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.

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