From grassroots with vision to global visibility

The Sustainable Hour no 347

Our two guests in The Tunnel on 30 December 2020 are involved in a grassroots group that started out in Adelaide in 2013. Since then, it has grown to such an extent that it has projects all over the country. It is called CORENA, which stands for Citizen-Owned Renewable Energy Network Australia.

Margaret Hender, who founded CORENA, has recently passed on the chair-baton to Briony O’Shea. Briony has accepted this very enthusiastically and outlines what CORENA will do under her leadership. They will continue to look for grassroots projects that will result in carbon emissions being reduced. A particularly exciting new area for them will be helping people get off gas. One of their projects almost ready to go is a collaboration with the Geelong Bowls Club which is very close to reaching its target. You can find out more about this at

Our attention then shifts to Margaret Hender who, as well as founding CORENA, co-founded the Climate Emergency Declaration petition and mobilisation – and Cedamia. We learn how something that started out in Australia in 2016 has grown to an international movement where almost 2,000 local governments authorities in 33 countries have declared a climate emergency.

The number of Aussies who live in local jurisdictions that have declared a climate emergency now exceeds 35 per cent of the population – a number that must make our elected representatives at state and federal parliaments realise just how out of touch they are with the people they are elected to represent.

We also learn how Margaret has maintained the list of all the climate emergency declarations, but isn’t confident that she has all of them, especially in non-English speaking countries. She outlines her plans for making these figures more reliable.

“Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back – and it is already doing so with growing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes. Human activities are at the root of our descent towards chaos. BUT that means that human action can help to solve it.”
~ Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

In this our last podcast for 2020, Colin Mockett‘s Global Outlook starts out with this powerful quote from Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. He then wraps up the global year with a couple of alarming facts, including the number of extreme weather events that caused more than $1 billion in damage, and the number of billionaires now in the world. He then takes us to California where there’s better news. Their government has taken an example from Germany in an attempt to create more demand for green energy. Finally for today and for 2020, Colin gives us the World Climate Watch ranking of countries in terms of their climate action and laws. Unfortunately no surprises as to where Australia appears on that ranking of 61 countries.

It’s all part of our Truth-Telling-approach, but rest assured that we at The Sustainable Hour will be doing all that we can in the new year to improve Australia’s embarrassing world ranking.

Along the way, Mik gives a couple of recommendations for films that he has seen recently: ‘I am Greta’ and ‘The Midnight Sky’.

What a satisfying way to end 2020, a year like no other. We are so fortunate to talk to positive, determined and dedicated people like Briony and Margaret each and every week. And this is something we look forward to doing again in 2021 as we round in on show #350.

We hope you have all gained from listening to our inspirational guests for yet another year. Keep sending suggestions for interesting people to interview or projects to cover.

In 2021 we will continue to work tirelessly for a safer, more just, inclusive and healthy world, and we wish you, our listeners, a happy passage into the New Year and a year full of good health, love and enlightenment.

“Everybody is different, everybody has different interests, different capabilities, different things they are comfortable with. If people have the time, the capability, the willingness to go to talk to their MPs, they should do that, yes. If they aren’t, there are other things they can do. Everyone knows what they can do to reduce their own carbon footprint. Talking about what they are doing is important – this gives visibility to their actions. If people have the personality to join campaigns, or go out onto the streets and do civil disobedience they should do so. There is no one thing. We need people doing all of them.”
~ Margaret Hender, co-founder of Cedamia, founder of CORENA

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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 land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millenia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceeded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. 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…

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”

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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Tarremah Steiner School in Tasmania

Helping organisations shift away from gas and petrol

Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA) has expanded the range of eligible projects for which they offer interest-free loans to not-for-profit organisations for the purpose of reducing their carbon emissions. 

In addition to rooftop solar installations and energy efficiency measures, CORENA will now also assist non-profits to reduce their emissions by replacing gas appliances with efficient electric alternatives, and by replacing fossil fuel vehicles with EVs. 

CORENA, founded in 2013 and run almost entirely by volunteers, operates Australia’s longest running donor-driven revolving fund for practical climate action. Anyone can donate via the CORENA website to collectively fund the loans for these projects. These donations are then returned to the revolving fund in the form of loan repayments, and these repayments are then used again, in conjunction with new donations, to fund future emissions reduction projects.

CORENA has an impressive track record of practical climate action by funding projects which would otherwise not happen. To date $808,615 in interest-free loans has financed a total of 42 climate projects, with fundraising underway to provide an interest-free loan to a 43rd project. Collectively these projects have avoided an estimated 1,822.5 MWh of grid electricity.

