Climate and Extinction Rally at Lakes Entrance by Tony Peck

In early November, nearly 100 people rallied in Lakes Entrance. The rally’s goal was to highlight the rising numbers of threatened species caused by logging, global warming, and other human actions against habitat: affecting our forests, swamps, lakes, oceans and plains. The rally expressed anger, fear, and frustration that even though we are in a climate emergency our governments are asleep at the wheel.

Local groups Extinction Rebellion Gippsland and East Gippsland Climate Action Network organised the rally. Fantastic support came from activists across Gippsland, Melbourne, Warrnambool, and elsewhere. Blinky, the giant fire-ravaged koala joined the rally after also being a feature in amazingly graphic climate actions in the Latrobe valley.

Blinky, 4-metres-tall and with smoke drifting from its fur and a blood-curdling cry of anguish delivered an unmissable message to onlookers, equally repelled, intrigued, and emotionally affected as they watched the rally pass. Blinky was led by a funeral director, complete with the mournful sounds of a bell tolling our disappearing native species, a walking tombstone, a greater glider, bogong moth, spotted quoll and the Sybil Disobedients representing the voices of Gippsland calling for real climate action. Signs read ‘Doing nothing risks everything’, ‘Protect native forests Stop Logging’, ‘There is No Planet B’, ‘Stand up for life on Earth’, ‘Logging fuels climate catastrophe’, ‘Climate change is a burning issue’ and ‘Albo Stop funding killer industries’.

Blinky was created in response to images of fire-affected animals, including koalas during the massive 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires that threatened the homes of many of the rally participants. More than a billion native animals as well as reptiles and birds are estimated to have died during these massive fires. As the rally travelled along the Lakes Entrance waterfront, many passers-by stopped, sharing the event via their phones. Many engaged with activists, listening to explanations of the rally and taking information sheets.

Large booming drums set the rhythm for the march, slogans called for climate action and these were interspersed with Blinky’s emotionally charged roar. The march was a truly poignant and emotional occasion, but participants came away with hope that we will still able to act as though we are in an emergency and limit warming and the existential threat.

Once the rally reached the foreshore by the footbridge there were short and powerful speeches following the acknowledgement of country. Species extinction, an end to logging, and the urgency of climate action were the key focus. A drumming workshop was the finale, with wonderful rhythmic sounds.

*the author is a member of EGCAN and XR Gippsland. Image provided by author.

Climate Protests in Cowes and Wonthaggi

Wonthaggi

Bass Coast CAN media release

During the first week of COP 27 in Cairo, School Strike for Climate and Bass Coast Climate Action Network with Move Beyond Coal took part in a week of action – one of 50 events across Australia – calling on NAB to end their relationship with coal expansionists Whitehaven coal. School students and locals gathered outside NAB’s Cowes and Wonthaggi branches to talk to NAB staff and customers about the campaign and call on NAB’s CEO Ross McEwan to publicly rule out finance for coal, starting with Whitehaven coal.

Joey Thompson, from School Strike for Climate said: “It seems dishonest that NAB claims to be aligned with Paris targets but continues to lend to companies like Whitehaven Coal that are planning to DOUBLE their coal production by 2030. Keeping below 1.5 degrees warming means ending all new coal immediately. If NAB is serious about their climate commitments, they must end this toxic relationship now.”

Cowes

“We’re calling on Ross McEwan, NAB’s CEO, to rule out funding for companies like Whitehaven that have no transition plan and no climate policy. If financed, the Whitehaven coal expansion will lead to climate catastrophe.” 

Jessica Harrison from Bass Coast Climate Action Network said “This week, as the world gathers at COP 27 in Cairo, it is even more urgent that companies like NAB are held accountable for their greenwash. You can’t fund coal expansion plans through companies like Whitehaven coal, via corporate finance loopholes and say you’re meeting Paris targets. It simply isn’t possible.”

“Ross McEwan, NAB’s CEO can either rule out further funding from NAB to Whitehaven coal or face a determined community movement that will not stop until he does.”

