Living Green: what the City of Sydney is doing about sustainability

Living Green: what the City of Sydney is doing about sustainability

With our federal politicians at loggerheads over the repeal of the carbon tax and its proposed replacement, the City of Sydney has take the initiative to improve sustainability in Australia’s largest metropolis. 

Jump on the bandwagon and live green, as the City of Sydney has dedicated itself to deliver sustainable change. It has pledged that central Sydney’s electricity, heating and cooling needs will be met with renewable energy sources by 2030. The renewable energy master plan has drafted out a blueprint where 70 per cent of the city’s electricity demands will be harnessed from renewable gases derived from waste and the remaining 30 per cent from solar and wind power.

Now if you’re thinking of how you can be a part of this change, the City of Sydney is now calling for the community to make an effort to lower their environmental footprint and lead more sustainable lifestyles. With workshops on recycled art, organic gardening, solar power, upcycling and much more, there are plenty of opportunities to gain further knowledge and live green.

Sydney CBD Image Credit Rubenerd

Picturesque scene of the Sydney CBD
Image Credit: Rubenerd

Living green starts with you. From using yoghurt to give your terracotta pots that rustic vintage look to using chalk paint, there are little things that you can do around the house to upcycle your furniture instead of heading them to the dump. Here are some of the best tips shared by the experts from the City of Sydney:

  • If you’re thinking of changing up those terracotta pot plants in the back yard, use some yogurt to brush over the surface and leave it overnight to create that vintage rustic look.
  • Want to change the colour of your outdoor dining table but lazy to prep the surface before painting? Chalk paint will be perfect for you, as it paints over any surface.
  • Looking for materials to finish off your furniture? Or are you doing a bit of work around the house? Instead of going to your local hardware store, try places such as Reverse Garbage, where you can purchase reusable materials and resources at affordable prices.

The City of Sydney is also looking for different ways to inspire a new generation of adults and youths to get growing, recycling and saving water/energy. It is making certain areas in places such as Alexandria, Bourke Street and Green Square for city farms to grow. So if you want to get your hands dirty and explore your green ideas, these city farms will be perfect to share those ideas and build your own piece of greenery.

Now, looking to your streets – the City of Sydney will be establishing a greater number of gardens around the city and planting 800 more trees per year. Once these trees have matured, it is forecasted that urban canopy will increase by 50% and city temperatures will drop by 2 degrees Celsius from the shade it will then be able to provide. The City of Sydney has expressed that the Council’s ultimate goal is to create a green leafy environment at peoples’ doorsteps for easy walking and cycling so that communities can embrace a greener and healthier living.

Finally, looking at the Renewable Energy Master Plan at its largest scale. It aims to combat increasing electricity charges and to maximise the use of renewable energy within and beyond the City. It will involve technologies such as decentralised energy including trigeneration, renewable energy, decentralised water, energy efficiency etc. The City of Sydney has explained that these key technologies have been evaluated with careful consideration based on how well they have faired on the following:

  • Greenhouse gas emission savings
  • Marginal cost of energy
  • Spatial land use constraints
  • Site requirements and the total generation capacity within and beyond Sydney LGA.
The Decentralised Energy Master Plan Renewable Energy  Image Credit: City of Sydney

The Decentralised Energy Master Plan Renewable Energy
Image Credit: City of Sydney

This Master Plan has classified these key technologies into 4 main categories: Firstly, there will be an implementation of renewable electricity and heat within city buildings. Involving commercial, residential and industrial buildings, the hierarchy will optimise energy output by installing solar PVs on buildings allocated in ‘hot spots’ or in Low Carbon Infrastructure Zones. This will then be the source of thermal energy, and the proposed trigeneration network will cater to any additional electricity demands.

This plan will also see renewable electricity used within Sydney. Large-scale technologies including concentrated solar thermal, wind turbines and the direct use of geothermal, producing over 100kW of renewable energy will be used to distribute electricity to local networks.

Thirdly, renewable electricity will be implemented beyond the borders of the city. Being able to take advantage of the natural environment, lower land value and avoiding conflicts of other proposals for the use of land, these technologies (e.g. onshore and offshore wind, geothermal electricity, concentrated solar PV) will be operating in optimal resource locations where the exported electricity will be consumed by the city.

Lastly, this Master Plan will see that renewable gasses will be derived from waste and biomass including agricultural, livestock manure, sewage and commercial, industrial and municipal waste and landfill from within and beyond the city of Sydney. It proposes that waste streams will be converted into gasses and then used as part of the trigeneration network.

