On jobs…

At the moment, jobs take centre stage in the climate change debate in this country. For the Federal Government, facing a rise of unemployment over the next year, the last thing it wants to hear is that more jobs are set to go. But that’s exactly what modeling prepared for the Minerals Council is predicting will happen under the emissions trading scheme. According to them 23,500 jobs, half of them in Queensland, will disappear over the next 10 years with that figure doubling over 20 years. However, he Government says that its own modeling shows that employment overall will grow. Penny Wong says “modeling that we put out last year showed that all major employment sectors would continue to grow”.

Mitch Hooke from the Minerals Council, and representing the coal industry, has raised the issue of job losses in the mining industry, and says “you could be up to nearly 30,000 to 40,000 jobs (lost) by 2020 and then up to 100,000 jobs, total jobs by 2030”. About a delay in the Emissions Reduction Scheme, he says “The one-year delay represents a stay of execution for the jobs that will be shed under the proposed scheme”. “By imposing the world’s highest carbon costs on Australia’s minerals exporters, it will destroy jobs in our most important industries without delivering any appreciable reduction in global emissions,” he says. The Opposition says the Mineral Council’s information confirms its own doubts about the Emission Trading Scheme. Simon O’Connor, Australian Conservation Foundation economic advisor, said: “The mining sector is using jobs as a bargaining tool to get more handouts. There are a lot of very poorly supported facts being put out there and it is making it very difficult to then have a clear debate on this topic.”

So who is right? Ross Garnaut says “There’s no reason to think that a regime of ambitious emissions reduction will lead to a net fall in jobs. There’ll be increased jobs in some industries and reduced jobs in others”. It is an intriguing discussion, and one that has great relevance to SE NSW. Who is right? How many jobs will be lost with an Emission Trading Scheme, and what will be the impact of Green Jobs?

The union representing the miners says the Minerals Council isn’t telling the whole truth about its job loss report. Tony Maher from the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union says the Minerals Council is guilty of running an unprincipled scare campaign. Tony Maher says “If you look at detail of the report, it shows that the Queensland mining industry will grow 120 per cent between now and 2030, and by 60 per cent in New South Wales. So that’s an awful lot more jobs and what they’re saying is that there’ll be less growth under an emissions trading scheme than there would be if there was none. That’s still an awful lot of growth and it’s very unprincipled for them to scare people into thinking that their jobs are at risk, because they’re not – even on their own figures. The truth is that the company’s own predictions are that they’ll be more than doubling of employment.”. The study prepared for the Mineral Council says that a “loss” of 23,510 jobs from what “otherwise would have occurred” actually means jobs growth of more than 50,000 in the mining sector by 2025.

So what about green jobs? Is there any chance that more green jobs are created than are lost from polluting industry, as Ross Garnaut says. . Barnaby Joyce weighs into the debate in his usual fashion by saying “This is cloud cuckoo land rubbish. As I said what are we going to have – factories making wind chimes in Nimbin? This sort of garbage that we’re going to take out, you know, tens of thousands of mining workers and they’re all going to jump in their caravans and then like a procedure, like a caravan of love proceed down to some Nirvana like valley where they’ll all be in you know, I don’t know, doing what – making photovoltaic cells. Show me where these jobs are. How are you going to do this?”

It’s all very confusing.

There are a lot of job figures flying around, from different sources. I would like to show Barnaby Joyce where the green jobs are! ! I would like to invite Barnaby Joyce to Eden-Moaro to see how many Green Jobs we have down here. I would like him to come back in 5 years time, to see how many new green jobs we have in our region. With renewable energy and insulation business’s going hard, with the solar farm and on-going community power station projects, with a proposed wind farm on the Monaro, and a growing sense of climate change leadership in Eden-Monaro, this region will show Barnaby the green jobs. I’ll throw my hat in the ring and say there will be an extra 1000 green jobs in our part of the world within 5 years.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow states what seems to have escaped the Mining Council by saying “There will be no jobs on a dead planet … we need support for new industries that will grow new green jobs that will enable people to have a confidence that Australia won’t just be buying in its climate change solutions from China or India, but be manufacturing the solutions, creating the R&D and applying that research to implement them right here in Australia”. She goes further: 800,000 “green” jobs in 15 years could be created if there was a massive rollout of green investment and a price put on carbon in the market. Clean Energy For Eternity want more than our share of those green jobs in our part of the world.