Contact: Joey Thompson School Strike for Climate 0468416845

 Contact: Jessica Harrison Bass Coast Climate Action Network 0438174029

When knowledge is power Part 2 by Catherine Watson

Republished from the Bass Coast Post*

Werner is qualified to run a power station so I’m interested to hear that he also has problems with AusNet. Around the middle of a hot sunny day his solar system stops feeding into the grid. Turns out it’s because Harmers Haven is literally at the end of the line. Two of his neighbours also have big PV systems and collectively they produce almost 40kw on a hot day. Too much for a system that’s regulated to stay below 250 volts so it doesn’t damage household appliances.

I struggle to get my mind around the difference between 40 kilowatts and 40 kilowatts an hour. Sometimes I nearly grasp it but then it recedes.  How do volts relate to watts? Doesn’t matter. I’ll know by the end of the course.

We watch a video of Saul Griffiths, a laid back renewable energy guru, who explains why Australia is perfectly placed to lead the world. It’s not just our abundant sun but our enthusiastic adoption of solar panels – the highest rate in the world. You know, the PV panels that governments and power companies have been telling us are actually a bloody nuisance and disrupting the efficient working of the market.

Not according to Griffiths, who says we just need to think about how to use them more efficiently. He talks about the sweet spot of battery storage – not the home and not the central power station but the substation that connects to a neighbourhood or small suburb.

The most important thing any of us can do to reduce emissions is to go all-electric. House, car, the lot. The beauty of it is that it will also save us money. It’s win-win-win. You don’t have to go out and buy everything right now, but plan ahead so that when your gas hot water system gives up the ghost you replace it with an energy-efficient electric hot water system, ideally with a heat pump. Factor in the EV some time in the future.

While we watch the video, Werner jumps up periodically to write on the board apparently random thoughts: “Petrol 12c/km … EV 1c/km. Power generation without water. Atmospheric rivers. Hydrogen wars.”  He writes: Last year China built 20GWs of offshore wind. Europe built 30GW.”

I ask “Is that a lot or a little?”

A lot, he says. Enough to power the entre eastern seaboard of Australia. Australia is just starting on its offshore wind generation journey with exploration of possible sites around Gippsland.

So how much renewable energy does Australia need? 25GW if we’re replacing the current load – but if the entire economy, including transport and industry, switches to electricity – as it must – we need three times that. So 75 GW.

By the time we walk out at the end of three hours we’ve caught Werner’s buzz. Feels like a revolution is coming, and we’re a humble part of it.

*author editor/publisher of the Bass Coast Post. The full article can be read here.

When knowledge is power Part 1 by Catherine Watson

Werner Theinert spreads the word

Republished from the Bass Coast Post*

Werner Theinert is explaining the Coefficient of Performance of heat pumps to us. It’s like the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. You put in one unit of energy and get back two to three units of cooling or heating.

Werner has written on the blackboard: THE ENERGY REVOLUTION IS HERE!  He loves this stuff. He’s so excited he strides the width of the room with his pointer. I’m reminded of those old Energizer ads, which is apt since we are here at Bass Coast Adult Learning (BCAL) to learn about renewable energy as part of BCAL’s Sustainability Series.

We could have started at the beginning with volts and amps and kilowatts – the alphabet and times table of renewable energy – but Werner reckons we should dive straight into the interesting stuff. We’ll ask questions and come back from different angles and by the end of it we’ll have absorbed the basic stuff as well. It’s not as if we have to pass an exam or climb on roofs to fit solar panels. Three of us qualify for the seniors’ discount and Olivia teaches at BCAL.

Interestingly, three of the five here today have connections to “the Valley”. Werner worked at the Yallourn Power Station in various roles for decades, interspersed by 15 years in the Middle East where he was in charge of power generation for an aluminium smelter. Sharon grew up in the Valley. Olivia was teaching in Morwell the day the big fire started at Hazelwood in 2014, blanketing the town in acrid smoke. None of them is sentimental about the impending end of coal-fired power generation.

​We students are all at different stages of the New Energy journey. Sharon Wilcox is a former health policy consultant who’s actually studied and lectured in renewable energy. Of course she’s made the switch from gas to electric. She’s installed a Tesla wallboard. I’m too embarrassed to ask whether you put a wallboard in a car or a house. Perhaps next week.

Tim Herring has a degree in electronics so he knows a lot of this stuff on a theoretical level. “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” he says. Tim has made the switch. He installed a heat pump for the hot water system and he’s part of a group pushing to get community battery storage in Tenby Point.

