Climate in the Pub
Climate Change and our Energy System
Daisy Barham, Campaign Director, Nature Conservation Council of NSW
7pm April 11th, Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle
PREVIOUS MEETINGS . . .
Climate for Murder
It's an emergency - but does it help to say so?
"It's an incredibly wicked problem".
Over 40 people attended the December meeting, where we debated the question: "should we call on governments to declare a climate emergency and mobilise society-wide resources at sufficient scale and speed to protect civilisation, the economy, people, species, and ecosystems." Or: "Yes we know it's an emergency, but does it help to say so?"
Felicity Wade (LEAN), opposing the proposition, said radical actions attract front page headlines but do hey change anything? As the National Co-ordinator of LEAN she believes in changing the key organisations from within. Vanguard politics - working from minority groups - doesn't work.
Catastrophism isn't working. We need to work from the centre not the edge.
Margaret Mead's alleged quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has", is wrong, she said.
Phil Bradley (Greens, ParraCAN) said we need to say it's an emergency, because people don't realise what is changing. But we can't linger on the risk: we have to brightside it: look at the solutions.
We have to recognise the enormity of the issue: renewable energy is only part: there's land use, forestry, transport, much more. It's not a war, but it needs a wartime scale of action.
But we won't get a solution unless we emphasise climate justice.
The speakers then responded to some vigorous questioning.
Felicity Wade said that unemployed miners in Queensland simply didn't believe that they had any future unless mines were opened and this was a huge problem for the Queensland Labor government. Phil said we need to guarantee paid employment, and there are more jobs in renewables than in coal. We need to concentrate on social equity and economic justice to counter Hansonism and Trumpism. Felicity questioned whether environmentalism was a middle-class obsession, and questioned why all renewable energy policies seemed to involve the private sector instead of state-owned developments.
Comparing the current situation with wartime mobilisation in WW2 Britain, the Hitler threat was denied by many until the bombs started falling. But even then, it was argued, the Hitler threat was not as great (though apparently more immediate) than the climate threat. At present we don't have the numbers who perceive the threat to be that great.
Phil argued that we need to brightside the solutions: Felicity spoke of involving the community in practical solutions, rather than simply setting abstract goals. But large-scale government intervention like a Snowy Mountains scheme for renewables was needed. Phil suggested that people like John Hewson were effective messengers.
In summing up, Phil argued that we cannot solve the problem unless we call it out for what it is - an emergency - and we need to talk about positive solutions. Felicity argued that catastrophising for many years hadn't got very far, and we needed to forget about vanguard politics and work with the power blocks in the centre.
On a show of hands, the proposal was won by about 30 votes to 10: YES it does help to call for emergency mobilisation.
Money's not for burning! Aligning our Finances with our Values
Not another Carbon Tax? how to price carbon and win
Tues 9th August7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle
Adrian Enright, Climate Change Policy manager, WWF said that pricing carbon is fundamental to addressing climate change, but stressed that we need renewable targets and transition plans to a carbon free economy as well.
A straightforward carbon tax funds clean technology, with compensation to low income households. With emission trading schemes, companies have limited emissions certificates which they can trade with other companies.
Adrian traced Australia's carbon pricing history: from Rudd's proposed CPRS, withdrawn after the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009; to the Gillard Carbon Tax, repealed by the Abbott government before it was to be phased into a trading scheme; to the current emissions reduction fund (ERF), which rewards reduction of emissions with taxpayers' money, rather than taxing emitters. This has helped farmers with carbon recapture (plants), but emissions must be controlled too.
Adrian hoped that because we have a PM who recognises that climate change is real, we will see some form of carbon pricing policy reintroduced in July 2017.
Howard Witt introduced the Citizen's Climate Lobby and their "Fee and Dividend" proposal. This raises a tax on ALL forms of carbon at the source (mine, well or port) rather than when it's burnt. All this money is distributed to households on a progressive basis (the disadvantaged doing better from distribution than the wealthy). The cost of the fee is passed on by the producers, and prices go up throughout the economy. But households are fully compensated by the distribution. The carbon fee is an incentive for businesses to reduce their costs by investing in renewables.
Howard explained a number of details of the tax concerning imports and exports. He believed the scheme conformed to all current world trade protocols and agreements, and that it was likely to be introduced in the USA next year.
Discussion followed around the attractiveness of any scheme to either political party, and what systems other countries had in place.
