Big news this week is the release of the 2010 ABC Carbon 50 list of notable and influential people in Australia for the environment and climate change action and awareness. Our initial list last year was well received and a valued addition to the accolades already received by some finalists as well as important recognition for those previously ignored by award givers. So go to our lucky last article to see who’s in for 2010. World Environment Day award winners also get a look in and we profile the already high profile of the UN climate chief as he is about to move on. There’s ample information and news globally and locally on tap this week, including the need for a stronger energy efficiency focus in China and Australia, as well as what’s happening with fish stocks and marine resource management, particuarly in the Pacific. An election is looming in Australia, so WWF and Green Capital are wanting to ensure green voices and issues are raised appropriately. E-waste is a getting the recognition and processing it needs in New York and beyond, while Queensland is innovatively budgeting to collect from the waste-makers to fund expanding our national parks. More on the rapid advance for electric vehicles around the world and news of Government funding to plug New South Wales into the renewable energy grid. Also money is on the way to make sure space research gets in on the clean energy investment process. We also review a thought-provoking think-piece on the Anthropocene debate. Or should it be the dawning of the Age of Carbon? Food for thought.
Archive for the ‘Express 112’ Category
The world is set to fail to make deep enough cuts in greenhouse gases in the next decade to tackle global warming. This from UN’s top climate change official Yvo de Boer, midway through two weeks of talks in Bonn among senior government negotiators from about 185 nations. Despite his gloomy short-term outlook, Mr de Boer, who will step down on July 1 after about four years in the job, expressed confidence governments would eventually enact sufficiently tough goals, such as an emissions cut by rich nations of 80% by 2050.
By Alister Doyle, Reuters Environment correspondent (7 June 2010):
OSLOThe world is set to fail to make deep enough cuts in greenhouse gases in the next decade to tackle global warming, the U.N.’s top climate official in a bleak assessment of the prospects for a U.N. deal.
Despite his gloomy short-term outlook, Yvo de Boer, who will step down on July 1 after about four years in the job, expressed confidence governments would eventually enact sufficiently tough goals, such as an emissions cut by rich nations of 80 percent by 2050.
“I don’t see the process delivering adequate mitigation targets in the next decade,” de Boer told a news conference midway through two weeks of talks in Bonn among senior government negotiators from about 185 nations.
“Over the longer term we will get this issue under control,” de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, added in a webcast news briefing. Targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions are referred to as “mitigation”.
The U.N. panel of climate scientists has suggested that industrialised nations would have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to put the world on track to avoid dangerous global warming.
Under that scenario, developing nations led by China and India are expected to slow the growth of their emissions by 2020 in a first step to help avert more floods, droughts, desertification, heatwaves and rising sea levels.
De Boer said that promises so far by developed countries made at the U.N. summit in Copenhagen in December “take us to 13-14 percent below 1990 levels…and clearly we need to move beyond that.”
Environment ministers will meet in Cancun, Mexico, in late November for annual talks with some nations still hoping to reach a new binding climate treaty. De Boer has said in the past that a legally binding deal is out of reach for 2010.
Copenhagen ended with a non-binding accord to limit a rise in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
De Boer said that almost all industrialised nations at the summit had favoured an 80 percent cut in their emissions by 2050. “I think we are working towards that in the longer term and I do think that is adequate,” he said.
De Boer spent much of his time in the run-up to Copenhagen cajoling both rich and poor nations to be more ambitious. “I am confident that we will get there in the longer run. Having said that, I do believe it’s a longer journey,” he said.
He said that a first step had been agreement in 1992 on the U.N. Climate Convention, followed by the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol in 1997 that binds all industrialised nations except the United States to cut emissions by an average of at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
In the United States, legislation to cap emissions is stalled in the Senate.
UN’s Yvo de Boer says NGO work on climate talks has been “incredible”
In an exclusive interview with CAFOD, outgoing UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer spoke of the “incredible” work of NGOs during the climate change talks and highlighted the input of faith-based organisations.
Yvo de Boer announced in February this year that he would step down as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Next month he will be succeeded by Christiana Figueres who was previously Costa Rica’s lead negotiator at the talks.
De Boer has led the UNFCCC for four years and faced criticism from many sides, especially after the collapse of the Copenhagen summit last December. But his even-handedness, commitment to the cause and defence of the UN system has also brought him the deepest respect.
This week at the mid-year UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Christiana Figueres has emerged from the wings to begin the public handover process. While she was doing her first press briefing today (Wednesday), CAFOD’s Pascale Palmer spoke to De Boer on the role of NGOs and faith-based organisations in the talks, the hope for a fair climate deal and any regrets the outgoing Executive Secretary has.
Yvo de Boer said: “The impact of NGOs at the UN climate change talks has been incredible in so many different ways. Without NGOs the public wouldn’t have understood that climate change was even an issue. Also, the support role of the NGOs at these negotiations for smaller countries with limited resources to ensure they understand their interests and how issues relate to them is paramount. NGOs also act as the conscience of the talks – pointing out when questionable issues are raised.
“Faith-based organisations, like CAFOD, bring something additional to the talks because at the end of the day this is a negotiation about global ethics and faith-based organisations look at the world through that lens, and they take the issue and the discussions into the community in many different ways.
“There is hope for a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal in South Africa next year. If Cancun can deliver the operational architecture which gives countries the confidence to turn this into an agreement that is to their advantage, it can happen. There is the phrase that ‘form follows function’ and this is the order the talks must follow to succeed: talking about the legal form first is the wrong order.
“I do regret not having spent enough time with my family during my term as Executive Secretary. And perhaps one regret is that the talks should have had more discussion and less negotiation. Stating a position is only so useful but understanding the underlying interests at stake is the only way to find a solution. I suppose I could have pushed more on this, but people have certain expectations from my role as Executive Secretary – I have done many things such as speaking to the press which are not usually associated with the role. I have also managed to facilitate more discussion and ensured two extra UNFCCC meetings took place.”
