Informed informal discussions with involved people

Next meeting: Tuesday 11 February, 6.30 for 7pm

at The Royal Oak, 36 College Street, Balmain (NEW VENUE!)

Gas - our growing greenhouse sector

In the last decade, Australia's gas mining industry has expanded enormously - and so has its emissions of the dangerous greenhouse gas methane. "Fugitive emissions" - or leaks - happen when we extract gas, offshore, onshore or through fracking, and now this is Australia's fastest growing carbon pollution sector. And that's without counting the emissions when the gas is burnt, mostly overseas.

Coal seam gas fracking is also a disaster for water, country and health on Aboriginal-owned land, especially in the Northern Territory.

At our first meeting in a new venue, Climate in the Pub will hear from two warriors in the struggle against fracking in the NT: young Indigenous climate campaigner Phil Winzer and Lock the Gate's Naomi Hogan.

Climate in the Pub will be held in Balmain, on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.



PREVIOUS MEETINGS . . . 


Climate at the Barbecue: how to persuade doubters without losing friends (Dec 2019)

 Many people are still uncertain about climate change: maybe they aren't sure what coal has to do with it all, or perhaps they  doubt that what we do in Australia will make any difference. How can we talk to those people without getting hot and bothered?

 CCBR supporters Jacqui Wagar and Andrea Debenham both attended a training program led by Al Gore in Brisbane earlier this year. They got some great advice on how to talk with people who are either uninterested or in denial about climate change, and they'll be sharing that advice at our December Climate in the Pub.Come along to the Merton Hotel, have a Christmas drink with us, and hear from Jacqui and Andrea on how to talk about climate change.


Beating their Barriers: Solar for houses, units, rentals (October 2019)

beating their barriers

 How to solve Inner West's low rooftop solar uptake

If you thought living in an apartment or rental accommodation or owning a small or partly-shaded roof ruled you out for rooftop solar power think again.

Mike Roberts from UNSW's Centre for Energy and Environment Markets and Gavin Gilchrist from Inner West Community Energy have some new ideas which might help the Inner West residents overcome their unenviable title as the nation's laggards in uptake of rooftop solar.

Mike's most recent research project deals with Photovoltaics on Aparment Buildings. He says It is not that Inner West residents don't want solar, they face more difficulties. <see Mike's presentation here>

For apartment-owners, regulatory and body corporate nightmares have been at the heart of low solar uptake. Mike Roberts says that does not make solar impossible.

Solar for common-areas only, particularly in apartments with power-hungry lifts, pools or car parks, can bring down strata charges without creating a body corporate meltdown. Solar is also particularly effective in older-style low-rise apartments where roof-space per apartment is large and complications of roof-top air-con, abseiling points for window-washers and countless other obstructions are not an issue.

With the cost of solar having dropped so much now is the time for apartment-dwellers to start to think again about ambitious projects such as whole-of-building solar. If that sounds daunting there are a growing number of sources of independent advice to turn to.

Inner West Community Energy (IWCE) is one such group. Since the not-for-profit started two years ago it has helped install 43 systems worth more than $350,000. It is starting with the easy projects - for home-owners - but has its finger on the pulse with others in the industry.

IWCE founder Gavin Gilchrist says there are now solutions for many of the issues that have plagued Inner West homeowners earlier attempts to install solar. One example is shading of rooves by chimneys or trees. That might not sound like much of a problem but until recently the output of an array of solar panels was dictated by the output of its poorest performing unit. Now micro-inverters are available for each solar panel meaning one small shadow no longer puts your rooftop generation out of action.

Organisations such as IWCE have expertise in assessing technology, installers and in local conditions.  In its first two years, the group has assisted 43 households with solar rooftop installations. But with fewer than 10% of more than 20,000 private houses (excluding apartment blocks) in the Inner West having solar, Gavin points out there is a long way to go. 


Winning at Green Electricity (August 2019)

winning at green electricity

This month's Climate in the Pub heard an insider's account of the reasons for wins and losses for companies delivering cleaner, utility-scale electricity from far flung places.

Liam Reid, a Balmain local, has almost two decades experience designing renewable and thermal energy generation across Australia. Even in the early days, when renewables were so much more expensive, profit was possible. Paradoxically, today, with cheaper renewables willingness to invest can be weaker than you might imagine.

It all comes down to government policy and a couple of maxims, according to Liam. An early and successful venture was the Walkaway wind farm near Geraldton, which is still supplying Alinta energy with clean power. It lives up to Liam's maxim: 'location is everything'. Situated in an area so windy that the trees are bent into permanently horizontal shapes by the trade winds, Walkaway has been making a profit since the mid-2000s.

However, two other innovative projects struggled due to government policy. The Pinjarra co-generation gas turbine near Manjura, south of Perth, was cutting-edge when it opened in 2006 in an environment of stable gas prices. When government failure to secure gas for the local market led to a more than tripling of the gas price, Pinjarra suffered. The technology produced lower-emissions than many other plant but the gas price made it unprofitable, resulting in a significant period of shutdown. 'Gas Prices matter' is another of Liam's maxims.

But it is not just gas prices that can stymie good projects. In South Australia, an imaginative pumped hydro project making use of the abandoned pit created by one of the state's oldest iron ore mines - the Iron Duchess mine near Whyalla - is struggling to make its business case, despite being a largely renewable method of filling the demand for power when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining.

The plan was simple: store water in dams in Death Adder Gully high above the Iron Duchess pit. When electricity prices were high because South Australia's famed wind and solar plant weren't productive, power would be produced by running the water down through a set of turbines. When the sun was shining and the wind was blowing so power was cheap, the water would be pumped back up to Death Adder Gully to await the next spike in prices. It all depended on the gap in prices to create profit and continuity in renewable power.