​I know the least but I’m interested in the ideas and the sudden pace of change. I’m in the middle of the switch. Ten years ago when I built my house, gas was the go. Now, inspired by our council’s climate action plan, I’ve made a start. Last month I replaced my gas hot water system with a very small electric tank. Next on the list is a split system and an electric cooktop.

Werner has solar panels and an electric vehicle (EV). To my surprise he’s still connected to the main grid. That’s because he’s been waiting and waiting for the technology – a “black box”, he calls it – to allow his Leaf EV to act as the back-up power for his house. The technology has been available in Europe and the US for ages but Australia is still thinking about it. “We’re always trialling in this country,” he grumbles.​ (to be continued)

*author editor/publisher of the Bass Coast Post. The full article can be read here.

Stark choices on coastal assets by Michael Whelan

Edited version first published in the Bass Coast Post*

In 2019, we declared a Climate Emergency and developed a comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan to cut our community’s emissions to zero by 2030. This plan also includes adaptation to respond to climate impacts, one of those being coastal erosion.

The State Government’s latest modelling has confirmed our concerns, that unless serious action is taken now, coastal erosion will impact dozens of houses in Inverloch in coming decades. Maps modelling the impact of climate change on Inverloch, released as part of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP) “Cape to Cape Resilience Project” show that, without intervention, erosion will cover hundreds of metres of Surf Parade, Inverloch, and eat into about a dozen private properties as the sea level rises 0.5 metres by 2070.

As early as 2040, the modelling shows the Inverloch Surf Lifesaving Club building surrounded entirely with a 0.2 metre sea level rise. By 2100, erosion would reach more than 40 houses at Surf Parade and beyond with a 0.8 metre rise. Erosion also threatens popular

DELWP is consulting the community as it considers more rock walls, sand renourishment and even realigning or raising sections of road in Inverloch, but there is much more that needs to be done.

We may not like to talk about it, but a planned retreat of public assets, and potentially even houses, may need to be considered among the options. Bass Coast is not alone, of course. This is a crisis shared by almost every other coastal council in Victoria, around Australia and the world, from Bells Beach to Massachusetts in north-east of the United States and beyond.

That’s why at last week’s Municipal Association of Victoria State Council meeting, Bass Coast Council put forward a motion requesting the Victorian Government urgently integrate environment and climate change policy into Victorian planning schemes and develop a state-wide Flood Mapping system and Flood Management Overlay. The Victorian Government’s current position is to leave it to local councils to update flood mapping and controls in their planning scheme.

Limited support has been provided by the State Government to some councils to help them developed flood studies and tools to help councils manage and respond to local flood risks and coastal erosion. This system and overlay should be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect our changing environment and the impacts of climate change. Inundation and coastal erosion are natural disasters that pose a significant threat to life, the environment and the economy.

Many councils do not have the resources or capability to undertake such work. It is both logical and feasible for an overarching state-wide flood inundation overlay to be developed by the Victorian Government. The Victorian Government demonstrated leadership in the aftermath of the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires by implementing a Victoria wide Bushfire Management Overlay. There is now a desperate need for a similar overlay to respond to the climate emergency and projected flood inundation and coastal erosion across Victoria. Whether it’s informing a staged retreat, coastal protection, or just managing growth and development; our communities need access to up to date information and modelling so we can make wiser decisions for our future.

*Michael Whelan is Bass Coast Mayor. The full article is here.

East Gippsland Shire Council Latest

Republished from Environment Connect Spring 23

New Environmental Sustainability Strategy

We’ve stepped up our protection for East Gippsland’s biodiversity, ecology and ecosystems, by adopting a new environmental protection strategy that charts a course for the next decade.

The Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2022-2032 recognises that East Gippslanders love their mountains, beaches and wilderness, and redoubles efforts to conserve and protect the shire’s environment.

The strategy, adopted by Council on Tuesday 28 June, demonstrates how we can act, inform, educate and lead to conserve our natural assets and address climate change. Our natural environment contributes to our residents’ health and wellbeing, forms part of our cultural identity, and underpins our tourism offerings and much of our economic activity.

The strategy aligns with the Community Vision 2040, developed with community, and sets out what we want to achieve in that time. It recognises that a long-term view is needed to achieve strategic outcomes.