China might be ahead of the rest of the world in terms of solar and wind farming, but it has a long way to go in terms of energy efficiency. To meet its new carbon-intensity goals – 40% reduction in CO2 per unit of GDP by 2020 – about 80% of that effort will have to come from rooting out waste and reducing energy. In Australia, property owners will be forced to have an energy efficiency rating attached to their buildings within months or risk facing hefty fines under a Federal Government.
Bradford Plumer in The Australian (7 June 2010):
IS there more to China’s low-carbon efforts than renewable power? Well, yes, of course. A lot more. Yet that’s all people here ever seem to want to talk about.
Maybe that shouldn’t come as a shock: The country gets a ton of warm, fuzzy press for its enormous new wind and solar farms, and it’s true that the scale of construction deserves an impressed whistle or two.
Out in the Gobi Desert in northwest China, the government has blocked out 3000 square kilometres for solar, and the local government has plans to install about 10 gigawatts worth of photovoltaic panels by 2025. To put that in perspective, there is about 15 gigawatts worth of solar capacity on the entire planet right now.
As a side note, one of the features of being a callous authoritarian government is that these big projects rarely get sidetracked by local ecological concerns.
Asked whether local conservation groups had raised any worries about trampling over fragile desert habitats, Dunhuang’s energy director, Zhao Tingqian, said, “Endangered species? There are no animals in the desert!”
The real hurdles are more fundamental: When you have a gigantic solar field, you also need a futuristic grid to handle all that intermittent power. And, while the Chinese government doesn’t have much trouble stringing up new high-voltage lines wherever it feels like, the country is still lagging in efforts to build a smart grid. It’s not for lack of money – the government dished out $US7.3 billion on advanced grid gadgets in its last round of stimulus spending – but hashing out the technical issues is still a serious struggle. So a lot of that wind and solar capacity could end up getting wasted, and some of it already does.
That’s why, in the near term, efficiency will have to play a much, much bigger role in China’s lower-carbon future than those fabled wind farms. If China wants to meet its new carbon-intensity goals – that is, a 40 per cent reduction in CO2 per unit of GDP by 2020 – then about 80 per cent of that effort will have to come from rooting out waste and getting more energy efficient.
There’s certainly a lot of room to improve: About two-thirds of China’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the industrial sector, which is on average about four to five times more energy-intensive than its US counterpart.
Problem is, making this country more efficient is a real struggle. Take green buildings. The central government has issued some pretty ambitious standards governing insulation and energy use in new homes and skyscrapers. Laws do tend to get followed in Beijing and Shanghai, where there are architects who know how to design buildings that are up to code and inspectors who can check the results. But out in smaller cities and towns, inspectors are in short supply and enforcement is rare.
Meanwhile, there’s nuclear power. China is currently pushing ahead with 22 new reactors and is on pace to get 6 per cent of its energy from nuclear by 2020.
For a long time, one of the big obstacles to a nuclear renaissance here was that Western countries were leery of selling the technology to China, although that seems to have changed after the just-concluded US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue and a bunch of new Westinghouse reactors are most likely on the way.
On top of that, it seems like China will now be working with the US Geological Survey to see if it can tap some of its shale reserves and develop its own domestic supplies of natural gas.
The New Republic
Adrian Watson in The West Australian (9 June 2010):
Property owners will be forced to have an energy efficiency rating attached to their buildings within months or risk facing hefty fines under a proposal by the Federal Government.
But landlords could slash waste and save thousands of dollars by having their buildings rated before the scheme becomes mandatory, according to Colliers International.
The national Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure scheme is being debated in Canberra. Apart from minor details, it has bipartisan support and is expected to start between October and December.
The scheme will make it mandatory for all commercial buildings with a net lettable area of 2000sqm or more, which are sold or leased to a potential purchaser, tenant or sub-tenant to have a registered Building Energy Efficiency Certificate.
The certificate will contain a NABERS rating from zero to five stars, based on the building’s environmental performance in terms of energy, water, waste and the indoor environment.
A landlord could be fined up to $110,000 for every day they withhold this information. Some buildings, including retail premises, will not be included in the scheme, while new, strata or special purpose buildings could apply for an exemption.
Colliers head of sustainability and national director of real estate management Simon Cox said NABERS ratings were already available and landlords could save thousands of dollars through improved efficiency by getting a rating now.
He said a NABERS rating was about $3500 plus registration costs but it would quickly pay for itself through identifying “simple measures” to reduce waste, such as light sensors and different temperature settings for air conditioning systems during summer and winter.
“Each half a star in NABERS equals a 10 per cent improvement in energy consumption,” Mr Cox said. “If you can get the 10 per cent or better shift in consumption by virtue of getting that rating, identifying some issues and shifting (the rating) up, it pays for itself.”
He said in addition to these savings, a high rating would help retain and attract A-grade tenants.
“Government represents 25 per cent of the leasing marketplace in CBDs, including Perth, (and) most governments are requiring a 3.5 star or better base building NABERS rating for them to go and lease your building,” he said.
“On top of that you’re going to have some of the bigger corporates who are also going to have similar sort of standards mandated. You might be up to 40 to 50 per cent of the existing leasing pool excluded because you’re not rating your building.”
Mr Cox said only 22 properties in Perth’s CBD, about 12 per cent, had a NABERS rating. This was far lower than Sydney, where more than 40 per cent of buildings were rated.
Despite the slow take-up, the latest addition to Perth’s skyline, Cbus Property’s $350 million development, one40william, is one of the greenest buildings in the city and was designed to receive a 4.5 star NABERS rating.
