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  • andrea 4:45 am on August 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Australia, , , SBA, stakeholder dialogue, , sustainable growth, WBCSD   

    Open for SUSTAINABLE business 

    Business, government, NGOs and investors. All agreeing sustainability is fundamental to future economic growth. Too good to be true? Well, no – this was the core take-away from Sustainable Business Australia (SBA)’s Smart Business in Action #SBIA2014 forum in Sydney.

    Recently, political dialogue on sustainable business in Australia has been at best muted, at worst totally lacking. So it was an immense breath of fresh air to hear NSW Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Assistant Minister for Planning, the Hon. Rob Stokes MP, outline his vision for sustainable growth. It is a thoughtful vision – an informed vision – and like many in the room, I was genuinely inspired to see the coming together of sustainability competence and leadership.

    Sustainability, according to Stokes, is fundamentally an ethical concern about how we relate to each other and how we view and use resources. Patterns of growth that compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs are unfair and unjust: we have to live within the planet’s boundaries. “It’s a false choice to pit the environment against the economy,” he stated. “Conservation is wise use of resources.”

    Stokes sees the environment as “foundational” to the economy, likening the interrelationship to a Russian doll where the economy sits within society, within the wider environment. It should also be a foundational understanding for government ministries, rather than a separate function: “My grand plan is to do myself out of a job,” he declared. How refreshing.

    He wants government to “be a friend” to sustainable business and “send a clear message” to irresponsible operators. Dialogue is key to moving forward: right now “we’ve lost the capacity to have a reasoned debate.” Restoring the middle ground means replacing soundbite polemics with respectful and rational dialogue that helps us move forward on sustainability challenges.

    It must have been music to the ears of companies in the room – among them Brickworks, David Jones, Kimberly-Clark, LJ Hooker, NAB, Object Consulting, and Sungevity, all of which are making major strides to integrate sustainability into their core business. And with SBA, the voice of progressive business, taking on the mantle of Australian Global Network at WBCSD, constructive dialogue on sustainability looks set for a boost in Australia. Given the federal ‘policy pause’ on sustainable economic development, that’s very welcome indeed.

     
  • andrea 11:22 am on June 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Australia, blue economy, , IPCC, science   