Applications for new loans are very welcome. Anyone can nominate not-for-profit organisations to receive an interest-free loan to reduce their carbon emissions, plus anyone can make a donation, via the CORENA website

The savings resulting from projects will usually repay the loan in 4 to 6 years, and from that point onward the organisation begins reaping the financial benefits. But everyone benefits immediately from the reduction in carbon emissions.

CORENA’s Chair, Briony O’Shea, was excited to announce the new project criteria, “previously CORENA focused on solar installations and energy efficiency measures” she said. “However, recognising the climate impact of emissions from fossil gas and the transport sector, we now also offer interest-free loans to replace gas appliances with efficient electric alternatives as well as replacing fossil fueled vehicles with electric vehicles”.

Some of the 42 projects that CORENA has previously provided interest-free loans for include:

  1. Gawler Community House, South Australia
    • 10 Kw rooftop solar installation and replacing inefficient lighting with energy efficiency LEDs (installed 2014)
    • The $17,560 loan was repaid in 3 years, with that money being used repeatedly in subsequent project loans. To date that money has paid for carbon reduction measures costing a total of $64,755
    • Has avoided a total of 102 MWh of grid electricity to date at Gawler Community House and subsequent projects
    • See
  1. Yackandandah Health, Victoria
    • Replacing inefficient lighting with energy efficient LEDs (installed 2016)
    • The $20,000 loan was repaid in 4 years, with that money being used repeatedly in subsequent project loans. To date that money has paid for carbon reduction measures costing a total of $49,697
    • Has avoided 74 MWh of grid electricity to date
    • See
  1. Tarremah Steiner School, Tasmania 
    • 100 KW rooftop solar installation (installed 2020)
    • Has avoided 64.6 MWh of grid electricity to date
    • The $70,000 loan is expected to be repaid in just over 4  years and that money will then be used repeatedly in subsequent project loans to pay for further carbon reduction measures
    • See

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Margaret Hender, Cedamia:

Visibility is key

By Mik Aidt

Two weeks ago, the United Nations asked all the world’s governments to declare a climate emergency and in that spirit get everyone on board to work relentlessly on reaching carbon neutrality. The UN Secretary-General told the 71 world leaders who attended the online Climate Ambition Summit that 38 countries have already declared a climate emergency. I’m not sure where he picked that figure up, because that is not the figure I’m familiar with. So far we have only counted 33 different countries in which a council has declared, and around 10 national governments, which includes, most recently, Japan’s and New Zealand’s governments. Probably what Guterres did was adding the 10 to EU’s 28, totalling 38. Which is… well, not quite the same as 38 countries having declared.

The very reason we can say that there is climate emergency declaration movement is that we have this list – a very long excel spreadsheet – which Philip Sutton started and which Margaret Hender has continued building, keeping track of every new declaration, now adding up to 1,863 councils in 33 countries and numerous universities, schools, businesses, and so on, covering an area of the world where close to one billion people live.

Cedamia was founded and is run by Margaret Hender and Philip Sutton.

In the spirit of New Year and our looking into what we will be advocating for in the year to come, and how we think the Climate Emergency Declaration movement should keep evolving as it keeps growing and going to higher and higher places, in The Sustainable Hour today we talk with Margaret Hender about her views on the topic.

In the coming year, after these first four intense years of campaigning for the Climate Emergency Declaration idea, while worsening reports about climatic and ecosystem collapse keep ticking in, does it still make sense for us as individuals to start taking action at the individual level? Or should we rather be focusing 100% on creating system change and mobilise political protests, while – as a part of that – we call on our governments to declare a climate emergency and begin to act accordingly?

Margaret Hender’s answer is that we need to do both, but that the most important of it all is to create visibility around this and to start talking more about the issue.

Climate emergency new year’s resolution
The new year begins on Friday, and this is the time for making new year’s resolutions for a lot of people. Two years ago, my new year’s resolution was to declare a climate emergency for myself and my family, and act accordingly, and this actually got me started with a lot of new projects on our house, etc.

What would it look like if you declare a climate emergency for yourself or for the people you live together with? When we started the Climate Emergency Declaration petition in 2016, Margaret and I produced this little additional ‘to do’ list – or ‘check list’ – to inspire signatories not only to sign our petition but also take a number of steps more in their private lives:

Eight examples of actions for reducing carbon emissions

• Minimise transport emissions
For example, walk, ride, take public transport, use an electric vehicle, avoid air travel. Instead, use video conferencing, skype for business, etc, whenever possible.