Let's be straight - climate change is a political problem
Tues 14th June 7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle
The speaker was Andrew Bradley, Australian chairman of 350.org, and MD of Holdfast Communications, which consults on climate change and renewable energy.
Andrew argued "Let's be straight - climate change is a political problem". Here are his main points . . . .
- We are running out of time. 97% of Great Barrier Reef has bleached.
- 2016 is already breaking temperature records.
- Reading of 400ppm CO2 taken recently at Cape Grim.
- More floods: ice caps etc. melting all over the world. The science is clear about all this. Even more intense and severe weather is occurring than previously predicted.
- Cost of inaction is greater than cost of action now.
- Climate change has become a purely political problem.
- Coal industry has reigned supreme for past two centuries- so it is a question of politics and power.
- Clarity of responsibility is essential. Must have a study of whom and what is boiling the planet.
- Continuance of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry is utter madness. The performance of the fossil fuel industry is no different to asbestos industry or firearms industry.
- When subsidies are taken away from the coal/gas/oil industries the majority of companies become insolvent. (e.g. Peabody Coal)
- Projects such as Adani and deep sea oil are all uneconomic. They all need subsidies if they are to survive.
- Paris was better than anything than could have been hoped for by the climate change believers.
- We now have 190 countries that can be beaten with a stick. It is a good start, but will not solve the problem.
- To beat the arguments put forward by the fossil fuel industries new voices are being raised - for example John Hewson.
- Must look at what suits OUR cause. Good example is ex-military top brass who are now talking about the threats to security issues from climate change.
- Imperative we upskill and empower.
- Focus must be on dealing with and removing the problem. Not arguing the issues with the powers that be.
Andrew Bradley is the current Chair of 350.org Australia, and a specialist in climate and energy communications. His Australian and international perspective includes an insider's view of last year's Paris conference, the European Climate Foundation, and the International Panel on Climate Change and G20 talks. Andrew is a resident of Annandale.
$7bn in fossil fuel subsidies - couldn't we spend it better?
Tues 12th April 7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle
Climate in the Pub's guest speaker in April was Reece Proudfoot, Climate Change campaigner at WWF, and lead organiser in Sydney for last November's People's Climate March.
Reece explained that the People's Climate March had been led by a wide range of groups and organisations - health professionals, indigenous groups, faith groups, young people, as well as the traditionally involved environmental groups, resulting in 140,000 people across Australia gathering to demand more action on climate: the largest numbers ever on this issue.
He went on to discuss campaigns that grew out of this mobilisation. Currently the fossil fuel industry benefits from upwards of $7 billion dollars of government (i.e. taxpayer) money: a rebate on diesel fuel tax, direct funding of mineral exploration, and accelerated depreciation of assets. This support goes to an industry that is damaging the climate and our future. Reece argued that the money should rather be used to increase expenditure on health, education (including retraining for jobs in a sustainable economy) and encouraging renewable energy.
Audience discussion noted that agriculture, for example, also benefited from the diesel fuel tax rebate where it was not seen as harmful. Reece replied that the focus was on fossil fuel mining, and would allow agriculture to continue to benefit. We also suggested that "subsidy" could be seen as a benign word, whereas describing the financial benefits as "tax avoidance" or "tax loopholes" was more accurate for many of the benefits, and fitted much better with the current popular sentiment against tax-dodgers.
In passing, Reece also noted that the Federal seat of Grayndler, which now includes most of Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle's home turf, with a strong Greens presence, was more likely to see climate change as a dominant issue in the forthcoming election than most other areas. A clear call to action for CCBR!
Community Renewable Energy
Tues 9th Feb 7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle
Tom Nockolds of the Community Power Agency, spoke of the aims, challenges and prospects for community based renewable energy projects, especially the importance of delivering the energy transition in a way that is socially equitable.
He described the economic 'death spiral' process of the existing grid, the threat it poses to the poorest families, and how community renewables might play a part in the solution.
Louise Fitzgerald, a volunteer with Pingala, outlined the group's current projects, including rooftop solar at young Henry's brewery in Newtown and in a remote Indigenous community.
Oscar McLaren of Sydney Renewable Power Company explained his group's progress with providing solar PV for the new Sydney Convention Centre at Darling Harbour. They hope to start taking investments later this year.
Climate in the Pub - Christmas Drinks
Tues 8 Dec 7pm: Three Weeds, Evans Street, Rozelle
This meeting followed after the AGM, at which the committee was re-elected, and reports given. CCBR President Dominic Case started the ball rolling by presenting his annual report on CCBR activities, describing the most active year for a long time. (A summary of the report is here.)