Matthew Nott

Local business in the big time

Ngh environmental director Nick Graham-Higgs, Brooke Marshall and Tim Browne take time out from checking on the assessment of the multi-billion dollar wind farm near Broken Hill.
Ngh environmental director Nick Graham-Higgs, Brooke Marshall and Tim Browne take time out from checking on the assessment of the multi-billion dollar wind farm near Broken Hill.

WHEN multi-billion dollar projects are discussed, it’s usually in major cities where the multi-billion dollar companies are located.

But it’s not always the case.

For instance, the Bega-based company Ngh environmental has played a key role in the assessment of the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere near Broken Hill.

Involvement in the $2.2 billion Silverton Wind Farm project came about because of the company’s association with other similar projects.

“About five years ago we did some work for a company called Taurus Energy,” company director Nick Graham-Higgs said.

“That led to other associations and when this project came up we were recommended.”

Mr Graham-Higgs said Ngh environmental carried out the assessment for the wind farm, investigating the impacts on the physical, biological and social environment.

This included managing specialist investigations into flora and fauna, historic features and traffic impacts.

“We also managed the investigation into impacts on Aboriginal heritage sites,” he said.

It is the largest project the company has undertaken and required a detailed environmental survey of the rugged 320 square kilometre site.

Brooke Marshall, manager projects, said that significant findings during the assessment included the endangered Tawny Rock Dragon, which was discovered well outside its known range.

“When we survey the site we look for all reptiles and study the vegetation,” she said.

“We have teams of two people and we look under rocks and through vegetation and grass tussocks in areas across the site where we would be most likely to find something.

“We look through the full range of habitats under the guidelines of Department of Environment and Climate Change.”

Ms Marshall said it was “very exciting” to make a discovery such as the endangered lizard.

“It’s not something you find every day out in that environment,” she said.

“There are a lot of threatened species around Bega and along the coast, but out there it’s pretty rare that you find an endangered species, which is the highest level of threat.”

The survey also found three new vegetation types.

One, a spinifex community on rock, has now been nominated to the NSW Scientific Committee for listing as an Endangered Ecological Community.

Mr Graham-Higgs said that in the right locations, wind farms were a viable way to generate emission-free electricity and could have a much smaller environmental footprint than coal or gas-powered plants.

“But they do have impacts that must be addressed and we have been advising on ways to manage these impacts,” he said.

“We’ve also been able to find ways to improve the overall environmental health of the site, which has been degraded by feral goat grazing. ”

The company designed environmental safeguards to protect and preserve the rare flora and fauna, ensuring that all ecological aspects of the site were appropriate and sustainable.

The company had other local help in the project.

Julie Dibden from NSW Archaeology in Tilba helped with the Aboriginal assessment while Roger Ubrihien from Bega conducted the Traffic Impact Study.

The project team, which included Mr Graham-Higgs, Ms Marshall and Tim Browne from the Bega office, has been asked to continue its work during the construction phase.

“There are a number of other companies who have invited us to stay and do more assessments when the building starts,” Ms Marshall said.

Mr Graham-Higgs said it was an exciting time for the company which also has offices in Sydney, Perth and Wagga Wagga.

“We have done quite a few wind farm projects around the country but nothing like this,” he said.

“We have a lot of very skilled professionals here in Bega.”
Federal Budget 2009

Australia recently made a provisional promise to cut emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, pending strong international agreement on climate change. Climate change Minister Penny Wong said the budget aimed to make that possible. The question is, does the budget deliver on climate change, and will it get us to the rather unimpressive target of 25% by 2020, well below where the science tells us we need to be?

The Budget established the $4.5 billion Clean Energy initiative ($1billion of existing funding and $3.5 billion in new investment), to support low emission technologies and create low pollution jobs. The Clean Energy initiative has three aims:
• to establish Renewables Australia, a new innovation body to promote the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable technologies.
• to establish up to four new Solar Flagship projects to demonstrate the viability of solar technologies.
• to support projects that demonstrate carbon capture and storage on an industrial scale from coal-fired power stations.

Despite tough economic times, the climate change budget has been beefed up, to $15 billion over nine years.

