Monday, September 28, 2009

ETS forum

For those who are puzzling over the government's ETS plan, whether there are other alternatives and how our position will play out internationally, here's a forum at University of Queensland, 13 October 2009, with some excellent speakers who should be able to clear up some of these issues for you.

This forum covers the government’s proposed ETS scheme, alternatives and how the government’s proposal will play out internationally.

Dr Jane O'Sullivan: The merits of a carbon tax, more specifically a consumption-based tax rather than a production-based tax. That is, the cost of embodied emissions is added to the product like the GST, not at the point of manufacture. She will address the advantages like price stability, administrative ease and the incentives for individuals to change their purchasing behaviour.

Dr Martin Weber, Lecturer in International Relations: Copenhagen and the ETS: the diplomatic ramifications of Australian policy for the Copenhagen summit, especially whether our position could help or hinder a positive outcome.

Professor John Quiggin: Will the current proposed ETS be effective? Is the current ETS compromised by the "free permits" for large polluters? Does the current proposed scheme set 2020 reduction targets which are too low to achieve our 2050 goals? Will the proposed scheme be more stable in price than the EU or North-West US scheme? Will there be sufficient reinvestment of the proceeds from permits into emissions reduction measures?

This event is the first for the new UQ Greens club, and looks pretty good. Please arrive by 6pm for a 6:15 start at building 24, room S302.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Take advantage of government assistance to Green your home. Part 2: Green Loans

In addition to the Energy Efficient Homes Package discussed in part 1, the Federal government has also introduced the Green Loans scheme.
The Green loans scheme is designed to help people pay for larger items such as solar, water saving, and energy efficient products.

From the website:

“Green Loans has two main components of support from the Australian Government:
1. a free Home Sustainability Assessment and report (valued at over $250); and
2. access to a Green Loans subsidy provided to participating financial institutions to cover up to four years interest for borrowing of up to $10,000, to implement changes recommended in the assessment report.”

There are two important points here.
Firstly in order to apply for a Green Loan you must have a home sustainability assessment, which is free. Then once you have received your assessment you can use its recommendations to apply to for loan.
The loan is not actually from the government, it is from the participating financial institution and the government subsidises the loan by paying the interest for four years. The household can choose which participating bank, credit union or building society they wish to apply for a loan with. Current participating institutions are listed here.

Another positive about this scheme is that a Green loan can be used in conjunction with other rebates. For example: to pay the remaining cost for home insulation after the $1600 subsidy is used up.

Conditions for Green loans include a means test of $250 000 household income per year. The loans are available to both owners and tenants (with permission of owner to make changes to the dwelling) and the home needs to be at least a year old. Also it is worth remembering the assessment is only valid for six months so if you get one, apply for that loan quickly because you only get one free assessment.

So where do I start?
Households can book an assessment by calling 1800 895 076 or by giving an assessor permission to book on their behalf, for more info see the website.

Update 30.10.09.
TTKD member Ian Gittus of Brisbane Energy Audits is an accredited assessor and can provide the free assessment needed to apply for a Green Loan. You can book your energy audit via their website.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How should TT Kenmore be part of the Day Of Action?

Just over a month from now on Saturday October 24th is the Global Day of Action for
For those not familiar with the 350 movement, is it very simple. It is based around the number 350 ppm (parts per million), that is thought to be the upper limit of CO2 we can have in our atmosphere while still ensuring a stable and safe climate.

This upper safe limit of atmospheric CO2 was calculated by NASA scientist Dr James Hansen and colleagues and published last year in The Open Atmospheric Science Journal. You can access the paper free online here.

Currently the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is 385 ppm, so the call from is we need to act now and we need to act fast. 350 is not promoting any particular solution, they are just saying that for our own future, this is where we need to get to.

To this end is having a worldwide day of action on Sat October 24th. So far over 1500 actions on 119 countries have been registered, including several in Brisbane. The theme is, naturally, 350. Be it 350 trees planted, politicians phoned, bicycles ridden, 350 a-side soccer, whatever.

