Saturday, November 15, 2008
A big crowd had gathered at Federation Square for the Walk Against Warming, when all eyes turned to the big screen. In a pre-recorded interview from a chilly laneway outside his US offices, climate luminary, NASA's Professor James Hansen, warned that the world must have a moratorium on new coal-fired power stations as a key action against dangerous climate change.
The warning struck a chord with its Victorian audience, with the state government having recently announced plans for a new brown coal-fired power station in the La Trobe Valley. The power station already has more than $150 million of federal and state funds committed.
Hansen suggested, however, that unless we curbed our use of coal or captured the resulting carbon emissions (a 'solution' that to me seems a long way off), we were facing large-scale harmful changes to our climate.
Outspoken head of Victoria's climate change reference group and world climate authority, Professor David Karoly, followed up by saying we were likely already committed to two-degree warming and, if Professor Garnaut's most likely scenario were adopted, we were heading for 'run-away climate change', with many current climate indicators, including melting Arctic ice, already tracking at the worst-case end of current projections.
However, it was Environment Victoria's Mark Wakeham who, for me, suggested the strongest connection with local government when he noted a recent report released by the organisation suggesting that Victoria could cut its emissions by 60% by 2020, saving money in the process. As part of this he suggested that jobs could be created by retro-fitting homes to achieve greater energy efficiency.
This work has significant implications for Darebin Council, which has developed some good initiatives but appears to be suffering climate complacency in its dismissal of new ideas.
Like the Walk Against Warming, the new Darebin Council will need to draw on a greater diversity of views, assessing proposals on their merits, not rejecting them because of political origins at odds with the current Council's narrow right-wing Labor agenda. Afterall, every member of the current Council belongs to the same faction as our Premier, John Brumby, who approved the La Trobe Valley's new coal-fired power station. It's time for some new thinking.
Today's event ended on the steps of Parliament with a ten-second countdown and collective wake-up call on climate action for our state and federal governments - a call equally relevant at Council level.
That's why I have proposed as part of my climate change policy a Darebin Climate Framework to highlight the climate impacts of all Council initiatives and point to more climate-friendly solutions. The Framework would be most relevant to the environmental performance of new buildings, but would have benefits across the board, including possible cost-savings as the Environment Victoria research suggests.
If you're concerned about climate change, why not ask the other candidates and current Councillors their views, and if they were there today, or have attended a past Walk Against Warming.