2020 Vision

It is the year 2020, and Eden-Monaro looks quite different to what it was in 2008.

There are some obvious big differences. There is a wind farm on the Monaro, quietly producing more than half of our regions electricity needs. With this wind farm alone, we have met the second half of our region’s target (a 50% production of energy from renewable sources), which is fortunate, as the snowy hydro scheme is struggling from lack of water. There are smaller community wind farms in Bega, Moruya and Merimbula, which altogether employ over 50 people.

Australia’s first community owned solar farm was constructed in Bega in 2009, and was formed in the shape “50/50 by 2020”. It has become a huge tourist attraction, by 2011 averaging 2700 visitors a year. Jindabyne, Moruya and Batemans Bay each have a large community owned solar farm, and new ones are planned for Merimbula and Braidwood,

These macro-renewable energy projects are exciting, and are attracting tourists from all over Australia. Eden built the first wave generator in the region way back in 2012, and that has helped the tourist industry in the southern end of the Bega Valley Shire. The tourist operators throughout SE NSW are thriving, as the cost of international air travel has gone through the roof, and people are deciding to holiday within Australia.

This is not a picture of Utopia. Atmospheric CO2 is 30 parts per million higher than it was in 2008. The Monaro is dry, with record droughts (the sceptics call it a one in 10 000 year drought). The dairy industry on the coast is forced to come up with innovative ways to cope with reduced milk yields, and smaller herd sizes, but continues to be competetive. Sea level is 3cm higher than it was back in 2006, which has yet to cause significant coastal inundation. However, the threat of relentless sea level rise has seen the value of low level coastal real estate plummet. Petrol costs $7 a litre, and many are struggling to cope with the rapidly rising cost of electricity.

As I look around the region, I need to look carefully to see that a lot more is going on than just large scale renewable energy projects. It takes a keen eye to spot the fact that every house in Eden Monaro has a solar hot water system on it’s roof. This was made possible thanks to a collaborative effort made by all local councils in Eden-Monaro in 2015. Photovoltaic cells are the norm, thanks to the rapidly falling price of solar cells, and a national feed in tariff, that is allowing low income households to make money selling electricity back to the grid.

The Bega Eco Neighbourhood Development (BEND) was up and running by 2010, setting a benchmark for sustainable housing development right across the country. Bermagui was the first town in the region to attract a major developer that modelled its project on the BEND style development, as investors start to realise that there is money to be made in building sustainable housing estates. The Thompsons Estate in Tathra was built along similar lines shortly thereafter, and created a development that all locals were proud to live alongside.

Bega was the first town in the region to build a large community garden in its town centre, which by 2014 was employing 12 people full time, and producing fresh vegetables for most of the town. Locally grown produce becomes increasingly important due to higher transportation costs, and local food producers are starting to compete with supermarket chains. Other regional centers quickly followed suit, and Jindabyne constucted the largest community owned green house in the Southern Hemisphere in 2017, irrigated by the water from Lake Jindabyne.

In 2013 the 305th surf club in Australia was set up with renewable energy, and Tathra became known as the birthplace of LifeSaving Energy. A year later, LifeSaving Energy is launched as a national campaign in South Africa and New Zealand. In 2009, the Rural Fire Stations in Tathtra and Bermagui put solar panels on their roof tops, inspired by the LifeSaving Energy campaign, and by 2020, all Fire Stations in SE NSW are self sufficient in energy. St Johns Anglican Church in Bega installs solar panels on its heritage roof top after some protracted discussions with council late in 2009, and this inspires other churches, throughout the region to do the same. By 2020, 15 mosques and 12 synagogues in larger centres have joined the LifeSaving Energy campaign. In 2013 the Tathra primary School was the first school in Australia to have zero emissions, and the Nimmitabel Primary School installed their third wind turbine in the same year.

In 2018, EdenMonaro reached its 50/50 by 2020 target, and by 2020 the region is considering ways to become a net exporter of energy. With an emissions trading scheme up and running, the region is earning millions of dollars in carbon credits, money that is being directed towards further renewable energy projects, and is also used to help the poor cope with tough economic times.

It is the year 2020, and Eden-Monaro has a stronger sense of community than it ever had. Whilst the world economy struggles with rising petrol prices and climate change, our regional economy has developed a robust resilience that makes me feel like we can cope with just about any crisis that the world can throw at us. I am now confident that my children will have a secure future, although I am certain that they will have to continue fighting for it.