I'd like everyone to think about what we at TTKD could do and how we could make this visible to our local community? Currently there is going to be a large event in West End which I would encourage everyone to go to as well, but I'd like to hear via comments or email (through Carol) everyones suggestions about what action we could take.
To help you out 350 has some resources on the website

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Take advantage of government assistance to Green your home. Part 1: The Energy Efficient Homes Package

In Queensland the various levels of government offer a number of incentives and subsidies to make your home more comfortable and sustainable. In the first part of a (hopefully) multi-part series we’ll take a look at the Federal Governments “Energy Efficient Homes Package

As part of the economic stimulus package the Federal government is providing $1600 for either ceiling insulation or a solar hot water system. The critical point being that you can only have one or the other, not both.

Importantly there is no means test for this program and it is open to both owner-occupied and rental properties. Furthermore tenants in rental properties (with owner approval) can apply for and organise the installation themselves.
As the restriction on the program is one per address not one per person, owners of multiple rental properties can receive the subsidy for each property.

But what should you choose? Insulation or hot water?
This will depend on what is best for you and your home. Insulation will keep your home warmer in winter, cooler in summer and decrease air con bills. Solar hot water should save around 25% of your electricity bill.

The insulation subsidy is available for uninsulated dwellings or those with minimal ceiling insulation and covers both materials and labour. Householders are required to have a site inspection by, and receive a quote from, an approved insulation installer (to find one in our area search here). The government website recommends you get multiple quotes and check the price against their pricing table to ensure you’re getting a good price. I have been semi-reliably informed that while $1600 should cover all costs for a small 2-bedroom unit it may not for a larger house, so if you are spending your own money as well, don’t get ripped off.

The hot water scheme gives you a $1,600 rebate for installing a solar hot water system or a $1,000 rebate for installing a heat pump hot water system, to replace an electric storage hot water system. It cannot be used to replace gas or another solar system.

Overall this program provides a great opportunity to Green your home, increasing your level of comfort and decreasing your carbon footprint.
For more information about every aspect of the program see the FAQ page.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Going Green Expo - RNA Showgrounds (this weekend)

This weekend RNA showgrounds plays host to the GOING GREEN EXPO.

With over 150 exhibitor companies attending the Going Green Expo aims to “showcase products & technologies that contribute to environmental protection and more sustainable practises” and that “sustainable commerce and living makes environmental & economic good sense”.

Aimed at both businesses and the general public the expo will feature a wide range of exhibitors ; from permaculture to solar, fair trade to carbon trading, community services to chemical free products.
The expo will also feature a green transport and motor show and seminars on a wide range of topics

Entry is:
Adults: $12.00
Concession: $8.00
Children Under 18 Free (accompanied by an adult)

My verdict – Sounds like a non-free cousin to Greenfest with a bigger “green economy” focus, could be well worth checking out though.

The details:
Date: Friday – Sunday, 18-20 September 2009
Time: 10am – 5/6pm
Venue: Commerce Building (Levels 1 & 2) & Outdoor Exhibits
RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Geoff Wilson to speak at TTKD meeting on 16th Sept

We are very excited to have Geoff Wilson speaking to us at our next meeting this coming Wednesday the 16th. of Sept
Geoff has been a food and agriculture journalist and communicator since 1957 and has a wealth of experience.
He currently is semi-retired, but still writes on green roofs and green walls, urban agriculture, aquaculture, aquaponics, and hydroponics.
In the last three years Geoff has convened both Green Roofs Australia Inc and Aquaponics Network Australia.

He is also organising Brisbane’s “Cities Alive Australia” World Green Infrastructure Congress, from October 17 to 20, 2012. More information about which can be found on the Green Roofs Australia website.
It’s themes for urban Australia are: -
* Climate change action plans for reduced fossil fuel energy use;
* Food from the roof;
* Improved solar power generation;
* Water harvesting and recycling.

This is an opportunity to hear from someone with experience and passion and learn about ways to transform your home into a green building (literally).
Don't forget to tell all your neighbours!

Usual venue: Uniting Church Hall, 980 Moggill Rd, Kenmore

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sustainable House Day 2009 - This sunday

This Sunday the 13th of September is Sustainable House Day 2009. From 10am to 4pm sustainable homes across Australia will be open to the public, offering everyone the opportunity to have a look inside sustainable homes in their neighbourhood and pick up tips on how to make their own homes more sustainable.

Nationally around 170 homes are open for viewing including 5 in Brisbane (see here for address details and information on each house) and to make it even more appealing it is absolutely free.

