More Debate Needed

Several people lately have told me there needs to be more open debate on the science and impacts of climate change. This discussion needs to be local, and allow all viewpoints. To some extent this debate is happening, but only in a limited way. Letters to the editors of local papers are generating discussion, and the ABC SouthEast Radio web site has allowed for some online discussion.

Clean Energy For Eternity want to promote more discussion and debate. If you want to contribute to the debate, go to the www.cleanenergyforeternity.net.au web site and make a comment on the guest book. All comments will be accepted, as long as they have a name attached.

What do you think about a 50/50 by 2020 target for Eden-Monaro? What about wind farms, or solar rebates.If you think that there is a natural cause for rising CO2, we want to hear from you. If you think that the world is cooling, that sea level rise does not present a threat, or that the current drought is part of a natural cycle, let us know on the web site. If you have scientific information to back up your statements, send it in, and you will get a response. The idea of the guest book is to encourage lively debate.

A public debate on the science of climate change will be held on 21/11/09 at the St Johns Church in Bega as part of the Festival of Bega. The Debate will be between Rod High and myself, and chaired by Tim Holt. Whilst we will have to show a few graphs, I am sure it will be an entertaining and informative session. The debate will occur at High Noon.
Matthew Nott

The Hope We Share: A Vision For Copenhagen

A Statement from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network

In preparation for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference Of Parties (COP) Meetings, the Fifteenth Session, to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009

To Anglicans Worldwide, to COP Delegates, Faith Community Representatives, Observer Organizations, Friends of Creation
Is there anyone who does not seek a sustainable world, a world which promotes justice and harmony for all and hope for future generations? May the participants of the Copenhagen conference meet in this spirit and combine to envision a better, more harmonious and just world.

We Anglicans are found in all corners of the globe and our experience is that the world is changing around us to the great disadvantage of the poorest of us and with considerable anxiety for all our children, in the developed and developing world alike. Anglicans in the Pacific and Bangladesh speak of the constant threat of rising waters. The millions of us who live on the continent of Africa know the constant threat of drought and failed crops. In Australia we are experiencing a considerable reduction in rainfall patterns with heightened threat from bush fires and severe lack of water. In some of our communities violence has already broken out as neighbouring tribes and families struggle to gain access to greatly reduced natural resources.

From all points of the globe we point to the reality of climate change and to the very serious effect it is already having upon our people; from severe weather events, to prolonged droughts, major floods, loss of habitat and changing seasons. Many of our peoples no longer have access to drinkable water, many of our farmers are no longer able to grow crops, and many of our peoples suffer from diseases which in the past have not affected us in our homelands. Sadly many of our peoples are now on the move in the vain hope that they might find another place to live, given the place of their birth can no longer support them.

Our faith and our ancestors have always taught us that the earth is our mother and deserves respect; we know that this respect has not been given. We know that like a mother the earth will continue to give its all to us. However, we also know that we are now demanding more than it is able to provide. Science confirms what we already know, our human footprint is changing the face of the earth and because we come from the earth, it is changing us too. We are engaged in the process of destroying our very being. If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another.

Those of us who live in the developed world realise all too painfully that our contribution to the human foot print is unreasonably high while the burdensome consequences of climate change is unequally born by our sisters and brothers in the developing world who have contributed least to the problem and who have limited if any choices available to respond to it. This is a moral issue.

The Lambeth Conferences of Anglican Bishops of 1998 and 2008 speak of creation as gift and sacrament which must be treated with respect and that ‘human beings are both co-partners with the rest of creation, and living bridges between heaven and earth with responsibility to make personal and moral sacrifices for the common good of all creation’. The Anglican Consultative Council meeting held in Jamaica earlier this year called upon Anglicans everywhere to reduce their footprint by 5% year on year.

We cannot say we do not know, we have always known, but the pain we see in the changing landscape brings home to us the extent of the burden we carry and the urgency required in our response.

We look to the Copenhagen conference with hope but also with realism. We realise that this huge task must be tackled simultaneously from two directions. There needs to be common agreement, but there must also be a desire on the part of every nation to do what they know they must, not because they are legally bound, but because they share a vision for a more just and sustainable future. The world has every right to expect the conference to produce agreed and enforceable targets and outcomes. When a crisis hits a family, village, or nation, the benefits of living through it and sharing the reconstruction is itself a lasting heritage: the benefits which will flow to the human family as we share responsibility for this crisis will be infinitely greater than the perceived economic costs in some sectors. We have the chance to build a new world order of mutual trust and respect.

We pray that each nation will come to the conference wanting the highest level outcome; that demanding targets will be set, not in an attempt to discipline reluctant participants, or to give some preferential treatment which undermines the whole; but that a greater vision might be shared.

Is it too much to hope that all developed countries will commit to significant and immediate reductions in total emissions and that they will work with developing countries to ensure continued development without increased emissions.

Is it too much to hope that all subsidies for fossil fuels will be immediately halted and that subsidies will be increased for renewable energies in their development stages.

Is it too much to hope that developed economies consciously break the nexus between economic growth and population expansion. Clearly world population is already at its absolute upper limits.

