Climate and coal: It is when we get together real action begins

Our guests in The Sustainable Hour on 5 April 2017 are Steven Reddington, senior environmental planner at Barwon Water, Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald, new editor of Slow Magazine, Danny Kennedy, and managing director of the California Clean Energy Fund.

We also play a clip from this week’s Q&A on ABC with federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg and former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt – and with June Norman who campaigns to stop the Queenland coal mine projects by, for the first time in history, taking climate change arguments to Australia’s highest court.



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Content of this hour

Links, excerpts and more information about what we talked about in this Sustainable Hour



Steven Reddington

Barwon Water shows sustainability leadership

Where the federal government is failing, business and local government is leading. For Barwon Water, a new 1MW solar plant at Black Rock is part of the organisation’s broader plan to shift to 100 per cent renewables by 2025.

Steven Reddington, Barwon Water’s senior environmental planner, joins us in The Sustainable Studio to explain to us how this will be rolled out.

The plan is kickstarted with a 2,880-panel solar array at the Black Rock environmental precinct which will feed renewable energy directly to the water reclamation plant — Barwon Water’s most power-hungry asset.

The project will generate around 1,300,000 kilowatt hours of electricity — sufficient to power about 300 homes — and save around 1,500 tonnes of CO₂ emissions annually. The solar project will save more than $130,000 in annual operating costs; more if grid electricity prices rise. The project is expected to pay for itself within 11 years.

The solar farm will mean about 13 per cent of the treatment plant’s electricity is supplied from a renewable source.

» Media release 23 March 2017: Solar project contract awarded

» Barwon Water’ home page: www.barwonwater.vic.gov.au

» Article in RenewEconomy on 31 March 2017:
Victoria set to get 1MW solar farm – built by Barwon Water
“Victorian utility Barwon Water could be responsible for the delivery of one of the state’s first megawatt-scale solar PV farms, after the contract for a 1MW project’s design and construction was last week awarded to Beon Energy Solutions. In a statement issued last Thursday, Barwon Water said the 2,880 panel project slated for development at its Black Rock environmental precinct was now expected to be completed by December…”

» The Sustainable Hour on 23 February 2017:
Water management as a solution to climate change

Wind power for water in Portland

Wannon Water should soon be powering the water and sewerage treatment plant that services the regional city of Portland entirely by wind energy, with the construction of an 800kW wind turbine set for completion mid-2017.

» One Step Off The Grid – 27 May 2016:
Victorian water plant to go 100% renewable, powered by wind turbine
“The water and sewerage treatment plant that services the regional Victorian city of Portland will soon be powered entirely by wind energy, with plans for the construction of an 800kW wind turbine…”




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Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald

13 minute radio interview with Slow Magazine’s new editor, Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald – a social entrepreneur and a maker and re-maker of fun things. She is also the founder and managing director of Bright Sparks Australia.

Slow Magazine’s home page

Reuse, repair, upcycle…

Slow Magazine

» Slow issue 30

FOOD

Apricots, cinnamon, honey, walnuts and pistachios: oh yes. These apricot baklava bars are perfect for breakfast, and they’d be a comforting, sweet treat to take round to a friend’s house, too. Best of all: they’re gluten-free.

HOME & GARDEN

Bring a bit of nature indoors with these DIY wall hooks made from tree branches. If you don’t have any branches handy, it’s a good excuse for a neighbourhood foraging expedition. Zero waste + fab style = win win!

BITS & PIECES

An Easter tradition gets a glamorous, Slow update with these gold-speckled Easter eggs. Make your own with this step-by-step guide. The challenge is keeping them in once piece, once they’re found.

GOODIES

Love beauty products but not the plastic packaging? Mokosh do, too. We’ve got five gorgeous starter packs to give away, which are organic, preservative-free, and plastic-free. 

» email your details to enter.

» Home page: www.slowmagazine.com.au




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Walk Sew Good

Promoting sustainable fashion

Walk Sew Good: Walking across Asia for Sustainable Fashion

“Meet Gabrielle Murphy. She’s the co-founder of a project called Walk Sew Good. Their goal is to walk across South East Asia learning about sustainable and ethical fashion from the farmers, seamstresses, designers and workers on the frontline.”