Live a green and sustainable lifestyle – Do your part to help the City of Sydney to promote active transport, reduce congestion and greenhouse emissions, promote biodiversity and create a sustainable Sydney for yourself and future generations.

This article is part of the April Serial Issue: Renewable Energy

The Hazelwood Coal Mine Fire: how would solar power fare in its place?

The Hazelwood Coal Mine Fire: how would solar power fare in its place?

The story of Morwell, a Victorian town that became one of the most polluted places in the world. 

What do you consider to be the world’s most polluted city? You’re probably picturing an over-populated city in a developing country, laden with smog, factories and rubbish strewn on the streets.

You’re not wrong. The most polluted city in the world is New Delhi, which has recently surpassed Beijing.

According to the World Health Organisation, the maximum safe air pollution level can be quantified as 100 micrograms of pollutants per cubic meters of air. Earlier this year New Delhi peaked at levels of 575 micrograms and Beijing peaked at 400 microgram over the same period.

It seems surprising then, to know that an area of Australia had air pollution levels of over 550 micrograms.

Morwell Power Station - Source: Wikimedia

The Hazelwood Power Station – Source: Wikimedia

In February 2014, a grassfire triggered a fire at the Hazelwood coal mine in Victoria, creating an uncontrollable fire the size of Sydney’s CBD. The ensuing pollution levels in the town of 14,000 were worse than the most polluted cities in the world.

Yep, right in our own backyard.

The key dates for the Hazelwood coal mine fire are as follows -

  • 9 February – a grassfire lights up the coal mine, beginning the blaze.
  • 11 February – Estimates are given that the fire will take 2 weeks to put out. Several fire-fighters are treated for carbon monoxide exposure.
  • 19 FebruaryAir quality is at an all time low and schools begin to close with students moved to the nearby town Moe.
  • 24 February – Air pollution levels reach over 500 micrograms per cubic meter. Residents in the nearby town of Morwell are given protective face masks.
  • 28 February – Residents of Morwell South are advised to temporarily relocate. Victorian Greens Leader Greg Barber asks for a judicial inquiry.
  • 1  March – The United Firefighters Union said it would ask the Victorian Coroner to investigate the fire, to see whether the mine operator had sufficient fire safety systems installed. The Deputy Premier said there would be an independent inquiry, after the fire is extinguished.
  • 2 March – 1,000 Morwell residents protested the fire, demanding answers and an explanation.
  • 5 March – Authorities state that the fire should be put out by 10th March. Some residents have begun coughing up a black substance.
  • 10 March – The fire is reported as being under control, after burning for 29 days.

 

How the Hazelwood blaze affected Morwell

The town of Morwell before the Hazelwood coal mine fire.  Image Credit: David Gray

The town of Morwell before the Hazelwood coal mine fire.
Image Credit: David Gray

A website created by Morwell residents titled Disaster In The Valley, as well as a related Facebook page Voices of the Valley, involves frustrated residents rallying together to see questions answered and their opinions heard.

Their opinions appear to be shared by many of Morwell’s residents including Lyn Osborne, law clerk and Morwell resident.

“There was no warning that this would be such a long running disaster. The media advised that all efforts would be made to put the mine fire out and we believed it would be a very short time, maybe a few days at the most.” said Lyn who spoke with Vibewire. 

The situation has not miraculously remedied itself, with pollution still remaining in the air and a considerable clean up effort will have to take place.

“My husband and I had to vacate our house located on the south side of Morwell. We have not yet resumed living there”, explains Lyn.

“We stayed one night since the fire was put out but the smell and effect of the ash/particles inside the house was worrying in relation to health. I was coughing whilst staying there, despite having the house closed up for the duration and having done a thorough vacuuming job with our HEPA filter vac.”

The pollution has also negatively affected local business, with Lyn finding it difficult at times to continue working in the town centre.

“The pollution in the office was severe. I tried to work with a mask on but this was not possible with my multifocal glasses. There was a day when we came to work, packed up and left because it was so shocking and couldn’t face working here.”

Residents are rallying together to have their opinions heard during the inquiry. Locals have been encouraged to complete an online survey, with the deadline for submissions being May 12.

Former Victorian Supermen Court Justice Bernard Teague is heading the inquiry, which is focused on public health issues related to residents as well as the firefighters involved. Whilst this is positive, there is a much larger scope for inquiry.