Following this there was general conversation about the state of the climate change debate in Australia; the Paris talks; and of course the People's Climate March held a few days previously.
Climate in the Pub - How to Win Friends and Influence Policy
13th October 2015, at The Three Weeds, Rozelle
Numbers continue to grow for our meetings, and this was a record turn-out. The panel comprised
Ella Weisbrot, Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC)Phil Bradley, Climate Action Working Group, Greens NSW
Erin Watt, Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN)
and from their various contributions, and discussion afterwards, we learnt that a successful community group needed to:
- Focus on solutions
- In our case, focus on renewables
- Be a grass roots organisation
- Talk to people, one-on-one, and do it again and again
- At eco festivals, have models for people to play with so you can engage them in unthreatening conversations
- work hard and just keep going
- Form alliances with others
- Run specific campaigns - project focused work really attracts people.
Climate in the Pub - Climate and Human Health
11th August 2015, at The Three Weeds, Rozelle
Three leading doctors spoke persuasively on the threats from climate change and fossil fuel use.
Dr Peter Sainsbury points out that air pollution kills more people than the road toll in Australia: think asthma, emphysema, chronic lung and heart disease. An excellent report on coal and health in the Hunter released in February describes the effects of coal mining, transport and burning. "We don't need to be passive victims," observes Dr Sainsbury, "We need to fight in the Hunter, and elsewhere, to maintain jobs in agriculture and to create new ones in renewables."
Dr Sujata Allan lists among direct effects of climate change a rise in extreme weather events such as heat waves, "a 'silent killer', already causing 1100 deaths per year in Australia." Indirectly, climate change affects food security and disease distribution. Ross River and dengue fevers are moving south as the climate changes. "Children are particularly vulnerable - the early effects on their immune systems of exposure to pollutants can affect their lifetime health, and they are more at risk from extreme heat, infectious diseases and water shortages"Dr Helen Redmond notes that behaviours which create high greenhouse gas emissions are also bad for health directly - lots of driving of fossil-fueled vehicles, air travel, and a diet high in fat and processed foods. "The stomach has a big footprint. A low carbon lifestyle, including active transport, is both healthier and more sustainable."
Climate in the Pub - Solar Citizens
9th June 2015, at The Three Weeds, Rozelle
At our first Climate in the Pub meeting, we welcomed about 29 people, and introduced Jason Lyddieth and Alex Soderlund from the Solar Citizens organisation.
Jason and Alex talked about their organisation and campaign Solar Citizens - an opportunity for those with solar, or who want to install solar, to join together to ensure that the rights of solar owners are protected from attack either by governments or by the established fossil fuel energy companies. They mentioned several instances of how the united voice of many thousands of solar owners had pushed state governments on particular points.
While Australia's large-scale solar capacity is very low in international terms, it has quite a high domestic rooftop solar profile, and it is still growing fast, despite the federal government efforts to wind back renewable energy.
They talked about their efforts in promoting solar on private residences. We were told the take-up on private residences, whilst slowing, is still growing. In particular, Solar Citizens had argued strongly for the domestic part of the Renewable Energy Target (S-RET) to be preserved at full strength, which the Federal Government has agreed to.
They invited attendees to visit their website standupforsolar.org.au and sign the pledge as a Solar Citizen, or to go a stage further and become a Solar Neighbour (signing up friends and family) or a Solar Champion (contacting or meeting the local MP).
Jason also spoke of Solar Citizens' next big activity - a nationwide series of "Solar Shindigs", to take place in neighbourhoods in the 2nd last week of July). There will be more information about organising an event or joining one, on the Solar Citizens website very soon.
There was general discussion around the issues of solar panel financial viability (getting better all the time) and installing batteries (will be extremely viable within a year).
What About Paris
30th April 2015 at Balmain Town Hall
CCBR and Balmain Institute's joint meeting with The Climate Institute's John Connor was a great success with a packed meeting room, a lively introduction by John Doyle, and a very informative talk by John Connor, tracing the path of international climate negotiations up to and including the Paris talks due at the end of this year.
John Connor pointed out that Australia was well-placed to take an influential role as Chair of the UNFCCC Umbrella Group. (Although there is no formal list, the Group is usually made up of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the US.)
We are really grateful to John for giving his time to us for this talk - immediately after a full day in a round table meeting with Climate Minister Greg Hunt and other leaders.
Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle - PO Box 890 Rozelle, NSW 2039