In Troubled Pacific Waters, Fish Tide is Turning
Economics as much as conservation is forcing an upturn in ravaged world fish stocks, and some scientists, once pessimistic, are taking hope again. The founding chairman of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Glenn Hurry, is encouraged by progress in the region which is one of the places in the world where sustainable fishing is achievable, partly because most of the resources are found within the 200 nautical mile Economic Exclusion Zone of each Pacific nation. More than half the world’s tuna is found in this vast region.
Paul Cleary in The Australian (5 June 2010):
WHEN oil prices nudged $US150 a barrel in mid-2008, the world’s marine life gained long overdue respite as high-seas fishing fleets returned to their ports. The record oil price made long-range fishing uneconomic, with the prices needed to make a profit well beyond what could have been charged at local fish markets.
Restaurants and consumers also played a role, with many refusing to sell or consume increasingly rare types of tuna, such as southern bluefin and bigeye, for reasons of conservation and cost. Restaurants are substituting expensive tuna with more plentiful fish such as salmon and kingfish.
Individuals and markets can help restore the natural order, and when combined with effective regulation there is less cause for concern over collapsing fish stocks.
But the alarmist narrative, most recently on show in the documentary film “The End of the Line”, pretends none of these responses actually exist. Hailed by The Economist magazine as “the inconvenient truth” about oceans, the film predicts a world with no fish, its oceans inhabited only by jellyfish and plankton. Evidently, the magazine appears to have forgotten its economics.
True, fish stocks have plummeted and are at critically low levels, particularly in the northern hemisphere. But the critical issue is to understand why this has happened, how it can be corrected and how it is being corrected.
The case of southern bluefin tuna shows how the combined failure of markets and regulation allowed the stock of this highly valuable deep-sea fish to plumb critically low levels. Scientists say spawning stocks are at 5 per cent of their original level, far worse than northern bluefin tuna, which are at about 20 per cent.
In the 1960s the fishermen in Port Lincoln, on the edge of the Great Australian Bight, profited from an annual catch of as much as 80,000 tonnes, as did Japanese fishing fleets. Diving into such a valuable resource spawned fishing dynasties in Port Lincoln and created a national figure in tuna fisherman Dean Lukin, who went on to lift 240kg at the 1984 Olympics and win a gold medal.
But then the fish became harder to find as stocks plummeted. Southern bluefin tuna was a modern-day case of the tragedy of the commons played out on the high seas, when individuals’ pursuit of self-interest can deplete of a common resource, even though it is not in their long-term interest for this to happen.
Australia, Japan and New Zealand, the three main nations that fish southern bluefin tuna, imposed individual quotas in the 80s, but these efforts failed. Collective action then led to the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, which came into being in 1994. The commission cut the total quota drastically to less than 10,000 tonnes a year, which scientists said should have reversed the decline, but stocks continued to fall.
Regulation failed because Australia belatedly discovered that it was instead dealing with a black market, for Japan had been operating a high-seas smuggling operation for 20 years.
With the help of a firm of former CIA agents and the industry association, the Howard government revealed that Japan had smuggled as much as $8 billion worth of tuna into its local fish markets. In response, Australia succeeded in 2006 in punishing Japan at a CCSBT meeting with a 50 per cent cut in its quota, thereby giving some hope that stocks will recover. The industry says stocks have since bounced back.
The Rudd government is examining the creation of a chain of marine conservation zones similar to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park all around Australia. It has proposed a massive area covering the west, north and east coasts of Australia, in total 5.4 million square kilometres, or 38 per cent of Australia’s exclusive economic zone.
Last March Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett unveiled the Coral Sea “conservation zone”, although the proposal to create a “no take” area of almost one million square kilometres did not affect existing commercial, recreational or indigenous fishing while consultation was being carried out. A final decision is expected later this year.
Garrett announced several more areas off the east coast for assessment as “no-take” or “mix-use” marine reserves, covering a massive 2.4 million sq km stretching from the Torres Strait north of Queensland to southern NSW, and as far east as Norfolk Island. There is no date for a decision.
Garrett tells Inquirer that the case for creating such conservation zones is compelling. “The evidence we have from no take areas is showing pretty strongly that there’s a linkage to the overall health of fish stocks. There are significant opportunities for the spillover from no-take areas to mixed use areas to be clearly identified.
“The no-take zone on the reef shows that the effect of having a framework like that satisfies the goals we have for a healthier fish population generally. A UN Environment Program report released last week reinforces that view,” he says.
Asked where he sits on the spectrum of pessimist v optimist on fish stocks, Garrett is hopeful that regulation can prevail, although some species may be lost forever. “We always have hope, although it is difficult to generalise. For example, for a species with a low reproductive rate, if it gets hammered, recovery can be slow,” he says.
“Generally, it is about ensuring sustainable fisheries management balanced with a well-developed zoning regime to allow for stock recovery. This double-pronged approach can help ensure the sustainability of Australian fisheries.”
Beyond Australia’s water, Australian National University natural resource economist Tom Kompas has been advising Pacific countries on how they can achieve a win-win for conservation and commercial fishing though better regulation. He argues that as fish stocks decline, the cost of fishing rises because fleets have to exert more costly effort. By reducing the take and allowing stocks to recover, Kompas argues that fishing can continue at a more sustainable and more profitable rate.
Australia’s Pacific neighbours have been pursuing stronger regulation of their waters and neighbouring high seas in a bid to preserve what for many is their biggest source of foreign exchange. For more than three decades as many as 17 Pacific nations have pulled together under the banner of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency, which aims to create a single bloc for negotiating with foreign fleets operating in the EEZs of each country. The landed value of fish caught in this region is about $4bn a year.
Included in this membership is the eight-member Parties to the Nauru Agreement, which has taken very strong action in recent years to limit access by foreign fleets. In 2008 the PNA banned any foreign fleets from their EEZs if they fished in two large high seas areas in the Pacific.