The four large scale solar farms are exciting news. Together they will produce as much electricity as a single coal-fired power station. $1.5 billion will be spent over six years for plants using solar thermal or solar photovoltaic technologies. These 4 solar farms should have been built 20 years ago! The photovoltaic technology and the science of climate change were both already well established. It is a case of “better late than never”, and will lead to the development of further large scale solar projects.

The government has not forgotten coal. $2 billion will be spent building between two and four industrial-sized coal-fired power plants, demonstrating Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. This largely unproven technology plans to capture the carbon emissions from power plants and store them underground. Previously the government has funded small CCS demonstration plants, but wants to be part of a global push to have 20 Carbon Capture and Storage power stations operational by 2020. This seems ambitious given the state of current technology, and somewhat insignificant given the 600 coal fired power stations in the US, and the fact that China is building 2 new coal fired power stations per week. This so-called “Clean” coal technology needs to be looked at seriously, but we must not depend on it for a solution. It may well be a couple of decades before we know whether or not coal can ever be considered “clean”.

The budget has also provided $100 million for one regional city – it hasn’t been selected yet – to become a green energy showcase. The money will pay for “smart meters” in homes, which can regulate electricity use, and to integrate those meters with solar and wind power. It’s hoped the demonstration project will improve energy efficiency. I think one of our towns in SE NSW would be an excellent candidate to become a green energy showcase.

Overall the budget spends a lot of money on some high profile show case projects. The extra $3.5 billion of funding in this year’s budget for low emissions projects represents a lot of money in tough economic times, but to put things into perspective, $22 billion is going towards nation building infrastructure. This is money going to transport, communications, education and health infrastructure across Australia. This is all important, particularly in regional Australia, but the low proportion of this money going towards renewable energy reflects our government’s unambitious emission reduction targets and lack of vision.

The budget contained no national strategy for a Feed in Tariff, and no discussion about how a 20% Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) by 2020 is going to work. I hope MRET hasn’t been forgotten. We will also need to wait to see what will be happening with the Federal Government’s solar rebates for household photovoltaic cells.

The delay in emissions trading, and the lack of a coherent national climate strategy in the recent budget make Australia’s effort to reduce emissions look “piecemeal”. This is of concern in the lead up to global climate change talks in Copenhagen at the end of the year.
Matthew Nott

Emission trading

The Federal Governments Emissions Trading Scheme has been delayed by 12 months. A numbers of factors have lead to its delay. The ETS has struggled for political support, with the Liberal Party saying that it is too much too soon, and the Greens saying that it is too little, too late. The Global Economic Crisis has placed huge economic pressure on everyone, and the national budget is now in deficit. What a time to be planning an overhaul of our economy with an Emissions Trading Scheme. In addition, the Rudd Government has come under huge pressure from the big polluters to delay action on climate change, and they are being listened to.

The counter argument is that renewable energy provides a cost effective and enduring economic stimulus, particularly in regional areas, where hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created. Tough climate change action on a national level would be a huge economic stimulus to Eden-Monaro.

The future of global climate negotiations hangs in the balance. In Copenhagen this December, the world will meet to discuss a global response, and global targets for tackling climate change. It is by no means certain that those talks will be successful. It is very much in Australia’s short and long term interest that those climate negotiations are successful.

Australia will arrive in Copenhagen as a follower, not a leader. Australia will be waiting for other countries to lead, in fact we are depending on it. Australia is the largest exporter of coal, and has the highest per capita rate of pollution of any country. We are asking China and the US to rein in their emissions so that our Barrier Reef can be saved, whilst doing nothing ourselves. I imagine it will be an awkward time for our diplomats in Copenhagen.

Kevin Rudd talked tough on climate change prior to the 2007 election. He described climate change as the defining issue of our generation. He has set a conditional 25% reduction target for 2020 pending global agreement on action. This is better than the pathetic 5% target originally set, but still far below what mainstream science demands as necessary to curb dangerous climate change impacts. Rudd is likely to be out of politics by 2020. It easy to be tough on climate change before and after your term, but delaying an Emissions Trading Scheme means that very little will be achieved in the Rudd Government’s first term.