» You can follow their blog on www.walksewgood.com

» Follow on www.facebook.com/walksewgood

Article in Naked Magazine



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In Melbourne, 1,500 people gathered on 31 March 2017 to listen to Danny Kennedy along with other key note speakers. Photo by Julian Meehan


Danny Kennedy

Danny Kennedy is “an advocate for sunshine online” and a climate solutions seeker, cofounder of Sungevity and Powerhouse, and the managing director of the California Clean Energy Fund. This is what he told The Sustainable Hour on 5 April 2017 (as he was on his way back to California):

Transcript of this interview with Danny Kennedy in The Sustainable Hour:

“My background is really sort of an energy geek from way back, working on climate issues for decades now, and in the most recent decade or so, I’ve been an entrepreneur in America starting solar companies and now running a fund called the California Clean Energy Fund which is a fund that supports start-ups to succeed in the clean energy space. We have a network of incubators and accelerators around the world. We also have a $24 million dollar fund that I manage that goes to small early stage companies as investments.

So I came to Australia because I’m an Aussie and read about and heard about the Adani issue and was sort of outraged that we’d be going backwards so far and fast in pursuit of this one crazy megamine which I think is a very bad business opportunity in the first instance, but obviously also a kind of crime in terms of the carbon potential and the pollution – and the impact on the traditional owners who oppose it, and so on.

I feel like in my lifetime, one of the great moves that Australia has made is to somewhat respect native title and aboriginal land owners, and to hear that they are trying to gesump that native title through a change to the Native Title Act for this, is sort of one of the last straws – but also, to be honest, I think the idea that you’re saying government would consider giving a billion dollars – taxpayer dollars – to this mine proposal as a free gift, basically, is an outrage in this day and age.

I mean, the truth is the coal industry is crashing. It has had over a century of subsidies from government, mostly in the externalisation of its true cost, like the air quality impacts it creates, and the climate change that it causes. But to imagine that we also give it free cash out of the Australian taxpayer’s pocket is ridiculous when there are so many better investments that the Australian government COULD be making than this.

So that’s why I came – and where I come from. I’m involved in Energy Lab Australia, an incubator in Sydney trying to start start-ups here in Australia in the energy space. You know, I’m a big believer… The transition the world is going through away from dirty energy towards clean is actually a huge economic moments for us and there’s lots of jobs and value to be created, but Australia seems to be resisting all that and sort of going back to the past with the pursuit of coal at all costs. Even though coal is a capital intense, not very labour intense, and even though it would blow our diplomatic commitments to Paris, our moral commitment to our children, because of the climate change it will create.”

What is your advice to us Australians? You are going back to America now, but what’s your advice to us, and what are you going to do about it yourself when you are back in America?

“I will try and keep up the pressure, the same way as I’d advice your listeners to let financiers know about what a doon-doggle this is. In Australia in particular I think right now getting Westpac to show that they won’t finance the last possible leg standing for domestic finance of scale.

NAB, National Australia Bank, has already said clearly a no. And Commonwealth Bank and ANZ seem disinclined to do anything with this mine. We need to get Westpac out of it.

So I think that is the first thing to do. If your listeners have accounts with Westpac, they should go in and talk to their branch manager about it, they should let them know. They should go to the StopAdani website for recourses, to join a group and get involved, maintaining and building pressure on Westpac.

And then I also think they should stay in touch with the Stop Adani campaign and see what other political and financial leverage there are. I do think that financial leverage is where this thing will get killed. I mean it when I say that this thing is very uninvestable. As someone who does this now as a job, investing in energy start-ups, I can assure you coal markets are pretty grim.

Right now, new coal mines are particularly hard to finance. You can look at Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance website today for a story about just how difficult the funding for a thermal coal plant is. For Adani to add 60 million tonnes [of coal] a year, or even 25 million tonnes a year, would just create more of a glutch on the market and reduce the profitability further. Already most of these mines are running near a loss.