The PNA includes some countries often dismissed as failed states, such Papua New Guinea, Nauru and the Solomons, and yet they have proved themselves capable of defending their resources. Australia officials praise the action taken by PNG officials in confronting nations such as Japan at international meetings.
Bolstering regulation on the high seas is the newly formed Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which has a brief to police an area covering one-fifth of the world’s surface. With 35 member countries, the WCPFC brings together Pacific island states and fishing nations such as Japan, South Korea and Australia.
Despite complaints by some conservation groups about ongoing abuses by fishing fleets, the founding chairman of the commission, Glenn Hurry, is encouraged by progress so far. Hurry says the region is one of the places in the world where sustainable fishing is achievable, partly because most of the resources are found within the 200 nautical mile EEZ of each Pacific nation. More than half the world’s tuna is found in this vast region.
“If ever there was a place where sustainable fishing has a chance it is here. The bulk of the fish is caught in the EEZs of the island countries,” says Hurry, who heads the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and has since stepped down as WCPFC chairman. Hurry says the body has the best set of tools for any fisheries management agencies anywhere in the world: vessel monitoring, an observer program and a boarding and inspection regime to prevent illegal fishing. This is in spite of its head office, in the Federated States of Micronesia, having a budget of about $3 million.
Hurry’s optimism also stems from the recent realisation by Pacific countries that they can make money out of defending their resources. There was “real strength” emerging from Pacific countries in the way they policed their EEZs, he says.
The progress is being made despite the very low priority given to supporting fisheries management in Australia’s aid program. A 2007 AusAID paper admits Australia’s support represented just 0.55 per cent of the aid budget in the region in the five years to 2004, well behind Japan at 13 per cent of its budget and Britain at 12 per cent of its.
A more recent estimate provided by an AusAID spokesperson says that support for fisheries management increased to $7m in 2009-10, up from $4.5m, although this still represents only 5.4 per cent of the aid program in the region.
The optimism in Australia and the Pacific is supported by a landmark study by 21 scientists published last year in Science magazine. The group declared that “after a long history of over-exploitation, increasing efforts to restore marine ecosystems and rebuild fisheries are under way”.
More startling than this finding was the appearance of Canadian marine scientist Boris Worm as the lead author, given that Worm had for many years produced dire estimates of declining fish stocks. Joining Worm as the second author was his former nemesis, Ray Hilborn, who has sought to dispel the popular fished-out narrative.
Even more significant is that some of the authors are reported to have published research pushing the overfished argument that has been funded by environmental groups, including the Pew Foundation, which is also backing the creation of the Coral Sea reserve.
The 21 authors say in the paper that over-exploitation had clearly declined, although more than half the world’s oceans were still in trouble.
“Combined fisheries and conservation objectives can be achieved by merging diverse management actions, including catch restrictions, gear modification, and closed areas, depending on local context,” they said.
“Most often it appears that a combination of traditional approaches (catch quotas, community management) coupled with strategically placed fishing closures, more selective fishing gear, ocean zoning and economic incentives holds much promise for restoring marine fisheries and ecosystems.”
The group of 21 saw optimistic signs of effective management efforts leading to improving levels of fish stocks in several places around the world, including Australia and NZ.
“Since the 90s, Iceland, [Canada's] Newfoundland-Labrador, the Northeast US Shelf, the Southeast Australian Shelf, and California Current ecosystems have shown substantial declines in fishing pressure,” they wrote.
But the paper warned that only in California and NZ would the reduced fishing effort meet established conservation targets of less than 10 per cent of the collapsed stock.
Even so, the authors concluded on an optimistic note: “We envision a seascape where the rebuilding, conservation and sustainable use of marine resources become unifying themes for science, management, and society.”
Hilborn, a professor of marine science at the University of Washington, likens the pessimistic view to the Titanic: it is too late to save the ship so we should run to the lifeboats. Hilborn characterises the idea of creating marine reserves as the lifeboat approach, which is being pushed in the US and elsewhere by the Pew Foundation.
One of George W. Bush’s last acts in office was the creation of three marine parks covering an area of 500,000 sq km that ban all fishing. Instead, Hilborn argues that the success stories involve “clear and simple institutional authority” that allocates fishing rights. He cites Chile as a place where strong management has recognised historical fishing territories and achieved sustainability and exploitation.
Instead of jumping for the lifeboats, individuals, markets and governments can indeed work together to sustain common wealth.
Making an Election Promise: Put a Price on Carbon
As jockeying for the next federal election begins, WWF-Australia is warning politicians on all sides that we face an environmental crisis that needs urgent action – an emissions trading scheme is the issue. Meanwhile, Green Capital is organising pre-election forums to discuss sustainability, policy advocacy and the rise of community activism and its predicted impact on Australian businesses, communities and homes.
As jockeying for the next federal election begins, WWF-Australia is warning politicians on all sides that we face an environmental crisis that needs urgent action – not just words.
“Many Australians are angered by the Government’s back flip on its most important environmental policy – an emissions trading scheme,” said WWF-Australia CEO Greg Bourne.
“Kevin Rudd was voted into power on a wave of support for tackling climate change but rather than taking action, he and his party have decided to put it in the ‘too hard basket’ which is simply not good enough.
“Australia remains one of the biggest carbon polluters per capita in the world and has the sad dishonour of having the fastest rate of mammal extinction globally. Yet despite the disastrous impact of environmental mismanagement on our native species, livelihoods and the economy, action on the environment has too often been an afterthought.
“Both major parties made a commitment at the last election to implement an emissions trading scheme by 2011. Both have backed away from this, clearly showing they are not serious about protecting Australia’s environment and economy. The public can force action back onto the political agenda before the next election.”
WWF today released its proposed Priorities for the Next Australian Government, asking all major parties to:
· Prevent dangerous climate change and create new clean jobs by passing an emissions trading scheme by 2011.
