Eden-Monaro candidates face grilling on hot topics

Clean Energy for Eternity president Matthew Nott introduces the candidates for Eden-Monaro at Saturday?s forum at the Bermagui Country Club. Answering a range of questions on the night are (from left) Ray Buckley, Peter Hendy, Mike Kelly, Dean Lynch, Catherine Moore and Andrew Thaler.
Clean Energy for Eternity president Matthew Nott introduces the candidates for Eden-Monaro at Saturday?s forum at the Bermagui Country Club. Answering a range of questions on the night are (from left) Ray Buckley, Peter Hendy, Mike Kelly, Dean Lynch, Catherine Moore and Andrew Thaler.

FEDERAL election candidates may have become a little hot under the collar at times, but fingers crossed Saturday night’s Clean Energy For Eternity forum didn’t raise temperatures outside the Bermagui Country Club.

All six candidates for Eden-Monaro attended – Labor’s sitting member Mike Kelly, Liberal Peter Hendy, Catherine Moore from the Greens, Dean Lynch of the Palmer United Party and independents Ray Buckley and Andrew Thaler.

The focus was on each candidates party’s platform on renewable energy, but questions raised from the audience also included topics around small business support, the NBN, asylum seeker policies, Eden Port and the national economy. Saturday night’s forum raised several key topics for Eden-Monaro, all taking on even more relevance now the election date has been set for September 7.

All the usual suspects were there – Bega Valley Shire councillors, South East Region Conservation Alliance representatives, and several self-confessed political party members from both sides of the fence.

Each candidate led off the forum with a five-minute presentation before questions were invited from the floor.

The forum was emceed – and on occasion hurried along, by CEFE president Matthew Nott.

To kick the questions off, a representative from the “100% Renewable” community campaign asked all candidates whether they supported increased renewable energy targets and reduced emissions.

Mr Buckley said action is needed now and targets need to be set higher.

Mr Hendy said the Liberals supported a five per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, and a 20 per cent renewable energy target.

Dr Kelly said Labor is aiming even higher with its goal an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.

“The systems are already in place here [in Eden-Monaro] and are working, but it depends on deep economic transition,” Dr Kelly said.

Ms Moore said the Greens were very supportive of growth “but not if it has anything to do with fossil fuels” and proposed a 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.

Such a move would inevitably create jobs, not destroy them, Ms Moore said.

Mr Lynch said as the Palmer United Party hadn’t officially released its platforms yet, he had no set policy, but highlighted he is entitled to a conscience vote on the matter.

It was a stand also taken by Mr Thaler, who put it back on voters to determine what the target should be.

“That’s the benefit of an independent,” he said.

“Prosecuting for higher renewable targets is valid, but talking about it in terms of reducing your energy bill is only a small part of the equation.”

SERCA spokeswoman Prue Acton highlighted “a new industry threat” of burning wood waste for ‘green energy’. She wanted Mr Hendy to acknowledge native forests were more valuable left in the ground.

Dr Kelly said with the array of renewable projects and technologies being implemented already in Eden-Monaro there was “no need to move to native forest power generation”. My Hendy said the Liberals believed the forest industry can be sustainable and “we think there is a case for biomass energy”, but neglected to distinguish between plantation and native forest use in his reply.

Meet the Candidates.

With all the politics surrounding climate change, a report by the World Meteorology Organisation largely went unnoticed a couple of weeks ago.

According to the World Meteorology Organisation “The fist 10 years of this century were the hottest in 160 years and filled with more broken temperature records than any other decade, as global warming continued to accelerate. The record warmth was accompanied by a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice and accelerating loss of net mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and from the world’s glaciers. Global sea level rose about 3mm per year, more than double the observed 20th century trend.”

Many Australians seem more concerned about the politics of climate change than the impact of a warming world. Already we are seeing significant changes in weather systems and the planet has warmed by only 0.8 degrees. We are likely to see a 4 degree warming by the end of the century; something politicians working in three year cycles tend to ignore.

In three months time, will we have a carbon tax, an Emission Trading Scheme or Direct Action? What a terrible time to be an investor in renewable energy technology!

The essential difference between a tax and a trading scheme is that with a Carbon Tax the price per tonne of carbon is fixed (in Australia’s case around $25 per tonne) and the target we arrive at is uncertain (in Australia’s case a 5% reduction in emissions over 2000 levels). With an Emission Trading Scheme the target we arrive at is fixed (by issuing a fixed number of permits to pollute) and the price of every tonne of carbon is determined by the market.

If the tax and trading schemes are properly designed, the eventual price on carbon should end up being very similar.

In Australia’s case, the ETS will probably be linked to the European Trading Scheme, which means the price on Carbon is likely to be a very low $6 per tonne. The Europeans have experienced problems with their ETS, largely because too many permits to pollute were issued, which lead to a collapse of the carbon price. With a low carbon price, the incentive for big business to invest in low emission technology was lost, and emission reduction targets are unlikely to be met.

