Climate Q and A

DarebinCAN Climate Q & A, 
8 November 2010
Northcote Town Hall

Presentation Notes for Darren Lewin-Hill
Independent Candidate for Northcote
2010 Victorian State Election

Already we are seeing the impacts of climate change – sea-level rise, floods, droughts, extreme weather events, and more frequent and severe bushfires here and around the world. Increasingly, these and many other impacts are being linked to climate change.

The current science tells us that atmospheric carbon dioxide – the key driver of dangerous climate change – must be stabilised below 350ppm, and possibly around 300ppm to avoid the worst impacts.

With atmospheric levels now around 390ppm and rising, we must not only reduce emissions to zero in the shortest possible timeframe, but draw out of the atmosphere some of the emissions that have gathered there from our past burning of fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, national commitments at last December’s Copenhagen negotiations will limit carbon dioxide only to levels that will allow warming of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Just one degree warmer than the previously “safe” level of 2 degrees is much worse than it sounds.

Earlier this year, the ANU’s Professor Will Steffen, a member of the new federal climate change committee, said this to an audience at the Melbourne launch of the Transition Decade climate campaign. 

The more scientists learn from research, the greater the number of climate impacts they believe will occur within just 2 degrees of warming.

The uncertainty that exists within climate science, then, is not whether it’s happening, or whether its consequences might be less serious than thought. The uncertainty lies in just how many severe climate impacts will fall within levels of warming we once thought would be safe.

That’s not a game we should be prepared to play, and the action we take must at all times be guided by the science.

To delay – or to take ineffective action – is to risk crossing tipping points past which processes beyond our control – such as the melting of major ice sheets – will lead to run-away climate change.

The problem is, we don’t quite know where the tipping points are – only that they are moving closer towards us, with more impacts at lower levels of warming. Some scientists believe we may already have crossed them, but while there’s a chance we must act.

It is this understanding that informs the policies to which I now turn.

If elected I would:

  • Support a strong carbon price and complementary measures to drive down emissions.

  • Support science-based emissions targets to achieve Victoria's fair share of reductions in global warming pollutants.

  • Support the rapid adoption of renewable energy guided by proposals such as the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Plan developed by Beyond Zero Emissions and recently launched at the University of Melbourne.

That plan shows how we can achieve zero emissions by 2020 in our stationary energy sector. It shows renewable energy can meet baseload power needs and create thousands of jobs at a cost that is economic – if the impacts from doing nothing or too little are fairly costed themselves.

In short, it’s a plan that shows how to replace coal.

    Because coal is such a big driver of Victorian emissions, I would:

    • Commit to the complete closure of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station as soon as possible within the next term of Government. After 11 years of Labor, we have only the glimmer of a plan for its partial closure.

    • Oppose new coal-fired power stations in Victoria and the export of brown coal – both currently being considered by the Brumby Government.

Exporting coal cannot export the impacts from global warming we will experience no matter where the coal is burnt.

    • Support communities affected by the transition to low emissions with retraining and compensation. This includes support for disadvantaged people with their energy bills.

    • Oppose compensation to the owners of coal-fired power stations facing closure.

    • Advocate for the study of the health impacts of brown coal – for example, from the breathing in of coal pollution by people in coal-mining areas.

    • Support complementary measures that serve broad environmental aims – for example, bans on logging of old-growth forests, energy efficiency, demand management, and the expansion of public transport.
    There is no single solution to climate change, but two things are very clear:

    We cannot meet the challenge of climate change with targets for renewables and emissions cuts that fail to match the urgent demands of the science – targets such as those put forward by the Brumby Government.

    Nor can we meet the challenge of climate change by offering alternative climate initiatives to “offset” or compensate for continuing our disastrous addiction to coal.

    As James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, has said:

“If coal emissions are phased out rapidly ... the climate problem is solvable.”


    “The clean-coal concept ... has been an illusion, a diversion that the coal industry and its government supporters employ to allow dirty coal-use to continue.”

    As thousands of people marching in the city on Saturday made clear, we must replace Hazelwood with renewable energy, and do it with the urgency our climate demands. Thank-you.

    Darren Lewin-Hill
    Independent Candidate for Northcote
    0404 526 555