• Put your money into renewable energy
Invest in renewable energy, or donate to community solar projects – see lists of investment and donation opportunities at

• Divest – Move your money out of fossil fuels
For banks see, for superannuation see

• Power your house with clean energy
Install solar if you can, or buy renewables-friendly electricity. Disconnect from gas – see

• Be a conscious consumer
For example, buy only what you need, and buy things that last. Recycle. Upcycle.

• Plant trees
For drawing down excess carbon in the atmosphere. For example Earth DayTrees for Life

• Eat less meat
For example, meat-free days, vegetarian, vegan

• Make your house energy efficient

(from )

I think that list still holds and could be used today, with very few possible modifications.

Along similar lines, a climate activist group I’m working with in Denmark is in the process of producing a series of “Find your role” posters with advice to different groups in society about what they can do and how they can contribute once they have realised that we are in a climate emergency.

The draft version (quickly translated) of the poster for citizens currently looks like this:

#Climateforall #Allforclimate:

The Citizen’s Role

“We are in an ecological and climate emergency which poses the greatest threat in the history of mankind. We have only seen the beginning of the humanitarian catastrophe that the crisis appears to be developing into. For every day where we do not act decisively enough, the need for a breaking hard becomes even greater.

The situation “requires rapid and far-reaching changes without precedent in all sectors of society,” says the UN Climate Panel. None of us can say we are free from responsibility. At the same time, we have so much to gain. This is our chance to create a high quality of life for everyone within the boundaries of the planet.

As citizens, we have both the right and the duty to contribute to shaping the society we want. So when our decision-makers act inadequately on the climate emergency, the responsibility falls back on us. We urge all citizens to follow seven recommendations to contribute to a socially just, rapid and safe transition to a carbon-neutral society.

Recognise the extensive research that documents that we are now in a climate emergency. See the need for rapid and radical societal change, which must be borne by those with the broadest shoulders. Do not wait for others to act. Decide to take your share of responsibility and prioritise the task above everything else.

Eat  plant-based whole foods in season and avoid food waste. Use bicycle, public transport, carpooling or car sharing. Stop using planes, cruise ships and owning a car. Only buy things you really need. Borrow, share, buy used or do without. Buy high quality that lasts a long time. Repair what is broken. Living on fewer square metres. Minimise your energy consumption and buy or produce climate-friendly energy.

Dedicate more time to presence and care for yourself and others. Become an even better friend, colleague, boyfriend, parent or child. Cultivate your interests, develop new talents, seek out new experiences. Explore nature and culture in your area. Expand your horizons, keep learning. Stay curious. Slow down.

Help redefine the values, virtues and images of the future that guide societal development. Acknowledge that growth and increased material prosperity is from here on a privilege for the world’s poorest only. Define your success by what you do for others, your network and the wider community. Explore and support new proposals on how our economy, infrastructure and institutions can be designed to care for the community and the biosphere.

Always vote for the most climate-friendly party. Choose the most climate-conscious newspapers and media, shops and banks. Let the others know why you are dropping those that are not climate-friendly. Make sure that your pension savings and other assets are invested in solving the world’s environmental and climate challenges – and not in climate-damaging business. Work for climate-friendly initiatives in all the communities you are part of: at your workplace, your children’s school, in the sports club and so on.

Engage in community groups and organisations that stand for a climate-friendly society. Band together to pressure all members of society to take on the task. Get involved in the public debate. Participate in demonstrations and use democratic methods including civil disobedience where necessary. Be creative with developing new ways of getting the message out.

Inspire your family, friends and acquaintances to adopt a climate-friendly life. Communicate that the climate emergency and the necessary societal changes are a shared responsibility. Start the vital debate about what a fulfilling sustainable life and society could look like.

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→ Bicol Mail – December 2020:
YOUTH TELLS GOVERNMENT: ‘Declare climate emergency!’
“Everytime a climate disaster renders a place uninhabitable, immediate relocation of residents becomes a priority. But is it the ultimate solution? For youth climate advocates from the region, it isn’t.”

Recommended New Year listening:

The Sustainable Revolution

Dr Mark Carney, outgoing Bank of England governor, argues that the roots of our environmental emergency lie in a deeper crisis of values. He suggests how we can create an ecosystem in which society’s values broaden the market’s conceptions of value. In this way, individual creativity and market dynamism can be channelled to achieve broader social goals including inclusive growth and environmental sustainability.