Determining how the fire was able to begin in the first place would be an essential factor into preventing something of this scale occurring again, as well as ensuring liability falls where it rightly should.

Alternative sources of energy would have less negative factors compared to the coal mine currently in Morwell.

 

Alternate Sources of Energy?

The Ivanpah Solar Plant in California, United States image Credit: Sbharris

The Ivanpah Solar Plant in California, United States
image Credit: Sbharris

In order to prevent another similar coal mine fire from occurring in the future, questions have been raised about whether alternate sources of energy would provide a better alternative.

If a solar power plant existed in place of the Hazelwood power station and coal mine, would it generate as much energy as its coal equivalent?

Solem Consulting, solar power consultancy company, provided Vibewire with calculations based on this hypothetical scenario. The energy created by two power plants in the United States – Solar One using Concentrated Solar Thermal technology and Solar One Copper Mountain, using Thin Film Photovoltaic technology are used as comparisons.

Technology Size Power Production Power Production/Size Peak Power Hazlewood Annual Energy[1]
Hazelwood coal power plant Coal fired power plant 35.54km2 1542MW 43.4MW/km2 1.5GW 10.0TWh
Solarone: Thermal plant Concentrated solar thermal 0.24km2 64MW 48.48MW/km2 1.7GW 3.0TWh
Solarone: Copper Mountain Thin Film Photovoltaic 1.53km2 48MW 31.4MW/km2 1.1GW 1.9TWh


[1] Based on 1750kWh/m2/year of Peak Sun Hours

 

To put this into perspective, Morwell presently supplies 20%-25% of electricity to Victorian households.

The Solar One thermal plant could provide 6%-8% of homes whilst operating for 5hrs a day.  This is largely due to the fact that it could only operate for approximately 5 hours a day. Coal power plants operate 24 hours a day. If technology allowed it to operate 24hrs/day, it could provide 29%-36% of energy.

The Solar One Copper Mountain thin film photovoltaic plant could provide 4%-5% whilst operating for 5hrs a day. If technology allowed it to operate 24hrs/day, it could provide 18%-23% of energy.

Whilst there is no denying that the coal mine provides more power, largely due to operating 24 hours a day, perhaps our health and the negative consequences of such power sources should be greater considerations than pure output.

Alternative energy sources are also investments into our health and environment, which is vital to preserve the state of our world.

 

This article is part of the April Serial Issue: Renewable Energy

Special thanks to Jamey Kim and Jeremy Osborne from Solem Consulting.

 

Renewable Energy: where it comes from and what are its limitations

Renewable Energy: where it comes from and what are its limitations

Main image credit: Jürgen

In Plain English: Renewable Energy

For centuries, human societies have been dependent on the use of non-renewable energies to feed mass growth and consumption. With the every growing concern of climate change, alternatives in energy generation have been explored with mixed results.

In 2012, over 13% of Australia’s electricity was generated from renewable energy resources. Whilst this number

Vibewire Change Media’s overview of renewable energy sources will avoid the sentimental, clichéd argument; unless you can fly, and you can breathe on a different planet, earth is the only home we have and we need to look after it.

 

Energy Consumption

Australia is developing and using various alternative renewable resources. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) undertook a study to measure the use of various energy sources in domestic and industrial sectors combined.

The ABS 2013 media release stated that electricity is being used less in households but energy use has increased across the board.

“Electricity use by households has fallen 12 percent since 2008-09,” said Mark Lound from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “but total household energy expenditure on all forms of energy including natural gas, petrol, diesel, LPG, solar, wood and wood waste has gone up by nearly 60 percent.”

In total, renewable energy is 2% of domestic energy production, but solar power has increased by 20% between 2010-11 and 2011-12, Mark Lound goes on to say.

According to the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics 2013 report, the increase of solar energy has been due to government support programs at national and state levels, particularly in residential areas.

 

Solar Power

Here in Australia we have the highest solar radiation per square metre of any continent. Despite the availability of this resource it only accounts for 0.1 per cent of Australia’s total primary energy consumption. Solar thermal (heat from sunlight) water heating is the most common form of solar energy used. Solar PV (conversion of sunlight directly into electricity) systems are integral for off-grid electricity generation in remote areas.

Here comes the sun

A photovoltaic solar array in Nevada, USA
Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay

The main issue with solar thermal energy is that it can only provide energy on clear days. However, there are several projects that are being carried out to enhance the use of this resource.