The strategy has the following seven goals:

1. Conservation of the natural environment and biodiversity

2. Sustainable management of natural resources

3. Community participation in the climate response

4. Respect and alignment with the rights of Traditional Owner groups

5. Environmental sustainability supporting sustainable economic growth and new job opportunities

6. Growth in the circular economy

7. Community resilience to respond to increasing climate risks and natural disasters

The feedback indicated climate change was recognised by locals as the greatest threat to the shire’s natural environment and future sustainability. Community interest in the development of the strategy was strong, with 472 website visits; 184 downloads of the draft strategy; 55 survey responses and detailed written submissions from individuals and community groups representing 150 members.

Gippsland offshore wind first for Australia

Republished from Environment Connect Spring 23*

In a national first, an area off the Gippsland Coast has been proposed for development as an offshore renewable energy infrastructure area by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

This location has been selected because: it has strong, consistent winds; it is close to electricity markets and existing connections to the grid; industry has expressed interest in developing projects in the area; and the Victorian Government has prioritized the area for development of an offshore wind industry.

As Bass Strait approaches the end of its operational life as an oil and gas field, the opportunity exists to transition this location to renewable energy. The region has windy seas, extensive land resources, and existing grid infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley connected to the National Energy Market. In addition there is suitable geology in the Bass Strait, allowing for offshore wind turbines to drilled and grafted into the Gippsland seabed standing at 196 metres tall. This has implications for Gippsland and a skilled trained workforce is needed, as was discussed at the recent Gippsland New Energy Conference.

Commonwealth waters start three nautical miles from the coastline and extend to the boundary of Australia’s exclusive economic zone. The Bass Strait Gippsland region, has so far attracted more than 6,000MW of potential projects to the development pipeline. And the Victorian Government has identified offshore wind as a key part of their own clean energy transition and has set a target of 2 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2028, 4 GW by 2035, and 9 GW by 2040.

*Environment Connect is an electronic publication of the East Gippsland Shire Council. I have done lots of blogs on offshore wind in Gippsland. For most recent see here and here.

Phillip Island powers on

Phillip Island’s bold vision to become carbon neutral and fully renewable by 2030 is a step closer, with plans approved for a revolutionary community energy storage system

Republished from the Bass Coast Post

The Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) has given planning approval for the installation of the 5MW/10MWh battery, affectionately dubbed the Big Battery by locals, on a council-owned site near Wimbledon Heights.

The Phillip Island Community Energy Storage System (PICESS) could potentially slash power bills, with residents able to use the grid to store their power. It will also offer greater reliability in electricity supply for the Island, especially during peak holiday periods.

Totally Renewable Phillip Island (TRPI) and the Energy Innovation Co-operative (EI Coop) are working closely on the project with Bass Coast Shire Council and Mondo, a pioneer in community mini-grids and regional energy hubs. They are also working together on two other battery projects made possible by two Victorian Government grants of more than $500,000 from DELWP’s Neighbourhood Battery Initiative. The first grant will help determine the feasibility of a network of street level batteries on the Island to boost the ability of the electricity network to host larger volumes of renewable power on the grid.

The second grant will fund a 12-month trial of 100 participants of the PICESS battery once installation is complete. It will explore cutting-edge tariff arrangements to support ‘virtual storage’ for people on the Island. The initiative will assess whether the new system will result in cheaper electricity bills by storing renewable energy in a community battery rather than property owners having to purchase their own household batteries. Power generated from household solar systems would be shared through tariff trial structures with other Island residents who cannot currently access renewable energy, creating a local renewable energy production and shared resource.

TRPI Coordinator Zoe Geyer said what started as a concept five years ago was fast becoming a reality for the community. “The arrival of the Big Battery, alongside these two great explorations into community access to locally generated renewable energy and storage, pave the way for a just transition to a sustainable future that leaves no-one behind. This is a new energy future that benefits everyone on the Island and gives people ownership and a sense of pride. Our community has a strong vision to be totally renewable by 2030 – which is 20 years ahead of the Federal and State targets.” Ms Geyer credited the council with answering the community call and releasing a Climate Change Action Plan in 2020 to meet this target.