→ The Reith Lectures on BBC:
From climate crisis to real prosperity

→ Download or listen to the podcast audio file:

Reasons to be hopeful for 2021

Suzie Brown from Australian Parents For Climate Action wrote:

“Here are some reasons to be hopeful!

  1. All Australia’s key trading partners, including the USA and the EU, now have zero net emissions by 2050 targets (with China’s target at 2060) – which puts huge pressure on the Australian government to act. 
  2. The UK just committed to 68% emissions reductions by 2030, Denmark committed to phase out oil and gas exploration and New Zealand will go carbon neutral by 2025.  
  3. All Australian States have zero net emissions targets by 2050 and most have strong renewable energy targets. ACT and Tasmania are already at 100% renewable energy and South Australia is aiming for 500% renewables by 2030!!
  4. The new President of the USA, Joe Biden, has a strong climate action program and he and his team are already getting on with it! 
  5. Big business is rapidly moving out of fossil fuels, for example in January the world’s biggest fund manager, Black Rock, committed to no longer invest in thermal coal.

This coming year will be crucial.”

Counting the cost 2020:
A year of climate breakdown

Extreme weather driven by climate change cost the world billions in 2020 – report

  • Report identifies ten extreme events, influenced by climate change, that each caused $1.5 billion damage or more.
  • Storm Ciara which struck UK and Europe in February cost $2.7 billion and killed 14 people.
  • Floods, windstorms, tropical cyclones and fires killed thousands of people across the globe.

→ ReliefWeb – 28 December 2020:
Counting the cost 2020: A year of climate breakdown
“Ten of those events cost $1.5 billion or more, with nine of them causing damage worth at least $5 billion. Most of these estimates are based only on insured losses, meaning the true financial costs are likely to be higher.” – 27 December 2020:
Hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires make 2020 a record year
“At least 16 weather and climate disasters this year, exceeding $1 billion each.”

→ Catholic News Service – 29 December 2020:
Extreme heat, wildfires, storms marked advance of climate change in 2020
“Extreme global temperatures, wildfires and hurricanes continued to plague the planet during 2020, prompting U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to urge an end to global “war on nature”.”

→ HuffPost – 30 December 2020:
This Year Was A Disaster For The Planet
“From record-breaking bushfires to devastating hurricanes, human-driven climate change keeps killing us.”

Before its too late

‘The Midnight Sky’ was the most seen film on Netflix in Australia this weekend. Directed by George Clooney, who isn’t in a good mood, when he thinks about escalating climate emergency and what we humans are doing to our little blue planet. We are in 2049, and 2049, and most of the Earth’s population has been wiped out. We are not told why exactly, but when you look at the Earth from space, it looks very much like Australia last summer:  brown hazy smoke every where.

But hey, why is a “we-are-all-doomed” movie like The Midnight Sky suddenly the most viewed Netflix movie in Australia?

The Independent – 30 December 2020:
Australia and India among major polluters set to miss deadline for submitting tougher climate targets
“Australia, Indonesia and India are among major greenhouse gas emitters set to miss a key deadline for strengthening their efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Almost all countries are required to submit tougher climate plans by the end of 2020 under the Paris Agreement.”

New Year – New Decade:

The United Nations has declared 2021 to 2030 as the decade on ecosystem restoration”.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2021–2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (hereafter the Decade), following a proposal for action by over 70 countries from all latitudes. The Decade positions the restoration of ecosystems as a major naturebased solution towards meeting a wide range of global development goals and national priorities.

So the UN wants to“unite the world behind a common goal of preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. Forests, grasslands, croplands, wetlands, savannahs, and other terrestrial to inland water ecosystems, marine and coastal ecosystems and urban environments—all of them are in dire need of some level of protection and restoration.”

“Restoration is a monumental task. Over the next ten years, every action counts. Every single day. Every country, company, organization, and individual has a role to play. Read the UN Decade strategy and its summary to learn more about recommended actions.”

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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.



List of petitions where you could add your name

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Live-streaming on pause


The Sustainable Hour is normally streamed live on the Internet every Wednesday from 11am to 12pm (Melbourne time), but due to the corona lockdown, the radio station has been closed.

» To listen to the program on your computer or phone, click here – or go to where you then click on ‘Listen Live’ on the right.

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