Posted under Express 75
Profile: David Hood
Meet a “green” engineer who has strong views on climate change as well as the way planning and development is managed. David Hood thinks Queensland should be taking on a national leadership role, recognising the need for immediate action to “significantly reverse our ever growing national greenhouse gas emissions”.
We hear David Hood’s views on what the Queensland Government is doing – or not. Who is this green engineer? And what is the Australian Green Infrastructure Council all about as its gets ready for its national conference in Sydney next month.
Firstly, how does David Hood see the Queensland Climate Change Management Plan?
“The Queensland Government recently released for comment its range of actions to address climate change in support of the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009 – 2031.
Given the seriousness of impending climate change and the need for immediate action to significantly reverse our ever growing national greenhouse gas emissions, it is unfortunate that this Climate Change Plan is constrained by predetermined growth and economic parameters.
It assumes continuing population growth to 4.4 million by 2031, and the need to provide dwellings and infrastructure to meet that growth with only cost effective energy and transport efficiency.
Despite the Head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr Rajendra Pachauri, now privately saying the we must get the global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere down to 350 ppm as soon as possible to avoid catastrophic climate change, the plan adopts the IPCC’s earlier target of 445 – 490 ppm, and a global temperature rise of between 2.0 to 2.4 degrees C.
Such an assumption condemns Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef to death.
Therefore, there is much in the plan that focuses on the need for adaptation and resilience to a changed climate.
It seems to assume that mitigation is almost a dead issue.
Nowhere does the plan address the need to rectify the extensive damage that our current development paradigm (based on Oliver James’ “selfish capitalistic” lifestyle) has wrought upon the environment and the fabric of our society.
Minimising negative impacts and ensuring that everything is “cost effective” will not even ensure a safe future, let alone attempt to rebuild lost natural and social capital.
It behoves us all to respond with a strong voice of concern to this draft plan, and urge the State Government to take a national leadership role and set targets (well beyond the COAG agreements) that will reverse the damage already done, and not just accept that our current growth rates, and unfettered demand led economic development are the only paths to the future.”
Who is this “green” engineer?
David Hood is a Chartered Professional Engineer, registered on NPER to practice in civil and environmental engineering. David has over thirtyfive years experience in business, engineering, education, project management, and senior executive positions in both the public and private sectors.
David graduated in civil engineering from the University of Queensland in 1969, and spent ten years in the Royal Australian Air Force as a Commissioned Officer involved with the planning, development, and construction of RAAF bases throughout Australia. After a further seven years as an airport planner, and Project Director with the Federal Department of Aviation, David was appointed Senior Property Executive with the Parliament of Australia where he was responsible for the take-over and commissioning of Australia’s then New Parliament House in Canberra. Following the successful start-up of Parliament House, David moved back to the aviation sector where he managed a number of technology IP commercialisation projects, including the establishment of joint venture companies to develop and market air traffic control related software and other products around the world.
David then worked as National Manager Aviation and Defence with Maunsell Pty Ltd, before being appointed National Director Engineering Practice with the Institution of Engineers, Australia where he was responsible for technical standards, registration, and the delivery of the Institution’s continuing professional development and education programs.
David was a Founding Director of the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF), and of the Australian Council of Building Design Professions (BDP), and was for six years a Councillor, and for three a Director of Standards Australia International.
David is currently Chairman of his own consulting engineering practice specialising in the areas of sustainability in the built environment, “green projects”, energy efficiency policy, engineering education and global engineering infrastructure. David has also directed a number of government and industry funded programs throughout S E Asia and Africa assisting the engineering profession in evolving economies with the development of competency standards and assessment processes, practice registration and education upgrading and accreditation systems.
As an investor, Chairman, and Board member David led the successful turnaround of CBD Energy Limited, a small public company involved in energy saving technology and solutions for the property industry.
David is actively involved with industry and professional associations promoting the improved energy performance of buildings. David sits on a number of industry, community and university advisory boards where his extensive engineering background, and considerable involvement at a senior level in the built environment sector is influencing change in the “energy culture” of Australia.
David is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of the Built Environment and Engineering at Queensland University of Technology, Chairman of the Australian College of Environmental Engineers, Chairman of the Australian Green Infrastructure Council (AGIC), and is Past Deputy President of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC). David is also an accredited presenter on Al Gore’s Climate Project.
National Conference for Infrastructure Sustainability
7 October 2009 Sydney Convention Centre
WHAT IS AGIC?
The Australian Green Infrastructure Council (AGIC) is a company limited by guarantee and formed by a group of industry professionals from engineering, environmental, planning, legal, financial and construction backgrounds working in both private and public organisations related to infrastructure.
AGIC will be the catalyst for the delivery and operation of more sustainable infrastructure in Australia. This vision will be achieved by driving market transformation through education, training, advocacy and by recognising leading sustainable practice via a sustainability rating scheme.
It is AGIC’s mission to:
• Benchmark, advance and promote the concepts and knowledge of sustainability throughout the design, construction and life cycle of infrastructure solutions
• Recognise and reward organisations that deliver world leading sustainable solutions in the design, construction and operation of our national infrastructure
• Provide a roadmap to assist stakeholders to achieve sustainable outcomes
• Define sustainability performance benchmarks for industry participants
• Provide independently certified sustainability ratings; and
• Encourage and promote the highest standards of sustainability performance.
WHY IS THIS CONFERENCE RELEVANT?
There has been a calling from across the infrastructure sector to deliver infrastructure at the design, construction and operation phases more sustainably.
It has been globally acknowledged that “sustainable development”, regardless of the specific industry/activity (e.g. buildings, urban development, mining, infrastructure etc), is unlikely to be achieved unless it can be articulated into tangible and measurable elements.
AGIC is set to replicate the major successes achieved in the building industry with the innovation of the Green Building Council’s green star rating scheme launched in 2003. The implementation of AGIC’s voluntary infrastructure sustainability Rating Scheme will provide the industry with the relevant sustainability elements to benchmark and measure performance throughout the entirety of the project.
The AGIC scheme and associated sustainability categories are intended to support a “systems” and “consultative” approach to delivering sustainable outcomes through all life phases of infrastructure projects that:
• Registers and supports award applicants
• Provides the functions for independently verifying submitted applications
• Recommends awards to the AGIC Board for ratification
• Provides an arm’s length mechanism for system verification and award/rating appeals that adds credibility to, and builds community confidence in, the rating scheme; and
• Issues awards.
WHAT PROJECT DOES THIS RATING SCHEME APPLY TO?
The AGIC Rating Scheme covers the methodology required to secure a rating for a range of infrastructure projects including:
• Roads, rail, bridges and tunnels
• Ports, wharves or boating
• Airport airside facilities
• Distribution grids (pipes, poles, wires)
• Water or resource management
• Water infrastructure
• Waterway or foreshore management
• Preparatory civil works for other types
WHAT WILL I GET FROM ATTENDING THE CONFERENCE?
By attending the National Conference for Infrastructure Sustainability, you will:
• Learn how industry leaders are dealing with the challenges around sustainable infrastructure investment, delivery and operation supported with recent case studies
• Learn why sustainability is not a cost imposition but a sound investment. The conference aims to facilitate leadership thinking in the context of advancing sustainable outcomes on infrastructure projects and their operation. This is a critical factor in the sustainable delivery of “the big infrastructure spend”.
• Network with infrastructure professionals and discuss industry issues and how they are being addressed
• Gain a broader understanding of the social, economic and environmental impacts the industry is facing.
TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED AT THE CONFERENCE:
• Nation’s current and long term infrastructure spend
• What is sustainable infrastructure and how does it benefit the economy, society and the environment?
• Why was AGIC formed and how can AGIC help industry professionals to deliver sustainable infrastructure projects?
• Does sustainability play a huge role in determining funds for infrastructure projects?
• Sustainable Investment – how investors are being more ‘green’ conscious
• Sustainable Project Delivery – evaluating key strategies in the planning, procurement and delivery of complex infrastructure projects
• Practical challenges of sustainable projects
• Sustainable Infrastructure – a Legal Perspective
• The future of Sustainability
The conference will also include a networking function afterwards and the launch of AGIC’s Rating Scheme rating icon.
WHY ATTEND CONFERENCES?
The main reasons to attend conferences are to learn and meet people. Hear latest
thinking from the foremost experts. You will meet the best people in your industry and
make important connections. You will be meeting like-minded people, network with the
movers and shakers in your field, brainstorm with the best in the business, and even
present yourself for career or business opportunities.
Sobering Reality of Climate Change
The world is accelerating towards an abyss on climate change, the UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned this week. Having just witnessed the “sobering reality” of climate change on a visit to the melting glaciers of the Arctic, the UN Secretary General urged countries to make rapid progress on negotiations for a new international pact to reduce global warming.
September 3, 2009
The world is accelerating towards an abyss on climate change, the UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Thursday, urging rapid progress in troubled talks to cut emissions and tackle global warming.
“Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss,” the United Nations Secretary General said in a speech to the World Climate Conference.
Ban, who earlier this week visited the Arctic to witness first hand the changes wrought by global warming, warned that many of the “more distant scenarios” predicted by scientists were “happening now.”
“Scientists have been accused for years of scaremongering. But the real scaremongers are those who say we cannot afford climate action — that it will hold back economic growth,” he said.
“They are wrong. Climate change could spell widespread disaster,” Ban warned.
The UN Secretary General pinned his hopes on a summit of world leaders in New York to discuss climate change in two weeks’ time. Talks on extending the Kyoto agreement on emissions cuts in time for December’s Copenhagen conference had been too limited and slow, he said.
“We have 15 negotiating days left until Copenhagen. We cannot afford limited progress. We need rapid progress,” he added.
“In New York, (I) expect candid and constructive discussions. I expect serious bridge building. I expect strong outcomes,” Ban told delegates and ministers from some 150 countries at the meeting in Geneva.
3 September 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, having just witnessed the “sobering reality” of climate change on a visit to the melting glaciers of the Arctic, urged countries to make rapid progress on negotiations for a new international pact to reduce global warming.
“It has been said that the Arctic is our barometer – the canary in the coal mine. But it is much more than that. Changes in the Arctic are accelerating global climate change,” Mr. Ban told the World Climate Conference in Geneva.
Standing on rapidly melting polar ice just two days ago, the Secretary-General had witnessed the impacts of climate change on icebergs and glaciers, and was informed by scientists that global warming is altering the Arctic faster than any other area.
Scientists have been accused for years of scaremongering. But the real scaremongers are those who say we cannot afford climate action – that it will hold back economic growth. They are wrong.
Speaking to reporters yesterday in Svalbard, Norway, he said the visit was “an alarming experience” and one which gave him a strong sense of the power of nature, as well as vulnerability.
“I witnessed the sober reality of change with my own eyes,” he stated today, recalling his visit. “The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth. It may be virtually ice-free by 2030.”
He told participants at the conference that instead of reflecting heat, the Arctic is absorbing it as the sea ice diminishes, thus speeding up global warming. In addition, increased melt from the Greenland ice-cap threatens to raise sea levels and alter the flow of the Gulf Stream that keeps Europe warm.
“Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss,” Mr. Ban said, urging nations to not waste time and ‘seal the deal’ on a new agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the United Nations climate change conference slated for December in Copenhagen.
He added that adaptation deserves as much attention as mitigation in the ongoing climate negotiations.
“Scientists have been accused for years of scaremongering. But the real scaremongers are those who say we cannot afford climate action – that it will hold back economic growth. They are wrong. Climate change could spell widespread economic disaster,” he warned, adding that the answer lies in ‘green’ and sustainable growth.
The Secretary-General pointed out that despite the evidence, there has only been limited progress in the climate negotiations.
“We have 15 negotiating days left until Copenhagen. We cannot afford limited progress. We need rapid progress.”
Specifically, he called for action in five key areas. Measures to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change must be taken, in particular assisting the poorest and most vulnerable nations, as well as setting mid-term mitigation targets by developed countries, recognizing the need for consensus on an upper limit for temperature rise.
Also important is for developing countries to act to slow the growth of their emissions, and to receive predictable financial and technological support to do so.
Lastly, all institutional arrangements and governance structures under a new climate regime must address the needs of developing countries, he stated.
“We know what the problem is. We know what we must do. Now is the time to do it. Now is our moment.
“We need a deal in Copenhagen that will enable deep cuts in emissions, that promotes green growth, and that will provide the resources and structures needed for adaptation,” said the Secretary-General, adding that “the cost of inaction today will be far greater than the cost of action tomorrow, not just [for] future generations, but for this generation too.”
Mr. Ban later noted, at a press conference in Geneva, that the UN will convene a high-level climate change summit in New York on 22 September.
“I expect candid and constructive discussions. I expect serious bridge building. I expect strong outcomes,” he stated. “I am telling people today, and I will tell world leaders in New York, that we must seize the moment.”
Also today at the World Climate Conference, more than 2,000 climate scientists, experts and decision-makers established a Global Framework for Climate Services to strengthen production, availability, delivery and application of science-based climate prediction and services.
Michel Jarraud, the head of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which is convening the Conference, said today was a landmark day for making climate services available to all people. “But the work has really just begun,” he added.
Dire Global Consequences As Arctic Melts
An abrupt warming of the Arctic has reversed a cooling trend that began about 8000 years ago, according to a study which shed light on the threat of rising sea levels and climate change. Reports from Science Journal, WWF and Greenpeace on dramatic changes going on in the Arctic.
From correspondents in Chicago in the Herald Sun (4 Seoptember 2009):
AN abrupt warming of the Arctic has reversed a cooling trend that began about 8000 ago, according to a study which shed light on the threat of rising sea levels and climate change.
Increased greenhouse gas emissions appear to have overridden the natural cooling caused by a wobble in the Earth’s axis which has been gradually pulling the planet away from the Sun.
This wobble has cooled summer temperatures by an average of about 0.2C per thousand years, the study published in the journal Science found.
But Arctic temperatures began to rise at the beginning of the 20th Century even though the orbital cycle that produced the cooling continued.
The result was summer temperatures that were about 1.4C warmer than they should have been by the year 2000, according to the study which mapped Arctic temperatures for every decade of the past 2000 years.
Temperatures for four of the last five decades were among the highest on record.
“This study provides us with a long-term record that reveals how greenhouse gases from human activities are overwhelming the Arctic’s natural climate system,” co-author David Schneider of the Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research said.
“This result is particularly important because the Arctic, perhaps more than any other region on Earth, is facing dramatic impacts from climate change.”
The Arctic tends to warm about three times faster than elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere because of a phenomenon called Arctic amplification.
When highly reflective ice and snow melt, the exposed dark land and ocean absorb more sunlight.
The warmer temperatures accelerate melting, which then accelerates warming.
“This has consequences globally because, as the Arctic warms, glacier ice will melt, contributing to (a) sea-level rise and impacting coastal communities around the globe,” lead author Darrell Kaufman said.
“Thawing permafrost will release methane adding to the global greenhouse effect,” Mr Kaufman added.
The researchers used glacial ice, tree rings and lake sediments to supplement a complex computer model of global climate and generate a reconstruction of temperatures for the past 2000 years.
Previous studies had only pinpointed Arctic temperatures for the past 400 years.
“Scientists have known for a while that the current period of warming was preceded by a long-term cooling trend,” Mr Kaufman said.
“But our reconstruction quantifies the cooling with greater certainty than before.”
With less than 100 days until the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen, a group of scientists has embarked on a journey to see the state of the Arctic melt at first hand.
Their accounts so far tell of rapidly melting glaciers that are not only shrinking from warmer atmospheric temperatures, but are collapsing underneath from the action of higher sea levels.
It has been more than two months since some crew members on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise have set foot on soil.
The scientists travelling on this expedition have braved huge swells and wild weather to venture out on the ice.
They have set up a floating research station and are travelling to remote parts of the Greenland coast only accessible by helicopter.
Gordon Hamilton, a glaciologist from the University of Maine, did the same trip in 2005.
“The major change is that the glaciers haven’t really returned to normal, they’ve continued to flow at extremely fast speeds,” he said.
“Maybe not quite as fast as they were in 2005, but a lot of glaciologists would have thought that it was just a very short-lived event, and that after a year or two these glaciers would return to normal.
“It’s very surprising that after four years we still see these glaciers moving along in an extremely fast speed and have not returned to normal.”
But it’s not just the Arctic temperatures that are warming more quickly. So are the ocean waters.
By sending oceanic probes down to 1,000 metres, scientists can compare climate records to reveal how the temperatures have changed, one probe recorded 2 degrees Celsius at 60 metres, in the middle of winter.
Dr Hamilton says the warmer currents are creating a double whammy for the already diminishing glaciers and accelerating the speed at which they melt.
“Of course if the ocean is warming up, or if the ocean currents are changing and are bringing more heat into these fjords, then you get a lot of rapid melting, not on the surface of the glacier, but underlying – so submarine melting,” he said.
“It turns out that submarine melting is far more effective at thinning these glaciers than surface melting, so that’s a very rapid way of destabilising large parts of the Greenland ice sheet.”
The findings gathered on this journey will be used by organisations like Greenpeace to call on governments globally to make deep cuts in the planet’s emissions.
Photographer and campaigner Dave Walsh, who is on board the Arctic Sunrise, says the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen have an urgent responsibility to deliver.
“I think the main message here is that ice melting in the Arctic has a huge influence on what happens elsewhere in the world,” he said.
“If we’ve got more fresh water coming in off the Greenland ice sheet into the oceans, it’s going to contribute to sea level rise.”
“It’s imperative that we pull back on our emissions to curb climate change so in Copenhagen we’re asking the governments there, of developed countries, to make a 40 per cent cut in emissions.”
Warming in the Arctic could lead to flooding affecting one quarter of the world’s population, substantial increases in greenhouse gas emissions from massive carbon pools, and extreme global weather changes, according to a new WWF report.
The Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications report, released today, outlines dire global consequences of a warming Arctic that are far worse than previous projections. The unprecedented peer-reviewed report brings together top climate scientists who have assessed the current science on arctic warming.
“What they found was a truly sobering picture,’ said Dr Martin Sommerkorn, senior climate change advisor for WWF’s Arctic programme. ‘What this report says is that a warming Arctic is much more than a local problem, it’s a global problem.
“Simply put, if we do not keep the Arctic cold enough, people across the world will suffer the effects.”
The report shows that numerous arctic climate feedbacks – negative effects prompted by the impacts of warming — will make global climate change more severe than indicated by other recent projections, including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 assessment.
The dramatic loss of sea ice resulting from the Arctic warming at about twice the rate of the rest of the world will influence atmospheric circulation and weather in the Arctic and beyond. This is projected to change temperature and precipitation patterns in Europe and North America, affecting agriculture, forestry and water supplies.
In addition, the Arctic’s frozen soils and wetlands store twice as much carbon as is held in the atmosphere. As warming in the Arctic continues, soils will increasingly thaw and release carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, at significantly increased rates. Levels of atmospheric methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, have been increasing for the past two years, and it is suggested that the increase comes from warming arctic tundra.
In a first-of-its kind assessment incorporating the fate of the ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica into global sea level projections, the WWF report concludes that sea- levels will very likely rise by more than one meter by 2100 — more than twice the amount given in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 assessment that had excluded the contribution of ice sheets from their projection. The associated flooding of coastal regions will affect more than a quarter of the world’s population.
“This report shows that it is urgently necessary to rein in greenhouse gas emissions while we still can,” Sommerkorn said. “If we allow the Arctic to get too warm, it is doubtful whether we will be able to keep these feedbacks under control.
WWF has joined with other NGOs to produce a model climate treaty for Copenhagen that gives the world a blueprint for achieving the kind of emissions cuts needed to likely avoid arctic feedbacks.
“We need to listen now to these signals from the Arctic, and take the necessary action in Copenhagen this December to get a deal that quickly and effectively limits greenhouse gas emissions,” said James Leape, director general of WWF International.
In December 2009, the governments of 191 countries will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the final round of negotiations for a new global agreement on climate change. The first period of the current agreement, called the ‘Kyoto Protocol’, will end in three years, in December 2012. The negotiations in Copenhagen are supposed to approve a new legal framework for global climate action from 2013 onwards.
According to WWF, this framework must guarantee much deeper and more rapid emission cuts from industrialized countries, and financing to developing countries to enable them also to take climate action.
California Burns As Climate Warms
Among scientists who study wildfires, a broad consensus is developing that global climate change is increasing the risk in the West, as US government research shows that the average temperature in the Southwest has increased approximately 1.5 deg F from a 1960-1979 baseline, and that it will increase another 4 to 10 degrees by 2100.
Large wildfires in the western United States, such as the week-old Station Fire that has charred more than 215 square miles north of Los Angeles, have been increasing in both frequency and size in recent years.
In addition to claiming lives and property, the massive fires sap dwindling state resources. California has already spent US$106.5 million of its US$182 million emergency firefighting fund for the current fiscal year, and the state is battling at least eight fires, the Associated Press reported.
Among scientists who study wildfires a broad consensus is developing that global climate change — caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — is increasing the risk of these sorts of fires in the West.
U.S. government climate change research shows that the average temperature in the Southwest has increased approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit from a 1960-1979 baseline, and that will increase another 4 to 10 degrees by 2100.
Scientists also warn that the cost of fighting wildfires will also increase as they become more frequent.
“Basically what we know is that across the western United States, both frequency and length of fire season has been increasing in recent decades, since 1990s,” said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit organization that promotes a healthy environment.
“There are many reasons for any particular fire, but basically the (wildfire) pattern is reflection of two things related to higher temperatures – earlier spring snow melt and also higher spring and summer temperatures,” he added.
A widely cited 2006 study published in the journal Science entitled “Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity” examined increases in the length of the forest fire season and size of the fires.
The study authors, all professors or researchers based in California and Arizona, wrote that large wildfire activity in the West increased suddenly in the mid-1980s, with more frequent large fires and an increase in the fire season.