But investors had not reckoned with government interference in the market. State government subsidies for home battery storage and federal government subsidies for a huge new transmission line from Victoria have reduced the volatility of power prices, challenging the Iron Duchess pumped hydro project's business model. Renewables may be a no-brainer, but they can require big money; money that does not always find an easy path to successful investment.


 Where to now? (June 2019)

If you are feeling despondent after the elections - both state and federal - this month's Climate in the Pub had something of an antidote, with offerings for both fun and action.

The message from Lock the Gate's inimitable Nic Clyde and the NSW Nature Conservation Council's thoughtful Brad Smith is that there is hope and openings for impactful action particularly at the state level. 

Brad pointed out that with climate concerns leading to the loss of 2 state seats (Lismore and Coogee) and a slim 2-seat majority, the Coalition is aware of its vulnerability. A promise of zero emissions by 2050 and a faster transition to renewables may not be everything we sought but it is a good starting place to hold the state government to account.  Another option is more focus on finding ways for coal communities to make a just and successful transition to new jobs and supporting them to do so.

Nic Clyde was in furious agreement suggesting people might want start by spending a weekend in the stunningly beautiful Bylong Valley in the Hunter 6-7 July when the community and Lock-the-Gate are hosting a weekend festival - what better place to see the new film 2040, hear Aria-award winning guitarist Sara Storer in concert and get a horses-mouth update on coal developments. 

With over 120,000 supporters nationwide - many of whom are on the frontline of drought, fossil fuel-development and loss of valuable agricultural land - Lock the Gate has a unique perspective. Nationally, its top priority is the campaign against a 'carbon bomb on the scale of the Galilee Basin' - the plan for fracking in the Northern Territory. Any kind of support you can give is welcome, he said.

In NSW, Lock the Gate is prioritising stopping five new or expanded coal mines and the Narrabri gas project. Nic said the recent court decision to disallow the Rocky Hill mine is delaying other new approvals, giving the climate movement room to move. 

"I don't think we should have all the answers yet. We still need to do some thinking," Brad Smith said of the federal election. Clearly, whatever we do, putting people and heart into our campaigns is important. Nic talked of a moving visit to the Hunter Valley by Applachian coal miners whose jobs and communities were decimated by a rapid, unplanned shutdown of coal.  Thinking and solidarity is needed to bring Australian coal communities into the post-coal world.

Another priority is unblocking electricity network log jams that are holding back the development of renewable energy zones in regional areas rich in sun and wind. Great to see that AEMO is already on to this but more public awareness is needed.

Big thanks also to inspiring locals Jacqui Wagar and Andrea who took part in last week's  Climate Leadership Training sessions in Brisbane, led by former US Vice President Al Gore. Jacqui and Andrea gave us a great insight into the sessions and the energy they generated. Watch this space for their future activities.

If you are keen to be involved in the discussion of post-election directions for Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle, please come to our next Climate Meet Up on Wednesday July 10th



Paris in a canter: really?  (April 2019)

26% reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030? 50%? 63% by 2040? Where do these numbers come from, and why are they subject to so many claims and counterclaims? With only a modicum of pie-charts and graphs, Mark Diesendorf cut through the confusion. Starting with a breakdown of the sectors that produce emissions he showed that electricity generation is the biggest single source (currently around 35%) but together with other industrial uses of energy, the share goes up considerably. It's going to be much easier to reduce emissions from electricity generation than from other sources, so the slow but steady shift to renewable energy is a hollow victory. In fact, achieving 100% renewable sources for electricity alone by 2030 would not deliver Labor's emissions targets.

Diesendorf listed the wider approach that is needed to reduce emissions across the board: developing nano-energy industrial processes (currently Australia is a very inefficient user of energy); new chemical processes for concrete; zero GHG liquid and gaseous fuels such as hydrogen or ammonia for transport; ending deforestation and increasing reforestation. As for policy instruments to move towards these, he listed economic, legal and institutional change, planning of cities, transport and key industries, and targets for energy efficiency. These types of idea were not those that would come from a Liberal National Party coalition that had abandoned the National Energy Guarantee.

Diesendorf also explained the approach taken by the coalition government: 2005 was chosen as a reference year because emissions were unusually high: net emissions fell for several years because of a dramatic reduction in land clearing (leaving forests standing that you had planned to clear being counted as much the same thing as planting forests, providing trees to remove carbon dioxide from the air year after year, which is similar to not putting it there in the first place). Emissions also fell during and after the global financial crisis, and then again during the two years of the price on carbon. Not in the last 6 years though.

Missed this talk? Want to learn more? Mark Diesendorf referred to his recent book Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change.


 


Getting to Green - Transport Solutions for Climate Change (Feb 2019)

 Greg Bourne outlined his background - going back to a spell in the UK as Margaret Thatcher's advisor on Energy and Transport, and many years with BP in various countries, before moving on to become CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, and more recently Chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Authority.

His presentation outlined the recent report on transport that he co-authored for the Climate Council. He explained that the transport sector contributes 14% of total global greenhouse gas pollution annually, and Australia's transport related greenhouse gas pollution levels increased 3.4% in the year to December 2017. Nearly 9 out of 10 Australians travel to work, school or university by car for at least part of their journey. Congestion in Australia costs the economy more than $16 billion per year. 

Australia is one of just a handful of OECD countries without greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles, and lacks credible national policy to tackle transport emissions.

The Climate Council's report recommends establishing mode shift targets for public transport, cycling and walking, and ensuring that at least 50% of all Federal, State and Territory Government transport infrastructure spending is directed to public and active (e.g. walking and cycling) transport.

