At least the states aren’t copping out on climate
Eighteen months ago, the world was in peril.
Ice shelves were melting and sea levels rising as a future threat to our cities.
Everyone from the G-8, Al Gore, Stern and Garnaut were warning us.
Fighting this attack on our way of life had to be the moral and environmental equivalent of war. But then, there came a “bigger” threat.
Our bank balances, shareholdings and jobs were at stake. Bandits running banks and insurance companies in the United States built a house of credit cards that had now collapsed.
Suddenly, the threat of global warming became a second-order issue.
Action now became action deferred.
Action, yes - but not yet.
Yesterday’s Senate vote in Federal Parliament over emissions trading was a signal point.
Those who want to squib on this issue and play games have delayed judgement once again.
Most commentators, journos, business leaders and politicians have no idea what a CPRS really is.
Deep down, even they know that.
On the surface, it would seem that dealing with climate change is essentially the task of national governments, acting internationally.
That’s true, but 80 per cent of the decisions that impact on the environment are made at regional level.
So, even with all the focus now on Canberra, there is no room for a cop-out from state or regional governments around the world.
After all, it was the Australian states that proposed the original plan for an emissions trading scheme, and then commissioned Garnaut.
So what, I hear you ask, is South Australia doing about climate change and renewable energy?
Early in June, I announced that 33 per cent of South Australia’s power generation would come from renewable energy by 2020. This target is bold, even in international terms. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wants 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. That’s a hard stretch for States, like mine, that don’t have hydro-electricity.
But South Australia will reach Kevin Rudd’s target by 2013, seven years ahead of schedule.
That’s why I’m adopting a much tougher, but achievable target.
This is an area where States can make a difference.
When I was elected Premier in 2002, there was not one single wind turbine in operation in South Australia. Because we got off our backsides, we now have more wind power than all of the other Australian States and Territories put together.
We’re also leading in solar power, backed by a “feed-in tariff” designed to reward people who purchase solar panels by paying them more for green energy they feed back into the grid. More than 90 per cent of the geothermal energy development of Australia is being undertaken in my State.
Last Friday, Martin Ferguson and I were in the northern Flinders Ranges alongside a giant drilling rig that will bore down 4km below the earth’s surface to tap the energy potential of “hot rocks”.
This is especially exciting because hot rocks will produce base load, emission-free energy without the variability issues inherent in wind and solar.
We’re also exploring wave power, and the production of a form of bio-diesel from algae that feed on saline water, CO2 and sunlight.
We have these ingredients in abundance.
We have announced a multi-million dollar Renewable Energy Fund in order to help build a sustainable industry to underpin our renewables push.
It will foster investment in research and development, examine opportunities for manufacturing, and help assess how to develop a green grid.
We were also the first State to pass a greenhouse gas reduction law, which sets targets but also allows us to enter into sector agreements with industries to reduce emissions.
Groups as diverse as Local Government and the Property Council, the wine and concrete industries, and the Anglican Church have already agreed, with more to come.
We didn’t start out with the legislative approach to climate change. Our first move was education.
We put solar panels on the roofs of high-profile buildings like the Museum, Art Gallery, State Library and Parliament House (not enough heat or wind power there), and – later on – Adelaide Airport, with the biggest solar array in Australia to be installed on the roof of our new Royal Adelaide Showgrounds building at Wayville.
Very importantly, we’re installing solar panels on hundreds of our schools and integrating education about renewable energy and climate change into the curriculum.
School kids loving telling me, and their parents, how much solar power their “school power stations” are producing.
In addition, we’re planting three million trees in a series of urban forests throughout Adelaide.
As a Government, we’re putting our money where our mouth is.
State Governments are big buyers of power.
When we announced we were purchasing 20 per cent of our power – for government departments, hospitals and schools - from renewables, other States followed or were placed under pressure to do so.
We’ve now decided to go further.
We will lift the renewable power buy of departments to 50 per cent by 2014, and then keep ramping it up until all our power for Government buildings comes from renewables.
Other States are also doing good things, and we’re now in the process of sharing ideas, not only with each other, but through a network of states, provinces and regions around the world.
This is being done through the London-based Climate Group that will host a special session in Copenhagen in December, which I will chair.
Beating the global financial crisis is important.
But the pressure to deal with climate change means we must fight a war on two fronts.
That’s why yesterday’s vote was so disappointing.
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