While national news media typically offer considerable coverage of large fires in heavily populated Southern California, the authors found that 60 percent of the increase in large fires since the 1970s came from the Rocky Mountains.
“The greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt,” the authors wrote.
In 2007 testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, study co-authors Anthony Westerling and Thomas Swetnam said that causes of forest fires were varied and interacting, but that evidence suggests that rising temperatures would increase large fire activity in North America.
“A recent influence of warming climates and increasing drought is apparently manifest in the rising areas burned and occurrences of ‘megafires’ (greater than 100,000 acres) in many places across North America and elsewhere,” they said. “Under increasing greenhouse gas scenarios, the available evidence points to a likely continuation of rising areas burned, more megafires, greater damages and costs incurred, and additional human lives lost.”
The committee also heard testimony that other factors that can lead to wildfires include increased forest density due to smaller fires being extinguished, invasive species that allow fires to spread quickly and an increased human presence in fire-prone areas.
But some researchers say climate change doesn’t necessarily lead to a higher risk of wildfires.
“Scientists found that changes in vegetation trumped past climate changes in determining wildfire frequency, based on research into Alaskan forests,” according to a USA Today article in May about a study published in “Ecological Monographs.” “For example, although the researchers discovered a transition from a cool, dry climate to a warm, dry climate some 10,500 years ago in Alaska, wildfires actually declined at that time because of a vegetation change from flammable shrubs to fire-resistant deciduous trees.”
“There’s a complex relationship between fuels and climate,” study author Tom Brown of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California told the newspaper. “Vegetation can have a profound impact on fire occurrences that are opposite or independent of climate’s direct influence on fire.
” If all we did was look at rising temperatures and ignore the vegetation in the area,” he added, “that wouldn’t be a good predictor of the likelihood of wildfires in a particular region.”
Brown’s colleague on the study, Feng Sheng Hu, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an expert on Boreal forests such as ones found in the Alaskan wilderness, offers more perspective on the North American fires.
His research shows even the Arctic tundra is burning more often.
“Even in the tundra region in Alaska there was a very large fire in 2007,” he said. “If you look at the fire record of the last 50 years for tundra region in Alaska north of 68 degrees latitude – - a single fire event doubled the amount of area burned.”
That large fire, which started in the summer near Lake Toolik in northern Alaska, coincided with a year in which Arctic sea ice had retracted to record levels and the area was its warmest and driest of the past 60 years.
Furthermore, an analysis of charcoal samples from the ground showed that it was the only fire in that area in the past 5,000 years.
Frumhoff said evidence collected by scientists clearly shows that climate change significantly increases the risk of the type of fires currently burning in California.
“There is no single cause (of wildfires). But if you’re interested in asking whether climate change is currently increasing the risk of wildfires and projected to do so more, the answer is yes,” he said.
Can Kiwis Come Clean for Copenhagen?
New Zealand should retain emissions trading as its primary tool to fight climate change, a parliamentary review panel said early in the week, but gave few specifics on how the existing trading scheme might be changed. But the government still wants to finalise the shape of a revised ETS before UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December.
Adrian Bathgate for Reuters World Environment News:
New Zealand should retain emissions trading as its primary tool to fight climate change, a parliamentary review panel said early in the week, but gave few specifics on how the existing trading scheme might be changed.
The committee, established late last year, only gives broad recommendations in its 132-page report. It is now up to the government to decide on the final shape of the scheme, largely stalled after the ruling National Party won elections last November.
Among the recommendations by the Emissions Trading Scheme review panel is that a carbon trading scheme covering all economic sectors was preferable to a carbon tax.
The National Party, which has previously said it wants a less onerous scheme, will now be looking to gain the support of other parties in parliament to pass a revised trading system, said Wayne King, a director at consulting firm Carbon Market Solutions.
“The existing scheme set the benchmark, and now this report seems to be stepping back from that,” King said.
The committee was asked to review the emissions trading scheme (ETS) as part of a political deal struck when the center-right National Party came to power last year.
At the time, the new government said the existing scheme was too expensive and ambitious, suspending its implementation except for the forestry sector.
Climate Change Minister Nick Smith said on Monday the government would take its time considering the report.
“The government will continue its discussions with all parties to find a way forward that balances our environmental responsibilities and our economic opportunities,” Smith said in a statement.
He said it was the government’s ambition to decide on the shape of a revised ETS before U.N. climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December.
The report also revealed divisions within parliament over the best approach to mechanisms to deal with climate change and includes reports from each of the other four parties on various issues
Smith has consistently said he wants a scheme which is in harmony with the system still to be approved by Australia, New Zealand’s largest trading partner.
The report noted international linkages with other schemes under the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol would help ensure liquidity and the efficient functioning of the New Zealand scheme.
It also said all sectors should be included in the scheme, and a case could be made for price caps, although no specific prices or dates were recommended.
On August 10, Smith said New Zealand would aim to cut carbon emissions by between 10 and 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, with an emissions trading scheme one of the key tools in meeting the target.
The Labour-led government, which lost the November election, had implemented the initial cap-and-trade scheme, which involved the gradual introduction of various industries and wanted New Zealand to become carbon neutral by mid-century.
The National Party campaigned on a less onerous scheme, saying the country should balance its environmental and economic interests.
Despite indications the government does not intend sweeping changes, investors in sectors such as forestry had criticized the lack of certainty after the scheme was put under review.
On August 14, Australia’s parliament rejected an emissions trading scheme, although the government has pledged to try to push through the legislation before the end of the year.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand’s emissions are meant to show no increase from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, the pact’s first commitment period. But Smith has previously said emissions rose by 24 percent between 1990 and 2008.
Not a Natural Dry Stretch
Scientists studying Victoria’s crippling drought have, for the first time, proved the link between rising levels of greenhouse gases and the state’s dramatic decline in rainfall: the 13-year drought is not just a natural dry stretch. And an Australian scientist has launched what he called a “reef and beef” study into whether feeding cows seaweed would reduce their flatulent methane emissions.
Melissa Fyfe in The Age (30 August 2009):
SCIENTISTS studying Victoria’s crippling drought have, for the first time, proved the link between rising levels of greenhouse gases and the state’s dramatic decline in rainfall.
A three-year collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO has confirmed what many scientists long suspected: that the 13-year drought is not just a natural dry stretch but a shift related to climate change.
Scientists working on the $7 million South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative say the rain has dropped away because the subtropical ridge – a band of high pressure systems that sits over the country’s south – has strengthened over the past 13 years.
These dry, high pressure systems have become stronger, bigger and more frequent and this intensification over the past century is closely linked to rising global temperatures, they found.
Climate data from across the past century shows the subtropical ridge has peaked and waned, often in line with rising global temperatures.
But to see what role greenhouse gases played in the recent intensification, the scientists used sophisticated American computer climate models.
When they ran simulations with only the ”natural” influences on temperature, such as changing levels of solar activity, they found there was no intensification of the subtropical ridge and no decline in rainfall.
But when they added human influences, such as greenhouse gases, aerosols and ozone depletion, the models mimicked what has occurred in south-east Australia – the high pressure systems strengthened, causing a significant drop in rainfall.
”It’s reasonable to say that a lot of the current drought of the last 12 to 13 years is due to ongoing global warming,” said the bureau’s Bertrand Timbal.
”In the minds of a lot of people, the rainfall we had in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was a benchmark. A lot of our [water and agriculture] planning was done during that time. But we are just not going to have that sort of good rain again as long as the system is warming up.”
But not all experts agree. Murray-Darling Basin Authority chief Rob Freeman told a water summit in Melbourne last week he believed the extreme climate patterns that have dried out south-east Australia would not prove to be permanent.
”Some commentators say this is the new future. I think that is an extreme position and probably a position that’s not helpful to take,” he said, expressing confidence that wetter times would return.
Dr Timbal believes 80 per cent of the rain loss in south-east Australia can be attributed to the intensification of the subtropical ridge. If the next phase of the study is approved, the scientists hope to work out exactly how rising temperatures result in a stronger subtropical ridge.
The research program, supported by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the federal Department of Climate Change and the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, was set up in 2006 to solve the puzzle of why south-east Australia had experienced such a dramatic loss of rain.
The program covers the Murray-Darling Basin, Victoria and parts of South Australia.
Monash University’s Neville Nicholls, a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who has also published on the subtropical ridge, said he believed the program’s results were right.
”We did think that the loss of rain was simply due to the [rain-bearing] storms shifting south, off the continent,” Professor Nicholls said.
”Now we know the reason they have slipped south is that the subtropical ridge has become more intense. It is getting bigger and stronger and that is pushing the rainstorms further south.”
The scientific results have implications for many state government water programs and drought funding, some of which factor in climate change. Projections for the water coming to Melbourne in the north-south pipeline are based on the assumption that Victoria will return to rainfall levels of last century.
Melbourne’s dams get roughly a third less water than they did before the drought began in 1996.
From Agence France-Presse (4 September 2009):
An Australian scientist has launched what he called a “reef and beef” study into whether feeding cows seaweed would reduce their flatulent methane emissions, in a move that could help save the Great Barrier Reef.
Tony Parker, from James Cook University, said cattle produced up to 20 per cent of global man-made methane emissions and the problem was largely linked to their diet.
At least 50 per cent of these cows lived in developing nations, many of which were in the tropics, where the quality of pasture tended to deteriorate in the winter, increasing emissions, Mr Parker said.
“Seaweed, algae and other sea grasses have been proven to be much more digestible than land grass because they have less cellulose and more starch,” added Parker’s research partner Rocky de Nys.
“A better diet for cattle, then, will encourage better digestion and thus lead to a decrease in methane emissions.”
Methane gas from livestock accounts for about 12 per cent of Australia’s annual greenhouse emissions, with flatulence from 120 million sheep, cows and goats comprising its third-largest source of damaging gases.
The average beef cow expels the equivalent of around 1500kg of carbon per year.
The scientists said that using seaweed as cattle fodder could also have wider benefits for the environment, by providing coastal farmers with a way to clean waterways that flowed into the Great Barrier Reef.
Seaweed could be used to clear nitrogen and phosphorous from farming water, but few farmers adopted the method because they were left with “a huge biomass that they don’t know what to do with”, Mr De Nys said.
He said those nutrients were partly responsible for the breakdown of aquatic ecosystems within the iconic Barrier Reef, which authorities warned this week faced significant threats from climate change and farming runoff.
“I like to call it the ‘reef and beef’ project because it has far-reaching implications that come full circle: starting with seaweed, taking in the beef and aquaculture industries and extending back out to the sea to help conserve the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Parker said.
Mud Bricks, Green Roofs, Now Earthships
Conventional junk housing is the easiest thing to get a permit for, while the right thing to do – green, sustainable, zero-carbon-emission housing – causes someone to have to fight for years to get permission. Call from the wild or a call for sustainability and sanity?
Karl Quinn in The Age (30 August 2009):
IN THE rough-hewn hall of the Little Yarra Steiner School in Yarra Junction, environmental architect Michael Reynolds is fielding questions from a crowd of would-be disciples. And he’s hearing a familiar lament. “We want to build an Earthship, but we’ve spent 4½ years trying to get planning approval,” says a man in his late 30s. “We originally wanted to follow your principles very closely but realised there were some things we just had to compromise. It was the only way we were ever going to get it approved.”