Federal, State and Territory governments should introduce targets to drive uptake of electric buses, trucks, cars and bicycles powered by renewables. Electric vehicle targets should be established for specific sectors and government operations. Federal, State and Territory governments to encourage the rollout of 100% renewable powered electric vehicle charging, particularly in regional areas and interstate routes.

 Waiting for the Green Light - Transport Solutions to Climate Change.

100% Renewables: how can NSW quit coal? (December 2018)

 A record crowd heard what we need to make the transition not only technically achievable, but ethical and economical.

George Woods, state co-ordinator for Lock the Gate, lives in Newcastle, the world's largest export coal port. She gave us a sense of the scale of coal mining in the Hunter Valley - it's far bigger than the Adani mine proposal, it owns 25% of the land in the Valley, it's greatly increased production in the last 8 years, and its 35 coal mines support above average wages for miners and their families.

 Of global greenhouse gas emissions, 1.1% comes from NSW coal.

While we should campaign vigorously against the 11 new projects - like that in the Bylong Valley (part of the Hunter Catchment) - we must also start now on the transition for communities economically dependent on mining, including for export.

This theme was taken up by Peter Sheldon, of UNSW Business School, co-author of The Ruhr or Appalachia? Deciding the future of Australia's coal power workers and communities.

To avoid the social collapse that goes with high unemployment requires a properly planned process. Peter urged we follow best examples from overseas, like the transition in Germany's Ruhr region that employed half a million people in the coal and steel industries.

 Among his proposals:

·        Government sets up a Just Transition Authority

·        government, owners and workers cooperate in the planning process

·        solutions are specific to the area and communities involved.

For the best results, we will need to invest in infrastructure, enhance strengths and overcome weaknesses of regions, and encourage developing industry clusters, for example in remediation, waste management and/or industrial design.

The overview of technology by Nicky Ison (Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS, Community Power Agency) gave some clues about opportunities. NSW coal-fired power stations are ageing and becoming more unreliable, with 5 slated to close by 2035. 

We will need a diversity of technology and geography to support our abundant wind and solar resources. Batteries can supply power in milliseconds, concentrating solar thermal plants can feed power overnight, while pumped hydro can fill in gaps for a few days or a week at a time.

A different economic paradigm will use smart technology to improve energy efficiency and manage demand, and will involve decentralised, distributed power with poles and wires going only where we need them. 

 


Super at risk - your money and climate change. (October 2018)

We heard first the global financial picture from Tim Buckley: he gave us quite a bit of good news: many major coal-using countries are already well on the way to turning against coal and towards absolutely huge investments in solar and wind.

That's not the story the coal industry, the federal and NSW governments and the Murdoch press want you to hear.

Tim has 25 years experience in investment management and has spent the last ten years studying energy markets.

He told us that in China, 85% of previously proposed coal generation has been terminated.

That's because large-scale solar and wind are now cheaper than new coal plants.

In the United States, he said there was 500,000 megawatts (Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley is a bit over 2000MW) of new electricity generation capacity on the drawing boards. As at the end of last year, of the billions of dollars staked for investment in energy, none of it was for coal. "Not one dollar of investment is going into the coal industry," he said.

And in India, the price of new large-scale solar plants has dropped 50% in the past two years, and it's now 15% cheaper to build solar than new coal-fired generation.

He said in the past five months, nine Indian coal-fired power stations had been closed down, and the 10th closed last Saturday.

Tim is the Director Energy & Finance Australasia for The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). There's a lot more detail on their website.

Following on, our second speaker Kirstin Hunter, MD of Future Super, joined the dots leading to one of the world's largest agglomeration of funds: Australian superannuation investment, which totals 2.7 trillion dollars. Yes that's trillions.

A small percentage of this, directed towards renewable energy projects, wuld be enough to fund Australia's transition to 100% renewable energy. But most super companies - even those with so-called ethical funds - have at least some investment in fossil fuels. Kirsten noted that non-fossil fuel investments were now providing consistently higher returns than those exposed to coal and oil: an unsurprising result given the view provided by Tim Buckley.

A quick visit to Market Forces' SuperSwitch website (where you can check out your own superannuation fund) will confirm that Future Super has 0% funds in fossil fuels.



Save Money, save Energy, save Emissions (August 2018)

 The well-attended August Climate in the Pub meeting was packed with information. With a bewildering proliferation of bodies offering to advise individual households on more sustainable habits, the three main speakers were very helpful in explaining what's on offer.
Emma Daniell, Senior Engagement Officer from Inner West Council's Green Living Centre explained that the Centre runs information sessions and workshops on sustainable living: everything from assessing your property's potential for solar power, to making door snakes. The Centre will have a strong presence at the Footprints EcoFestival at Whites Creek Valley Park on August 26.

There was more on solar power at the end of the evening, when Gavin Gilchrist from Inner West Community Energy briefly explained his group's mission to increase the usage of solar energy in our area, which has fallen behind many other Sydney suburbs. The group provides free independent assessments, and can be contacted through their website .

The main speaker of the evening was Anna Moltchanski from Our Energy Future , an initiative of the South Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils. Anna presented a pie chart showing where the most energy is used in the average household, followed by three steps for reducing energy bills.

  • Number one was to spend less on hot water through more efficient hot water services and using a timer to ensure 4-minute showers.
  • Number two was to tackle heating and cooling: surprisingly, reverse cycle air conditioning is the cheapest form of heating.
  • Finally, she suggested some realistic strategies for using more efficient lighting and turning off wasteful stand-by power.
Anna offered an inspiring list of suggestions, such as sealing door and window gaps, efficient curtains and budget alternatives to double glazing. A lively question and answer session ensued, with Anna revealing an extensive knowledge of the subject and a wealth of practical solutions.