Have we got time to wait? There is much made of the fact that 1998 was the hottest year ever recorded, and years since have not been as hot. That information is taken from the Hadley Met Office in Britain, and has even been used by Professor Ian Plimer in his new book “Heaven on Earth” to prove that Global Cooling is occurring. Can those who want to delay action on climate change can reassure themselves that the rate of global warming has slowed since 1998? It is useful to look at what the Hadley Centre is saying.

According to the Hadley Met Office, 1998 was indeed the hottest year ever recorded. That was attributed to a particularly strong El Nino event that year. What is not mentioned by skeptics is that the 10 years after 1998 were hotter than the ten years prior, and that the 11 hottest years ever recorded have been in the last 13 years. Global Warming is not slowing, atmospheric pollution continues to rise, and it is going to get hotter. The longer we delay action, the more costly and less effective the remedy will be.

Climate Change should be the defining issue of our generation.
Matthew Nott

LifeSaving Energy for the Rural Fire Service

This is an update of where LifeSaving Energy is up to with regard to the Rural Fire Service. LifeSaving Energy as a campaign was started by Clean Energy For Eternity nearly 3 years ago with solar panels and a wind turbine going onto the roof of the Tathra surf club. Since then we have managed to get renewable energy onto the roof top of 5 surf clubs (Tathra, Jindabyne, Narooma, Moruya and Pambula) with the Mollymook surf club about to go ahead, and the Bermagui surf club waiting for a clubhouse. Most of these installations have been funded by the LifeSaving Energy Big Swim series, which has also raised money for solar panels for the St Johns Church in Bega and for a wind turbine for the Tathra primary school.
These community installations are allowing CEFE to engage with large numbers of people about solutions to climate change, it is helping put our region into a leadership position when it comes to climate change, and the changing attitudes are allowing us to talk with about the big picture stuff such as large solar farms.

In 2009 , CEFE want to help Rural Fire Stations set up with renewable energy. The whole concept of the RFS putting itself into a leading role with climate change is very symbolic and is a great way of changing attitudes. It’s an all round feel good story, and will not cost the RFS a cent. It fits beautifully with the LifeSaving Energy concept, and I have met with a lot of enthusiasm from people within the RFS. I think this would be a terrfic way of getting the RFS some more profile and I think the media from LifeSaving Energy for the Rural Fire Service could have many positive spin off values.

I reckon we can get 4 or 5 RFS stations set up with renewable energy this year. I think that will then put our region into a strong position to talk to RFS at a state level, show them what we have done, and then start talking about getting all RFS stations in SE NSW set up with renewable energy by 2020. I think that is a very achievable target for us to be working towards, and I think this concept can gain enough momentum to get us there.

So far, we are underway raising money for solar panels for the Jindabyne RFS. The Jndabyne Big Swim in Feb was a fundraiser for the Jindy station, although we still have a way to go. The Victorian bush fire appeal was a better cause, at a time when we were trying to get sponsorship for the Jindy installation. Still, we have a big CEFE group in Jindabyne who are continuing to fundraise.

I think we can get the Numerella RFS set up by the end of the year.The solar bulk buy deal should allow us to get there. With every 30 household installations we get a free 2kw community installation. We are just about at the target for Cooma, and would like to see the community installation go to the Numerella Rural Fire Station.

The same bulk buy deal will enable us to get the Tathra RFS set up by the end of the year. If we can get a second batch of bulk buy deals in Bermagui, we will get the Bermi RFS set up. The first Bermi community installation is going on the Little Yuin primary school.

So far the Jindy and Tathra RFS captains are happy to donate the money made from the solar panels (about $700 a year) towards further RFS installations. That’s $700 a year for the next 30 years being invested into renewable energy projects for the RFS. That’s per station. A target to get all RFS stations in SE NSW set up by 2020 is possible, and exciting. Langdon, how many RFS stations are there in SE NSW. I would have thought there would be close to 200 stations. If we get them all set up, that would be half a MEGA watt of solar power being put into the grid per year. That’s about a quarter of what our solar farm will produce. The solar farm will cost $8 million. The RFS solar panels will cost the RFS nothing. The community will pay for it, one way or another, and it will change attitudes.

LifeSaving Energy for the RFS can help propel our region into a leadership position. LifeSaving Energy for surf clubs has started that process, but with the number of fire stations in SE NSW, this could be huge.