    Putting climate science back into policy 

    A few weeks ago I was at the launch of Blue Australasia, an initiative to develop Blue Economy solutions. Co-founders Prof Martin Blake and Ian Dunlop were there. Formerly an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, Ian Dunlop was chair of the Australian Coal Association and chief executive of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is also a member of the Club of Rome. This week he offered a stirring opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on the recent budget, urging the Australian government to take climate change onboard and put climate science centre stage. What he wrote is both a searing critique of laissez-faire, business-as-usual policy and a powerful business case for blue economy market leadership.
    09 Danie Mellor  Red, White and Blue  2008 mixed media, dimensions variable, tallest 105cm. Courtesy the artist and Caruana and Reid Fine Art
    “Australia has an enviable reputation for scientific research, extending long before the heyday of the CSIRO in the 1950s under the visionary leadership of Sir Robert Menzies and Sir Ian Clunies-Ross. On the hottest and driest continent on Earth, our prosperity would be non-existent had it not been for the enlightened application of science. So it has been of mounting concern over recent years to see governments of all persuasions adopt increasingly anti-science agendas.
    “The federal government is taking anti-science to new heights. Its scorched earth approach discards virtually everything not in line with narrow, free-market ideology, centred on sustaining Australia’s 20th century dig-it-up and ship-it-out economic growth model.
    “Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s supposedly visionary address to the World Economic Forum in Davos last January, outlined this agenda. Free-markets create prosperity, but their full costs have only become apparent in recent years. Over the past two decades, those costs have negated the benefits – we are actually getting poorer not wealthier. The PM’s “vision” ignored such costs, along with the disastrous outcomes that the short-termism, inequity and corruption of free-markets delivers, witness the 2008 global financial crisis, and the Independent Commission Against Corruption closer to home. Markets are important but they must operate within sensible rules and continual vested-interest lobbying has got rid of those rules.
    “Official orthodoxy decrees that conventional economic growth take precedence over all else, without understanding that such growth is no longer possible. In 1945, we had a relatively empty world of 2 billion people; we now have 7 billion. Exponential increases in both population and consumption, have delivered a “full” world, such that humanity today needs the biophysical capacity of 1.5 planets to survive, which is clearly not sustainable.
    “As a result, we are in the midst of a global discontinuity, where conventional growth has ground to a halt, notwithstanding futile efforts to reboot the system by printing money at will. We will emerge either with fundamentally different concepts of growth, or the system as we know it will collapse.
    “Excessive consumption has created global limits never previously experienced. Cheap fossil-fuel energy, which delivered our supposed prosperity, has dried up. Its carbon emissions have triggered global warming which is happening far more rapidly and extensively than expected. The remaining fossil-fuel reserves cannot be used if catastrophic climate outcomes are to be avoided. Water and food security are already badly affected, as witnessed by growing social instability and conflict around the world.
    “Yet our political and corporate incumbency refuse to join the dots, oblivious that global warming is already having a major negative impact on this country, that our high-carbon exports are a significant contributor, in the process destroying our manufacturing and agricultural industries.
    “They cannot grasp that we have enormous opportunities to prosper in the 21st century, built around the rapid development of a low-carbon economy. We have the best low-carbon assets in the world, but to realise their potential, we need a new vision grounded, as never before, in science. On that score, we are in big trouble.
    “Global warming is the greatest concern; it has already changed the context in which every policy in this country will have to be rethought – from climate policy itself through energy, agriculture, social, health, infrastructure, migration and defence.
    “The government ignores the leading-edge climate science developed by our Institutions and informed scientific bodies worldwide. Particularly the work of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is probably the most extensive scientific investigation undertaken. All of which point to the need for far more rapid action than acknowledged officially.
    “The science on an issue this complex is never “settled” as knowledge will continue to improve, but informed opinion is clear; we face potentially catastrophic risks, risks that are with us now, not one or two decades hence. We disregard them at our peril – which is exactly what the government is doing.
    Science has disappeared from the government’s priorities just at the time we need it most.
    “Greg Hunt’s Direct Action white paper has no scientific and economic grounding at all, whether from our own Institutions, the IPCC, the Garnaut and Stern climate change reviews or numerous other global bodies such as the World Bank, IMF and the OECD. It is the climate policy you have when you don’t want a policy.
    “The work of the former Climate Commission, providing independent, objective explanation of the climate science, has been archived away from public view. Scientific illiterates have been appointed to key climate and business policy advisory positions. The budget has gutted science funding in general, further emasculated the wholly inadequate Direct Action policy and rendered the CSIRO impotent.
    “The response from the supposedly scientifically literate chairmen and chief executives of our major corporations, at the wanton destruction of their future innovation base, is a deafening silence.
    Grandees such as John Howard and Cardinal George Pell parade cynical climate denialism before international audiences, putting more peer pressure on the current incumbents to toe that line and providing rare insight into the widespread denialist groupthink within conservative ranks.
    “Literally and figuratively, we are witnessing a “burning of the science books”, the like of which has not been seen since medieval times. It did not work for the Catholic Church in the days of Copernicus and Galileo, nor in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. It will not work today.”

