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Category Archives: Australia

“Guest post” – Clover Moore

Thought I’d share the latest from our Lord Mayor’s newsletter. For updates on Copenhagen see ABC News.**

CITIES WILL ACT ON GLOBAL WARMING

The pivotal role of cities in fighting global warming has been acknowledged in drafts, but the fair, ambitious and binding deal needed from the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen is not yet assured.

I participated in the Copenhagen Mayors’ Summit this week with 80 city leaders from around the world to urge national leaders to commit to ambitious targets with the confidence that cities will deliver if supported. The deep cuts needed to avert dangerous global warming require low-carbon cities and action already underway can be accelerated.

The work needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will only get harder if we delay. Deep and fast cuts in the order of 25 to 40 per cent, as recommended by the UN IPCC, are needed to keep warming below 2 degrees. The growing scientific consensus suggests even this may be too little.

The hopes of the world rely on significant progress during the final day of COP15 negotiations. There are some signs of optimism that the 120 heads of state, the largest group gathered for these climate negotiations, may find the courage and political will to break the deadlock.

Our Mayors’ Summit communiqué, delivered on behalf of the 700 million city dwellers we represent, affirms that the battle against global warming will be won or lost in cities. Cities are home to over half the world’s population and responsible for 75 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

An inspiring Summit program has been provided by our host, Ritt Bjerregaard, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen. The centrepiece was city leaders reporting on innovative and practical action to reduce emissions, and I presented on our work creating and implementing Sustainable Sydney 2030. There is extraordinary consensus on what needs to be done.

We attended the high level opening of COP 15 at the Bella Centre,hearing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and COP15 President Connie Hedegaard. We met with Sir Nicholas Stern and were presented with new research supporting cities’ role addressing climate change. Our hosts launched the "Copenhagen Wheel", a hybrid bicycle that we hope to introduce to Sydney, and I drove an electric car in a parade of new models as part of our commitment to make this sustainable option a practical choice in Sydney. The opportunity to see practical solutions in action was inspiring, such as a site visit to the Western Harbour redevelopment in the Swedish city of Malmö, with a renewable energy system, district heating and cooling, and renewable biogas facility. Jan Gehl walked me around his home town to show me the practical results of his decades of work reclaiming Copenhagen for pedestrians and cyclists.The City of Copenhagen has set up a stage and huge illuminated globe in the city centre outside the Town Hall, with public art installations focused on climate change. The city has a celebratory feel with live outdoor concerts each night. Only in Copenhagen could you see thousands dancing outdoors in below zero temperatures with their bicycles parked nearby covered in snow!

At a magic Earth Hour in the Town Hall square on Wednesday evening, the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen and I addressed a crowd of around 6000 people amid swirling snow, surrounded by historic buildings. Earth Hour was launched in Sydney in 2007, the idea of WWF, supported by the City and Fairfax media group. In 2009, people from 88 countries and 4400 cities turned their lights off for one hour to send a powerful message to national leaders that they want action to address global warming.

As the week progressed, Community representatives have been increasingly locked out of the COP15 centre at a time when negotiations are stalling and delegates need to hear citizen’s voices. Community consultation initiated by the Danish Board of Technology, which was conducted simultaneously in 38 different countries with 4,400 randomly selected participants in September, found that 91% of people around the world want immediate and urgent action on climate change.

Despite the mounting tension and security difficulties, the sirens and the protests, it’s been inspiring to see thousands of cyclists braving the weather and commuting to work in the dark and the snow. Families on the streets with babies in prams mingle with the climate activists who’ve flocked here, many dressed as polar bears and pandas.

As the Mayor of Seattle reported, 1016 cities across the US committed to meet Kyoto protocol targets, going further than their federal government and paving the way for the their nation to go further. With or without binding national targets, the cities of the world will continue working to reduce emissions on a major scale.

Information: * Mayor’s Summit: www.kk.dk/climatesummitformayors.aspx.

** Update 11.30 am

Tim Flannery’s response to the Copenhagen deal.