The Clean Energy Initiative Solar Flagships Program managed by the Department of Resources Energy and Tourism has committed $1.5 billion to support the construction and demonstration of up to four large-scale solar power plants in Australia, using solar thermal and PV technologies.

In addition, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is currently working with Spanish company, Abengoa, to develop an effective storage system that can provide on-demand electricity through solar thermal energy.

The research revolves around finding the most suitable materials to store the energy, and making the most efficient system design to ensure that it can reliably operate at a high temperature. The next stage is to integrate the storage system with the concentrating solar thermal facility at CSIRO’s National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle, NSW.


Hydroelectric Power

By accounting for nearly 58% of all energy production from the renewable energy sector, hydroelectric power is Australia’s largest source of renewable energy generation

With over 100 operating hydroelectric power stations in the country, hydroelectric power uses the natural currents of rivers, estuaries and oceans to generate power by moving turbine blades to drive a generator.

File:Hydropower (7921391850).jpg

A hydropower plant in Ontario.
Image credit: Peter Rood

However there are various limitations and drawbacks surrounding this resource. Firstly, Australia’s geographic landscape limits the hydroelectric power’s maximum generation potential.

Waratah Power is currently studying the effect of small-scale low-head hydropower stations on aquatic fauna in freshwater.

“With almost every source of electricity provision there are conceivably some issues,” said Andrew Jones, the Director of Waratah Power, who spoke to Vibewire about the research and concerns around hydroelectric power.

“You might consider the manufacturing process, by-products and materials that go into that manufacturing process.”

There are three main focuses when it comes to examining issues with hydropower stations and downstream passage of aquatic fauna: fluid shear, pressure gradient (or change) and physical strike (fish coming into contact with infrastructure).

There are also possible impacts of large dams on sedimentation and water temperature gradients, Andrew goes on to say.

In addition, there are baseline levels of injury and mortality for aquatic fauna which are poorly understood, and result from a number various contributing factors.

It is believed that some species of fish may be susceptible to injury and death during downstream migration when they pass hydropower turbines and weirs.

However, there are suitable project design options and turbine applications that can result in minimal effects on aquatic species. Waratah Power is actively pursuing some hydropower solutions which may even improve fauna survival rates at existing riverine infrastructure.

Andrew discussed such alternative options: “Hydro-kinetic turbines – or variants thereof – can be deployed in run-of-river settings which have different characteristics in terms of probability and outcomes of the three core fish passage issues: blade strike, pressure and shear.”

 

Wind Power

This is the fastest growing renewable energy source for electricity generation in Australia, although it’s used at 0.2%. Projections of wind energy use are expected to increase from 1.5% in 2007–08 to 12.1% in 2029–30.

Wind turbines in Austria Image Credit: Arunas Sakalauskas

Wind turbines in Austria
Image Credit: Arunas Sakalauskas

Our access to this resource is at an international standard. The best locations are along the south-western, southern and south eastern margins as well as isolated areas of the eastern margin.

The main issue with this resource is the lack of grid capacity, particularly on a local scale. The irregularity of wind creates a lot of difficulties when it comes to balancing the system, and this has led many consumers to distrust it.

Another long-term issue is the distance between major energy load centres and wind farms. Due to the increasing transmission costs, the economic practicality of the resource is being put in jeopardy.

There are also social and environmental issues with wind farms. With some wind farms being in close proximity to local residential areas, noise levels that are produced has caused irritation. Environmental concerns that have been raised are around the impact on local bird populations that can injure themselves on infrastructure.

 

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal is energy stored as heat from the earth. At first, geothermal energy was thought to be found in areas with volcanic activity. Recently, an abundance of geothermal energy has been found in Australia and this has opened up a sky full of opportunities. The biggest advantage of this source is that it can provide 24 hours of electricity in residential areas and on an industrial scale and the cost is expected to fall over the years of its development.

File:Puhagan geothermal plant.jpg

A geothermal power station in the Philippines.
Image credit: Mike Gonzalez

In Australia, three types of projects are under development:

  • the enhanced geothermal systems (generating electricity through removing hot rocks),
  • hot sedimentary
  • direct use systems (heat from underground water is used directly for applications such as heating and cooling buildings, industrial processes, greenhouses and aquaculture)

According to the Australian Government Geoscience website: “it is estimated that one per cent of the geothermal energy shallower than five kilometres and hotter than 150°C could supply Australia’s total energy requirements for 26 000 years (based on 2004-05 findings).”