· Restore Australia’s natural resilience to climate change by: strengthening laws to protect wildlife habitat, boosting funding for more protected areas on land and sea, employing more Indigenous rangers, and banning dangerous pesticides that harm the Great Barrier Reef.
“Any action to protect Australia’s environment will be futile in the long run without cutting Australia’s carbon pollution. Climate change is a threat no wild species can avoid.”
Economic experts hired by Coalition and Labor governments conclude an emissions trading scheme is the cheapest and most environmentally effective way to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution. Early action to reduce carbon pollution will also provide economic benefits, allowing Australia to position itself as a leader in the clean energy industry.
“While parties talk up the need for action, neither Labor nor the Coalition currently has a plan that will make the carbon pollution cuts Australia needs. This stubborn lack of action in the face of an overwhelming need for action is mind boggling,” said Mr Bourne.
“In the meantime Australia’s pollution continues to rise, temperatures go up and real government efforts to protect habitats to help animals and plants adapt to climate change slips off the agenda.
“The ongoing slide to extinction for thousands of native wildlife and plant species in this country should be a national outrage, we have the solutions we just need the political will,” Mr Bourne said.
Announcement from Green Capital:
Politics of Sustainability
An epic Federal election battle is looming! Join Green Capital’s unique pre-poll dissection of sustainability, policy advocacy and the rise of community activism and its predicted impact on Australian businesses, communities and homes.
Hear the experts, ask the hard questions, and decide for yourself.
Keynote speakers from the environment, union, social welfare and business will deconstruct the politics of sustainability, advocate policy and predict what’s next for the nation. The panel will then focus discussion on the business implications and the big political, economic and social dimensions of sustainability in coming years.
- Rudd’s Government has shelved its biggest 2007 election promise – the emissions trading scheme – and needs to desperately fire-up Plan B
- Opposition Environment Policy in chaos – the most sustainability savvy Conservative leader in Australian political history, Malcolm Turnbull, has been driven from the political leadership
- In the absence of government action – grassroots, consumer and shareholder activism is likely to increase
- The Greens are making inroads - Greens leader Nick McKim now sits in the Cabinet of a minority Labor Government in Tasmania; green preferences will be crucial in key federal seats; and the Greens are poised to take the balance of power in the Senate
The Big Questions
- Can it be taken for granted that a post-Global Financial Crisis nation is more worried about its hip-pocket in the here-and-now than a price on carbon to save the future?
- Whatever happened to corporate social responsibility – new laws or voluntary action?
- Does the Henry Tax Review lay out a future path?
- Can we achieve a green economy without political leadership driving the innovation, investment and jobs?
- Will sustainability drop off business radar, leaving it exposed to activism and legal suits?
- And, of course, who will Australia vote for? And what promises will advocates seek from the candidates at the moment of their greatest political sensitivity – the election campaign itself?
Speakers include: Tim Costello - World Vision, John Thwaites – Monash Sustainability Institute, Stephen Mayne – Mayne Report, and more in Melbourne. And Tony Maher – CFMEU, Julian Disney – UNSW, Bill Hurditch – Fifth Estate, and more in Sydney.
When: 7.30-10 am, Tuesday, 13 July 2010
Where: The Arts Centre: Spire Building, Level 8, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
When: 7.30-10 am, Thursday, 22 July 2010
Where: Sydney Hilton: The Stateroom, Level 2, 488 George St, Sydney
The New Pacific Solution: Advancing Bio Fuel from Algae
The goal of bio fuel becoming a viable competitor to crude oil sourced petroleum is one important step closer with agreement reached between California’s OriginOil Inc., the owner of a breakthrough technology to extract oil from algae, and Australia’s MBD Energy, a world leader in the development of industrial scale production of algae from captured flue-gases from coal fired power stations as feedstock and to produce fuel oil.
The goal of bio fuel becoming a viable competitor to crude oil sourced petroleum is one important step closer with agreement reached between OriginOil Inc., the owner of a breakthrough technology to extract oil from algae, and MBD Energy Limited, a world leader in the development of industrial scale production of algae.
The parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which OriginOil will equip MBD Energy Limited, an Australian based company, with its Quantum Fracturing™ and Single Step Extraction™ systems.
Three of Australia’s largest coal fired power generators have committed to building test facilities adjacent to their power stations using MBD’s proprietary growth system, the Algae Synthesizer, where smoke-stack CO2 emissions are captured and used to grow oil-rich algae in solar bioreactors. This process effectively achieves BIO-CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage). In the full production systems, OriginOil’s technology will be integrated into the MBD system to enhance algae growth and perform oil extraction.
Trials will now match the OriginOil extraction technologies to MBD’s CO2 to energy system at MBD Energy’s research and development facility based at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.
Andrew Lawson, Managing Director of MBD Energy, said: “We are delighted at becoming OriginOil’s first major customer and of working with the OriginOil team to forge a comprehensive commercial relationship as real potential game changers in the exciting third generation bio-fuels space.”
Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil CEO said: “We have looked for a first customer funded to scale up its algae production while focusing on the long term development of our industry.”
The two companies agreed that, subject to the success of the initial test phase, MBD will look to incorporate significantly larger oil extraction units to serve facilities planned for its three Bio CCS Algal Synthesiser power station projects in Australia, Tarong Energy (Queensland), Loy Yang A (Victoria) and Eraring Energy (New South Wales). Clearly the potential for expansion to major greenhouse gas emitters in the US and internationally is a significant opportunity to provide local oil and energy security from existing carbon infrastructure.
Officially opening the expanded MBD Energy Limited R&D facility in November 2009 the Queensland State Premier Anna Bligh said: “the revolutionary algal carbon capture and storage (BIO-CCS) technology is already proving successful in trials and will soon be rolled out at three coal fired power stations, including Tarong Power Station near Kingaroy. This technology has the potential to revolutionise carbon capture in Queensland and around the world.”
