Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme falls short

Elected on a campaign promise of tackling climate change, Kevin Rudd's Labor government in Australia has released a preliminary greenpaper outlining the structure of a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (an emissions trading scheme) for Australia.

Curiously, the greenpaper was released only days after the Garnaut draft on climate change, and it fails to meet several of Garnaut's key recommendations.

The significant problems are:
  • emission permits will be given away to the most polluting industries
  • cash payments will be given to coal fired power stations
  • fuel excise will be lowered to compensate for fuel price increases due to a carbon price
In addition, there are no commitments to reduce emission other than to meet the 60% reduction by 2050. No cap for emissions has yet been set, and no interim reduction targets are specified.

Unfortunately, this structure of the CPRS greatly compromises any real effect on reducing emissions.

The Federal opposition led by Brendan Nelson has an even worse policy position. They are arguing about delaying the start date for emissions trading (the CPRS) by pushing it out to 2011 or 2012. In a nutshell, they are just playing politics, and still have several "climate change denialists" within their ranks.

We need to write letters to all our elected politicians telling them it is just not good enough - we need emergency action to decarbonise our economy, not political games and weak ineffective schemes and policies that favour big polluters and don't reduce emissions.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Eddington report submission - EWLNA

I welcome the opportunity to comment on the East-West Links Needs Assessment (EWLNA), as transport is an essential feature of the livability of Melbourne and one of the main areas that require urgent action as part of a coordinated response to climate change.

I preface my feedback with the observation that I believe more urgent and profound action needs to be taken to prevent the economic, social and ecological collapses being caused by climate change.

While the EWLNA has some proposals with merit, such as improvements to public transport and cross city cycle links, it overwhelmingly fails to tackle the massive and urgent problems of greenhouse gas emissions from transport, and the challenges introduced by peak oil.

The focus on public transport in the EWLNA is welcome, and I strongly support increased investment in public transport. However, the EWLNA is largely a “business as usual” document, based on outdated ideas, at a time where business as usual means climate catastrophe and remaining unprepared for continual increases in oil prices.

It is unfortunate that the EWLNA has no vision for a sustainable transport future for Melbourne and therefore fails as a document that the State Government should use to guide its actions and decisions.

Transport policy cannot assume a “business as usual” case. Transport policy development must lead to a drastic reduction in reliance on oil, and a massive, rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it should be one of the major aims of transport policy to achieve these outcomes – and with these outcomes improvements in the amenity of our suburbs will be created. This is the best way to ensure prosperity and livability into the future.

The key points of I make in this personal submission are:

  • The original scope of the EWLNA was too narrow – transport needs for Melbourne need to be considered as a whole rather than arbitrarily separated into segments and/or corridors.
  • The EWLNA’s “business as usual” approach to transport planning is flawed as it does not take climate change or peak oil into account.
  • I support an order of magnitude increase in public transport funding from the State and Federal governments, and I therefore broadly support the EWLNA recommendations that achieve this.
  • Given the narrow scope of the EWLNA, it is not clear whether the proposed rail tunnel would be the most effective rail infrastructure project. A broader study of opportunities for rail network improvements is required, taking into account the possibility of building railway lines to poorly serviced suburbs, a metro system for inner Melbourne, and a rail link to Melbourne Airport.
  • I oppose the construction of the proposed road tunnels or any new freeways – which history show us encourage more personal and freight road traffic which inevitably leads to increased road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Past transport studies and experience have shown that building freeways does not solve congestion, and they will in fact increase congestion in the long term.
  • The assumptions made to make up the EWLNA reference case with regard to oil prices, carbon pricing and road pricing are incorrect, and greatly exaggerate the case for supporting private car use and the road tunnel.
  • The EWLNA ignores the now apparent climate emergency we face and ignores the pressing need for us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from transport. Any new transport infrastructure or plan needs to have emissions reductions as a central aim.
  • The propensity for people to shift to public transport when high quality services are available is underestimated and the recommendations are consequently poorly targeted.
  • The recommendations in the EWLNA will result in a 1% modal shift from cars to public transport by 2031, in contradiction with the Brumby Government’s 11% shift (by 2020). We need a much more profound shift if we are to retain Melbourne’s liveability and reduce our emissions.
  • The EWLNA did not assess the modal efficiency of transport options with respect to carbon emissions or factor this into the recommendations made.
  • Shifting transport journeys from road trips to lower carbon emission options is compatible with Melbourne 2030 strategy goals, the Kyoto Protocol, and with our need to reduce Australia’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.
The following assumptions made in the EWLNA reference case are flawed:
  • No real increase in fuel prices beyond 2006 (petrol prices have now risen to around $1.65 per litres and could be $2.00 or higher by the end of 2007)
  • No carbon price on transport emissions (which have now been flagged for inclusion in Australia’s carbon emissions trading scheme scheduled for introduction in 2010).
  • No road pricing before 2031 – which is likely to be introduced well before then
  • A gradual shift to hybrid cars will offset carbon emissions associated with increased motor vehicle usage. (A modal shift from cars to less carbon intensive transport such as rail and bicycles is required).
There is currently a transport crisis in Melbourne, with roads and freeways now suffering chronic traffic congestion. Rather than build the proposed road links, a cheaper, more effective alternative to the issues identified in the EWLNA is to upgrade and extend the public transport system, take move freight from road to rail, institute more efficient freight handling practices and introduce incentives for people to reduce car use.