 


Can we sue? Climate change and the law (June 2018)

can we sueAround the world, communities, governments and corporations are facing each other in a growing number of court actions: demanding more action on climate change, seeking redress for the costs of climate change, alleging deceit or negligence, or conversely, seeking to overturn climate change legislation.

Speakers: Rosemary Lyster is the Professor of Climate and Environmental Law in the University of Sydney Law School. Her published work includes Climate Justice and Disaster Law. Tim Stephens is Professor of International Law and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Sydney. He is President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law.


Farmer in the Pub (April 2018)

A record crowd at the 3 Weeds in April heard that for climate change, agriculture is a big part of the problem - but with the right management can also contribute solutions. Worldwide, agriculture currently produces around 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, the figure is about 13%, and rising, with beef cattle production responsible for half of that.

While soil scientist and strategist Alison Smith analysed the future of food and its impacts on the climate, farmer Rebecca Gorman spoke of her methods to make change through holistic management of her cattle property. Rebecca is a member of the inspirational body Farmers for Climate Action, a group that has grown rapidly to become a strong advocate for policy action.

Alison, a former Manager of Future Directions at the Queensland Department of Environment & Resources, reported that, with a global population of 10 billion people expected in 2050, many of them expecting to consume more meat, we need to increase food production 3 or 4 times by 2060. In the meantime, many edible crops currently go for animal feed or biofuels.

In Australia, we produce 93% of our own food, and export much more than we produce. But our weak spot, according to the UN Food Security Index, is our resilience. Our most vulnerable crop is wheat, and drought, higher temperatures and changes in rainfall, especially in northern Australia, mean farmers will have to change their practices. Alison suggested strategies like better management of water, grazing land and manure, changed feeding practices, reduced use of nitrogen-based fertilisers, and more energy efficient transport and processing.

Rebecca , a second-generation farmer (and former ABC journalist), is putting some of these into action through the Savory method of holistic management of her beef cattle farm in western NSW. While farmers around Australia are trying many ways to sequester carbon, build biodiversity and improve the health of the water cycle, Rebecca spoke particularly of the importance of keeping 100% ground cover 100% of the time, through close observation and frequent rotation of her herds. On her recommended reading list is Charles Massy's The Call of the Reed Warbler.

Rebecca's group Farmers for Climate Action has grown in the last year from a supporter base of 100 to 30,000. With members  from market gardeners and permaculturalists to broadacre croppers, it advocates to politicians and peak bodies for climate solutions backed by policy development and R & D.

The group is currently convening a task force to develop a vision for rural Australia that is wholly climate positive, an alternative to Matt Canavan's mining-focused Resources 2030. It will call on leading farmers, academics and experts in community development to build a long-term sustainable plan for our rural and regional areas. And yes - they are crowd funding


 The Fight against Fracking

(Feb 2018)

A double header in February, with the screening of The Bentley Blockade - the story of successful opposition to coal seam gas in the Northern Rivers area - followed up in the 3 Weeds a few days later. Speakers from Lock the Gate (Nic Clyde) and 350.org (Glen Klatovsky) brought us up to date.

Conventional gas mining, explained Nic, is tapping an enormous reservoir (such as that under Bass Strait) with a few holes. Unconventional gas mining (in NSW, coal seam gas, or CSG) uses a lot of holes and a huge amount of water to free up gas trapped in rock. In the Pilliga Forest, near Narrabri in northwestern NSW, 850 wells are planned.

These wells, which would be the largest development ever proposed under modern planning, would produce 430,000 tonnes of salt as a result of the extraction process - a mountain of salt one kilometre long.

So, land and water pollution … but what of the greenhouse gas effects? Isn't gas better than dirty coal? Depends how much "fugitive emissions" leak in the extraction process. If the figure tops 3% (and the estimates are between 2 and 17%) the methane emissions mean CSG as an electricity source can be worse than coal.

Glen confirmed that new wind and solar are much cheaper than generation powered by new coal or gas plants. He also stressed that Santos's Narrabri project would be some of the most expensive gas in the country. He spoke of the record number of submissions - 23,000, 98% opposed - received by the Planning Assessment Commission last year. And the opposition by locals, like the 400 who passed the Coonamble Declaration in December.


Progress since Paris: update from the Bonn climate conference 

(December 2017)

Prof Lynne Madden  (Assoc. Dean, School of Medicine, Notre Dame Universityattended COP23 as President of the Australian College of Physicians.

She explained that where Paris had agreed the ambition, the more mundane but vital task at Bonn was to draft the rules by which to achieve it.  Perhaps that's why although 55,000 attended from 100 countries, and it was big news in Europe, it barely got a mention in Australian media.

The location (Bonn) was pragmatic, but Fiji's Presidency ensured focus on developing nations.  A Fijian fishing vessel in a foyer served as constant reminder that we are all in this boat together.

Of particular interest to Prof Madden are the health threats - heat stress, extreme weather, shifting ranges of disease vectors, crop failure, as well as the more direct harms of burning coal - noxious gases such as sulphur dioxide, nitric oxide and dioxide, particulates and heavy metals.

A frightening analysis is that a 4ºC warmer world would only support 1 billion people.

Arnie Schwarzenegger drew the crowds: he described how as Governor of California his drive for renewables had been running into opposition until the health authorities spelt out the facts to the public.

The Lancet tracks 40 health indicators.

As a side-show, the official US contingent spruiked "clean coal", and were duly ignored.

There were two key issues:

  • Boosting ambition; on countries' current plans emissions will not peak until 2020.
  • Financial support for developing countries; 1.7 million likely climate migrants.