Premier Bligh added: “As our state continues to grow and coal remains a key export, it is essential we come up with new ways to manage the impact of that growth on our environment.”
The Queensland Premier announced that MBD would shortly commence construction of a one-hectare pilot plant at South Eastern Queensland’s Tarong Power Station. The trial aims to capture 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually and if successful could expand over the next 5 to 10 years to consume more than half of Tarong’s problem flue-gas emissions.
MBD’s Andrew Lawson said each of the three current power station Bio CCS algal synthesiser projects has the potential to grow to 80 hectare commercial plants, each capable of producing 11 million litres of oil for plastics and transport fuel, and 25,000 tonnes of drought‐proof animal feed and expanding to eventually consume more than half of each of the power station’s problem flue-gas emissions.
About OriginOil, Inc.
OriginOil, Inc. is developing a breakthrough technology that will transform algae, the most promising source of renewable oil, into a true competitor to petroleum. Much of the world’s oil and gas is made up of ancient algae deposits. Today, our technology will produce “new oil” from algae, through a cost-effective, high-speed manufacturing process. This endless supply of new oil can be used for many products, such as diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, plastics and solvents, without the global warming effects of petroleum. Other oil-producing feedstock, such as corn and sugarcane, often destroy vital farmlands and rainforests, disrupt global food supplies and create new environmental problems. Our unique technology, based on algae, is targeted at fundamentally changing our source of oil without disrupting the environment or food supplies.
About MBD Energy Limited
MBD is an Australian based public, unlisted technology company. One of the world’s largest mining companies, Anglo American, became a cornerstone investor in MBD in 2009 and Anglo Coal’s Global CEO, Seamus French, has recently joined as a non-executive director of MBD Energy. The MBD Energy Board is chaired by former BHP Chairman, Jerry Ellis. MBD has a joint research and development facility located at James Cook University (JCU), Townsville, Queensland. MBD Energy and its JCU team are regarded as international leaders in the use of captured flue-gases as feedstock to produce algal biomass for Bio-CCS. In addition to the project at Tarong Power Station, MBD Energy currently has two similar projects underway with Loy Yang Power in Victoria and Eraring Energy in New South Wales.
MBD Energy is a founding member of the Bio CCS program. The program is made up of a number of regional projects with each targeting 50 million tonnes of greenhouse gas sequestration per year by 2020.
Benefits for New Yorkers and Queenslanders: Trash to Treasure
New Yorkers will be able to recycle for free now that the state has joined 22 others in enacting a law, which requires all manufacturers to have a free, convenient e-waste recycling program in effect by 1 April 2011. And Queensland is getting tough on trash and is using this waste recovery as a means to boost its budget for an extension of national parks throughout the state.
Mary Esch in The Age (8 June 2010):
New Yorkers will be able to recycle their dusty dot-matrix printers and cobwebbed computer monitors for free, now that the state has joined 22 others in enacting an electronic waste recycling law.
Under the law recently signed by Gov. David Paterson, all manufacturers that sell electronic equipment in the state must have a free, convenient electronic waste, or “e-waste,” recycling program in effect by April 1, 2011.
The law also makes it illegal for individuals to dispose of electronic waste at landfills, effective Jan. 1, 2015.
Kate Sinding, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, calls New York’s bill “the most progressive, best researched e-waste bill in the country,” building on successful e-waste laws in Washington, Oregon and Minnesota.
Under the new law, each manufacturer will have to recycle or reuse its market share of e-waste by weight, based on its three-year average of annual sales in the state. They’ll also have to submit annual reports to the Department of Environmental Conservation documenting that they have met goals for collection and recycling.
The law covers televisions, VCRs, DVD and MP3 players, game consoles, fax machines, and computers and their peripherals such as monitors, keyboards, mice, scanners and printers.
Resa Dimino, special assistant in DEC’s policy office, said manufacturers are likely to collaborate and develop single collection locations in large communities that will handle all materials. That’s been the trend in other states, she said.
“Because they must meet a performance standard, we’ve created an incentive for manufacturers to collect as much material as possible,” Dimino said.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 14.9 pounds of electronic waste per person was awaiting disposal in the United States in 2007, the latest figure available. The agency says the electronics recycling rate nationally is about 13 percent.
Junked electronics represent one of the nation’s fastest-growing waste streams. The machines contain both precious metals and toxic pollutants and are piling up in garages or dumped overseas.
The state law, which has broad industry support, pre-empts a New York City recycling law that was the subject of an industry lawsuit that is now moot.
Several e-waste bills have been introduced in Congress over the years but none has passed, leading states to take action on their own.
Manufacturers have said a uniform federal law would be better than having to comply with a patchwork of regulations from different states. Ultimately, that would make sense, Sinding said. “But we want to see how different approaches are working before going to a one-size-fits-all approach.”
The Information Technology Industry Council and Consumer Electronics Association released a joint statement on New York’s new e-waste law. They said electronics companies have already recovered and properly managed billions of pounds of electronics through voluntary and market-driven efforts.
“We are reviewing the details of the new state law to assess how it will be applied and implemented,” the groups said, adding that the industry will work with state officials to build “an efficient, fair and successful electronics recycling program for all New Yorkers.”
WWF Reports (8 Jun 2010):
Queensland could soon have a world-class national parks system after today’s State Budget handed down $56 million for the acquisition of new parks to save threatened wildlife, and $38 million for the purchase of important koala habitat.
WWF today welcomed the new allocations to be funded out of a levy imposed on commercial waste dumped in landfills.
“Environment ministers have always struggled to get adequate long-term funding to buy new national parks to save our threatened wildlife,” said Dr Martin Taylor, WWF’s Protected Areas Policy Manager.