Is it too much to hope that countries most responsible for increased emissions provide funds and expertise to mitigate the effects of climate change in those countries most adversely affected, investing in the protection of ecosystems and bio-diversity.

Is it too much to hope that developed economies will no longer encourage rampant consumerism as a solution to perceived short term economic woes, but will slow consumerism, preserve resources, and invest in choices which minimise alienation through enhanced human fulfilment.

Is it too much to hope that every country, developed and developing, will commit to the view that what is in the world’s best interest is in their best interest.

We believe these hopes are reasonable and urgent, and we join with all our Christian sisters and brothers and those of other faiths in commitment to a sustainable future. “The earth is the Lord’s”.

We have always known that “without a vision, the people perish”. The Copenhagen Conference can either produce a bland, minimalist set of non enforceable targets or it can sketch a vision to inspire the world and its peoples.

Leaders lead, please . . . do not let us down.

Our prayers will be with the world leaders as they meet to discuss the most important topic imaginable – the future of the world and its peoples.
Bishop George Browning Convener
Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN)

Bega River LifeSaving Energy Big Swim 6/12/09

The 9th LSE Big Swim will be held in the Bega River on 6/12/09. It will be a 7 km swim down the beautiful Bega River from Kalaru to the Mogareeka boat ramp. The swim will be a fundraiser for solar panels for the new Rural Fire Station shed at Tathra. Entry fee for the swim will be $30, and swimmers will be encouraged to find sponsorship to support the project. I am hoping that relay teams and school students will get involved.

The Bega swim last year made $10 000 for a wind turbine for the Tathra primary school. There have been some significant complexities in getting a wind turbine for the primary school. Although wind turbines are installed and engineered to rigorous Australian standards, and although schools outside of NSW have successfully installed wind turbines, the NSW Dept. of Education is cautious. The Dept. of Education have imposed a series of regulations on the wind turbines which will effectively double the cost of the installation. To find another $10 000 for the Tathra primary school wind turbine is currently beyond the resources of CEFE, and after discussions with the school it has been decided to put this hard earned community money towards the solar panel installation at the Tathra RFS station. We will need to look at a wind turbine for the Tathra primary school at a later stage.

There are several hundred RFS stations in SE NSW, and it would be nice to think that we could get them all set up with solar panels before 2020. If we can get a 2 KW installation on the roof of the Tathra RFS, it will make money for the station. With Renewable Energy Certificates and the state feed-in-tariff to be introduced on 1/1/010, the 2 KW solar panels will make the station about $1800 per year, every year, for the next 30 years. I am hoping that a portion of this money will be donated towards ongoing installations for more RFS stations. I am also hoping that some of the money can be donated towards a wind turbine for the Tathra primary school. Fundraising for the Tathra primary school wind turbine will take a while, but CEFE are not planning to go away anytime soon.
Matthew Nott

Dedication of Solar Panels St Johns Church

26 September 2009
Thank you so much for your most generous invitation to me to speak today. I cannot think of a more appropriate place, or a more appropriate occasion, for me to give my first public address since returning from my stint as a parish priest in the UK.

Warmest congratulations to you all for an outstanding achievement, one which has much symbolic power for this community and beyond

Bishop George Browning
Bishop George Browning

May I ask you all to stand? May I now respectfully request that those who are over 70 sit down? Now may I ask if those who are over 50 would be kind enough to sit? My I repeat the same request fort those over 30 and finally may I make this request for those over 20? As you can see there are not many left standing. However, if I were to repeat this request for the world population, those under 20 would be close to 50% of those remaining standing.

I was tempted to repeat the same illustrative process by requesting you all to stand again and to ask those with a household income of $50,000+ to sit and then progressively to ask those with incomes of a lesser amount to sit until we finally left standing those with a total household income of $5000 or less. We would see the same picture with few if any left standing, but again, if we were to repeat this process with the world population, at $5000 or less a very significant percentage of the world population would still be standing.

Climate change and the outcomes associated with it have, and will increasingly have, the most profound affect upon categories of people who have the least say or influence. The reason why Margaret and I have returned from the UK is to spend time with our children and more particularly with our grandchildren. Those who are currently under the age of 20 have least say about world politics, but it is they who are going to be the most profoundly affected by the action or lack of action of we, the current adult population, as this century unfolds. Health permitting I will reach the conclusion of my life in the 2020’s or 30’s. On present predictions I will therefore miss the more serious climate change predictions. However, this is not the point; the point is that I and those of my generation are living a life style at the expense of the younger generation who are going to inherit a depleted world, one not nearly as attractive or life giving.

In July I visited my sister who has lived in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia since 1974. This is one of the most inhospitable places on earth with temperatures that can rise to 60°. The people have adapted to their environment, but in recent times their lives have become immeasurably harder because of the fickle nature of what used to be reliable rains. Herds have significantly diminished and many more people live on the edge of starvation, suffering from diseases that used not trouble them.

Because climate change impacts most upon those who have least choice and influence and upon those who have contributed least to its speed of change, we are not simply dealing with a political or economic issue, it is a moral issue, and this is one of the primary reasons why the Church and people of faith have to treat this as our core business.