Homes range from renovated queenslanders to custom sustainable designs and should provide a wealth of information and inspiration for all of us in improving our own homes. According to the website, architects, builders and home sustainability assessors will also be present at some of the homes to provide expert advice on how to achieve some of these goals.

On a more parochial note, none of the sustainable houses are located within "our" suburbs here on the westside of town. Perhaps a good challenge for next year would be to have a member of TTKD showing off their sustainable home? Any takers?

Open home address details (see here for more information)

House 1: 139 Empress Tce BARDON 4065
House 2: 55 Woodhill Ave COORPAROO QLD 4151
House 3: 69 Kedron Park Rd WOOLOOWIN QLD 4030
House 4: 71 Lansdowne St NEWMARKET QLD 4051
House 5: 29 Burnett St WELLINGTON POINT QLD 4160

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

SEQ Transition Towns in the news

Many of you would have caught Graham Readfearn's feature article on the SEQ Transition Town network in yesterdays Courier Mail. For those who didn't you can view the article online at the Courier Mail website.

Readfern also writes the Courier Mail GreenBlog which is well worth a read and currently contains a fairly "robust" discussion of the merits or "lunacy" of the Transition Town Initiatives (depending on whether you think climate change and peak oil are real and serious issues or some sort of plot by Al Gore and UN to take over the world and send us back to the 19th century).

Check it out

Monday, September 7, 2009

Opposition to the Sherwood Road Bus Depot – Is NIMBYism at work?

The BCC’s plans to build a new bus depot on industrial land in the suburb of Sherwood has stirred up a lot of controversy. The ensuing debate has also revealed how many people feel about public transport and development in general. These issues are likely to impact on all areas of Brisbane, including the Pullenvale ward, as the Council and State Government look to expand public transport infrastructure and promote higher density living in general.

The planned depot at 469 Sherwood Road would accommodate up to 200 buses. Clearly, in order to provide the extra buses Brisbane needs there has to be somewhere to put them. Spreading depots over the city allows bus drivers the opportunity to live near their place of work, means buses can be kept nearer to the start of their routes and (hopefully) will improve their reliability. At capacity, buses will come and go from the depot about 700 times a day. Current traffic on local arterial roads is over 30 000 vehicles a day.

At first glance the proposed site would appear to be a good one, it is near urban areas but is actually industrial land and is next to a major road that could presumably handle the extra traffic.

So why are so many local residents opposed? Is the site simply inappropriate or is it a case of Not In My Backyard? As usual the opposition runs from reasoned, to irrational scaremongering.

Objections and (some) counter arguments include (click to expand)

Depot will pollute the Oxley creek – Will it? And would a factory be less polluting?

Buses will cause traffic congestion – If some buses are used on local runs they can decrease congestion. In any case ~700 buses (mostly travelling to/from depot outside peak traffic hours) will have little effect compared to ~30 000 cars.

Better sites available – Could be true (the BCC claims to have picked the best one).

Nearby school, traffic dangerous to children – School at busy intersection. Bus routes already go past, extra buses would increase traffic by less than 0.5%. A cynic might suggest this would probably pale in comparison to the traffic created by parents driving their kids to and from the school.

Pollution/diesel fumes from buses – New buses run on natural gas, which is cleaner burning that petrol/diesel with much lower particulate emissions. Even if some depot buses were diesel buses when you have ~30 000 other vehicles a day would it make much difference?

Safety of storing fuel near homes – Any more dangerous than a service station?

Will Sherwood/Corinda residents get extra bus services? – Currently unclear.

Bus/depot noise.

So, is this a case of NIMBY or have the council got it wrong? How would we feel about a similar depot in our area?

Nb: Residential concerns mostly sourced from here.
Information sourced from BCC website and Walter Taylor South Action Group.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SEQ Draft Climate Change Managment Plan

The Queensland Government recently released the: Draft South East Queensland Climate Change Management Plan, part of the greater SEQ Regional Plan to 2031. It contains a number of proposed “actions” to implement the climate change policies of the SEQ Regional Plan.

This plan is open for public comment until 5pm Friday the 11th of September.
Importantly the “government wants to know how you think the draft actions should be prioritised—and whether there are any additional actions that should be considered”.
This can be done online here.
This article provides some background to the plan, summarises the plan itself and provides some comments on the proposals. Click on the blue "links" below to show/hide the extra detail. TTKD will submit a response to the plan, so if you have thoughts to add please leave a comment.