“This innovative ‘trash to treasure’ approach to waste levy by the Premier puts Queensland ahead of other states in terms of funding new protected areas.
“If the bonus from the new waste levy is spent wisely to take best advantage of Commonwealth ‘two dollars for one dollar’ grants, then wildlife currently facing possible extinction, such as quolls, wombats, and wallabies, could soon be thriving once again,” he said.
“This would be a great legacy for this government and would make Queensland a magnet for international tourists.”
The northern hairy nosed wombat, bridled nailtail wallaby, and 25 other threatened animal species were once common in Queensland but now face extinction due to a lack of protection of remaining habitat in national parks.
WWF is now calling on both sides of Federal politics to commit to the continuation of the current ‘two for one’ grant scheme, that sees two Commonwealth dollars contributed for every one dollar invested by the State Government for the acquisition of new national parks.
WWF is also calling on local governments to match the state government’s $38 million contribution to acquiring koala habitat.
Renewable Energy on Earth to Power Global Space Research
The Federal Government announced that CSIRO will receive $47.3 million for the development of solar and geothermal energy technologies to power a radio-astronomy observatory and its supporting computer centre, allowing the practical application of research by scientists and students from all over Australia in renewable energy as well as in astronomy, computer science, engineering, geology and environmental management.
Natural energy to help power exploration of the Universe
The Federal Government has announced that the CSIRO will receive $47.3 million for the development of solar and geothermal energy technologies to power a radio-astronomy observatory and its supporting computer centre.
CSIRO Release (9 June 2010):
The Sustainable Energy for SKA facility will be funded through the Sustainability Round of the Government’s Education Investment Fund (EIF).
The funding will support renewable energy infrastructure projects for the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory and the Pawsey High-Performance Computing Centre for SKA Science in Perth.
CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark said the new project will accelerate the development of renewable energy technologies in Australia.
“The Sustainable Energy for SKA project will fund solar and photovoltaic technology to help power the Murchison site and the nation’s largest direct heat geothermal demonstrator to cool the Pawsey Centre supercomputer,” Dr Clark said.
“This project will also allow the practical application of research by scientists and students from all over Australia in renewable energy as well as in astronomy, computer science, engineering, geology and environmental management.
The Square Kilometre Array is a global $2.5b program to build the world’s largest radio telescope.
“It is a unique opportunity for many different areas of science to come together and work on something that will benefit all Australians, the development and application of renewable energy technologies.”
The Pawsey Centre in Perth, co-located with CSIRO’s Australian Resources Research Centre, will become one of Australia’s largest direct heat geothermal demonstration sites. Researchers plan to address the heating and cooling requirements of not only the SKA data centre but the entire geosciences facility. They will also conduct research on the performance and longevity of geothermal wells.
The Pawsey High Performance Computing Centre for SKA Science will process more data from ASKAP every day than is contained in the world’s largest library.
The Square Kilometre Array is a global $2.5b program to build the world’s largest radio telescope. Two sites have been shortlisted to host the telescope, one in Australia and New Zealand, and one in Southern Africa.
“Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr is in Europe now promoting Australia’s bid, including at the International SKA Forum in the Netherlands,” Dr Clark said.
“A decision on the site is expected in 2012, so it is essential that we make as much progress as we can over the next two years – both technologically and diplomatically.”
A full scale hybrid solar storage and generation plant, coupled with sophisticated energy management systems, will also be built to service the CSIRO-managed remote Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory about 700km north of Perth.
The Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory and the CSIRO Australian SKA Pathfinder at the Observatory are important parts of the infrastructure for Australia and New Zealand’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.
Both of these facilities have high electricity demands so the ability to feed that demand using on-site geothermal and solar renewable energy technologies will provide multiple benefits.
Web-accessible monitoring infrastructure will be part of the project so that students and researchers alike can observe the project’s progress.
Partnerships will be essential in delivering these projects, and CSIRO is excited at the opportunity to work with industry partners Horizon Power, Geothermal Power and DirectEnergy, its research partners through the Western Australian Geothermal Centre of Excellence, the Geological Survey of Western Australia and the WA Government.
CSIRO is also a member of the EnergyAustralia consortium which was recently announced as the successful bidder for the Federal Government’s $100m Smart Grid Smart City initiative to build Australia’s first commercial scale smart energy grid in Newcastle.
These projects are all part of CSIRO’s contribution to large-scale demonstrations of renewable energy technologies that will benefit Australians.
NSW Gets Plugged in for Clean Energy Grid Efficiency
Plug-in points for electric cars and electricity meters enabling appliances to be turned off over the internet will be installed in central Sydney and Newcastle, after NSW won a bid for $100 million in federal government climate change funding. Under the Energy Australia-led plan, sections of the electricity grid will be transformed to save power and measure the carbon footprints of individual households.
Ben Cubby, environment editor , Sydney Morning Herald (8 June 2010):
PLUG-IN points for electric cars and electricity meters enabling appliances to be turned off over the internet will be installed in central Sydney and Newcastle, after NSW won a bid for $100 million in federal government climate change funding.
Under the Energy Australia-led plan, sections of the electricity grid will be transformed to save power and measure the carbon footprints of individual households.
The program will run for three years in central Sydney, the upper north shore, Newington, Newcastle and Scone.
Volunteers in these areas will have second-generation ”smart meters” fitted in their homes later this year, allowing them check the energy use of appliances in real time via an Energy Australia website and to count their carbon footprint kilogram by kilogram. Some digital appliances will be turned on or off via the website.
A small fleet of electric cars, acquired by the City of Sydney, will trial the best places to locate plug-in recharge points. It is likely that some charging stations will be on the F3 freeway between Sydney and Newcastle.
The main demonstration area for smart meters will be in central Newcastle. Scone will also be a key trial area for measuring ways to tailor energy flow more closely to household demand.
