Morning mail: Taylor to promote fossil fuels, US announces climate package, Melbourne’s new freedoms

Good morning. Angus Taylor is getting ready to spruik Australia’s fossil fuels projects at Cop26 next week, as the Biden administration announces record spending on climate change action. And Melburnians can enjoy new freedoms from later today.

Australia’s emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, has declared he will promote Australia as a good place to invest in fossil fuel projects at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow. In a provocative statement on Thursday, Taylor confirmed he would attend the first week of the crucial summit and tell the world Australia was a “safe and reliable destination to invest in gas, hydrogen and new energy technologies”. It followed his announcement that the Morrison government had rejected a call to join the US and European countries in a global pledge to cut emissions of methane – a potent greenhouse gas released during gas extraction and transportation – by 30% by 2030. Meanwhile, Mathias Cormann, the former Australian finance minister and Senate leader, is calling for Australia to adopt a carbon price despite spending years in government fighting against the idea.

The French president has told Scott Morrison that the scrapping of a multibillion-dollar submarine contract “broke the relationship of trust” and said Canberra should propose “tangible actions” to heal the diplomatic rift. France has said it was “betrayed”, “stabbed in the back” and “deceived” over Australia’s decision to dump a French-backed submarine project worth up to $90bn. In their first phone call since Australia dumped the submarine plans, Emmanuel Macron also encouraged the Australian prime minister to adopt a more ambitious climate policy, including a commitment “to cease production and consumption of coal at the national level and abroad”, according to a French government readout of the conversation.

The Biden administration has said a vast spending bill is set to result in the “largest effort to combat climate change in American history”, with hundreds of billions of dollars set to be funnelled into supporting clean energy, electric vehicles and new defences against extreme weather events. This proposed framework includes $555bn in incentives, investments and tax credits aimed at bolstering the deployment of renewable energy such as solar and wind, as well as a tax break that will deliver up to $12,500 to people who buy an electric car. The bill will help deploy new electric buses and trucks, build community resilience to disastrous wildfires and floods and employ 300,000 people in a new “civilian climate corps”. In all, the White House said the legislation would cut planet-heating emissions by 1bn tons by 2030 and bring the US significantly closer to its goal of slashing carbon pollution in half this decade.

Australia

Melburnians are returning to cafes as the world’s most locked-down city lifts Covid restrictions. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Victoria will hit its 80% vaccination milestone on Friday, with a significant easing of restrictions across the state from 6pm. Students will return to class fulltime, masks will no longer be required outside and non-essential retail will reopen. Learn here exactly what is allowed.

The Victorian government has doubled down on its refusal to mandate vaccinations for visitors to aged care facilities, an approach that breaks with other states and has angered the sector. On Thursday, the aged care sector criticised the state’s “bizarre” decision.

As New South Wales and Victoria reopen for international travel from Monday, airlines have cast doubt on flying unvaccinated passengers to Australia. States are scaling back hotel quarantine capacity for unvaccinated passengers and many large carriers are considering if it’s viable to bring them back.

Covid clusters are continuing to grow in some regional areas of NSW, particularly in the Hunter New England and Murrumbidgee LGAs, ahead of the planned reopening of the state to people from greater Sydney on Monday.

The world

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address during the virtual event.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address during the virtual event. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has announced the social media giant will change the name of its holding company to Meta, in a rebrand that comes as the company faces a series of public relations crises.

The European Commission president has urged wealthy countries to close the gap to meet a $100bn annual climate finance target for developing nations a year earlier than expected. Speaking before the G20 and UN Cop26 talks, the president said rich countries had “to try harder” to close the shortfall in climate finance.

Regions across Russia have reintroduced severe anti-coronavirus restrictions as the country faces record deaths and new infections amid a lacklustre vaccination campaign. More than 40,000 new Covid cases were recorded on Thursday and just 30% of Russians are fully vaccinated.

Recommended reads

Christos Tsiolkas and his new book 7 1/2.
Christos Tsiolkas and his new book, 7 1/2. Composite: Allen & Unwin

Australian author Christos Tsiolkas’s previous novels are all explicit in their concerns with sexuality, religion, history and class. But his latest book, 7½, is not interested in any of this. “I have come here to write a book,” the narrator of 7½, a semi-fictional version of Tsiolkas, tells the reader in its opening pages. “I don’t want it to be about politics; I don’t want it to be about sexuality; I don’t want it to be about race; I don’t want it to be about gender. Not history, nor morality, and not about the future. All of those matters … now bore me.” Instead, Tsiolkas writes about beauty. About what he loves in and about the world – the sensual and the sensuous, the physical – and the mysterious and thrilling interplay between observation, imagination and memory that propels his writing.

“Done well, apologies wipe the slate clean,” writes advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith. “But it’s worth asking whose slate – would you be trying to undo the hurt you caused, or the shame you feel as a result?” In her column, Gordon-Smith argues that apologising can be an understandable impulse but one that is often self-serving. “Sometimes we just have to have the dignity to be disliked. Sometimes, that’s exactly what proves we’ve changed.”

Listen

This week Scott Morrison finally released what he said was a plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050. But is it? In this final episode of the Australia v the climate series, editor Lenore Taylor, political editor Katharine Murphy, climate and environment editor Adam Morton and reporter Graham Readfearn discuss the implications of the “Australian way” plan and what it means for Cop26 in Glasgow.

Full Story

Australia v the climate part 5: a plan for net zero?

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.

Sport

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic has never publicly disclosed his vaccination status, placing the world No 1’s participation at the Australian Open in doubt. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

The prospect of enduring a fortnight of hard quarantine even if fully vaccinated has emerged as a key concern for Novak Djokovic as the nine-time champion wavers over his Australian Open participation. It has been widely reported that Djokovic is in doubt for the 2022 edition because he is vaccine hesitant, despite the world No 1 having never publicly disclosed his vaccination status.

The Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has said Australia will review its selection policy at the end of the year after the fly-half Quade Cooper joined centre Samu Kerevi and back-rower Sean McMahon in opting out of the tour of Britain. Rennie confirmed on Thursday that Cooper had become the third of the Japan-based trio to choose club over country after playing for the Wallabies during the Rugby Championship.

Media roundup

Cleo Smith’s parents have become subjects of online trolling, the couple told the West Australian, with some users accusing them of playing a part in Cleo’s disappearance – even though police say they are not suspects. So far, there have been 200 potential sightings of the missing girl, the ABC reports. A group of Tasmanian health workers are calling for an urgent hearing in the states’s supreme court, in a bid to skip mandatory vaccinations, the Mercury reports.

Coming up

Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian fronts the Icac inquiry into whether she breached public trust.

And if you’ve read this far …

With hospitality demand declining, pineapples are up to 40% cheaper this season – from ferments to granitas, here’s what to do with them.

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