“Exactly,” Reynolds fires back, pacing around the stage with remarkable vigour for a man who has only just stepped off a 17-hour flight from the United States. “That’s just crazy. We don’t have time for that. What the planet needs right now is a billion Earthships. But right now, conventional junk housing is the easiest thing to get a permit for, while the right thing to do – green, sustainable, zero-carbon-emission housing – causes someone to have to fight for years to get permission. Therein lies the problem. It’s not the technology – that’s here, we can do it, anybody can do it. The problem is that we won’t let ourselves do it.”
There’s fire in Reynolds’ belly. Born into a southern American Baptist family 60-odd years ago, he has a missionary zeal to convert the world to his Earthship vision. With his long grey hair, his beard and his evangelical fervour, it would be easy to dismiss him as just another New Ager peddling some form of sci-fi spiritualism. But Reynolds insists he’s no hippie; he’s just a man driven by irresistible logic and a sense of urgency to try to save the planet before it’s too late. Which, he adds, it very nearly is.
The Earthship is a house. It harnesses water, sunlight and the thermal properties of the planet for heating and cooling. It has systems for treating sewage and storing energy, and provides power, compost and food for its inhabitants. Earthships exist totally off the grid – nothing comes in and nothing goes out. They’re a utility company’s nightmare.
But they’re a planner’s nightmare, too, and that’s the problem. The past couple of centuries of urban development in the West have been all about standardising in the name of reducing risk, improving health and delivering services to lots and lots of people. The Reynolds model turns that on its head. His is a DIY ethos in which people build their own houses, generate their own utilities, grow their own food and take their own risks.
And Earthships are risky; they are by nature experimental, and some experiments will fail. The 2007 documentary Garbage Warrior details lawsuits brought by clients of Reynolds’ design and building firm, Earthship Biotecture, over houses that let in rain, were too hot or too cold, or had sewage systems that leaked (and when that system sits beneath the lounge room, that can be a pretty overwhelming problem). There were so many problems with Reynolds’ houses, in fact, that at one point he was deregistered by the architectural board of New Mexico, where he is based. Nor did it help his case that he had developed a large housing subdivision of his own in the desert without planning approval.
Reynolds claims the issues that plagued those early houses have been resolved. He has since had his licence reinstated, had his subdivision approved, and even won a four-year battle to have a law passed in the state legislature to allow experimental housing developments such as his to float free of some of the usual planning regulations.
But he knows he still has a long way to go before he achieves his life’s goal: to make all new housing on the planet fully sustainable.
BY THE time Reynolds left his childhood home in Kentucky for architecture school in Cincinatti, he was finished with his family’s religion. “I’d had enough of it by the time I got out of there,” he says. “But I’m sure it’s had an influence.” As a student, he worked in some traditional architectural practices, although, he says, “I knew it was bullshit”. His main concern at that stage wasn’t changing the world, it was avoiding a war.
“Around 1969, I moved to New Mexico to race motocross to get injured so I wouldn’t have to go to Vietnam,” he says. “That was my plan.”
There was no real money in the sport then, but he managed to land a sponsor, Yamaha, which paid for his equipment. He did indeed injure himself, “but not bad enough, so I ended up getting a teaching job at a vocational school and I got out of Vietnam that way”.
Reynolds got married, had a son – who now works with him – and got divorced. Then he got married again, to a woman who had three children. “She and I were married and divorced three times,” he says. “It was a fatal attraction kind of thing. Then I finally divorced her for the final time and I married the one in the film (Garbage Warrior), and I’ve been with her for 20 years.”
Rather amusingly, his second (and third and fourth) wife was an oil millionaire. “I didn’t even find out until halfway through the marriage,” he insists. He says he’s still on good terms with his former wives. Life’s too short for it to be otherwise. “I like the words of the Indian chief (Chief Joseph, I think), who said, ‘I will fight no more forever’.”
Evidently, that doesn’t apply to his work. He fought long and hard to get the authorities in New Mexico to give him the right to develop experimental housing. In the state legislature, he says, “I got up and said, ‘This is the state that designated 10,000 acres to develop, test and drop the atomic bomb. How many rules and regulations were broken there? You needed it and you needed it quick. You were desperate. Well, we’re damn near there now. What we’re saying is, let us take this dangerous sustainable housing and test it out here where it won’t hurt anybody.’ ”
Now Reynolds wants governments around the world to enact similar laws, to help the Earthship concept spread, the irony being that his off-the-grid approach represents a threat to governments, especially in the West. Imagine a world in which everyone could grow their own food, produce their own power, capture their own water, treat their own waste. What needs would be left to fuel the engine room of capitalism?
Reynolds concedes the point, but insists he’s got nothing against people making money. He just wants the basics excluded from it – people’s houses, water and food. “Because capitalism is a game,” he says. “We can still play that game with cars, television, blenders, motorcycles. Play it, get rich, just exactly like we do – just set apart caring for people, and make it so they can care for themselves.
“Right now, the game is desperate because it’s your home and your family and your livelihood at risk. They should be separate. And it’s not socialism, either. It’s simply that the sustenance of people – shelter, water, food, sewage, energy – should not be subject to an economy.”
REYNOLDS’ green awakening came nearly 40 years ago, and was spurred by two pieces of TV journalism. In the first, Walter Cronkite linked clear-felling of timber in the American north-west to rising carbon dioxide levels and a looming housing shortage. The second was a piece on drink cans becoming a litter problem. “So within two weeks, I was taking steel beverage cans, making them into a building brick and making a house,” Reynolds says. “There was the logic of saying, ‘OK, if trees are getting destroyed for housing and beer cans are stacking up on the streets and highways, why don’t we build housing out of beer cans?’ That’s logic!”
He patented his beer-can brick and made money from it. These days, he sells plans via the internet for off-the-shelf Earthships to interested parties for between $5000 for a studio and $8000 for a three-bedroom house. A cynic might wonder if he isn’t simply proselytising for profit. “I always have to take care of myself, so everything I do has to make enough money to feed me,” he rejoins. “But after feeding, I’m over it, you know? I don’t really need anything more than food and a place to live.
“When you take any idea or concept and take the aspect of making a profit out of it, it has a buoyancy. It can rise. The profit is the weight that keeps things down. My company has never made a profit. Ever. All we do is make wages. And they’re just wages, believe me.”
One of the great ironies of his mission is that his houses have much more chance of being built in Third World countries, where planning regulations are relatively loose, than they do in the West, where the money to build them is more available.
Still, his work has attracted interest from high places: Disney has approached him to work on some sort of theme-park development; space agencies have nibbled at the possibilities inherent in being able to turn hostile environments into productive ones. Movie stars David Carradine and Dennis Weaver even commissioned houses from him.
Weaver – the man hunted by a madman driving a petrol tanker in Steven Spielberg’s Duel – was a total convert. “He got a licence plate that said ‘Earthship’, he went for it lock, stock and barrel,” Reynolds says.
Yet he also missed the point, commissioning from Reynolds a 930-square-metre mansion, a property about six times the size of a standard three-bedroom Earthship. “It was kind of disgusting. Two of them living there, older people, my age,” says Reynolds. “He wanted to be an example, and I said, ‘Is this the example you want to set, that every two people need 10,000 square feet?’ He almost fired me on the spot. The only reason he didn’t is that no one else could have finished his house.”
Yet Reynolds claims he isn’t especially interested in the proprietorial aspects of his designs. He wants to build an Earthship in Australia, but only so that people can see how it’s done, then go away and do it themselves. The costs, he claims, are similar to conventional housing (they work out at about $A2635 a square metre, which is on the high side, but there are no utilities bills).
He acknowledges that even a couple of thousand iterations in, the Earthship is an evolutionary beast. He built the first one 10 years ago, moved into it and still lives in it. “And it’s still unfinished,” he says with a laugh. “Confucius say, ‘Man who finish house die.’ ”
Nor does he pretend that the Earthship answers every design issue. But he does believe it answers the most important ones. “The design we’re building now is without problems. It really is. There’s no question it could be better, the way a ’49 Ford can drive across the country, but a Porsche will be more fun. We can make these things better, I can easily see that, but they work.”
Besides, he argues, to stymie more experiments along the lines of the Earthship just because there’s a risk that some will fail would be disastrous. “The dangers of making imperfect sustainable housing,” he says, “are not near as severe as the dangers of not making sustainable housing at all.”
Africa Needs Cash for Carbon
Africa will veto any climate change deal that does not meet its demand for money from rich nations to cut the impact of global warming on the continent, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said this week. Reports from The Economist and Reuters World Environment News.
RICH countries should compensate Africa for all their belching chimneys and exhausts. In a rare fit of African unity, it was decided at a recent flurry of leaders’ meetings that the United States, the European Union, Japan and others should pay the continent the tidy sum of US$67 billion a year, though it was unclear for how long.
Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, is likely to lead a delegation of 53 countries (all of Africa minus Morocco) to the climate-change summit in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, in December, where he will presumably lodge this demand.
Would the money come, if it came at all, with strings attached or as reparations for damage to Africa’s atmosphere? Mr Meles has made it clear he is seeking blood money—or rather carbon money—that would be quite separate from other aid to the continent. If the cash were not forthcoming, the African Union (AU) might take a case to a court of arbitration and ask it to judge overall culpability for climate change.
The AU says it would not administer the carbon cash directly. National governments would get it. But it is unclear how it would be allocated. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says Africa will be the continent worst hit by higher temperatures. But some bits of Africa may deteriorate more, whereas others may benefit from greater rainfall.
Africa’s demand is high, but there is widespread agreement that the continent should get help to adapt to climate change. Some think cash reparations are the right way to go. Others reckon it would be more practical (and less costly) to help to build sea defences for the Niger and Nile deltas and to protect Congo’s rainforest.
Reuters World Environment News:
ADDIS ABABA – Africa will veto any climate change deal that does not meet its demand for money from rich nations to cut the impact of global warming on the continent, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Thursday.
A U.N. summit scheduled for December in Copenhagen will try to reach global agreement on how to tackle climate change and come up with a post-Kyoto protocol to curb harmful emissions.
“We will use our numbers to delegitimize any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position,” Meles told a conference of climate change experts in Addis Ababa.
“If needs be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent.”
Meles did not say how much money Africa would be looking for in Denmark but some experts have said the continent should ask for up to $200 billion a year.
Africa contributes little to the pollution blamed for warming but is the hardest hit by the drought and flooding cycle that is already affecting parts of the continent.
Ten African leaders last month held talks at the African Union (AU) headquarters in the Ethiopian capital and agreed on a common stance ahead of the Copenhagen talks.
“SINGLE NEGOTIATING TEAM”
“Africa will field a single negotiating team empowered to negotiate on behalf of all member states of the African Union,” said Meles, who will represent the continent at the summit.
“Africa’s interest and position will not be muffled as has usually been the case.”