The cross-city cycle connections recommended would greatly facilitate bicycle travel and make it safer within inner Melbourne. However, to be effective, these routes need to link with equivalent high quality and safe bicycle paths transecting adjacent suburbs. For example, there is currently no safe and efficient bicycle route through Hawthorn and Camberwell towards Box Hill.

Cycling is the most carbon-efficient form of medium distance personal transport. However, low safety and convenience factors are major barriers preventing people from cycling in urban areas.

The current Principal Bicycle Network needs to have routes added to connect with the proposed cross-city cycle connections. Integrated planning for cycle paths and routes is essential to get the best outcome. Improved safety at a local level is also crucial to enable safe access to the Principal Bicycle Network and to activity centres and public transport.


I hope that the State Government uses this opportunity to change course and focuses on shaping a transport system that will help us meet the challenges of climate change, peak oil and improving the amenity of our suburbs.

“Business as usual” transport planning and construction of freeways will cause us more pain in the future.

A sustainable future involves cutting emissions and creating a massive and permanent modal shift from cars to public transport, walking and cycling.

External link: CEN Eddington Report Submission

Friday, July 11, 2008

Labor's feed-in tariff can still be fixed

Below is the third letter I have sent to Peter Batchelor; so far he has not bothered to answer my first two. I don't think he will bother to answer this one either. So much for accountable government "for the people".

I have also sent copies to all members of John Brumby's Cabinet, as they participated in the decision to implement a Clayton's feed-in tariff in Victoria.

Dear Minister Batchelor,

I am disappointed to have still received no response from your office to my suggestions and questions regarding the government's proposed feed-in tariff legislation (included below).

It should now be apparent to you and the rest of Cabinet that your proposed legislation has had a very detrimental effect on the uptake of solar panels and therefore comprised Victoria's opportunity to become a leader in the installation and even manufacturing of solar panels. This in turn compromises Victoria's ability to meet both State VRET and Federal MRET requirements.

The 100K household income means test on the solar rebate introduced by Peter Garrett has further exacerbated this situation, to the point where solar installations have plummeted when the very opposite should be occurring.

Your stated concerns about impacts on low income households can be addressed by providing them with an appropriate concession.

Also please note that net metering in fact favours high income households where nobody is home consuming power during the day (when a net output can be generated) and actually discriminates against working families where a parent is at home with children using appliances such as washing machines, lighting and cooking - which prevents them generating net output.

In the interests of transparent and accountable government, could you please answer the following questions?

1. When will your feed-in tariff legislation be introduced?

2. When can a copy of it be sent to me?

3. What is the purpose of the 2kw array size cap?

4. Why are you not able to model the tariff for gross metering similar to successful tariffs in place in Germany and elsewhere?

5. Why you have chosen to keep the economic modelling that you say your decisions were based on secret?

6. When can I meet with you to discuss these concerns?

Brumby claims water tanks use more power than desalination

I have just send this letter in to Premier John Brumby. It will be interesting to read his answer, although I suspect I won't get one.

Premier Brumby,

You stated on ABC 774 radio on Thurday 26 June 2008 that "the proposed Wonthaggi desalination plant would use less power than equivalent rainwater tanks"

Can you please provide evidence for this claim?

Studies of water tanks have shown that they would use one fifth of the power of the desalination to supply the equivalent amount of water (150 gigalitres).

I have a power meter on our rainwater tank pump on our house so I will provide you with more empirical data on this next week to confirm this data.

Information about the plant and why rainwater tanks would be a better option is available in this article:

I look forward to your timely response to this very important question.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Climate emergency rally in Melbourne

I attended the Climate Emergency Rally in Melbourne on Saturday 5 July 2008. It was a great event. Good speakers and calls for immediate action on climate change.

Here is a video of Bob Brown speaking at the rally:

And article with photos and more information about the rally is available on Greenlivingpedia here.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Brumby Labor carbon fails carbon test

Peter Batchelor's announcement that the new brown coal-fired power station will proceed in the Latrobe Valley (Age 2/7) fails the simple critical test of "will this reduce our carbon emissions".

It will belch millions of tonnes more carbon dioxide into our increasingly hotter and drier world.

We need to be decommissioning coal-fired power stations and making major investments in proven zero emission renewable energy.

Link: Latrobe valley's new $750 million clean coal power station a step closer