It is not clear exactly how much energy the trial will save, if any, but the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, said estimates showed that up to 3.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas could be cut from the nation’s climate change ledger if the system was adopted around the country.
Some industry estimates put the potential smart grid savings much higher.
“Smart grids are critical in the fight against climate change, as they have enormous potential to improve the efficiency of our electricity sector and transform the way we use energy in our homes and businesses,” said Senator Wong, announcing the bid winner yesterday.
The NSW plan, which is backed by the state government, IBM Australia, AGL, GE Energy, TransGrid and Newcastle City Council, beat bids from regional NSW, Queensland and Victoria. The demonstration project will run until 2013.
The managing director of Energy Australia, George Maltabarow, said about 400,000 basic, first-generation smart meters had been installed in NSW since 2006.
“They are essential if we want to de-carbonise electricity networks in Australia,” he said. “Building a smart grid is the foundation for delivering energy savings in the home that is so fundamental to the carbon pollution reduction scheme.”
The federal scheme, expected to be the main driver of investment in low-emissions power and energy efficiency, was shelved until at least 2013 after being blocked in the Senate. The government says it still intends to bring in its scheme because it would struggle to meet even its minimum target for greenhouse gas cuts – a net 5 per cent cut over the next 10 years – without it.
However, under last year’s Copenhagen Accord, Australia committed to join international efforts to hold global temperature rise to an maximum average of 2 degrees and this would be likely to require at least a 25 per cent cut in Australia’s emissions over the next decade.
Cheaper Electric Cars Could be on the Road in US & Oz
The cost of electric cars will halve in two years as production ramps up to meet demand, Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko said earlier this week as he announced that the first batch of battery-powered vehicles for Australia would go on sale next month, while in the US a proposal before the Senate would mean car buyers could get up to $10,000 in subsidies for electric vehicles.
Mitsubishi leads charge with electric cars
Philip King in The Australian (3 June 2010):
THE cost of electric cars will halve in two years as production ramps up to meet demand, Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko said yesterday as he announced that the first batch of battery-powered vehicles for Australia would go on sale next month.
The car, called the iMiev, has been undergoing fleet trials around Australia for months and Mr Masuko said Mitsubishi wanted to take a lead with the technology.
“This announcement will ensure that we will be No 1 in bringing the electric vehicle to Australia,” he said. The first shipment of 40 cars will be offered on three-year leases for $1740 a month, with the cars returned to Mitsubishi at the end of the term.
The company said that, despite the total cost of $62,640, there was a lot of interest from a broad range of buyers including governments, businesses and individuals. Mitsubishi expects demand for electric vehicles and hybrids to run hot over the next few years and believes they will hold more than 20 per cent of the global market by the end of the decade.
Mitsubishi planned to quadruple production of the iMiev to 40,000 a year by 2012, Mr Masuko said, and economies of scale would halve the price of the car. But Mr Masuko said it was vital that governments helped establish the technology, which was still in the earlier stages.
“In the initial instance we will require some assistance in terms of government infrastructure, especially with quick-charge stations,” he said. In Japan, where the government offers incentives to buyers of battery vehicles, the iMiev costs about Y=4 million ($52,000).
Electric vehicle purchases are also subsidised in the US, Europe and other markets. Australia does not have such a scheme, but the federal government yesterday committed to take three iMievs after Mr Masuko met Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Canberra and demonstrated the car to Transport Minister Anthony Albanese and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong.
Mr Albanese said 85 per cent of Australians drivers travelled less than 100km a day, so the car was ideal for their needs. “Fully electric vehicles offer significant benefits in dealing with climate change in the longer term,” he said. “There’s no doubt that the Australian market is ready for an electric vehicle.”
Up to $10k in Subsidies for Electric Cars
By Jeff Siegel in Green Chip Review (7 June 2010):
As oil continues to flow into the Gulf, it is becoming increasingly clear that this environmental disaster will be a major sticking point for voters come November. And I’m convinced this is why we’re now seeing new House and Senate bills that, if passed, will increase incentives for electric vehicles.
Sure, the timing is suspect… But if this helps bolster support for electric vehicles — and makes us some money in the process — then I’m all for it. The House legislation offers $800 million to five designated regions with the intention of getting 700,000 electric cars on the road within six years.
The Senate version would pony up $10,000 tax credits for electric car buyers in 15 metropolitan areas. This would put the price of a brand-new, extended-range Chevy Volt at around $30,000.
The legislation also bumps up the tax credit for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations from 30% to 50% of the equipment purchasing cost; it also extends the credit out to 2017. I have to admit, had this legislation been introduced two months ago — before BP and all those scumbags at the Minerals Management Service created perhaps the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history — it probably wouldn’t have gotten much support… But word on the Hill is that the uncommon face of bipartisanship is actually making an appearance on this one.
Certainly this is great news for those major automakers that will soon be debuting their new electric offerings, including Nissan, which has already had about 20,000 drivers pony up their reservation fees to be among the first to own the company’s all-electric LEAF.
Although from what I understand, Nissan only has the capacity to produce and deliver roughly 12,000 LEAFs by the end of next March. If that’s truly the case, than Nissan will actually be sold out until Q2 2011. As a side note, I’m thrilled to report that these vehicles are being built by U.S. workers in Tennessee.
Meanwhile, in China, Beijing officials just announced plans to pony up $1.76 billion to subsidize smaller, more fuel efficient cars (1.6 liter engines or smaller) that consume at least 20 percent less fuel than current standards. This is in addition to the country’s electric vehicle subsidy being tested this year in five different cities.
With this program, those who purchase electric vehicles will get up to $8,800. A $7,300 subsidy is also being offered to select gasoline hybrids. These subsidies should certainly benefit electric car manufacturer BYD — a company that’s delivered gains in excess of 480% for a number of investors to date.