Posted under Express 201
New Minister Says Yes to Clean Air, Land & Water, but No to Carbon Tax
The 2nd Australian Sustainability Conference saw the Minister of the Environment in the new Government confirming his commitment to scraping the carbon tax, while also detailing the new Environmental Policy for Australia, resting on four pillars: Clean Air, Clean Land, Clean Water and Heritage Protection. The Minister is also embroiled in media and scientific questioning – along with Prime Minister Abbott – for denying that the early devastating bushfire season has anything to do with climate change and associated extreme weather. The conference also saw various agendas, including the importance of women in driving sustainability. Read more
Greg Hunt uses Wikipedia research to dismiss climate change-bushfires link
Environment minister warns against ‘politicising the science’, saying bushfires are simply part of ‘the
Helen Davidson in theguardian.com (24 October 2013):
The environment minister Greg Hunt has dismissed a link between bushfires and climate change, saying he “looked up what Wikipedia says” about bushfires and it was clear Australia had a history of frequent events during hotter months since before European settlement.
Hunt was questioned on BBC’s Newshour program about the connection between climate change and bushfires including the prime minister Tony Abbott’s claim that the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres was “talking out of her hat” when she said the bushfires were linked to climate change.
When asked by presenter Razia Iqbal if he agreed with Abbott’s comments about Figueres, Hunt replied that he had spoken to Figueres and that she indicated she had been misrepresented
“Australia has since European settlement and obviously well before that, had a history of recurrent bushfire,” said Hunt.
“I looked up what Wikipedia says for example, just to see what the rest of the world thought, and it opens up with the fact that bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires. That’s the Australian experience.”
When asked whether he accepted that there is potentially a causal relationship between rising temperatures and bushfires, Hunt replied: “Well by definition, bushfires happen in hot weather.”
Iqbal then pushed on the science behind fire weather being impacted by “changes in the climate, ergo climate change”. Hunt responded: “Well we all have to be very careful. In talking with the senior people of the Bureau of Meteorology, for example, they always emphasise – never try to link any particular event to climate change.”
He claimed the issue was raised for political advantage by the Greens.
“The way in which this was done in Australia was to blame the newly elected government for fires such as this. Even though we’re living under a carbon tax in Australia. You’d imagine then that the logic would be that that would mean there wouldn’t be bushfires,” said Hunt.
“Australians know that this is the condition we live with each and every year. Nobody in my view should be politicising the science.”
When Iqbal quoted Abbott saying climate change science is “crap”, Hunt responded that the government supports the science.
”So [Mr Abbott] no longer thinks its absolute crap?”
”Look, with great respect, you can swear on international radio, you can invite me from Australia to do this, you can be profoundly rude, I’m happy to answer but I’m not going to be sworn at.”
”Mr Hunt, I’m merely quoting your prime minister,” Iqbal replied.
Figueres released a statement after the interview, welcoming the Australian government’s commitment to meet emission reduction targets, and to reiterate the link between climate change and bushfires she previously made by quoting the IPCC’s fourth assessment report from 2007.
“Climate change is known to alter the likelihood of increased wildfire sizes and frequencies … while also inducing stress on trees that indirectly exacerbate disturbances. This suggests an increasing likelihood of more prevalent fire disturbances, as has recently been observed”.
In an example of why Wikipedia is not usually trusted as a primary source, Hunt’s own page was quickly updated. “After the 2013 election, Hunt was appointed environment minister under prime minister Tony Abbott. He was quoted as saying he uses Wikipedia for important policy research.”
Mr Hunt has been contacted for comment.
Australian Sustainability Conference report (15 October 2013):
Biggest event in sustainability for the year wraps up
The 2nd Australian Sustainability Conference held in Melbourne, 9th and 10th October saw more than 150 leaders within business, government and sustainability hear from the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, reconfirm his commitment to scraping the carbon tax.
In his speech on 9th October Mr Hunt confirmed that the Coalition’s Clean Air policy centres on “ the abolition of the Carbon Tax and the implementation of our Direct Action plan,”
The Environment Minister would not discuss whether the Government would call a double dissolution election if it does not receive support to repeal the carbon tax.
However, re-confirmed his committed that he would scrap the tax come 1st July if Labor and the Greens continue to block it in the Senate.
Mr Hunt also discussed in further detail the Government’s Environmental Policy for Australia, “Our plan for the environment rests on four pillars: Clean Air, Clean Land, Clean Water and Heritage Protection,”
“Our plan is based around how we can maintain standards, but simplify action, because if you can simplify action then you allow business to invest and encourage a culture of action,”
Day two of the conference saw international business leader, Jochen Zeitz, co-founder of The B Team with Sir Richard Branson, call on legislation of negative impacts from business to be mandatorily published and incentives for those that do well, “How can we incentivise business to become more sustainable? How can we change the framework to make sustainability more viable? These measures need to be put into place quickly,”
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which the Coalition Government is proposing to dismantle, reminded the business leaders present of the successes of their work in driving job creation, “ We are doing a lot of work in terms of catalysing projects and we’ve been working closely with people to get their projects through the organisation,” said Oliver Yates, Managing Director.
“We’ve been catalysing jobs too, not only in the individual projects, particularly if they are in the renewables sector, but if they are in the energy efficiency sector, a lot of these jobs can create activity within the market and they can have flow on effects right across the economy.”