One of the political impacts that Australia has to watch out for – the Law of Unintented Consequences – is that if they open Adani in Queensland and start exporting tens of millions of tonnes of thermal coal from north in Queensland, the New South Wales coal mines would be very badly inpacted. I think you will see a lot of job losses in the Hunter, and that’s sort of a crazy Faustian bargain to close down existing jobs and existing mines that we are trying to just phase out gradually, and then instead open a new one which is probably going to become a stranded asset if it were to begin – I don’t think it will ever it’s life.

That’s what I talked about [in Melbourne] on Friday: the fact that the Indian government is also pursuing a phase out of coal. Just like the United Kingdom, the United States, China and most major economies have done. The first stage of that phase is to shift to domestic supply of coal, and in India there’s a lot of coal and it’s actually much cheaper to produce that the Adani coal which is to be exported to India.

The Indian minister for power, Piyush Goyal, is on the records for saying they want to stop import of coal within three years, and meanwhile they have a thing they call the National Solar Mission which is massively building up solar in the country. They have already built 10 gigawatts in three years from a standing start – and they intend to build 100 gigawatts over the next five years, by 2022. And 100 gigawatts is like a 100 large scale coal thermal plants – it doesn’t have the same capacity factor but that’s a detail, I think your listeners can understand it is a massive build-out on foot in India of clean energy, and wind also as well as solar.

Meanwhile they are intentionally trying to get rid of coal in the mix because they have the same air quality issues that China has suffered. And the cost and variability and riskiness of the supply of coal and places like Adani are simply too great. It’s better to do it with clean energy. So I think it’s a bad bet. It is likely to not be built out, and if it begins, then anyone invested is likely to face not making their money back, and that includes the Australian taxpayer who has been asked to subsidise it with a billion dollars.”     [ENDS]


Danny Kennedy at TEDxSydney in 2013

» Information about Danny Kennedy on www.wikipedia.org

https://twitter.com/dannyksfun/status/848052789209055233




Stop the coal mines – stop Adani

Help lawyers take the first climate change case to the High Court

“You care about the Reef. You care about the future. We urgently need your help to take climate change to the High Court. Represented by the experienced non-profit lawyers at Environmental Defenders Office Queensland, we’re going to the High Court to ask it to hear arguments about the climate change impacts of coal mines for the very first time.”
~ June Norman, Coast and Country member, and Queensland grandmother


For the first time in history, Australians have the opportunity to take climate change arguments to our country’s highest court.

The campaign started on 30 March and will end on 29 April 2017. On 4 April 2017, 388 supporters had so far raised $27,742 of the $60,000 target – with 25 days left.

» Chip in – on www.chuffed.org

June Norman elaborates:
“It’s taken us years to get to this point. And we can’t do it without your urgent support, as our funds have been exhausted. Our application for special leave has been filed with the High Court to appeal the Court of Appeal decision with respect to the climate change impacts of the Alpha coal mine.

If we win, it will confirm that decision-makers in Queensland have to consider the environmental harm from large coal mines on our climate and the Reef. Please, help us take Australia’s first climate case to the High Court by making a tax-deductible donation to EDO Qld today.

Your donation goes to Environmental Defenders Office Queensland, not to us. If your generous donations exceed the funds needed for this case, they will go towards the other climate legal work of EDO Qld. As a community legal centre, you’ll get the most from every dollar you donate.”

“All around the world courts are accepting science, and overturning government inaction on climate change. But legal actions are time consuming and costly. Without your urgent support this case cannot continue.”
~ Sean Ryan, Principal Solicitor of Environmental Defenders Office Queensland

» See more and chip in on www.chuffed.org






“It beggars belief that at the height of Cyclone Debbie, the Queensland government handed over a licence for Adani to take an unlimited amount of water until 2077. The land of droughts and flooding rains has been laid to waste by politicians for coal.”
Holly Creenaune, Dulwich Hill – in Sydney Morning Herald

“Unfortunately, your government puts greed, environmental degradation and politics above your best interests. The news that the Adani company will have unfettered access to groundwater has just been the last straw.”
Lee-Ann Groblicka, Turramurra – in Sydney Morning Herald


Australian government’s case for coal sales to India collapses

The Australian government’s case for coal sales to India collapses as Adani’s plans for low quality exports are exposed

As India intensifies efforts to boost renewable energy, the Australian Government’s case for it being an economic and moral destination for Queensland coal is falling apart.