There have been small-scale uses of geothermal energy. The Birdsville Organic Rankine Cycle Geothermal Power Station (Birdsville Plant) produces enough energy to power the town of Birdsville. Birdsville Plant is Australia’s only Hot Sedimentary Aquifer project currently producing electricity.

However, there are several issues with this resource:

  • currently drilling technology limits economic development of geothermal resources to a maximum depth of about five kilometres
  • the resource is not understood that well from a geographical perspective
  • there is also a risk of seismic activity when drilling into the earth to retrieve the resource
  • the resource is distant from existing transmission lines and extensions are expensive

Australia places an importance on renewable sources with various projects and studies being undertaken across the nation. But even at a local and individual level, it’s important to adopt environmentally friendly practices; whether it’s recycling paper or phones. Taking care of the planet is a way of taking care of yourself.

 

In Plain English: A Change Media series explaining the big issues without the jargon.

This article is part of the April Serial Issue: Renewable Energy

April 2014 Serial Issue: Renewable Energy

April 2014 Serial Issue: Renewable Energy

“You can’t have infinite growth in a world of finite resources” –  Andrew Simms 

Countries are in a race against time to reduce  usage of high polluting fossil fuels in order to remain below the agreed limit as part of their efforts to fight climate change. Government officials are gathering this April in Berlin to draft out the much needed shift towards low carbon energies.

Whilst Governments need to discuss the bigger picture, true action needs to begin in our own backyards for changes to occur.

This month, Vibewire Change Media will be looking into the topic of Renewable Energy. We will be starting our investigation through exploring the economic considerations, technological issues and regulatory problems surrounding renewable energy.

We will also be uncovering the numerous organisations across Australia who have been rallying supporters and resources as they embark upon the journey to find different renewable energy avenues.

There is a wide array of options available to reduce the vulnerability of the world to climate change. However, the limitations and implications of each adaptation have caused much debate.

Alongside ALEC, the Climate Institute and many other similar organisations, Vibewire will further investigate the feasibility of each of these adaptations and seek to build a generation who will tackle climate change.

As a strong advocator for a nuclear free, renewable energy future, ALEC has become a regional leader in sustainable initiatives in Central Australia. Also uncovering the work of the Climate Institute, Vibewire will investigate its collaborative approach through accessing businesses, communities and the government.

This formidable challenge will require a strong focus on accountability, economic and societal transformation. Replacing our current energy regime with a model that is based on renewable energy is going to be challenging as we face political and technical hurdles.

We’ll be exploring topics such as -

  • Beyond Zero Emissions and their research into getting Australia to 100% Renewable Energy
  • The Australian Youth Climate  Coalition – what are their current projects and larger goals?
  • The Sydney City 2030 Renewable Energy Master Plan – what are the goals and how will it occur?
  • The Hazelwood open cut mine fire – what happened and who is accountable?
  • A comparison between the amount of energy produced at Hazelwood as a coal mine vs as a solar energy plant

Join Vibewire Change Media in the month of April as we dwell into this investigation and search for a rational and appropriate pathway to achieve a sustainable future.

This article is part of the April Serial Issue: Renewable Energy

Stopping Food Waste In Its Tracks: The Story of Ozharvest

Stopping Food Waste In Its Tracks: The Story of Ozharvest

$165 billion. It’s the amount that China spent on all forms of support for farmers last year. $165 billion. It’s what Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) reached in 2011. It’s also the amount of money that Americans waste on food each year. They’ve got their cake, but they’re not eating it.

 

Whilst the figures for Australia aren’t as obscene, it’s still not a measly amount:

“In Australia we waste $7.8 billion of food every year, that’s 4 million tonnes of food being dumped into landfill – that’s how much food we waste. Every Australian household probably throws away more than $1000 worth of groceries and food every single year. That’s quite shocking,” says Louise Tran, the Communications and Marketing Manager of OzHarvest.

Tran is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, who were subject to great community charity upon arriving in Australia empty handed. It is through her family history that her desire to help others has branched.

“I’ve always wanted to work for a charity and I also love eating food…so OzHarvest was the perfect charity for me to work for.”

The OzHarvest 2012 Annual Report states that this equates to about 4 million tonnes of food per annum, or 136 kilos per person per annum going to waste. We discard up to 20% of the food we purchase, which is 1 out of 5 every bags of groceries. We’re not only wasting our money, but also food that is capable of being consumed.