Background on Plan; Click to show/hide detail

There are three essential points we need to keep in mind when evaluating the draft actions and policies.

1. Queensland emission reduction policy “The Queensland Government’s, Toward Q2: Tomorrow’s Queensland target is to cut Queenslander's carbon footprint by one third by 2020”

2. The Population growth predicted in the Regional Plan: “SEQ is Australia's fastest growing region with a projected growth from 2.8 million to 4.4 million people by 2031. This will require around 754 000 new dwellings, and supporting infrastructure and services by 2031”. Whether or not this level of population growth is a good idea is an important point in itself, but, needless to say, this much growth will require new communities and large increases in the population density in existing ones.

3. SEQ’s emissions profile. The breakdowns are included below. To summarise, electricity generation and transport fuels (petrol + diesel) are by far the biggest by source and industry + transportation are the biggest by sector. Therefore in order to achieve point 1 above, the actions must be capable of decreasing these emissions as a top priority.

Plan Vision

The vision for the future is:
“The region grows and changes in a sustainable manner—generating prosperity, maintaining and enhancing quality of life, minimising the use of resources, providing high levels of environmental protection, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and becoming resilient to natural hazards including the projected effects of climate change and oil supply vulnerability".
Source: South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009–2031

Actually the vision is much longer than that but essentially they are saying they want to promote sustainable development.

Policy Areas

As to the plan, it lists 32 draft action all related to the policy areas below

Aim 1: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Transport and settlement pattern
Energy efficiency
Renewable energy
Storing carbon
Waste emissions
Community awareness and behaviour

Aim 2: Natural hazards and climate change adaptation

Coastal hazards
Riverine flooding, bushfires, high temperatures and other hazards
Biodiversity conservation
Climate change adaptation research
Building resilience through increasing awareness and behaviour change

Key proposals and Actions
-Integration of transport and development, including “Transit orientated developments”. (Broadly aims to create communities where homes, workplaces and amenities are clustered together with integrated public transport so that public and active transport are favoured.)
-Promoting adaption of best practice energy efficiency in developments and promotion of solar hot water.
-Fast tracking “green” development and so making them more attractive to developers
-Increasing low emission and renewable energy
-Tree planting to store carbon
-Reducing waste to landfills in addition to reducing methane release from landfills
-Mapping coastal hazards (Appears to be using predictions of future sea level rise/ storm surges to regulate future development)
-Local planning to provide advice on designing climate change resilient communities and ensuring future development creates resilient communities.
-Increasing communities' awareness of behaviours leading to mitigation and adaptation, so that communities not only take action to reduce greenhouse gases but are also more resilient to changes caused by climate change.

Comments on the Draft South East Queensland Climate Change Management Plan

Comments Summary

Overall most of aims and plans sound good and cover a lot of the important areas. However the plan is lacking in vision for large-scale renewable power generation. The question is whether action will match the rhetoric and whether this overall vision is embraced and central to the thinking of everyone in government as well as central to thinking of the public at large and developers.
If we ignore what effect the expected huge population increase in SEQ will have on our local environment and focus solely on the climate change actions, a major concern is whether the largest efforts to reduce emissions are targeted at the largest sources of emissions? Currently I’d say the answer is no, the plan contains far too little in the way of plans for large scale renewable electricity generation and many of the development proposals appear targeted too much towards the residential sector, the emissions from which are dwarfed by those generated by industry.

Detailed look at some of the programs and draft actions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions

1 Transport and settlement pattern

Program A. Achieve higher integration of transport and land use planning in SEQ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Connecting SEQ 2031: An IRTP for SEQ will plan the future public transport networks for SEQ and a range of measures to encourage people to travel by active and public transport.

"Some examples that could be considered in SEQ include:
- Identifying priority transit corridors suited to high frequency all day / all week public transport suited to increased urban densities
- linking car parking rates to pricing and timing
- prioritising investment in public and active transport over investment in private vehicle transport
- offering incentives to increase the use of public transport, e.g. reduced fees and off-peak travel incentives
- offering incentives to increase the use of existing services
- increasing frequency of services
- providing park-and-ride facilities
- providing shuttle feeders to main transit hubs
- allowing individuals to salary sacrifice public transport fares."