Meles — who has become Africa’s most outspoken advocate on climate change — argued earlier this year that pollution in the northern hemisphere may have caused his country’s ruinous famines in the 1980s.
A study published in May by the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum said poor nations bear more than nine-tenths of the human and economic burden of climate change.
The 50 poorest countries, however, contribute less than 1 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions that scientists say are threatening the planet, the report said.
Developing nations accuse the rich of failing to take the lead in setting deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and say they are trying to get the poor to shoulder more of the burden of emission curbs without providing aid and technology.
Tiny Township & Zero Waste
Anthropologist Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” David Suzuki highlights a small town’s success in halting a garbage dump from ruining water, wetlands and wildlife. Zero Waste is another solution which started small.
By David Suzuki with Faisal Moola
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
Anthropologist Margaret Mead’s words came to mind when I heard about a recent victory for the citizens of Tiny Township and surrounding communities in Simcoe County, Ontario. The people banded together to stop a garbage dump from being built on one of the purest sources of water on the planet – the Alliston aquifer, a subterranean lake that stretches from Georgian Bay to the Oak Ridges Moraine in southern Ontario.
As well as being the source of drinking water for residents in the region, the aquifer provides cold water to the Wye River and surrounding wetlands. The river and wetlands, in turn, support important wildlife species, including many amphibians, song birds, and fish.
Citizens in the area, including many First Nations, have argued for nearly 30 years that Simcoe County and the provincial government should explore other options to manage the region’s garbage, such as composting programs, upgrades to existing landfills, and improved recycling. Despite those alternatives, local authorities and the Ontario Environment Ministry gave the go-ahead for a solid-waste landfill to be built in and on top of the Alliston aquifer, on a parcel of land known as Site 41.
It’s another clear example of our tendency to ignore the real costs of getting rid of our garbage. We create a lot of solid waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and other forms of pollution, and then we bury them in the ground, dump them into our waters, or pump them into the air and think we can forget about them. In doing so, we fail to take into account the real value of the goods and services that nature provides.
Site 41 became a flashpoint of conflict this summer when area residents peacefully blockaded the landfill site. As the blockade dragged on and the number of people (including elders) being hauled off to jail increased, the “grassroots” struggle to close Site 41 attracted the support of the “grass-tops”, powerful advocacy organizations and unions such as the Council of Canadians, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. I got involved, in part, because I was impressed by the organizing skills, courage, and dedication of the citizens of Tiny Township and local First Nations in trying to protect our most precious resource, our drinking water.
How this dump got approved in the first place boggles the mind. Experts believe that for the landfill to be built at Site 41, as much as 225 million litres of clean groundwater would have to be pumped out and disposed of before construction. Over the life of the landfill, even more groundwater would have to be pumped out to maintain the dump’s structural integrity. Concerns have also been raised about potential long-term engineering problems and landfill leakage that would contaminate the aquifer.
Landfills are often the preferred solution for dealing with garbage because the costs appear low when compared to other methods of waste management and disposal. But they only seem low because we fail to include the very real costs that dumps incur when they degrade the natural services that watersheds, forests, and other ecosystems provide for our health and well-being – like clean air, clean water, and healthy food.
When these natural services are degraded by development activities such as landfills, they must be replaced with expensive substitutes, such as water-filtration plants, dykes, and other engineering. The economic arguments against the Site 41 dump, with its potential to harm the local drinking-water supply, should kill this landfill plan once and for all.
In response to efforts of local citizens, the province and the government in Simcoe County have approved a one-year moratorium on the Site 41 landfill so that further scientific assessments can be done. This shows that people who join together for a common cause really do have the power to affect the decisions of governments and corporations.
The backhoes and other equipment at Site 41 are now silent, at least temporarily. Let’s hope that the politicians continue to listen to the people of Tiny Township and work to find better ways to deal with our waste.
Zero Waste Australia Incorporated
ZWA Inc. is a not-for-profit, non-government organisation, formed to support all tiers of industry in achieving environmentally and economically efficient and sustainable systems in all spheres of their activity.
Membership of ZWA Inc. provides the opportunity for industry to access new economic benefits. ZWA Inc will endorse the use of a Zero Waste project logo for any industry project or organisation which pursues or attempts to pursue any one or more of the Zero Waste Australia Core Values.
Zero Waste Australia Inc. (ZWA Inc.) is a member of the international Zero Waste Network of organisations (ZWIA: Zero Waste International Alliance) which works toward the creation of a sustainable and productive future.
The ZWIA global network is comprised of universities, national laboratories, government resources, consulting firms, businesses, municipalities, the community at large and three tiers of
ZWA Inc and ZWIA use the following tools in pursuit of their goals: Industrial Ecology; Life-Cycle Assessments; Design for the Environment; Systems Mapping; Green Chemistry; Full Cost Accounting; Product Stewardship; Waste Exchanges; and Environmental Management Systems.
Brazil & Indonesia Looking REDD
REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – and sustainable forestry are in focus for two different seminars in the coming week. One emphasises opportunities in Indonesia and the other in Brazil. Baker and McKenzie has organised the one event in Jakarta on Monday 7 September and the Brazil seminar is in Sydney on Tuesday 8 September.
The programme for REDD+ Opportunities and Challenges in Indonesia:
Baker & McKenzie and Clinton Climate Initiative-Forestry are pleased to invite you to a one-day seminar, REDD+ Opportunities and Challenges in Indonesia.
This seminar will be opened by the Minister of Forestry Republic of Indonesia, H.E. H.M.S. Kaban; and, we will also have other distinguished speakers providing an overview of the emerging REDD+ framework and opportunities in Indonesia, as well as in the international context.
Monday 7 september 2009 8:30 to 16:30 at The Financial Club – Financial Hall Graha Niaga, 2nd Floor Jalan Jendral Sudirman Kav. 58, Jakarta 12190, Indonesia
09:00 Welcome and Opening RemarksDr. Andrew Wardell, Clinton CCI-Forestry, Asia-Pacific
09 :05 Keynote SpeechH.E. H.M.S. Kaban, Minister of Forestry Republic of Indonesia
SESSION 1:Moderator: Agus P. SariCountry Director, Ecosecurities
09 :20 Indonesia’s emerging REDD+ framework: Menhut 36 and abatement options for the forestry-peat sectorIr. Listya Kusumawardhani, M.Sc., Director of Natural Production Forest Management, Ministry of Forestry andDr. Doddy Sukardi, National Council for Climate Change
Overview of REDD Regulation, prescriptions for a basic Indonesian REDD project structure involving national and international participants.
09 :50 The international REDD+ context and COP-15Martijn Wilder,Partner, Baker & McKenzie, Sydney
Current treatment of REDD+ in international legal/policy instruments, and likely treatment of REDD+ at COP 15 and post-2012.
10 :20 Q & A for Session 1
10 :45 Coffee break
SESSION 2:Moderator: Dr. Hanafi GucianoAdvisor, Kemitraan
11 :15 Emerging opportunities to promote sustainable forest management and investment in Indonesia under the REDD+ umbrellaDr. Daniel Murdiyaso, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
Examples of activities for different forest and concession types eligible under existing REDD+ Regulations.
11:45 Developing a sub-national approach to REDD+: the case of Central Kalimantan ProvinceH.E. Teras Narang, Governor, Central Kalimantan Province
Options and opportunities to develop a provincial REDD+ Strategy.
12:15 Q & A for Session 2
SESSION 3:Moderator: Dr. Nigel Sizer, Vice President for Asia Pacific, RARE
14:00 Accessing the Voluntary Carbon Market – VCS and CCBA experiences from CambodiaDr. Andrew Wardell, Clinton CCI-Forestry, Asia-Pacific
CCI-Forestry experience with a ‘bundled’ community forestry REDD+ demonstration project, and the world’s first REDD Methodology subject to VCS dual validation.
14 :30 Indigenous people, local communities and governance challenges in IndonesiaDr. Abdon Nababan, Director, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN)
Supporting Free, Prior Informed Consent processes in Indonesia.
15 :00 Structuring Indonesian REDD+ projects and compliance with national regulationsLuke Devine, Foreign Legal Consultant, Hadiputranto, Hadinoto & Partners
Clarifying the obligations of REDD+ project developers; title to and trading of REDD+ Certificates; benefit sharing arrangements.
15 :30 Q & A for Session 3
16 :00 Closing remarksLuke Devine, Foreign Legal Consultant, Hadiputranto, Hadinoto & Partners
16 :15 Coffee
The Programme for Green Economics and Sustainable Investment Conference, Tuesday 8 September: Synergies between Brazil and Australia
Baker & McKenzie and The Australia Brazil Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) invite you to participate in the Green Economics and Sustainable Investment Conference.
This full day conference will explore business opportunities in the sustainable management, green investment and environmental markets from both a government and private sector perspective. It will cover renewable energy and energy efficiency, forestry, agriculture, mining and carbon financing.
This is a unique opportunity for you to participate in our panel discussions with experts in sustainability issues.
Tuesday 8 September 2009
Baker & McKenzie, Sydney
Green Economics and Sustainable Investment Conference
Synergies between Brazil and Australia
Although there are many uncertainties about the future global economic dynamics emerging from last year’s dramatic events in the financial markets, there is enough evidence showing that the world is facing economic restructuring towards a more sustainably managed, less carbon and energy intensive production and consumption patterns.
The so called greening of the economy is an imperative to face the challenges posed by climate change, population growth, energy security and unsustainable use of natural resources. In this context, there are also significant opportunities emerging from the mutual recognition of social economic synergies between countries like Brazil and Australia.
By recognizing the immense potential of such synergies, the ABCC and Baker & McKenzie are hosting the Green Economics & Sustainable Investment Conference to to explore business opportunities in the sustainable management, green investment and environmental markets from both a government and private sector perspective, covering: renewable energy and energy efficiency, forestry, agriculture, mining, and carbon financing.