Along with vast sums of taxpayer money being handed to Indian energy giant Adani being bound for tax havens, the Government talking point about Australian coal being the ethical choice for India as it is less polluting than other sources has collapsed with the news that Adani plans to send poor-quality high-ash coal to India while exporting the marginally less polluting variety to better markets in Asia.

» ABC News – 3 April 2017:
Adani plans to export low quality, high ash coal to India, court told


The world’s biggest coal exporter has a problem. Demand for the dirtiest fuel is on the wane. The International Energy Agency — which has tended to overestimate coal production, and underestimate renewables — doesn’t expect consumption to regain its 2014 levels until 2021. Investment in new mines is “drying up,” according to its latest market forecast.


» Bloomberg – 2 April 2017:
Coal’s Dirty Secret




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Energy and climate discussed in ABC’s Q&A

Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was guest in Q&A on ABC on 3 April 2017. Among other things, she raised the issue of climate change. She said:

“Climate change is actually real. It’s happening … We’re seeing unprecedented numbers of refugees as it is; we will have to add to that climate refugees. So I don’t think any of us can back out of this discussion. This is a real issue and no one can solve this alone. But every country can play its part.”


Asked by Q&A host Tony Jones whether she was making an argument against coal, Thorning-Schmidt replied: “Renewable energy is not coal.”

Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi Nobel peace laureate and micro-financing pioneer, echoed Thorning-Schmidt when he said Australia’s transition from fossil fuels depended on “the strength of the commitment” to renewables.

“That determines everything else. If you’re not quite sure how far we want to go, how quickly we want to go, then we’ll never get there. It has to be very clear this is what we’ll do: we’ll forget about fossil fuels and everything else.”

Once the objective was clear, he said, the necessary technology would follow, pointing to the uptake of solar energy in Bangladesh.

» The Guardian – 4 April 2017:
We can’t be Denmark: Josh Frydenberg plays down wind energy potential on Q&A
“Energy minister says Australia’s remoteness means it cannot match European countries yet in producing electricity from renewables.” Article by Elle Hunt



Comments in Q&A’s Facebook-thread

“We saw it right here on the panel – the issue is political will more than anything technological and the two major parties both lack political will”
Josh McGee

“And vision, and intelligence, and courage, and unity, and integrity, and loyalty, and conviction, and integrity, and ….”
Dona Eaton

“Regardless of whether you believe climate change or not, we are entering a period where a number of our existing power generators need replacing. The cost of renewables are almost equal or even cheaper than the cost of building a new coal or gas fires power station. Coal is old technology and there is no such thing as clean coal.”
Thomas Wheeler



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 ADDITIONALLY: 

In other news

From our notes of this week: news stories and events we didn’t have time to mention but which we think you should know about






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Acknowledgement

We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the environment and with the climate for hundreds of generations. It is not clear – yet – that as European settlers we have demonstrated that we can live in harmony for hundreds of generations, but it is clear that we can learn from the indigenous, traditional owners of this land.

When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that…



The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore climate change are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How utterly disgusting, disrespectful and unfair is that?




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“Participation – that’s what’s gonna save the human race.”
Pete Seeger, American singer




One comment

  1. Rapid change is necessary for a safe climate future. If it is cheaper to use renewable energy people will adopt it. The more renewable energy is adopted the cheaper it becomes. Municipalities like Noosa, Byron Bay & Nillumbik are working to emit zero carbon emissions within 10 years. Politicians will act if they see their constituents choosing RE. Al Gore’s TED talk Feb. 2016 explains how the necessary speedy change could happen with the business opportunities RE offers. 

    Marguerite Marshall

Comments