As Chris has mentioned I have recently returned from the UK where I have been a parish priest in the beautiful county of Dorset for the last 16 months. I have become used to the English Prayer Book and in particular have become quite fond of a Eucharistic prayer with a repeated refrain which says: This is his story, this is his song, this is our story, and this is our song. The “His” of course refers to God. We know that the story, or song, of God is a story of life, set in contrast to barrenness or death. God invites us to choose life; the Gospels tell us that Jesus came that we might have life, life in all its fullness. Life is the story or song of God; it is to be our story and song too. That we might celebrate life we have to constantly review the choices we make. What may have been appropriate, or life giving, in one time or place is not necessarily life giving in another. I lived my short years as a jackeroo at a time when the government of the day payed a bounty on the number of trees that were cut or cleared, I therefore spent some of my time in the back braking task of ring barking and of scarifying regrowth. To live with choices that are no longer appropriate is to refuse to live sustainably. As a world community we are no longer living sustainably, we live in debt to the future; we are asking others to pay the price of our profligacy.

When I was a child I was taught by my parents that debt was bad, that I should only purchase or desire to own that which I could afford. We now live in a climate of not only economic debt on a very large scale, but even more seriously also of environmental debt. We are seeking to take from the environment more than it can give to us; we are not allowing it space to hold sufficiently back for its own equilibrium and health into the future. This is a very serious situation.

That is why today in the Bega Valley what we are celebrating is most significant. What you have achieved as a community may not be world shattering, but it is most significant. You have put into practice the principle that we should seek to generate energy from the resources God provides today, not those stored in the ground millennia ago. What you have done is not simply to make a practical contribution, yours is also a profound symbolic act of enormous value. It is leading the way, showing both individuals and communities what is possible, what can be done.

As Andrew has said, every individual and every community must play its part, and this you are certainly doing, with Matthew’s inspiration you have become one of the trend setters not simply in this area but to the whole of Australia. Warmest congratulations.

Every sector of society must play its part. As we meet here we are being encouraged by what we hear from Pittsburgh and the G20 conference, but we must keep pressure on our leaders to ensure that when the world meets in Copenhagen there will be significant agreement on a new frame work for the world and its people. While it is true that much can and should happen at grass roots, it is also true that only government can set the parameters that guide large scale economic and trading behaviour, to bring into line those who are making vast profits without paying the real price inherent in their operations. Those who meet in Copenhagen must not fail us. We are now past time for further talk; we are well into the timeframe for action and the implementation of life giving policy for the global community into this new century. We have out lived current guidelines by at least a decade and a half; political leaders must now match the pleading and activity of people and communities such as you.

It has been the mantra of successive Australian Governments on both sides of the political spectrum that they must act in Australia’s best interests. We must now move beyond that mantra because what is in Australia’s best interests is in the world’s best interest. It is no longer possible for one part of the world to live or act as if it can isolate itself from the fall out of human activity everywhere.

There is a terrible shortage of courageous leadership across the world, leaders must lead: in this vacuum you have acted with great courage, the benefit of what you have achieved will flow far beyond the confines of the Bega Valley. Again, warmest congratulations and thank you very much.

Bishop George Browning
Convener Anglican Communion Environment Network

Copenhagen or bust

I hear many reasons for delay when it comes to action on climate change in Australia.

Politicians say we should wait until developing countries show leadership. Although there are over 400 million people in India and China who live without electricity, we expect those countries to take action before Australia follows. That excuse looks pretty lame to me, particularly in view of recent developments. Last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao promised a national reduction in emissions by a “noteable margin”. The environment ministers of China and India made important and constructive proposals for how their countries will reverse deforestation. Powerful developing nations are starting to take the lead.

Another common excuse for inaction is that Australia must not go it alone on climate change. We must wait for others to show leadership. That excuse seems a bit ridiculous when you look at what European countries are doing. What about Japan, with the world’s second highest GDP? In New York last week Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, outlined how his country will reduce its emissions by 25% by 2020, compared with 1990. It is not a case of Australia leading, it is a case of us catching up.

There is apparently no point in Australia doing anything about emissions until the United States gets going. Well, America is starting to move. At least the language in the US is changing. Obama said last week; “Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it – boldly, swiftly, and together – we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe”.

The excuse that annoys me the most is the concept that Australia is only a small part of the problem, and no-one really cares what we do in this country. Do Australians really consider ourselves as small players on the global stage? I think that most of us would say no!

The G20 (the world’s 20 richest nations) has evolved into the wold’s leading economic forum, eclipsing the G8 as the pivot of economic decision making. Australia is part of the G20 which, in the words of our Prime Minister, “gives us a seat at the top table”. The world does care what Australia thinks, and the world cares about what we do in response to climate change.

In Copenhagen, the world must come to a global agreement on climate change. India and China are showing a willingness to drive change. Japan is setting tough emission reduction targets, and the European Union has been doing it for a long time. The United States is starting to move, and it is in Australia’s best interests to drive the global negotiations as strongly as we can. Australia will be in a stronger position in Copenhagen if we go there as a leader, rather than a follower.

Matthew Nott