Bass Coast Mayor Michael Whelan said the project would not only reduce carbon emissions but also benefit households financially. “With cost of living front of mind, the ability for communities to harness natural resources to produce and store power will hopefully make a real difference to household bills. We know clean, green power is what people want, and I’m sure this project will help inspire similar schemes in other communities across Victoria.”

The climate emergency and our media

Carbon Dispersed by Ray Dahlstrom

Last week I attacked the mainstream media for their failure to comprehend the climate emergency, and our politicians who, in the main, follow the media. It is clear ‘business as usual’ must be replaced with the climate emergency. The term ‘climate emergency’ has been around now and in general usage for about 5 years and it has been adopted as policy by many government instrumentalities – mainly local – in Australia. In East Gippsland the local shire council was petitioned to adopt it in 2019 just before the black summer – a clearly connected emergency – but failed to do so.

Inertia in the climate system means that the planet will continue to warm after we have achieved the fabled ‘net zero’ carbon emissions. That will be a momentous task, but even more momentous will be drawing down of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a liveable level (well below 400ppm) for humanity and countless other species. The climate emergency recognises this task whereas for business as usual it is, at best, that global warming is just one problem amongst many.

The latter is clearly recognised in online media websites where there is a complete failure to give the issue both priority and prominence (with perhaps  the exception of the Guardian) and this flows through to the wider media. The lack of urgency in the media influences both politicians and the general public. Amongst other results, this has allowed vested interests and their lobby groups to delay meaningful action in Australia for more than a decade and to sow doubt and denial generally. A massive advertising campaign on the basic science of the greenhouse accompanying the carbon tax legislation may well have saved us from a decade of Abbott denialism.

The media blitz that we have just had with the death of Queen Elizabeth may be approaching something along the lines that the climate emergency requires but for much longer and more or less continuously. It is yet to come. Until then we must do our best to promote and publicise the basic science as best we can. Perhaps it is time to ask the local shire again to declare a climate emergency.

A Victorian Climate Election?

The mainstream media are yet to grasp the climate emergency, and until it is embraced almost universally, every election should be a climate election – State, Federal and local.  The ALP federally have pushed their climate legislation through parliament and it is now law. (I jumped the gun on this a few weeks ago.) However the legislation is minimal in that its proposed emissions reductions target is nowhere near enough contribution from us, for the world to limit warming to 1.5 C. It is a small step in the right direction.

Labor then spoils what little they have gained by their refusal to stop new fossil fuel projects. Aside from the fact that almost all these projects – from Adani down – will soon be stranded assets, it illustrates that our politicians are also yet to comprehend the climate emergency. From our Prime Minister down the thinking is still governed by short-term political advantage rather than what must be done. To put it simply and bluntly all burning of fossil fuels is causing the warming. Therefore all new projects should be forbidden and current usage phased out as quickly as possible.

Obviously State Labor are better by a ‘country mile’ than the Lib/Nats, especially as far as renewable energy is concerned, but they too are yet to come to grips with the climate emergency. This means there can no longer be any business as usual. The heavily subsidised logging industry needs to end much sooner than the current projected cut-off of 2030. Funds saved can be redirected towards a ‘just transition’ for workers and communities and all support for offshore oil and gas and the coal to hydrogen developments should be abandoned, as should the current tax on battery electric vehicles.

There are a few so-called ‘teal’ independent candidates sticking their hands up for the November State Election but the emphasis on climate is either lacking or not to the fore of their promotions*. So far there are ‘voices’ candidates in Hawthorn, Kew, Caufield and Mornington, and no doubt others that I have missed or are yet to declare their candidacy. Dr Kate Lardner will be running in the electorate of Mornington and her website clearly states the importance of the ‘climate’ issue. For a short time, she was the facilitator of the Gippsland2020 group meeting in Sale. I am unaware of any climate independents standing in any of the Gippsland electorates.

At the moment polls indicate that the ALP are comfortably ahead. Hopefully, like the recent Federal election, climate independents and the Greens can make serious inroads into both the major party numbers. Also hopefully, the Greens remember to direct their preferences to any serious climate independents.

*this may be because of media treatment, or lack of it. Sophie Torney in Kew for one is emphasizing climate in her campaign and Sophie, Kate and Melissa Lowe in Hawthorn are all supported by Climate 200