20 countries announced a pledge of no coal power beyond 2030, but not yet India, China or Australia.

However, at conclusion, the rulebook had not been agreed, so work will continue for some months.

Andrew Petersen, CEO, Sustainable Business Australia confessed that he did not attend this COP, having already been to 17, but had tracked developments closely.

An achievement of the Paris COP had been to settle "differentiated responsibility", i.e. developed versus developing nations.  The atmosphere at Bonn was enthused and professional, but struggled to develop the rules for countries to agree.  The UN operates on 100% consensus.

The IPCC warn that as the world emerges from recession emissions will rise again.  Businesses fear they will be targeted, so are keen to be heard at COP.  Most assert that a price on carbon, in whatever form, is essential.  But the UN only takes input from Nation States.

In the Q&A, it emerged that the health sector is one of the worst emissions offenders.  Anaesthetic gases are GHGs, and surprising quantities of energy go into pharmaceuticals.  The UK health sector has announced the intention of going carbon neutral.


Heaven and Earth: Religious responses to climate change.

 A special treat opened the evening, with several songs from Ecopella- including a sung acknowledgment of country, and the Denial Tango.

Then Thea Ormerod, President of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) led off the discussion. She asserted that there is great concern in all faiths and traditions for people suffering from climate change, particularly those in third world countries.

In the past 10 years the group has intensified its position, going from citizen informer to action group; from campaigning to community organising (eg divestment action); and is using much stronger language, critical of government policy shortcomings. They want to form a bridge between environment groups and faith groups.

Gillian Refell, of the Sydney Buddhist Centre, and Sydney co-ordinator of 350.org has a background in environmental town planning. She explained that the basic aspiration of Buddhism is to see things as they really are. This shows clearly that climate change has the potential to kill all mankind in the future.

We need to show compassion for people who don't have a voice, for animals who don't have hope and for future generations. But she said the ethical mindset must be to not get too angry. Meditation provides a focus and perspective of the reality of now.

Maria Tiimon Chi-Fang, Outreach Co-ordinator of Pacific Calling Partnership, Edmund Rice Centre, showed some pictures of her homeland, Kiribati. It is a nation of about 110,000 people living on several atolls spread across a huge expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Most of the country is only 2-3 metres above sea level, and is reliant upon fresh water from wells. These are already being affected by sea level surges. The young generation are genuinely afraid of the consequences of climate change and sea level rise. Their whole way of life and culture is facing grave consequences in the immediate future. One image showed a group of schoolchildren preparing a message to Australia. It said "please be our speaker to the bigger nations to help to save our country. It is all we have got."

In general discussion Thea noted that Pope Francis has made great moves on the matters of 'creation care'. The idea that "in the end God will take care of us all" is really just a way of doing nothing.

God did not create climate change so we humans must do something about it - and fast.

 


Batteries or Better? New ways of managing energy

 Nigel Morris (Business Development Manager for Solar Analytics) opened by stressing that renewable energy made financial sense would continue to do so.

Chris Dunstan (University of Sydney- Institute of Sustainable Futures) noted that people had become attached to coal as an energy source but since 2015, more than half of all new generating capacity is from renewable sources. Renewable energy is now cheaper than coal: the issue is how to manage the transition to intermittent sources.

Battery storage is an obvious solution - especially for the 25% of Australians who have rooftop solar. Batteries are continually getting better, but they aren't the only way of storing energy for use when we want it: there are ways we can moderate our demand by shifting energy use to when it's cheaper or more available.

However, more efficient use of electricity can be done at a much lower cost than big batteries. It is much cheaper at a macro level if consumers manage their demand through greater energy efficiency. Between 1992 and 2017 the economy grew by 100% but energy use increased by only 50%. More than 50% of improvements in energy use have come about by energy efficiency. 

Discussion followed, clarifying a number of the claims recently made by politicians and the media.
  • Pumped Hydro schemes also have their place, but something like Snowy 2.0 is much more expensive than demand management efficiency.
  • Battery-powered cars (EVs) are expected to be where the great success will be. Cars could conceivably also be used to power up battery storage at home.
So the magic energy trifecta of clean, reliable and affordable really is possible.

Film screening: Guarding the Galilee

We led off the evening by screening our own 7-minute video of CCBR supporters visiting Anthony Albanese's office to hand over 660 letters about the Adani mine.

Then director Nell Schofield introduced her film Guarding the Galilee.

Narrated by Queensland born actor Michael Caton, Guarding the Galilee is a 30 minute documentary on the battle to stop the biggest coal mine in Australian history, Adani's Carmichael project. Filled with stories from the front lines of the proposed Adani coal mine, the film captures the raw beauty of the Queensland outback, where Adani's mine threatens essential water resources, and so much more.

After the film, Nell led a discussion about the StopAdani campaign stressing that the fight was continuing - and the critical factor was the upcoming NAIF decision whether to support the rail link with a $900m infrastructure loan.


Climate Change and our Energy System

emissionsDaisy Barham, Campaign Director, Nature Conservation Council of NSW 

NSW was once a global leader on climate action but now emissions from our coal-fired power stations are rising, and we're the worst performing state in Australia when it comes to renewables.

Daisy Barham explained that the majority of electrical power in NSW comes from 5 large coal-fired power stations. Some have been closed down in recent years, and $1.6 billion is being invested in new solar and wind projects this year. This would provide 1,000 jobs in regional NSW. But it's not fast enough to save our climate. 

In the absence of clear national policy on renewable energy, we need strong action in NSW. NCC's upcoming Repower NSW campaign will draw on the big majority (73%) who want increased renewables (even 69% of Coalition voters), and work with the MPs in all parties who are also champions of renewable energy. Their vision is to upgrade NSW to 100% renewable energy by 2030.