The one I have bolded is likely to be most important and would cause the greatest shift in mindset about transport. I would also add:
Park-and-ride facilities should provide covered and secure bicycle parking.
Require widespread availability of ticketing machines to speed up services.
Due to increased congestion issues certain to be created by higher population and population density in the future. Major transport infrastructure projects should favour rail/busways. But if a new highway is to be built, provision of active transport lanes and/or bus lanes/ways in all new highway projects should be mandatory.

Program B. Increase adoption of leading practice design of transit oriented communities (TOD) and concentrate planning efforts and infrastructure investment in priority locations

Plan essentially is to create guidelines for TOD precincts, identify locations and implement guidelines.
Idea sounds good. The test will be ensuring the “guidelines” are standard practice.
This will have immediate effect on new communities but how much effect will TOD guidelines have on transitioning established suburbs and communities which is where the majority of people will still live in 2031?

2 Energy efficiency

Program C. Increase adoption of leading practice energy-efficient design for multi-unit housing

Guidelines will inform best practise and benchmarking tools will allow comparisons between dwellings etc but would they be more effective if required under the building code.
From the report: “These energy efficiency guidelines will need to complement and not duplicate the Building Codes and code requirements.”

Strict miminum standards, especially in areas where improvements are low cost, would likely provide faster progress.What about commercial and industrial buildings, they both use as much if not more power than residential dwellings?

Program D. Increase adoption of leading practice energy-efficient planning and design for urban developments

The programs appear mostly focused on residential, a greater focus on the commercial and industrial sectors is required.

Program E. Increase the proportion of energy derived from low-emission sources
(solar hot water scheme)

A good idea but why not have the building code make renewable/climate neutral hot water mandatory for all new homes? Assuming the solar profile is good (though solar profile should be central to dwelling design) or access to carbon neutral energy source available.
What about hot water in non-residential buildings?
What about other schemes in program E, solar hot water will only go so far.

Program F. Improve uptake of exemplary sustainable and Climate Smart urban developments

Fast tracking green development sounds like a good idea. But how can the ideas from program C, D and E be used to promote program F for non-residential developments.

3 Renewable energy

Program G. Increase the proportion of energy derived from low emission and renewable
sources in SEQ

Ideas are good but are piecemeal and more is needed. Since 42% of emissions come from electricity generation this area needs a lot of action and fast. Large scale renewable or at least carbon neutral power stations need to be prioritized and built quickly. SEQ will simply not meet the The Queensland Government’s, Toward Q2: Tomorrow’s Queensland target of a cut in Queenslander's carbon footprint by one third by 2020 if power continues to be mostly sourced from “dirty” coal.

Program G requires a whole of systems approach, the mapping of potential renewable sources is good, but concurrently we need to determine how much electricity we will need in the future? How many renewable plants that will require and what the most cost effective way of building them is? Then aggressively pursue these aims.

The Queensland Government in general and SEQ should also legislate targets and timeframes for the phase out of non-renewable electricity generation. At a minimum, actions should include no new power stations that do not produce carbon neutral electricity and mandatory replacement of these when they reach they end of there life span with renewable plants. The early retirement of C02 emitting power stations that do not incorporate best practice for emission reductions should also be an aim. Furthermore allowing new coal plants as long as they can be retrofitted with CCS, which is yet unproven at a commercial scale is shortsighted. Even ignoring issues CCS technology and long-term feasibility, no coal plants should be built unless they are currently carbon neutral.

The feasibility of local communities in rural areas with available land to build and run renewable energy plants as a method of rural economic development and for increasing renewable electricity generation should be investigated. This would apply to SEQ but also to remote parts of the state outside of SEQ.

4 Carbon storage

Program H. Increase stored carbon through the retention or planting of trees

Re-vegetation provides benefits beyond carbon storage and is likely to be manpower intensive. The feasibility of expanding Landcare to provide the manpower required should be investigated.

6 Community awareness and behaviour

Program J. Increase community awareness and influence behaviour regarding regionally
specific actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Good idea. Could be enhanced by supporting relevant experts in fields related to climate change to speak to a wide range of community groups and spend time in communities to discuss the causes, impacts, mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change and so increase the level of knowledge in the general community.

Source for all images and quotes: South East Queensland Climate Change Management Plan, published by the Department of Infrastructure and Planning.