The situation isn’t much better before food reaches stores – it is estimated that 20 to 40% of fruit and vegetables are rejected before they reach the shelves, usually as they do not match supermarket cosmetic standards. Grocery shopping is not always based on product quality, but is increasingly becoming an aesthetic decision.

IMG_9289

Louise Tran attends to the OzHarvest garden

Returning to the foodscape in the United States, where the situation is much more dire, $165 billion worth of wasted food equates to 40% of food in the United States which is not eaten. If this were reduced by just 5%, it would be enough to feed 4,000,000 people annually. If this were reduced by 15%, it would be enough to feed 25,000,000 people annually.

But it isn’t all bad news. There are entrepreneurs that are aware of this issue and seek to resolve it. Food rescuing is the saviour for salvaging the perfectly good food from beginning a relationship with the bottom of a bin, and setting it up with a date with the bottom of a stomach. The stomach usually belongs to someone that is disadvantaged, either homeless or unable to afford food.

So the perfectly good food that has been considered worthless by one person ends up on the plate of someone that genuinely needs it. Are you wishing you came up with that idea yourself?

Ronni Kahn beat you to it. In 2004 she founded OzHarvest, the result of feeling the urge to help others and create a positive change. She previously ran a successful event production company, and witnessed first hand the amount of food put to waste.

“I figured that I knew that there were people in need and I knew that there was good food, so then if I could connect those two it could be a good thing.”

Tran explains the OzHarvest solution:

“OzHarvest collects surplus food from restaurants, cafes, hotels, supermarkets, farms and markets. Anywhere you think there might be food left over at the end of everyday. OzHarvest will send a van out and we’ll collect that food and re-distribute that to people in need. Vulnerable Australians who might not have access to quality food and nutrition every single day.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 2.08.29 PM

Image source: @OzHarvest on twitter

Where would this food be going? Literally to waste. And it’s not always food that is rotting. It’s usually in perfectly good condition, but is sent to landfill rather than nourishing our bodies. Uneaten food is the single largest component of U.S municipal solid waste, and therefore contributing to a large percentage of methane emissions.

It’s this link between landfill and food waste that earned OzHarvest the 2013 United Nations World Environment Day Community Sustainability Award:

“We’ve saved 1,600 tonnes of food from ending up in landfill, which is huge,” explains Tran proudly.

OzHarvest is also providing it’s own produce for the vulnerable, harvesting fresh fruit and vegetables from their garden in Alexandria. The harvest is cooked into fresh, healthy meals, which are delivered to those that do not normally have such access to food.

A fresh strawberry from the OzHarvest garden

A fresh strawberry from the OzHarvest garden

This strong community connection is another aim of OzHarvest, as is raising the awareness of the issue at hand. Education is an important component, and is an area that Kahn is focusing on for the future of OzHarvest.

“Education is where change happens.”

Although the UN warns of an impending food crisis, with most countries consuming more than they produce, Australia is in a slightly different situation.

“In Australia I think the statistics show that we actually produce enough food to feed 60 million people. Yet the question is, why are 2 million people still going hungry, why are 1 million children in Australia not having access to dinner or lunch? There’s a huge problem and it’s right under our noses,” states Tran.

Whilst it’s easy to lay blame on others, food waste is a situation where we all need to focus on our own behaviours. “As consumers…it’s your own habits that will help change in the long-term.” Don’t always buy the perfect looking fruit and vegetables, and hopefully supermarkets will change their strict aesthetic standards for produce.

 

If you own a business that could provide OzHarvest with your excess food, or wish to donate to their cause visit www.ozharvest.org or call 1800 108 006

Louise Tran is a guest speaker at this month’s FastBREAK – 29th November at 7:45am at the Powerhouse Museum

 

Rebecca Gredley - @_gredley

 

 

Coalition’s Direct Action Plan to Reduce Emissions is Nothing But Hot Air

Coalition’s Direct Action Plan to Reduce Emissions is Nothing But Hot Air

By Timothy Fernandez

The veil of secrecy surrounding the Coalition’s costing figures was lifted ever so slightly earlier this week as shadow treasurer Joe Hockey released details of where cuts will be made.

Among the many trimmings one would expect from a conservative government hoping to return Australia to surplus, are a few areas of concern for the nations hopes of achieving our emission reduction targets and converting to a clean energy economy.