In 2020 I look forward not with anxiety, but with excitiement. The world is what we make it. Our region is what it is in 2020, not because we wished for it, but because we made it.
Matthew Nott

Creativity breeds longevity for rural towns

A report on ABC radio on the 20th June 2008 indicated that Professor Ian Plowman of the University of Queensland has claimed in a study that towns that attract creative people thrive and survive.
“People who can think outside the square, have a different background… different spheres of interest… anything that makes them different gives us a richer pool of ideas that will help our towns thrive…. And… when you have a critical mass of conservative people rather than innovative people, the town will slowly die.”
An interesting thought. Professor Plowman was not simply referring to superficial manifestations of conservatism or innovativeness like the way we dress or what music we listen to. His comments reach far into the way we live and solve the problems and challenges that constantly confront people and communities.
How is this relevant to sustainable energy? It relates because we all need to think “outside the square”. Whether we “believe” in global warming, climate change, the approaching end of oil culture or not, we all need to think creatively. Are petrol or diesel costs biting further and further into our household budget? Is electricity doing the same? How can we keep our gardens and paddocks green and functional with diminishing rainfalls? What is the future of the skiing industry and downhill, the generation of carbon-friendly hydto-electric power if snow- and rainfalls diminish?
These large and small problems all demand the sort of creative thinking that affect our long term survival. So let’s all think laterally, be creative in life and (by the way) keep our towns vibrant and exciting so that people want to live in our region.

Rowena Evans

Cooma CEFE

What does the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) mean for small business

In the past month, the talk about the Federal Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) has been overshadowed by daily coverage of the growing global financial crisis.In terms of magnitude and impact, the climate crisis is far bigger than the current financial crisis. Yet it appears that the Government has relegated combating climate change down the list of priorities.Community groups such as Clean Energy For Eternity need to keep the pressure on. The reality is that responding promptly to climate change makes good business sense. There are opportunities in the transition to a carbon-constrained economy by which businesses can save their bottom line and improve the viability of their enterprise.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is a ‘cap and trade’ scheme rather than a carbon ‘tax’.Major emitters will need to acquire a pollution permit for every tonne of greenhouse emissions they release above a determined threshold. The number of permits is limited, i.e. it is ‘capped’ (the ‘cap’ part of the scheme). These permits have a value so they effectively become a cost of production. Permits can be bought and sold – the ‘trade’ part of the scheme. Emissions are then monitored and audited each year to ensure a business is compliant.

The Government has promised a cent-for-cent offset in fuel price impacts so the price of fuel should not increase as a result of action on climate change. Energy efficiency programs have been increased and a climate change action fund established.

The CPRS primarily targets the top 1000 businesses in Australia, though its effects will be felt by many smaller businesses in both metropolitan and regional communities. The most notable effects will be increases in energy prices, greater government regulation and potentially more expensive raw materials.

Ultimately tackling climate change for business owners is about managing risk. There are exciting possibilities for expanding businesses and creating new regional job opportunities in pursuing renewable energy and other climate change solutions.The first thing a business owner can do is record energy use, calculate the impact of increased energy prices, determine their eligibility for government funding, work out if customers are motivated about climate change, and above all, conduct an audit of energy-using appliances.

Information about available funds in the NSW Government’s $150 million energy efficiency strategy (commencing 1 Jan 09) is at www.environment.nsw.gov.au/grants. There’s relevant material regarding both the Government’s Small Business Energy Efficiency Program and the Green program. You can also refer to the AusIndustry Climate Ready program at www.ausindustry.gov.au.

If you would like a voice on how the governments Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is set up, come to a public forum at the Bega RSL on 5/11/08 at 6pm. Mike Kelly will be there to take feedback from our community back to Penny Wong, the Federal Water and Climate Change Minister.

Ron Kruger (Manly CEFE),Philippa Rowland (Bega CEFE)
Climate Change is man made

Mr Gaunsen (Merimbula News Weekly 1/10/08) rightly asserts that the planet has experienced major climate change in the past. Without a doubt, the planet has been warmer, and cooler in the past. No-one is disputing that fact. What Mr Gaunsen assumes is that current climate change must be due to natural variation. It must be natural variation, he says, because that is the way it has always been. Mr Gaunsen asks “how do they explain all the previous warmings in history, which were pre-industrial, and how do they explain their strange belief that this latest global warming must have a different cause than all the others?”