Climate for Murder

Kate Smolski from NCC and Greg Miller of Sensible Films Productions were the presenters at our first Climate in the Pub for 2017 .
Kate Smolski, CEO of Nature Conservation Council NSW said that Climate action is a whole lot more than just burning coal. Community action will change the current situation and bring about renewables and stop land clearing.
 
To fight the relaxing of the Natural Vegetation Act.WWF, National Parks Assoc., NCC,WIRES, Humane Society), together formed Stand up for Nature.

Land clearing is a threat to biodiversity: koalas are set to become extinct in our lifetime if native vegetation laws are not maintained. Further, land clearing is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
The Natural Vegetation Act 2003 was bringing about a decline in land clearing. There was a budget to compensate farmers who were negatively affected.
But recently the Coalition government has brought in new legislation that:
Removed requirement to improve or maintain biodiversity.
Shifted control from Environment Ministry towards Primary Industries Ministry.
Key concerns:
Nothing considered too precious to destroy.
Self-regulation.
Does not address climate change issue.
What is next?
If ALP is elected at next election they will change laws back to previous regime.
Take action!
Spread the word. Call your MP.
Leave a message for the premier.
Make a submission to the government.
 
Greg Miller, director of Cultivating Murder started by screening the film's trailer. The film tells the story of the murder of Glen Turner, a compliance officer with the Office of Environment & Heritage. Greg explained that the film is firstly about people on the front line. Why are we clearing more land? 95% of all land west of the divide has been cleared.

Although many small farmers were probably happy with the 2003 Natural Vegetation Act as it was, recognising that flattening the land and clearing everything will do no good in the long term, changes to the act were being pushed by the National Party and large agricultural businesses.
Glen Turner's job was to investigate illegal land clearing. The Turnbull family of Moree knew they were illegally clearing land. They had been advised that they were not allowed to clear a particular area of land before they had even bought it. This set the scene for a terrible confrontation. The film tries to answer the question "why murder? why are passions so strong?". It is due for completion in April.
 
To help fund completion of the film you can make a tax deductible donation through the Documentary Australia Foundation.

It's an emergency - but does it help to say so? 

"It's an incredibly wicked problem".

Over 40 people attended the December meeting, where we debated the question: "should we call on governments to declare a climate emergency and mobilise society-wide resources at sufficient scale and speed to protect civilisation, the economy, people, species, and ecosystems." Or: "Yes we know it's an emergency, but does it help to say so?"

 Felicity Wade (LEAN), opposing the proposition, said radical actions attract front page headlines but do hey change anything? As the National Co-ordinator of LEAN she believes in changing the key organisations from within. Vanguard politics - working from minority groups - doesn't work.

Catastrophism isn't working. We need to work from the centre not the edge.

Margaret Mead's alleged quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has", is wrong, she said.

Phil Bradley (Greens, ParraCAN) said we need to say it's an emergency, because people don't realise what is changing. But we can't linger on the risk: we have to brightside it: look at the solutions.

We have to recognise the enormity of the issue: renewable energy is only part: there's land use, forestry, transport, much more. It's not a war, but it needs a wartime scale of action.

But we won't get a solution unless we emphasise climate justice.

The speakers then responded to some vigorous questioning.

Felicity Wade said that unemployed miners in Queensland simply didn't believe that they had any future unless mines were opened and this was a huge problem for the Queensland Labor government. Phil said we need to guarantee paid employment, and there are more jobs in renewables than in coal. We need to concentrate on social equity and economic justice to counter Hansonism and Trumpism. Felicity questioned whether environmentalism was a middle-class obsession, and questioned why all renewable energy policies seemed to involve the private sector instead of state-owned developments.

Comparing the current situation with wartime mobilisation in WW2 Britain, the Hitler threat was denied by many until the bombs started falling. But even then, it was argued, the Hitler threat was not as great (though apparently more immediate) than the climate threat. At present we don't have the numbers who perceive the threat to be that great.

Phil argued that we need to brightside the solutions: Felicity spoke of involving the community in practical solutions, rather than simply setting abstract goals. But large-scale government intervention like a Snowy Mountains scheme for renewables was needed. Phil suggested that people like John Hewson were effective messengers.

In summing up, Phil argued that we cannot solve the problem unless we call it out for what it is - an emergency - and we need to talk about positive solutions. Felicity argued that catastrophising for many years hadn't got very far, and we needed to forget about vanguard politics and work with the power blocks in the centre.

On a show of hands, the proposal was won by about 30 votes to 10: YES it does help to call for emergency mobilisation.

Full detailed report here.   Sign the emergency petition here


Money's not for burning! Aligning our Finances with our Values

Market Forces logoExcellent crowd at Climate in the Pub this month (11 October) to hear Daniel Gocher of Market Forces speak on aligning our finances with our values.
In the past 2 years, "divestment" growth has been phenomenal. Moving money from dirty fossil fuels to sustainable investments including renewables has increased 70 fold! Yes, from $50 billion to $3.5 trillion - Norway alone pulled $700 billion out of coal.
The campaign might not close down fossil fuel companies - but it will attack their social licence, just as tobacco companies have fallen out of favour.
Here in Australia, local government and several universities have divested. As individuals we can help by pressuring the Big 4 banks (and Macquarie Bank), which, since 2008, have loaned $70 billion to fossil-fuel projects. ANZ and Westpac have lent ten times as much to fossil fuel companies as they have to renewables. NAB has only increased renewables lending above fossil fuels this year.
After the talk, there was discussion about the role of insurance companies. In Australia there seems to be little concern about stranded assets (companies losing value when their product becomes unsaleable), and rather than becoming activists, insurers prefer to increase premiums.
Market Forces can show you how to switch banks and make it count. You can also email your super fund and ask it to use its shareholder votes on remuneration packages in large companies. These currently reward executives for driving more fossil fuel exploration in a world that cannot afford to burn what it has already mined. 