Gender was also high on the agenda at the conference with Lisa Tarry, Managing Director from Turning Green, placing women at the centre of the sustainability future, “Without women around the table, there’s no input into policy development,”
“Despite what we are told in the media, it’s not true that workplaces are genuine meritocracies – there is a quiet revolution happening.”
Amanda Steele, Head of Sustainability from CBRE reminded business that sustainability is also a field in which women are excelling, “What’s most interesting in my role is that there are more women working in sustainability than men,”
“But sustainability is not women’s work, it is globally important work,”
“I think we need to be more clever and less apologetic about taking maternity leave… the reality is, children need time and that’s something we don’t need to apologise for.”
Amanda Cornell, President of the National Environmental Law Association pointed to the difference that women on boards make, “ There is now so much sophisticated research out there about women in senior management, and women on boards, showing that women on boards equals better returns,”
“New research shows that women on boards means more energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, reduced energy impact and focus on the longer term.”
Looking beyond Australia, and to the opportunities and challenges in sustainability in Asia, Stephanie Huf, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility for South East Asia & Oceania Ericsson said, “If you don’t have a telecom infrastructure then it’s very difficult for business to happen and the positive change that telecoms can bring is greater than the risk of not having it,”
“Because Myanmar (Burma) has been cut off from the western world for 15 or more years, there are no strong processes or records and they don’t have any understanding of what is going on in the rest of the world, so they don’t know what they should be doing differently,”
Huf also explained the positive impact their business had on the country, “As well as technical training, we train staff in human rights and anti-corruption,”
“It was refreshing to see how aware they were of the issues, but what they really needed were practical tools and guidance – which we provided.”
Mark Joiner, Executive Finance Director of National Australia Bank commented that rather than business being lead by legislation, business should lead, “There is a greater and greater need for businesses to take leadership on the issue of sustainability, rather than wait for a political consensus to occur.”
Also important is the need for business to look within as commented by David Ross, Managing Director of Phoenix Strategic “It’s so vital for companies to truly understand what are the real values and beliefs of the company – culture can seriously impede delivery.”
James Porteous, Communications Advisor for MMG Limited suggested incorporating sustainability into the education sector, “How do we get a return on all of this effort into sustainability over the longer term?”
“I think really it’s about education, education systems within your organisations, but more broadly education systems nationally and internationally.”
Dr. Suzanne Young, Director of Executive Education and Associate Professor for the
Department of Management, La Trobe Business School and Faculty of Business, Economics and Law spoke of a historic lack of a holistic approach when it came to sustainability education, “Historically business schools have really focussed a solo approach on those disciplines like accounting, marketing, economics and law and there’s been a lack of a holistic, integrated approach to sustainability…students are crying out for a change in approach,”
“For management students we need to move away from teaching them about concepts of agency and economics, and move to ideas around being responsible and sustainable,”
“We need to teach our students about concepts of equity and social sustainability, globalisation and development, and skills that are more than just how to make money and bring about valuation.”
“You could argue, that at the end of the day, eventually sustainability needs to be seen as, as important as maths or history, in terms of education systems if we are to have effective decision-making, if we’re to have a next generation coming through the system that are qualified to make decisions on the complexities of the intersections of sustainability.”
Where sustainability can improve was focussed on heavily by Michael Bray, Chairman for Energy and Natural Resources – KPMG Australia, “Businesses need an integrated report to give the chief executive a better basis for telling the story of the business, the business model, to the capital providers,”
“I also believe that integrated reporting has a real role in public policy in keeping governments accountable for implementation of their energy policies… (Australia) should have an integrated report against energy policy on a periodic basis.”
Looking to energy efficiency as a cornerstone of a businesses sustainability strategy, Jonathon Jutsen, Energetics Founder and Chairman for the Australian Alliance to Save Energy thinks business are underperforming in this area, “We believe that most businesses can improve their energy efficiency by at least 50%… and one of the first places to start is in eliminating waste.”
Tom Maguire, General Manager Corporate Affairs and Innovation from Teys Australia backed the call for more to be done within the energy sector, “Australia’s low cost energy advantage is eroding, and we have to do more with less.”
Not-for-profit partnerships were also highlighted with Raphaele Deau, Partnerships Director from Nexus saying positively that the private sector has begun to show more interest in the role they can play, “More and more, recently (they) have shown interest in getting involved in eco friendly solutions,”
The need for these partnerships is great, “There is a silent killer of indoor air pollution from boiling water… 30% of the world’s population are using solid fuels or biomass for cooking and boiling water, so just the essential services of access to clean water is actually killing women and children primarily as they are the main population in the households,”
Being uncompromising in your commitment to sustainability was a theme echoed by many, “We want to exert positive influence across our whole supply chain and sustainability is one of the core cornerstones of that,” said Richard Wilson, Sustainability Manager from IKEA
“We do walk away from suppliers that can’t meet our sustainability demands.”
How to value sustainability and the environment was explored by Chuck Berger, Director of Strategic Ideas for the Australian Conservation Foundation, “Valuation is not the same as monetisation, and valuation is not an objective exercise… valuation is a deeply subjective exercise that is about the attribution of importance to something,”
“Valuation of environmental assets or ecosystems is difficult, because valuation is difficult,”
“Lots of things are uncertain and there’s lots that we don’t know about ecosystems, network effects and the future… most importantly, we don’t know the values of the people of the future… all we can say about the values of the future is that they are going to be different from our current values in some ways.”