I would like to offer a response, based on the science that I have read. Firstly, it is important to understand that the hotter the planet gets, the higher atmospheric CO2 will be. Also, if CO2 increases, this will drive global temperature upwards. The 2 are closely linked. In the past, it has been fluctuations in global temperature that have driven changes in atmospheric CO2. Over the last 100 years, it is clear that a rise in atmospheric CO2 is what is driving global temperature in an upward direction.

There are several natural drivers of climate variation. No-one disputes the fact that the amount of radiation received from the sun is the single most important determinant of the earth’s temperature. Variations in the amount of solar radiation occur in a fairly predictable way, due to small changes in the earth’s rotation around the sun, or changes in solar flare activity. The other driver of natural variation is release of CO2 from the earth’s crust from volcanic eruption. There are some theories about cosmic radiation influencing global temperature, although little is known about this effect.

Over the past 400 000 years, atmospheric CO2 has fluctuated gently between 200 and 280 parts per million. This has been largely due to fluctuations in the earth’s temperature due to variations in ambient solar radiation. The amount of solar radiation has varied due mainly to small changes in the tilt and wobble of the earth as it rotates around the sun. The cycle between high and low atmospheric CO2 has historically taken about 100 000 years.

What we have seen in the last 100 years is an enormous rise in atmospheric CO2 of about 100 parts per million, and if it continues to rise at the current rate (2 parts per million a year), we will see a doubling of CO2 by the end of the century. That sort of change, if happening due to natural variation, should take hundreds of thousands of years, not decades. CO2 will be two times higher than it has been throughout human history, except that the rate of rise is increasing, which will more likely see a tripling of CO2 in the atmosphere by the end of the century.

Mr Gaunsen, if you believe that 7 billion tonnes of man made emissions each year has nothing to do with rapidly rising atmospheric CO2, then you will need to show me that the sun is burning brighter, the earth is closer to the sun than it has been, or that volcanoes are more active than normal. I would love to know what natural process you think is driving CO2 upwards at a rate of 2 parts per million a year? That is my question to you.

Dr Matthew Nott

A community response to what Mr Garnaut is saying.

Mr Garnaut was commissioned by the Rudd government in opposition to look at the economic impact of climate change in Australia . Suprisingly, this was the first time that our nation had looked at the economics of climate change, and its mitigation.

For the first time in Australia , the implications of climate change science were tied to targets. Garnaut’s initial report in Feb 2008 was not hindered by politics, presenting the facts of climate change science, and recognising that the impacts of climate change are far worse than most people imagine. He went on to state that abatement costs are not only manageable, but the sooner we act the cheaper and more effective that action will be.

He recognises that Australia has much to lose from climate change. The impact of rising sea levels, the drying out of the Murray-Darling Basin , political instability in SE Asia, pressure from climate refugees, the end of the Great Barrier Reef , the list goes on. The science tells us that we need to limit atmospheric CO2 to about 450 parts per million, and to achieve that, we (the global population) must make aggressive early cuts to greenhouse emissions, followed up by tough long term targets in the order of 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

Garnaut’s latest report from Sept 2008 presents a different picture. Garnaut feels that it is not the science that will determine targets, but the politics. He feels that the world is not ready to accept targets that will limit atmospheric CO2 to 450ppm. He feels that the politics will dictate a much weaker ambition, limiting CO2 to 550ppm, an end point that he concedes will result in catastrophic and irreversible climate change. Limiting atmospheric CO2 to 550ppm will not save the Barrier Reef, will not prevent significant sea level rise, will not save the Murray-Darling, and risks sending our planet over a climate change tipping point. A huge gap has opened up between what scientific reality demands, and what Garnaut proposes.

The flaw in Garnaut’s thinking is that it is not politicians who decide what is politically feasible, it is the people. The people of SE NSW require more than lack-lustre targets. We want the problem fixed. Mr Garnaut, our nation needs to show leadership in tackling climate change. We need to be encouraging other countries into action, rather than waiting for them to act. We need a tough emissions trading scheme, we need a strong Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, and we need a national feed in tariff up and running by 2010. We want strong short and long term targets. We need urgent meaningful action to curb greenhouse emissions. We believe that an aggressive pro-active response to climate change will lead to a more resilient society and generate millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs for our regional economy. Why would we not act now? There is a lot to lose.

Matthew Nott and Philippa Rowland .