Not another Carbon Tax? how to price carbon and win

Tues 9th August7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle

price on carbon

Adrian Enright, Climate Change Policy manager, WWF said that pricing carbon is fundamental to addressing climate change, but stressed that we need renewable targets and transition plans to a carbon free economy as well.

A straightforward carbon tax funds clean technology, with compensation to low income households. With emission trading schemes, companies have limited emissions certificates which they can trade with other companies.

Adrian traced Australia's carbon pricing history: from Rudd's proposed CPRS, withdrawn after the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009; to the Gillard Carbon Tax, repealed by the Abbott government before it was to be phased into a trading scheme; to the current emissions reduction fund (ERF), which rewards reduction of emissions with taxpayers' money, rather than taxing emitters. This has helped farmers with carbon recapture (plants), but emissions must be controlled too.

Adrian hoped that because we have a PM who recognises that climate change is real, we will see some form of carbon pricing policy reintroduced in July 2017.

Howard Witt introduced the Citizen's Climate Lobby and their "Fee and Dividend" proposal. This raises a tax on ALL forms of carbon at the source (mine, well or port) rather than when it's burnt. All this money is distributed to households on a progressive basis (the disadvantaged doing better from distribution than the wealthy). The cost of the fee is passed on by the producers, and prices go up throughout the economy. But households are fully compensated by the distribution. The carbon fee is an incentive for businesses to reduce their costs by investing in renewables.

Howard explained a number of details of the tax concerning imports and exports. He believed the scheme conformed to all current world trade protocols and agreements, and that it was likely to be introduced in the USA next year.

Discussion followed around the attractiveness of any scheme to either political party, and what systems other countries had in place.

Read more about the WWF's climate action here, and about the Citizens' Climate Lobby here.


Let's be straight - climate change is a political problem

Tues 14th June 7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle

 The speaker was Andrew Bradley, Australian chairman of 350.org, and MD of Holdfast Communications, which consults on climate change and renewable energy.

Andrew argued "Let's be straight - climate change is a political problem". Here are his main points . . . .

  1. We are running out of time. 97% of Great Barrier Reef has bleached.
  2. 2016 is already breaking temperature records.
  3. Reading of 400ppm CO2 taken recently at Cape Grim.
  4. More floods: ice caps etc. melting all over the world. The science is clear about all this. Even more intense and severe weather is occurring than previously predicted.
  5. Cost of inaction is greater than cost of action now.
  6. Climate change has become a purely political problem.
  7. Coal industry has reigned supreme for past two centuries- so it is a question of politics and power.
  8. Clarity of responsibility is essential. Must have a study of whom and what is boiling the planet.
  9. Continuance of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry is utter madness. The performance of the fossil fuel industry is no different to asbestos industry or firearms industry.
  10. When subsidies are taken away from the coal/gas/oil industries the majority of companies become insolvent. (e.g. Peabody Coal)
  11. Projects such as Adani and deep sea oil are all uneconomic. They all need subsidies if they are to survive.
  12. Paris was better than anything than could have been hoped for by the climate change believers.
  13. We now have 190 countries that can be beaten with a stick. It is a good start, but will not solve the problem.
  14. To beat the arguments put forward by the fossil fuel industries new voices are being raised - for example John Hewson.
  15. Must look at what suits OUR cause. Good example is ex-military top brass who are now talking about the threats to security issues from climate change.
  16. Imperative we upskill and empower.
  17. Focus must be on dealing with and removing the problem. Not arguing the issues with the powers that be.

Andrew Bradley is the current Chair of 350.org Australia, and a specialist in climate and energy communications. His Australian and international perspective includes an insider's view of last year's Paris conference, the European Climate Foundation, and the International Panel on Climate Change and G20 talks. Andrew is a resident of Annandale.


$7bn in fossil fuel subsidies - couldn't we spend it better?

Tues 12th April 7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle

Climate in the Pub's guest speaker in April was Reece Proudfoot, Climate Change campaigner at WWF, and lead organiser in Sydney for last November's People's Climate March.

Reece explained that the People's Climate March had been led by a wide range of groups and organisations - health professionals, indigenous groups, faith groups, young people, as well as the traditionally involved environmental groups, resulting in 140,000 people across Australia gathering to demand more action on climate: the largest numbers ever on this issue.

He went on to discuss campaigns that grew out of this mobilisation. Currently the fossil fuel industry benefits from upwards of $7 billion dollars of government (i.e. taxpayer) money: a rebate on diesel fuel tax, direct funding of mineral exploration, and accelerated depreciation of assets. This support goes to an industry that is damaging the climate and our future. Reece argued that the money should rather be used to increase expenditure on health, education (including retraining for jobs in a sustainable economy) and encouraging renewable energy.

Audience discussion noted that agriculture, for example, also benefited from the diesel fuel tax rebate where it was not seen as harmful. Reece replied that the focus was on fossil fuel mining, and would allow agriculture to continue to benefit. We also suggested that "subsidy" could be seen as a benign word, whereas describing the financial benefits as "tax avoidance" or "tax loopholes" was more accurate for many of the benefits, and fitted much better with the current popular sentiment against tax-dodgers.

In passing, Reece also noted that the Federal seat of Grayndler, which now includes most of Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle's home turf, with a strong Greens presence, was more likely to see climate change as a dominant issue in the forthcoming election than most other areas. A clear call to action for CCBR!