Australia should be wary of issuing too many permits to pollute.

The alternative is the Coalition’s Direct Action policy. Federal Treasury modelling suggests a carbon price of $62 a tonne would be the cost needed to abate 159 million tonnes in 2020 from the Direct Action plan.

An earlier shift to an ETS may be a good political manoeuvre by Kevin Rudd. It takes the wind out of the “axe the tax” campaign and will reduce the cost to household by over $350 per year, but will it be a good move for the environment? The answer to that question will depend on whether or not Australia can learn from the European experience.

Renewable energy policy will have big implications for the electorate of Eden-Monaro. Clean Energy For Eternity will be holding a “meet the candidates” forum at the Bermagui Country Club at 6pm on Saturday 3 August to discuss how we can best look at getting renewable energy established in our part of the world. Mike Kelly (ALP), Peter Hendy (Lib), Catherine Moore (Greens), Dean Lynch (Palmer United), and Ray Buckley (Ind) will be there to present their positions, and conduct a Q&A session.

Entry is a gold coin donation. Money raised will go towards CEFE’s next community renewable energy project.
Matthew Nott

El Nino is Intensifying

El Nino, or ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) is a band of anomalously warm ocean water temperatures that occasionally develops off the western coast of South America and can cause climatic changes across the Pacific Ocean. The Southern Oscillation refers to variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean – warming and cooling known as El Nino and La Nina, respectively.

El Nino has profound implications implications for drought in Australia.

The El Nino weather pattern was “unusually active” at the end of the 20th century, possibly due to climate change, a University of Hawaii study has found.

Researchers studied 2,222 tree-ring records as proxies for temperature and rainfall over the past 700 years, the university wrote in an online statement last week. The records indicate the El Nino-Southern Oscillation weather phenomenon has been increasingly active in recent decades relative to the past seven centuries.

The drought associated with El Nino’s warm phase can cause smaller rice crops in Asia and cut wheat production in Australia, while the rains can cause flooding in South America and weaker cold ocean currents reduce anchovy catches off Peru.

“If this trend of increasing ENSO activity continues, we expect to see more weather extremes such as floods and droughts,” Shang-Ping Xie, a meteorology professor at the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Centre and study co-author, was cited as saying in the statement.

“The unusually high ENSO activity in the late 20th century is a footprint of global warming,” study lead author Jinbao Li was cited as saying.

We have seen a 0.8 degree warming of the planet since the commencement of industrialisation. That warming is already starting to generate substantial changes to weather patterns. What changes will we see with a 4 degree temperature ride by the end of the century. No-one (apart from climate scientists) really seems to care.

Matthew Nott
A price on Carbon is working.

This week is the first anniversary of the carbon tax’s introduction. It has helped achieve a 7% reduction in emissions, and renewables have increased by almost 30%.

One year on from the introduction of Australia’s carbon tax, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says it’s clearly working, and despite the rhetoric of its opponents, the world hasn’t ended.

Pollution from electricity generation has fallen by 12 million tonnes in the past year – the equivalent of taking 2.6 million cars off the road, the foundation says. Australia is also using 13 per cent less brown coal and 28 per cent more renewable energy.

“Despite the wild rhetoric, the sky has not fallen in, the Sunday roast does not cost $100 and the economy continues to grow while pollution falls,” ACF climate change manager Tony Mohr said in a statement. “The three-year fixed carbon price is helping Australia catch up to other countries that have been cleaning up their economies for years.”

The carbon tax works by putting a price tag on each tonne of carbon pollution released into the atmosphere by 370 of Australia’s largest industrial concerns, like coal-fired power stations.

Putting a price on each tonne of carbon pollution means businesses take the environmental cost of pollution into account when making investment decisions. It creates a financial incentive for businesses to invest in new ways of saving energy and reducing pollution. It generates revenue which the Government is using to help businesses to make these investments.

Why is carbon pollution from electricity generation falling?

A key reason is that the electricity supplied to the national grid has been cleaner since the carbon price started.

This investment is not only reducing carbon pollution, it is also creating new jobs and industries – there are now more than 24,000 jobs in Australia’s renewable energy industry.

One of the main policies promoting clean energy investment is the Renewable Energy Target – this will guarantee that at least 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. The Renewable Energy Target has bipartisan support.

Individual households and businesses are playing their part by installing solar panels and solar hot water systems on their roofs.

There are now more than 1,046,600 rooftop solar power systems in Australia – an increase of more than 1 million systems over the past 5 years. And new systems are being installed at the rate of around 3,300 rooftops a week.

Carbon pollution can be reduced on the land through initiatives like growing trees and reducing emissions from livestock, fertiliser and waste deposited in landfills.

Farmers who carry out projects like this can earn carbon credits from the Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative. That has important implications for our part of the world.

A price mechanism on carbon, whether it be via a carbon tax or Emissions Trading Scheme, is a cost effective way to reduce emissions.

Matthew Nott