Leading Australian environmental scientist Tim Flannery says he is happy with the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change negotiations.

World leaders failed to secure a binding agreement instead opting for a non-binding accord which relies on countries setting their own emissions targets.

Professor Flannery says while the current commitments are not enough to halt dangerous climate change, the outcome is an important first step.

"My overview would be in the absence of any shift in the American target we’re likely to be a few gigatonnes of carbon short of a satisfactory target for 2020," he said. "[It] doesn’t mean we won’t achieve it. The agreement as it looks at the moment is good, but not perfect."

The former Australian of the Year says that it will take a few days for the full implications of the accord to become apparent.

"I think that these sort of agreements in the details really only become more evident with time," he said. "Perhaps in the next few days we’ll get to see a little bit more of precisely what has been agreed, and what it means overall. [But] if I was to sum it up in a single phrase I’d say this has been a good, successful meeting. It’s only one step on the road but we are now really in the throes of tackling this very difficult problem and this meeting has been a very significant step forward. I wouldn’t like anyone to undersell what’s been achieved. I think it is very significant."

Professor Flannery said amid the commentary on whether or not the deal should have been binding, it was important not to lose sight of the gains made at the conference…

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My favourites from 2009: 2

19jan009

Moore Park 19 January

 

“Guest post” – Tim Costello

This comes from Sojourners, where you will also find three relevant videos.

Why Climate Change Matters to the Lives of the Poor

by Tim Costello 12-16-2009

World Vision is at the Copenhagen climate change talks because this is no longer an environmental crisis alone, but a deepening humanitarian crisis. Climate change is already affecting lives and livelihoods in the countries where we work, as described in graphic ways by so many in our national offices. It amplifies a number of humanitarian disasters that we are called on to respond to. Equally, it amplifies key issues of our development efforts by intensifying malaria, diarrhea, compromised water sources, and sustainable futures for many of the communities where we work.

These leading figures in humanitarian relief — John Holmes, Josette Sheeran, and Eric Laroche — spoke passionately today about the challenge.

The chasm between developed and developing countries at this conference with four days to run has tragically widened. The UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, in urging a resolution spoke of avoiding 2 degrees warming. This was immediately denounced by more than 100 developing nations, who said 1.5 degrees warming is all they can tolerate because of their vulnerability.

The West, with historical responsibility for the greatest greenhouse gases in the current warming impacts, has not yet tabled GHG cuts that would result in containing rising temperatures to even 2 degrees. This gulf must be bridged.

Tim Costello is CEO of World Vision Australia.

 

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Pause for a pic

CIMG3688

Waterloo NSW. Do visit my photoblogs: Neil’s Sydney photo blog and Neil’s Sydney on Blogspot. Guaranteed rant-free! 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2009 in Australia, local, photography

 

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Carbon chicken-and-eggery?

I was interested to hear Tim Flannery on Lateline articulating what had (believe it or not) occurred to me quite independently – that the recent “cooking the books” accusations against the Australian government over the 82% rise in our emissions since 1990 are an example of chicken and egg confusion rather than dishonesty. The Times of India reported it thus:

MELBOURNE: Australia has allegedly wrongly presented its carbon emissions report by ignoring a massive rise in polluting gases from its agricultural and forestry industries, a report said on Monday.

This “misrepresentation” by the government has led to severe criticism from all quarters at the summit in Copenhagen. Australia has ignored a massive rise in polluting gases from agricultural and forestry industries, and has managed to make its overall emissions seem much lower than they actually are, the ABC said in the report.

While under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia is allowed to up carbon emissions by 8% compared to the 1990 levels, figures supplied to the UN earlier this year say that between 1990 and 2007, the nation’s real carbon emissions actually rose by 82%, the report said.

This dramatic increase is a result of emissions from rural lands, caused by bushfires and drought. But those are the very same agricultural, grazing plains and grasslands that political parties hope will help offset the country’s rising industrial emissions.