Venue: Baker & McKenzie Level 27, AMP Centre 50 Bridge Street Sydney
08:00 – 08:30 Arrival and Registration
08:45 – 09:15 Welcome and Introductions Mark Chapple, Managing Partner – Baker & McKenzie
Cristina Talacko, President – Australia Brazil Chamber of Commerce
Rodrigo Sales, Head of Latin America Environmental – Baker & McKenzie
09:15 – 09:30 Overview of the Brazilian Economy and
Brazil’s Case for Ethanol and Bio-Fuels
His Excellency, Mr Fernando de Mello Barreto – Brazilian Ambassador to Australia
09:30 – 10:30 Mining and Natural Resources Bob Hosking, CEO – Karoon Energy International
Tim Hosking, Business Development Manager South America – Karoon Energy International
Professor Virginia Ciminelli, Metallurgical & Mining – Minas Gerais Federal University
Renato Ceminelli, Mining Pool of Excellence – Minas Gerais State
Frank Ford – Vale Australia
10:30 – 10:50 Morning Tea
10:50 – 12:00 Sustainable Agriculture Andrew Dorman, Director – Andrew Dorman Agribusiness Consultants
Sean Lucy, Head of Carbon Solutions Group – National Australia Bank
John Berry, Director and Manager Corporate & Regulatory Affairs – JBS Swift Australia
Tony Lovell, Director – Soil Carbon Australia
12:00 – 13:00 Sustainable Forestry and REDD Divaldo Rezende, Director – Cantor CO2e Brazil
Dr Nick O’Brien, Manager Carbon Programs – NewForests
Oliver Yates, Director, Climate Change Investment – Macquarie Capital Investors
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:30 Sustainable Investment and Carbon
Martijn Wilder, Head of Global Environmental Markets – Baker & McKenzie
David Paradice, Managing Director – Paradice Investments
Gerald Lai – Manager, Credit & Risk Management – HSBC Bank Australia
Marco Stacke, Business Development Manager – Perenia Carbon
15:30 – 15:50 Afternoon Tea
15:50 – 16:50 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Rob Grant, CEO – Pacific Hydro
Eva Oberender, General Manager – Clean Energy Council
Shelley Brook, Senior Industry Advisor, Clean Energy & Environment – AUSTRADE
Marcus Clayton, Director – Bennett Clayton
16:50 – 18:30 Final Thanks, Drinks and Networking
Time Running Out For Coal
Australia needs to take a long-term, 20-year view on energy and not just look at the increased demand projections for coal for the next five or 10 years. We need to look at what the energy mix will be in 2030.This from former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, based on what he’s seeing in the US.
Peter Beattie in The Australian (5 September 2009):
I GREW up to a Rolling Stones song that said, “Time is on my side. Yes it is.” For our coal industry, sadly, it is not. In fact, if the US experience is anything to go by, time is fast running out.
Projects to build new coal-fired power stations are being abandoned from Florida to Utah. Money is pouring in for renewable energy and legislation is being enacted to support it.
The only long-term hope for coal in the US is clean coal. The same is true for Australia.
Australia needs to take a long-term, 20-year view on energy and not just look at the increased demand projections for coal for the next five or 10 years. We need to look at what the energy mix will be in 2030.
The clear and present danger for Australia’s coal industry is, unless there is a powerful push to see clean-coal technology developed and implemented, the traditional markets for its product will start slowly shutting down as green energy becomes more price-competitive and public policy continues to demand greener outcomes.
The coal industry needs to realise that there has to be a sense of urgency about delivering significant low-emission coal technology and carbon storage projects. Clean coal has to be an integral part of the world’s clean-energy mix before it becomes a victim of heavy regulation and other technologies overtake it. The pace of change is faster than most people realise.
Too often the coal industry sees its advantages as being too strong to be ignored. These include the abundance of cheap coal against the expense of building new power stations, the cost of gas and solar, and the unreliability of wind and wave power. Lehman Brothers, the big American merchant bank, thought coal was too big to be ignored. That bank doesn’t exist any more.
World energy use is changing and, as so often happens, US innovation is pivotal to that change.
This is notwithstanding that the US has the world’s largest known coal reserves – enough to last about 225 years at today’s level of use – and that last year US coal production reached an all-time high (1.17 billion short tons). Coal is mined in 27 US states, from Wyoming and Texas to West Virginia. Thousands of jobs, communities and families depend on coal and about 90per cent of US coal is consumed domestically. So where is the shift to other sources of energy coming from?
California has a population of about 40 million and an economy that is as big as France’s and nearly twice the size of Australia’s. It may have serious budgetary problems and climate issues but it is the home of energy and environmental innovation and has set the US, and often world, standards on climate change regulation. When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger convenes a climate change conference, people from across the world turn up. (I have been invited to speak at the conference in September, but that’s another story.) Anyone driving the Los Angeles freeway system would say: “And so California should.”
California was the first US state to set tougher vehicle emissions standards under the Federal Clean Air Act. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia promptly adopted California’s standards.
The Golden State also has some of the best universities and innovative alternative-energy programs in the world. And, notwithstanding the world economic crisis, it has large amounts of private equity, a point illustrated by Vinod Khosla’s $US1.1 billion ($1.3bn) green energy fund announced recently. (Khosla, who founded Sun Microsystems, is a venture capitalist out of California these days.) It also has a strong anti-coal movement.
An environmental group is funding a public campaign placing large billboards at Los Angeles airport and across the city featuring a photo of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, applauding him for pledging to make LA coal-free by 2020.
This is not just rhetoric. Villaraigosa’s decision has scuttled plans for a new coal-fired power station in Utah that was to supply the city of four million with power. The municipal city sits amid greater Los Angeles and its more than 13 million people.
This is the latest example of a trend that started in 2007 when utility TXU decided to reduce the number of planned coal-fired power plants in Texas from 11 to three. Even those three are being challenged and the state government is shifting its energy focus to wind. This is despite the fact Texas is a big coal-producing state.
In May 2007, Florida refused to license a giant $US5.7bn coal plant. The state’s Republican Governor Charlie Crist is opposing new coal plants, shifting his focus to building the world’s largest solar-thermal power plant. Even Google has taken a powerful stand. In November 2007, the giant search engine company launched a campaign called Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal, or REC. It is funding projects to make utility-scale renewable energy cheaper than coal, with a focus on advanced solar thermal, wind and geothermal systems. Google has invested in a California-based company called E-Solar, which my office is working with.
The reality is that by 2020, and certainly by 2030, the world’s energy mix will be very different. The Californian push, refusing to take coal-fired power and funding the development of cost-effective renewables, will spread to other countries and lead to a profound change in the world’s energy mix.
Another Californian company, Amyris, is using yeast to produce diesel andjet fuel and is about to go intoproduction in Brazil. We are working on getting the next plant into Queensland. Its idea started with an anti-malaria drug and, with some process adjustments and one gene change, diesel fuel was produced, while a two-gene change produced jet fuel.
But it is not just the Californian factor. Hawaii has become a proving ground for renewable energy technologies. With one eye on national security, the US Department of Defence is pushing to make the state self-sufficient in transportation fuel. At the same time Hawaii’s policy calls for 70 per cent of energy to be produced from renewables by 2030.
By any measure these are ambitious targets that are already driving innovation and changing the energy use mix. There are opportunities here for Australia and my office has established an energy independence working group to link Queensland’s experts with Hawaii.
The other key elements for change in the US are the Obama administration’s stimulus package and the new US climate change bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.
In June the US House of Representatives passed legislation including a cap-and-trade provision: a renewable energy and efficiency standard of 20per cent by 2020, with 15 per cent coming from renewable energy.
There’s an investment fund to support emerging technologies such as biogas and biofuels.
The bill is in the Senate and, if it clears congress in its present form, the so-called Waxman-Markey Bill will put further pressure on the coal industry by reducing coal’s cost-competitive advantage over renewable sources.
What this rapid and mandated take-up of renewable energy sources means is that coal will be slowly squeezed out of its traditional market share. There’ll be a drop in coal royalties and a loss of the revenue we have come to take for granted to fund our schools, hospitals, roads and police.
And it’s not likely we can rely on India and China to just keep using our coal at the present level of consumption. India has established a ministry for new and renewable energy and China is increasingly focusing on renewable sources of energy.
China is rewriting its renewable energy law, preparing a renewable energy stimulus package and developing a new fund to support science and research to develop emerging renewable technologies. Officials in China are aiming to raise the proportion of renewable energy to 15 per cent of total energy consumption by 2020, with solar set for a fivefold increase in that timeframe. China is the world’s biggest producer of coal, while India has the fourth largest reserves. Both are important export clients for Australian coal.
Fortunately, the Obama administration, like the Rudd government, is strongly supportive of clean-coal technologies as a part of the new global energy mix.
In June this year, new US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and Nobel laureate physicist, announced that $US1bn from the stimulus package would be spent on relaunching FutureGen, the US’s flagship clean-coal project. The FutureGen Alliance, a consortium of US coal producers and other companies, will contribute another $US400 million.
Chu’s view is that making clean coal work is “critically important for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the US and around the world”.
The US, Australian and Queensland governments are all committed to clean coal. The relaunching of FutureGen is an ideal opportunity for a clean-coal research partnership with the US.
Time may be running out but there is still time for Australia’s coal companies to increase their research and development investment and to ensure a future for the Australian coal industry. Such clean-coal technology can then be sold to China and India as part of the fight against climate change and clean coal will remain the key ingredient in the world’s energy mix for the long term.
Peter Beattie, a former Queensland premier, is his state’s trade commissioner in Los Angeles
Mega Budget Needed for Mega Solar Plan
Even though Australia’s largest solar roof system was launched at the Adelaide Showground this week, the Government’s budget promise to produce 1000 megawatts of solar power by building “the single-largest solar power station in the world” cannot be met within the Rudd government’s $1.6billion budget, the renewable energy industry has warned.
Lenore Taylor, National correspondent for The Australian (5 September 2009):
KEVIN Rudd’s budget promise to produce 1000 megawatts of solar power by building “the single-largest solar power station in the world” cannot be met within the Rudd government’s $1.6billion budget, the renewable energy industry has warned.
The “solar flagships” program — unveiled as part of the budget’s centrepiece $22bn infrastructure package — promised to build two to four large-scale solar power stations, generating 1000MW of electricity.
It said $2 of state or industry funding would match each dollar provided by the commonwealth — providing $4.8bn to meet the ambitious generation target.
In a submission to Boston Consulting Group, which the government has charged with setting the guidelines for grants from the fund, the Clean Energy Council says “this level of funding will not be enough to build the targeted 1000MW of capacity”.
Individual solar energy companies, in confidential submissions to BCG, have also questioned the 1000MW target, estimating the funding could fall up to $1.7bn short of meeting the government’s stated aim.
The renewable energy industry strongly supports the government’s program, but wants to make sure it is delivered efficiently and in a way that meets its aims.
The Prime Minister explained the program in a visit to a power station the weekend after the May budget, saying the government planned to “invest with industry in the biggest solar generation plant in the world … in order to support a clean energy future”.
“A thousand megawatts is a lot,” Mr Rudd said. “Three times the size of that which exists in California … That’s what it’s necessary to do.”
The government’s plan was always to build a number of separate power stations with its fund, using both solar thermal and photovoltaic technology, but to run them as an “integrated commercial enterprise” by a single project manager.
The Clean Energy Council said that “a single program manager trying to manage the construction and operation of all projects with a mix of technologies is likely to be very inefficient” and recommended they be managed separately.
The industry is also concerned that, after the credit crunch, there is unlikely to be financing available for new technologies that involve some level of risk, saying the government will also need to help in ensuring a supply of credit.
“A key role for the government must be to make funding available to facilitate the securing of additional private finance,” the CEC said.
Cabinet is expected to receive Boston Consulting’s recommended guidelines by the end of the month and the successful projects are scheduled to be chosen early next year.
Construction is scheduled to start in 2012 with the power stations operating by 2015.
The CEC warned “the proposed timeline … is very tight”, especially for technologies not yet fully developed. The solar flagships program was part of a $4.5bn clean energy initiative, which will also fund carbon capture and storage projects.
About half the money in the clean energy fund came from an education investment fund set up under the Howard government.