Community Renewable Energy

Tues 9th Feb 7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle

Tom Nockolds of the Community Power Agency, spoke of the aims, challenges and prospects for community based renewable energy projects, especially the importance of delivering the energy transition in a way that is socially equitable.

He described the economic 'death spiral' process of the existing grid, the threat it poses to the poorest families, and how community renewables might play a part in the solution.

Louise Fitzgerald, a volunteer with Pingala, outlined the group's current projects, including rooftop solar at young Henry's brewery in Newtown and in a remote Indigenous community.

 

Oscar McLaren of Sydney Renewable Power Company explained his group's progress with providing solar PV for the new Sydney Convention Centre at Darling Harbour.  They hope to start taking investments later this year.


Climate in the Pub - Christmas Drinks

Tues 8 Dec 7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle

This meeting followed after the AGM, at which the committee was re-elected, and reports given. CCBR President Dominic Case started the ball rolling by presenting his annual report on CCBR activities, describing the most active year for a long time. (A summary of the report is here.)

Following this there was general conversation about the state of the climate change debate in Australia; the Paris talks; and of course the People's Climate March held a few days previously.


Climate in the Pub - How to Win Friends and Influence Policy

13th October 2015, at The Three Weeds, Rozelle 

Numbers continue to grow for our meetings, and this was a record turn-out. The panel comprised

Ella Weisbrot, Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC)  

Phil Bradley, Climate Action Working Group, Greens NSW 

Erin Watt, Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN)

 

and from their various contributions, and discussion afterwards, we learnt that a successful community group needed to:
    • Focus on solutions
    • In our case, focus on renewables
    • Be a grass roots organisation
    • Talk to people, one-on-one, and do it again and again
    • At eco festivals, have models for people to play with so you can engage them in unthreatening conversations
    • work hard and just keep going
    • Form alliances with others
    • Run specific campaigns - project focused work really attracts people.

Climate in the Pub - Climate and Human Health

11th August 2015, at The Three Weeds, Rozelle 

stethoscope on the world

Three leading doctors spoke persuasively on the threats from climate change and fossil fuel use.

Dr Peter Sainsbury points out that air pollution kills more people than the road toll in Australia: think asthma, emphysema, chronic lung and heart disease. An excellent report on coal and health in the Hunter released in February describes the effects of coal mining, transport and burning. "We don't need to be passive victims," observes Dr Sainsbury, "We need to fight in the Hunter, and elsewhere, to maintain jobs in agriculture and to create new ones in renewables."

Dr Sujata Allan lists among direct effects of climate change a rise in extreme weather events such as heat waves, "a 'silent killer', already causing 1100 deaths per year in Australia." Indirectly, climate change affects food security and disease distribution. Ross River and dengue fevers are moving south as the climate changes. "Children are particularly vulnerable - the early effects on their immune systems of exposure to pollutants can affect their lifetime health, and they are more at risk from extreme heat, infectious diseases and water shortages"

Dr Helen Redmond notes that behaviours which create high greenhouse gas emissions are also bad for health directly - lots of driving of fossil-fueled vehicles, air travel, and a diet high in fat and processed foods.  "The stomach has a big footprint. A low carbon lifestyle, including active transport, is both healthier and more sustainable."

 


Climate in the Pub - Solar Citizens

9th June 2015, at The Three Weeds, Rozelle 

Climate in the PubAt our first Climate in the Pub meeting, we welcomed about 29 people, and introduced Jason Lyddieth and Alex Soderlund from the Solar Citizens organisation.

Jason and Alex talked about their organisation and campaign Solar Citizens - an opportunity for those with solar, or who want to install solar, to join together to ensure that the rights of solar owners are protected from attack either by governments or by the established fossil fuel energy companies. They mentioned several instances of how the united voice of many thousands of solar owners had pushed state governments on particular points.

While Australia's large-scale solar capacity is very low in international terms, it has quite a high domestic rooftop solar profile, and it is still growing fast, despite the federal government efforts to wind back renewable energy.

They talked about their efforts in promoting solar on private residences. We were told the take-up on private residences, whilst slowing, is still growing. In particular, Solar Citizens had argued strongly for the domestic part of the Renewable Energy Target (S-RET) to be preserved at full strength, which the Federal Government has agreed to.

They invited attendees to visit their website standupforsolar.org.au and sign the pledge as a Solar Citizen, or to go a stage further and become a Solar Neighbour (signing up friends and family) or a Solar Champion (contacting or meeting the local MP).

Jason also spoke of Solar Citizens' next big activity - a nationwide series of "Solar Shindigs", to take place in neighbourhoods in the 2nd last week of July). There will be more information about organising an event or joining one, on the Solar Citizens website very soon.

There was general discussion around the issues of solar panel financial viability (getting better all the time) and installing batteries (will be extremely viable within a year).

Other sources of information mentioned were the Alternative Technology Association and Our Solar Future.


What About Paris 

30th April 2015 at Balmain Town Hall 

John ConnorCCBR and Balmain Institute's joint meeting with The Climate Institute's John Connor was a great success with a packed meeting room, a lively introduction by John Doyle, and a very informative talk by John Connor, tracing the path of international climate negotiations up to and including the Paris talks due at the end of this year.

audienceJohn Connor pointed out that Australia was well-placed to take an influential role as Chair of the UNFCCC Umbrella Group. (Although there is no formal list, the Group is usually made up of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the US.)

We are really grateful to John for giving his time to us for this talk - immediately after a full day in a round table meeting with Climate Minister Greg Hunt and other leaders.


Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle - PO Box 890 Rozelle, NSW 2039