Australia has led the charge on proposed land use rule changes to the new global climate deal. The changes will open the door to the bonanza of green carbon that can be stored away in the world’s rural lands, the report said.

But the move is deeply dividing the Copenhagen conference. Christine Milne, climate change spokesperson for Australian political party, the Australian Greens, said in Copenhagen that the country has been trying to “cook the books”.

“The United States has always wanted to use Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry as a mechanism for not having to do as much in its fossil fuel sector, and Australia has always been the fall guy for the US,” she said. “So I think what you are seeing is the umbrella group, chaired by Australia, including the US and Canada, trying to really cook the books in some dodgy deals on land use.”

Flannery rightly sees the additional emissions as typical RESULTS of ongoing climate change rather than causes – though there is that feedback loop going on there too, pretty much as explained by James Lovelock among others.

There is no doubt though that there is much potential for Australia in land management issues as a way round some at least of the climate change problem, but it is far from a panacea as Flannery also notes.

Jim Belshaw has been teasing out this one just lately; I commend what he says to your attention.

On the other hand in part of their book which is online Brian Dawson and Matt Spannagle (2009) have this to say:

carbon1 

 carbon2

See also: Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists for much relevant material: especially 1270 Optimising_Terrestial_Carbon PDF

  • OK, I am off to continue some therapeutic reading of Jane Austen – much needed after all this debate!
 
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Posted by on December 15, 2009 in Australia, climate change, environment

 

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Hang on a minute: what tax?

We all know Brer Abbott and The Undead are standing up for us against the dreaded

GREAT BIG TAX ON EVERYTHING!!!!

My problem is that I naively thought you could have a carbon tax, which the government has opted against, or an Emissions Trading Scheme (Cap and Trade), which the government has opted for.

Does it not follow then that while one is a tax the other is not? Sure, it may well be a cost, but a tax?

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Three unrelated items

73420_159175 1. Someone has to do it…

I see from SameSame that William Yang has been photographing Matthew Mitcham. “William Yang’s ‘Photographing Matthew Mitcham’ exhibits at Barry Stern Galleries, 19 Glenmore Road, Paddington NSW 2021, from December 14.”

I think I’ll check that one. 🙂

William Yang has appeared on this blog before: Very rare and special: pics from M’s Chinese New Year Party 3.

2. Tony Blair and the WMD Fantasy.

So many have commented on Tony Blair’s latest admissions, but one of the best I have seen comes from the Legal Eagle blog cooperative: BLiar: Warmonger by his own admission. It’s one of DeusExMacintosh’s excellent visual entries.

…And no, I’m not just being funny. There are now grounds for thinking that the 45 minute claim – the sole direct threat posed by Saddam’s regime to British interests – featured in the dodgy dossier and heavily promoted by number 10 spin-doctors, now seems to be based on gossip from an Iraqi taxi driver that had been clearly flagged as unreliable.

3. OMG: I agree with Paul Sheehan

You don’t see that every day! Sirdan and I were discussing the current push for recall elections, which has been brought on by frustration with the NSW government’s performance in recent years. Sounds a good idea, but I had doubts and it seems Paul Sheehan shares them exactly.

As for constitutional change, switching from four-year to three-year terms makes sense for NSW. But creating the capacity for recall elections is problematic. In California, even a popular governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been overmatched by the state’s structural crisis.

During a visit to California this year I saw the problem at first hand. The state constitution allows an unusually diverse array of grass-roots participation, with voter initiatives, referenda, voter ratification and recall elections. The result has created burdensome requirements on government, which should be allowed to govern.

California also has term limits. Members of the state assembly are restricted to three two-year terms and state senators are restricted to two four-year terms. But this, too, has had unintended consequences. It has served to gut the culture of compromise and the culture of experience.

The Herald, to its credit, has devoted a lot of space on its letters page to readers bucketing its petition for the introduction of recall elections. People think the media already has too much power.

Many also know that California is proof there is such a thing as too much democracy. They know not all that glisters in the golden state is gold.