4 September 2009
Australia’s largest solar power system opened at the Adelaide Showground
Today, the Hon. Mike Rann, Premier of South Australia, has officially opened Australia’s largest solar power station at the Adelaide Showground.
The 1 megawatt (1MW) solar power system was installed over six separate buildings and is expected to power around 40% of the Showground’s power needs.
Installation of the solar panels and associated systems was managed by building and engineering company Built Environs in partnership with one of Australia’s leading solar power installers, Solar Shop Australia.
The entire project was completed within three months – two and a half months shorter than the original programme.
“Built Environs is very pleased to have worked with Solar Shop Australia in delivering this landmark environmental project for the Showground,” Built Environs Managing Director, Jim Frith, said.
“It’s a significant addition to our expanding portfolio of environmental projects, including windfarms and Green Star buildings and interiors.”
Solar Shop Australia’s managing director, Adrian Ferraretto, said that the company is extremely proud to have
played an important role in the design and installation of the solar power system.
“Having now installed the largest solar power system in Australia , we are hoping that more Australians will realise the benefits of solar energy and what it can do for the environment,” Mr Ferraretto said
“The Showground solar system is expected to produce around 1435 MWh of electricity annually which is enough energy to power around 250 households.
“In addition it will prevent the release of 1400 tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere annually, which is the equivalent of taking 450 cars off Australian roads,” he said.
The project introduced a number of construction innovations.
A special rack-loading system was devised, with the solar panels stacked on pallets, lifted onto the roof by crane and then distributed via trolleys on framing rails.
A clip-on extrusion framing system minimised the number of holes that needed to be drilled in the roof. To install the panels, drilling rigs were custom-made for each of the major roofs, while cloth and mesh screens prevented drilling waste from entering the stormwater collection system.
All of the work was performed while the Showground remained open to the public.
• Largest completed solar power project to date in Australia.
• Power rating of one megawatt (1MW).
• Over 12,500 panels.
• Total area of 9,000m2 over six roofs and two building facades.
• Expected annual output of 1,400MW-hours – enough to power 250 homes.
• Providing up to 40% of the Showground’s typical power needs.
• Saving up to 1,400 tonnes of CO2 gas emissions a year.
About Built Environs
Built Environs is a South Australian-based building and engineering company that employs over 300 people on projects across Australia, including the building works for the Adelaide Desalination Project, the redevelopment of the Adelaide Oval, the Capital Windfarm in NSW, the Iluka Port Facilities in Ceduna and the Pinkenba Malting Plant in Brisbane.
About Solar Shop Australia
Solar Shop Australia is the largest provider of grid connect solar systems in Australia having installed 25 per cent of all systems in 2008. Using quality components sourced globally and locally the company has helped thousands of Australian homeowners realise the benefits of solar energy over the last ten years with the installation of roof and ground mounted solar systems. Solar Shop Australia is now using this knowledge and experience to develop large scale commercial projects nationwide.
Link World Trade to Climate Change Action
Failure to find agreement at United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen in December would threaten a much needed overhaul of the international trading system. Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), warns of a “devastating effect”, as some countries seek to exclude goods from high emitters.
By James Lamont in New Delhi , Financial Times, (3 September 2009):
Failure to find agreement at United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen in December would threaten a much needed overhaul of the international trading system, Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organisation, warned on this week.
His comments highlighted concerns that a breakdown in discussions about reducing greenhouse gas emissions may spill into the trade arena – with devastating effect, as some countries seek to exclude goods from high emitters.
India has already protested to Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, about the threat of carbon tariffs from environmental legislation proposed by the Obama administration.
Speaking as trade ministers from 39 countries met in New Delhi to progress the WTO’s Doha round, Mr Lamy cautioned against adopting trade measures to force changes in environmental behaviour.
“I sincerely hope that [agreement] will happen in Copenhagen. If it doesn’t happen, our job at the WTO will become more difficult,” Mr Lamy told the Financial Times. “Go-it-alone measures will not achieve the desired results. Relying on trade measures to fix global environmental problems will not work.”
He said world leaders, who meet at the Group of 20 in Pittsburgh, US, later this month, had to prioritise agreement on tackling climate change, ahead of discussion of how trade policy might be used to deepen environmental protection.
“I am of the firm conviction that the relationship between international trade and climate change would be best defined as a follow- up to a consensual international accord on climate change that successfully embraces all major polluters,” Mr Lamy said.
Some developing countries have expressed concerns about environmentally linked tariffs on imports by developed nations, as the pressure to cut greenhouse gases intensifies. They claim such tariffs are in effect protectionist measures.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by the House of Representatives in June, has fuelled concerns among developing countries that it may lead to punitive US border adjustment mechanisms, shutting out trade.
At a time when the developed world is trying to persuade growing economies like China and India to agree greenhouse gas emissions cuts, some climate change experts say threats to resort to trade measures are “dangerous”.
“The discussion of trade and climate is already out there,” said one expert. “That is a big risk for Copenhagen. Counter-measures are not a helpful dynamic. We have got to talk collaboratively.”
Trade negotiators are hoping that a successful conclusion of this week’s meeting in New Delhi will help put the revival of the stalled Doha round firmly on the agenda of the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. Many view a trade deal as an economic stimulus to help the global economy recover from its downturn.
However, Mr Lamy said world leaders had to find the political will to embrace tougher global financial regulation to prevent a repeat of last year’s banking crisis and prepare the ground for the Copenhagen talks on climate change.
Anand Sharma, India’s commerce minister, on Thursday played down the prospect of a swift conclusion of the Doha round in spite of calls by some of his counterparts to home in on a few outstanding issues.
“Let’s be frank in acknowledging that even the unequivocal expression of political resolve has not been translated into action?.?.?.?It has been suggested that most issues have been settled almost in ‘end-game’. However, it would be apparent that there are still a few gaps and a large number of unresolved issues.”
Triple Whammy with Energy Efficiency
What could help turn Australia into a low carbon economy, create jobs, as well as take greater strides towards meeting realistic and higher emission reduction targets? Believe it or not, it is energy efficiency, says ABC Carbon’s Ken Hickson.
Based on a Position Paper submitted to the Federal Government on Energy Efficiency and also submitted this month to the Queensland Government, Ken Hickson sets out what he believes is a realistic approach to tackling climate change and reaching so far unattainable emissions targets.
What could help turn Australia into a low carbon economy, create jobs, as well as take greater strides towards meeting realistic and higher emission reduction targets?
The answer in two words is Energy Efficiency.
It is not easy in this climate change/carbon-aware world to find such an all-encompassing solution as this. It has the potential to be faster acting and produce the better outcomes than the emissions trading scheme that is currently on the table.
It is not a political hot potato like carbon capture and storage, which still has some way to go to be technically and economically feasible.
It does not take such a massive investment as renewable energy – but it should be said that in an ideal carbon-constrained world, Australia should be moving faster to reach its renewable energy targets of 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Why energy efficiency? And how can it be done?
Energy efficiency works on many fronts. It has a triple whammy effect.
It works for home owners, offices, factories and educational institutions in the same way.
Not only does it reduce energy use – particularly from fossil fuels – it also reduces emissions of greenhouse gases. And significantly – and this is a major selling point in these financially constrained times, it reduces costs.
This is not rocket science. And maybe because it is so obvious that we as a nation have not taken this process so seriously. We have perhaps seen it as a sideline event and not the main game.
But it is possible to show that an effective energy efficiency campaign on the national, state and local level could achieve far more in reduction of emissions than CPRS.
Here’s how in ten easy lessons:
1. Businesses of all sizes and shapes will be encouraged (and given incentives) to be more energy efficient in every way. Compulsory energy audits would be undertaken (Government has made a start on this) and businesses given grants, tax concessions and whatever else it takes to set targets and achieve energy savings of say 25%.
2. Buildings throughout the country – currently responsible for 18% of the nation’s emissions –will be retrofitted, redesigned, and re-build if necessary to significantly reduce costly energy use and eliminate loss of energy. The Government insulation grants were a step in the right direction. The Property Council of Australia has been urging for more funding in this direction.
3. Householders will be not only given energy meters to use, they will be told what their energy use (electricity, gas, petrol) should be. Every household will have a target (bring on the “carbon cops”!) and the energy supply companies will keep people on track. There will be incentives to save energy. Efforts in the last three years to reduce water use through public education and restrictions have worked in those states that have embarked on it seriously. A similar approach to energy is vital across the country.
4. Urban dwellers will be encouraged to use their private cars less and public transport more. Federal, State and Local Government will invest more in public transport, as well as encourage cycling and walking. It will become more expensive to use the private car. Car sharing will be encouraged.
5. More freight should move by rail than road. This will reduce cost and energy use, and help reduce the emissions from the road freight industry. This will take a little longer to happen, but the Railway industry is ready, willing and able to facilitate this.
6. Universities and schools will be provided with incentives, not only to install solar panels, but also to reduce their energy use. For example, John Baker at Monash University looked into saving power by having an automatic shut off of all PC’s on the network at a specific after hour’s time. This involved 30,000 PC’s under power management with an average consumption of 1,490 kilowatt hours per annum each. The savings with auto shutdown amounted to 14,421,585 kWh. At 12 cents per kWh, 9 hours per workday, 22 workdays per month, provide a total financial saving of $1,745,012 per annum. That’s $1.7 million dollars saved! Let’s look at it this way: 200 computers under power management is equivalent to 96 tonnes of CO2 pollution saved or 16 cars off the roads or 26 acres of trees planted every year.
7. The agriculture sector will need to be encouraged to use less energy and look at alternatives to diesel, petrol, gas, oil and coal. Bio gas and other bio fuels are viable and in the US are more widely used down on the farm. Solar and wind can work well, particularly in localised situations. Not only can farmers reduce their use of fossil fuels, they can also become more actively involved in sustainable agriculture and benefit from the research in biochar and soil carbon to store carbon and make the soil more productive.
8. Smaller communities across Australia can embark on energy co-generation projects. This involves both conventional energy saving, as well as embarking on renewable energy to suit the local environment. There are many examples from overseas – and a few in Australia – to call on.
9. Australia must maintain a voluntary carbon credit and offset scheme as this provides businesses large and small, as well as householders, with an opportunity to measure and manage their carbon footprint and contribute positively to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, embark on energy efficiency and tree planting projects.
10. There is little doubt that the Clean Energy Council, WWF, the Australian Conservation Council and The Climate Institute would all support an energy efficiency campaign, as well as promote a switch to renewable energy. This would also gain the support of the energy and resources industry. Jobs would be created in the process – think of the businesses and workers required to retrofit all buildings in Australia!
Will it work? Of course it will. If realistic targets are set for businesses and householders to reduce their energy use (in the same way many Australians have accepted and achieved lower water use).
An economist needs to look at the numbers, but if you follow the Monash University example of power saving – 200 computers under power management is equivalent to 96 tonnes of CO2 pollution saved or 16 cars off the roads or 26 acres of trees planted every year – that can be multiplied nationally across all industries, homes, schools – and all energy uses – to produce a massive reduction of energy, reduction of emissions and cost savings.
Why wouldn’t we do it?
