scientists will contribute to the training of algorithms in identifying owls from their calls and will save scientists and researchers years of work in cataloguing the audio in the observatory.

On August 27 the Hoot Detective website listed 15,684 owl calls had been found in 4474 sessions by citizen scientists. The project will continue until February 2022.

Hoot Detective shows the potential for similar citizen scientist work on the observatory’s audio files.

            - Leonie Blain

 Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , September 1, 2021