    [5] The Lucky Country: Australia in the Sixties, Chapter 9, Donald Horne, 1964: http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780143180029/lucky-country

    This opinion piece was published on 2nd June 2014 on http://www.smh.com.au/comment/tony-abbott-is-gutting-science-just-when-we-need-it-most-20140601-zru3j.html#ixzz33TUgWynv
    Image: Danie Mellor, Red, White and Blue 2008 mixed media, from http://www.craftaustralia.org.au/library/docfiles/reviews/tayenebe_menagerie_on_tour/images/09%20Danie%20Mellor%20%20Red,%20White%20and%20Blue%20%202008%20mixed%20media,%20dimensions%20variable,%20tallest%20105cm.%20Courtesy%20the%20artist%20and%20Caruana%20and%20Reid%20Fine%20Art.jpg

     
  • andrea 9:01 am on July 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Australia, , carbon tax, clean energy, , market mechanism   

    Australia’s new Carbon Tax 

    Q: What does One Stone have in common with a Melbourne cemetery, Arnold Schwartzegger and a bakery chain called Brumby’s?
    A: The answer is to do with carbon emissions. And we’re on Arnie’s side.

    On July 1st Australia’s Carbon Tax came into effect. That means the country’s 500 biggest polluters must now pay a price for their emissions—initially set at (AUD)$23 a tonne, and increasing gradually until 2015, when it will convert into a trading scheme based on market prices. Most affected are energy generators and mining companies like Macquarie Generation, Woodside Petroleum and Rio Tinto.

    Touted as a key part of the Gillard Labor government’s drive for a clean energy future, the carbon ‘tax’ has paralyzed political debate in Australia over the past year. It has spawned vehement new parties like the No Climate Tax Climate Sceptics Party (NCTCS),
    while Liberal National Party Opposition leader Tony Abbott has pledged “in blood” to dismantle it as soon as he wins the next election—amplifying uncertainty for business and investors.

    At least part of the blame for this hostility to the carbon tax lies with the Gillard minority government, which has done an appalling job at explaining both the rationale behind the tax and why it changed its mind.

    But huge credit goes to the Australian Greens for staying on-message and leveraging their support of Gillard’s government to put climate change on the national agenda. There’s no doubt that pricing carbon is a vital first step to building a clean energy economy for Australia.

    So three weeks in, what has been the effect of a price on carbon? A survey by the Australian Industry Group claims 42 per cent of manufacturing, services and construction businesses will increase their prices due to the carbon tax. Virgin Australia, which has already added a surcharge to its domestic and international air fares to cover Australian and European carbon pricing regimes, expects the overall cost to reach $45-50 million.

    But for most companies, it’s too early to say: it could take 6-9 months before they know their actual costs.

    That hasn’t stopped a handful of businesses taking advantage of the carbon tax—or blaming it for their woes—spawning a lively ‘Misleading Headline of the Day’ discussion on the Australian Sustainability Group’s LinkedIn page.

    Among the most brazen was Brumby’s bakery, whose now-former Managing Director Deane Priest sent out a memo urging franchisees to put up prices and “let the carbon tax take the blame.” Similarly, a staff member at Springvale Botanical Cemetery was had up for announcing the cost of burial had risen by $55 due to the carbon tax. Meanwhile headlines that the aged Munmorah Power Station was forced to close as a result of the carbon price—even though it hasn’t operated since 2010—read like an effect in search of a cause.

    Over 630 complaints and enquiries over cases like these have led the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to issue several warnings over illegitimate cost pass-through, where retail price rises are wrongly attributed to the tax. To prevent misrepresentations about the impact of carbon tax-related cost increases, the ACCC has launched a Carbon Price Claims Hotline. Companies found to be misleading consumers face legal action and hefty fines.

    With so much media attention on the carbon tax critics and conmen, Businesses for a Clean Economy (B4CE) stands out for speaking up in support of a price on carbon. One Stone is among 398 signatories—including Westpac, AGL and General Electric—who think it’s important the voice of proactive business is heard in the Australian debate.

    Which brings us to Arnie. Thinking big, as ever, Arnold Schwartzenegger is not waiting for national governments to overcome political gridlock and carbon paralysis. As Founding Chair of R20 Regions of Climate Action, a UN-backed NGO launched in 2011, Schwartzenegger is focusing on developing carbon leadership at local and state level. By linking government, finance and green technology partners, R20 is spearheading a bottom-up movement to counter carbon policy gridlock and take meaningful action at the sub-national level.

    That definitely gets our vote.

     
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