Some quotes and sources:
“Energy Efficiency would provide around one quarter of the gains necessary, and
incidentally, save money, but its significance is often ignored”.
Former British PM Tony Blair (June 2008).
25% of the total reductions can be realized with positive returns…mostly through energy
An Australian Cost Curve for Greenhouse Gas Reduction -
The United States can cost-effectively reduce energy consumption by 25-30% or more!
“Energy efficiency is a means of using less energy to provide the same (or greater) level of
energy services. With efficiency we can drive the same distance with less petrol or watch the
same program with fewer kilowatt-hours of electricity”.
Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez and John A. “Skip” Laitner – ACEEE May
In Australia, energy efficiency could conservatively deliver -
• a 9% reduction in energy consumption
• 9% reduction in greenhouse emissions – down
• $1.8 billion increase in Australia’s real GDP
• 9,000 more jobs
NFEE modelling 2003
And from an article published in Carbon Planet’s Be The Change Magazine:
Energy efficiency gives us a triple whammy!
By Ken Hickson
There are a lot of things we can all do – must do – to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. One that seems so painlessly obvious is reducing the amount of energy we use at home, at school and university, in the office, on the factory floor and on the road.
Through my book “The ABC of Carbon” and my weekly e-newsletter abc carbon express – as well as with practically everyone I talk to – I emphasise the importance of energy saving. It can and does make a difference.
I know from my personal experience at home and work that I have been able to cut back my energy use – electricity in the home and petrol on the road – by at least 50% over the past two years.
Does that translate to a reduction in emissions? I believe it does. Particularly as by far the majority of the electricity I use in Queensland comes from coal fired power stations. And my car used a lot of petrol/oil from fossil fuels. I manage now without a car – using a car share vehicle from GoGet when I need to – and I heavily rely on public transport, which is obviously much better user of energy than a private car. We are also ultra careful to switch off lights and appliances when not needed. It works.
A friend at a university in Melbourne did some very interesting research. He looked into saving power by having an automatic shut off of all PC’s on the network at a specific after hour’s time. This involved 30,000 PC’s under power management with an average consumption of 1,490 kilowatt hours per annum each. The savings with auto shutdown amounted to 14,421,585 kWh. At 12 cents per kWh, 9 hours per workday, 22 workdays per month, provide a total financial saving of $1,745,012 per annum. That’s $1.7 million dollars saved!
Let’s look at it this way: 200 computers under power management is equivalent to 96 tonnes of CO2 pollution saved or 16 cars off the roads or 26 acres of trees planted every year.
Wouldn’t you want your office or school or University to do that? Save energy, reduce emissions and save money. Triple whammy!
Last year I was one of many hundreds of people and organisations to make a submission to the Government on the Green Paper for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. I set out six things the Government needed to do in addition to the CPRS, because I feared at the time (September last year), that it would not achieve half the emission reductions required. Now it looks like (in April 2009) that the scheme is unlikely to become law.
So shouldn’t the Government be looking at all the other ways, like renewable energy and energy efficiency, which will definitely help us meet realistic targets for emission reductions? Here’s what I specifically said about energy efficiency. And I stand by it today:
Promote Energy efficiency at all levels – home, office, factory and on the road – which could effortlessly reduce our energy use, our dependence of fossil fuels and cut our emissions dramatically, if we set our minds to it. It needs a Federal and State Government campaign to educate and persuade. It could be of the same order as Queensland’s successful water saving plan. We don’t think it would be difficult, for example, for many homes and offices to cut their electricity use by 50%. Aligned to this is the need to encourage and incentivise a voluntary market for companies large and small to head towards carbon neutrality – reduce energy and reduce emissions – and if necessary offset emissions. A voluntary carbon trading market should be allowed to operate in tandem with the CPRS.
If I can do it, everyone can. If one university can plan to save energy, cut emissions and save money in the process, all Universities can. The same applies to offices and homes.
If 50% energy saving is too much to tackle, what about a more realistic 25%? That would still give us a massive reduction in emissions of greenhouse gas. More than the CPRS could possible do in it’s watered down, concession-laden final form.
Let’s go for energy efficiency in a big way.
Ken Hickson is the Director of ABC Carbon, author and publisher of “The ABC of Carbon and editor of the weekly e-newsletter abc carbon express.
Brisbane public hearing about energy efficiency – 11 September 2009
A public hearing for the Qld Parliamentary inquiry into energy efficiency improvements will be held in the Parliamentary Annexe on Friday 11 September 2009.
The hearing will allow speakers to clarify points raised in submissions and to gather further information. Anyone can attend the hearing and be in the audience.
Writing the Sustainability Message
Queensland is a hot bed of happenings with a climate change and sustainability flavour on the next few weeks. See what’s happening at the Brisbane Writers Festival, Sustainable House Day, Zero Carbon Computer Challenge, QUT’s Engineering Sustainable Solutions, QWESTnet and Going Green Expo. For information on a wide range of environmental activities in and around Brisbane, also visit www.sustainablejamboree.org
Brisbane Writers Festival
• On Thursday 10 September from 5.30pm: Sustainability session chaired by University of Queensland’s Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
Jeb Brugmann’s initiatives to address global environmental problems have been officially recognised by the UN General Assembly, three UN summits and the UN Kyoto Protocol Secretariat.
Andrew Westoll spent a year studying wild monkeys in the jungles of Suriname. Both advocate for responsible sustainability.
• On Saturday 12 September from 4.30pm: Sustainability session chaired by Jurg Keller.
Economic opportunities will open up when corporations and governments lead the new clean industrial revolution. Investing, commercialising and exporting new fuels, materials and technologies will boost economic prosperity as well as environmental sustainability.
Featuring Mark Diesendorf, Ben McNeil and Andrew Westoll
Sustainable House Day
10am – 4pm, 13 September 2009
Currumbin Eco Village, Lakeview Place, Currumbin Valley
A record number of homes will open for the eighth annual Sustainable House Day as hundreds and thousands of Australians continue to embrace renewable energy, recycling and other practices designed to lessen our impact on the environment.
Around 170 homes are scheduled to open around the country on Sunday 13 September, with 12 of them opening in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.
“With homes open for free for the first time this year, this is a fantastic opportunity for people who are keen to make their homes more sustainable – but are confused about where to start – to receive unbiased advice from real home owners who have taken concepts, plans and ideas and made them work,” event organiser Judy Celmins says.
“Home Sustainability Assessors funded through the Australian Government’s Green Loans program will also be available to discuss the range of energy efficiency actions that people can take around the home. Whether you’re building a new home or simply improving elements of your existing house, you are sure to get heaps of valuable information.”
Judy says seeing real sustainable projects in action, and learning what worked well and not so well, will help save time and money.
“So take the first step, talk to someone who’s done it.”
Zero Carbon Computer Challenge
You are cordially invited to join the Hon Kate Jones MP, Minister for Climate Change, the press, local businesses and industry stake holders to celebrate the launch of the inaugural “Zero Carbon Computer Challenge” (ZCCC) – a world first green initiative that challenges mpeople and businesses to offset the carbon emissions created through their use of computers.
Hosted by Platinum sponsors of the ZCCC, Audi Center Brisbane at their Wickham Street showroom, the event will unveil world first free software that enables businesses to easily and accurately measure and then offset their IT emissions making them zero carbon corporate citizens in respect to their use of computers.
Computers, which are now critical to business worldwide, account for around 5% of the world’s total carbon emissions which is about the same as the airline industry. They also have enormous power to influence.
Rather than asking your clients to consider the environment before printing your emails, why not go a step further and show your clients that you have offset your computers entirely and ask them to do the same? It’s great for business, it’s not expensive (about $10/year per computer) and it’s great for the planet.
The event will be a great networking opportunity and a chance to hear about some of the Queensland Governments initiatives in the area of Climate Change – straight from the minister herself.
You can also check out Audi’s all new A3 Sportback 1.9 TDI e – part of their latest generation of highly fuel efficient vehicles known as ‘e’ models.
Catering and door prizes will be on offer. It’s a great chance to get out of the office and do something great for your business and the environment. Admission is free but bookings are essential. Green your business image in 2009… “Because being green is good for business as well as the good for the planet.”
Are you up for a Challenge?
Tuesday September 8th, 2009. 1.30PM for 2PM start. Audi Centre Brisbane. 586 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley. Free to attend.
Engineering Sustainable Solutions
Tuesday September 8th, 2009. 1.30PM for 2PM start
QUT Faculty of BEE, Institute for Sustainable Resources
and Centre for Subtropical Design presents
Engineering Sustainable Solutions: Tools for Capacity Building
A public lecture on Greenhouse Solutions featuring Cheryl Desha, Education Director for The Natural Edge Project
Monday 7 September 2009, 1 – 2pm
Room 308, O Block, Level 3, QUT Gardens Point Campus, Brisbane QLD 4000
Courtesy of the QUT Minor in Sustainability
QUT Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
QWESTnet at Going Green Expo attend
QWESTNet (Queensland Water and Energy Sustainable Technologies Network) aims to bring together sustainable technology users and retailers in an informal environment where relevant technologies, independent overviews and case studies are presented and discussed. Participants can also network with current users of sustainable technologies.
Electricity prices are tipped to rise – is your business ready?
By attending QWESTNet you will hear from experts in the field and discover inside information on:
Buying Green Power
Learn about different energy saving Technologies, hear from local and regional Case Studies and Network with other businesses who are looking to benefit from making their business more sustainable.
One day programme at Going Green Expo – Friday 18 September 2009 – RNA showgrounds
Renewable energy, solar and green power, energy efficinecy.
Going Green Expo
Brisbane RNA Showgrounds – 18 – 20 September 2009
Showcasing easy ways that every Queensland business & household can reduce their environmental foot print and ‘go green’ with the latest products, technologies and solutions that don’t cost the earth!
Following the succesful launch of this event in Melbourne last year, the exhibition now moves to Queensland and is designed as a mainstream insight into what every business and individual across the state can contribute to reducing Queensland’s collective environmental footprint.
Queensland is recognised as a progressive state and the home of many of Australia’s leading environmentally responsible initiatives, solutions and eco-friendly product suppliers.
Going Green Expo will serve to consolidate and further encourage a community culture which encourages development and implementation of environmental sustainability.
Message from the Editor
There is always a danger when one delivers a serious message with a light touch. Is the message getting through? Is it all a big joke? How best to communicate something deadly serious without frightening someone to death? I don’t believe in a doomsday scenario. I have always tried to treat environmental issues, as well as the biggest global challenge we face – climate change – in the most positive light possible. With a crisis, there is always opportunity. Hence my book “The ABC of Carbon” looks at the issues and opportunities. In this weekly newsletter, I always offer some solutions along with the more dire warnings. Maybe the latest climate change film “The Age of Stupid” will get the message across. The world must sit up and take notice. But it is not a hopeless situation. We humans, who have brought about this serious state of affairs – the global economic crisis and the impact of climate change – actually have it in our power to fix it. With all the creative and technical abilities we have; with all the economic and environmental resources at our disposal: we can turn things around and create a future that is cleaner and greener and safer. I’m serious about that! – Ken Hickson