In accordance to the Kyoto protocol Australia is committed to reducing carbon emissions by at least 5%-25% (conditional to the extent of international action) below the levels they were in 2000 before 2020. The Carbon emission reduction targets are currently supported by both major parties, though the partisan claims of how this target will be reached differs greatly.

The Oppositions proposed removal of the controversial carbon tax comes as no surprise as theirdistaste for the tax has served as theircampaign mantra for the majority of the election period. However Hockey’s announcement also confirms suspicions that the coalition will be scrapping the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a government organisation providing much needed investment in renewable energy to meet Australia’s renewable energy targets and more importantly facilitate the implementation of necessary economic incentives to combat climate change.

Cutting this scheme is expected to reap a $1.6 billion return. Though it asks the question, is this short term dash for cash in the best interests of the modern sustainable Australia we not only want, but need?

According to a report by the Southern Cross Climate Coalition (SCCC), these cuts will directly hinder Australia’s ability to reduce emissions to the extent agreed upon.

The Productivity, Fairness and Sustainable climate action report hopes to “determine our country’s ability to provide prosperity, competitiveness and fairness for Australians now and over the long term”. In order to achieve this, the report dictates that “all parties’ commitments provide a clear and stable pathway to reduce emissions, grow prosperity, create jobs and drive the transition to a clean energy economy”.

To reach these critical goals the SCCC outline a list of steps Australia must take to align our efficiency with that of other equivalent nations.

Most important of the points raised is the “maintenance of a carbon price and limit with targets and caps recommended by Climate Change Authority analysis of Australia’s fair share of the global effort”. Regardless of the success of the Labor Party in implementing the Carbon tax, the importance of putting a price on carbon emissions is critical in assuring Australia’s clean energy future. Pricing our emissions is an important step not only in moving towards meeting our renewable energy targets but also in establishing Australia’s position in the emerging global clean energy economy.

Secondly supporting the low emission industry through the “continued funding of the Clean Technology Programs” and the “maintenance of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation “. These government organisations are of paramount importance in funding carbon efficiency practices and making sustainability an economically viable entity.

Maintaining carbon productivity and renewable funding is essential for future generations.

Both of these critical elements of Australia’s future are on the chopping block, should the Liberal party win come September 7. So what does Tony Abbott plan to do with the estimated $9.1 billion he will salvage from these discarded policies? How will a Coalition government make the agreed emission reductions by 2020 despite the cuts to essential clean energy infrastructure?

The answer is that it won’t. The Direct Action Plan is the liberal parties answer to reaching the emission reductions for a fraction of the price of Labor’s solution. The plan has been widely panned for being impractical and unachievable, at least not for its $3.2 billion price tag. According to climate change Minister Mark Butler, “To achieve the emissions reductions required to deliver the Coalition’s commitment to the 5–25 per cent targets would require additional expenditure of $4–$15 billion to 2020.”

Despite the growing consensus to the contrary, Tony Abbott is still cocksure about his plan achieving its target within the allocated budget. However closer analysis of the plan calls for greater scepticism not only in regards to budget allocation but whether the changes will realistically provide the cuts necessary to meet Australia’s 2020 reduction target.

The plan involves soil carbon sequestration, which uses long term storage of carbon in soil but as a CSIRO study points out the results of which are far from certain. Secondly is the creation of a “green army” of 15 000 workers to “clean-up the environment,” which is more of a case of political “green washing” rather than an attempt at practical reduction of emissions. Rounding out the plan is the emission reduction fund which seems to be theheir to the emissions trading scheme, handing out cash to companies to reduce their carbon emissions.

The plan reflects the ideology of the party that created it, spearheaded by the man who was famously quoted saying “climate change is crap,” and advised by climate change deniers such as Ian Pilmer.

Former Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull said of the plan in 2009:

“…the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change… Any policy that is announced will simply be a con, an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing.”

We are at a critical juncture in the progress of environmental policy in Australia. Progressive legislation has resulted in securing a foundation of supportive infrastructure for carbon sustainable practices. This has put Australia on track to not only reach our commitment to the Kyoto protocol, but set up renewable prospects for future generations.

The reality is that the Coalitions plan for providing Australia with an internationally aligned solution to cutting carbon emissions and ushering Australia into a new age of a clean sustainable economy is little more than a mirage of environmental action, where actual change is a low priority.