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Student sues NZ govt over climate policies and global solar sales hit record in 2016

Indonesian school children engulfed by the thick haze from forest fires which have been burning for weeks, polluting the air and releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. Photo: Ardiles Rant / Greenpeace

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Sarah Thompson, a Waikato law student, is suing the NZ Government over its climate change policy, claiming its greenhouse gas emissions targets were arrived at illegally and that the low emissions reduction pledge it will make in the UN climate conference, in Paris next month, is "unreasonable and irrational".

Ahead of the conference, UK meteorologists have revealed that this year the global mean temperature at the Earth's surface will reach 1 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels for the first time. Scientists say the rise in global temperature must be kept under 2 degrees to avoid catastrophic climate change. One of the world's most influential climate scientists says this can be avoided with a deal at the Paris conference because "ultimately nothing can compete with renewables". Green energy is now the second-largest generator of electricity in the world, after coal with global coal consumption poised for its biggest decline in history.

Saudi Arabia, whose oil-fueled economy could suffer from global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has submitted a climate action pledge to the UN. Though thin on commitments, the Saudi pledge is symbolically important because the desert kingdom has been seen as reluctant to join the fight against global warming. China has changed course and emerged as a leader in curbing greenhouse gas emissions six years after it was accused of obstructing the last high-level climate talks in Copenhagen. It has invested in solar, wind and hydro power to clean up its smog-choked cities and curb surging demand for imported oil and gas.

Forest fires ravaging Indonesia's rainforests will likely release far more carbon dioxide this year than the entire UK, says Greenpeace. The Guardian reports on how the fires started, the damage they are causing and who is to blame.

The largest US finance and banking companies are putting big money into renewable energy lending and investments. Goldman Sachs has announced that it aims to triple its allocations to clean energy finance to $150billion over the next 10 years. The global market for solar panels is expected to soar to a record high in the first half of 2016 because of strong demand as well as favourable policies in the US and China. Solar is now the cheapest source of electric power in Chile, according to a new report by Deutsche bank. High electricity prices and strong demand for Chile's mining industry have driven growth for solar, especially large scale commercial and utility projects.

President Obama has rejected plans for a 1900km oil pipeline from Canada to the US, ending a seven-year review that had become a symbol of the debate of his climate policies. Oil prices are down more than 50% since the middle of last year and are likely to remain low over the next five years because of plentiful supply and falling demand in developed countries, according to the International Energy Agency.

The Green party's 'Fair Go for Solar' bill failed to pass its first reading in parliament in a 60-61 vote. The bill was introduced to ensure households received a fair price for excess renewable energy the sell back to the grid. The Electricity Authority says consumers will not be left short of power when outdated and expensive coal and gas fired plants at the Huntly power station are shut down next year. Meanwhile Meridian Energy has initiated talks with rival Genesis Energy to keep them open. And, finally this week, there is strong international interest in the NZ designed Ubco 22 electric farm bike which is expected to be in production by the end of this year.