Gippsland Climate News

Get Elected by Ruth McGowan – a brief review

Ruth McGowan’s* Get Elected: a step-by-step guide to winning public office (2019)** is hopefully prominent in the library of all the Voices groups springing up around Australia – girded into action by the abysmal performances of many of our elected representatives. In particular, these groups are concerned with the failure of successive governments to act decisively on climate change and a book like this is crucial to their campaign’s success.

It is a detailed guide for independent candidates at all levels of government and is divided into three sections – decide, plan and run – and is full of tips, tables, exercises, checklists, case studies and practical advice. Ruth is well qualified as an author on this subject as she was the campaign co-ordinator for the successful election of her sister Cathy McGowan in 2013 and 2016 in the pioneering Voices for Indi campaigns.

Ruth uses the feminine pronoun throughout, with the not so subtle hint that women are the best candidates – in the Federal sphere especially, following on the success of Cathy and more recently of Helen Haines and Zali Steggall. A candidate should “be well known across the Ward and Municipality. If she is standing for State or Federal Parliament she should work hard to become well known across her electorate and perhaps beyond.” (p.91) A high profile certainly helps.

High on the agenda is the role of grass roots politicking known as ‘kitchen cabinets’ pioneered by Voices for Indi and the role of volunteers. Tony Windsor advised that a minimum of 50 friends/supporters were needed to work for you as election volunteers (p.87) and the Voices for Indi previous campaigns had many, many more. As a failed Independent climate candidate on a number of occasions, I can only stress how necessary this minimum number is, as my actual volunteer base was at best a handful, and my results correspondingly poor***.

The opportunity to ‘get elected’ is now quite favourable with suitable candidates likely to receive support from Climate 200 and the many voices groups across the country now searching for, or appointing, strong independent candidates. A number of the Voices groups already are in campaign mode and have strong finances. In west and south Gippsland the Voices for Monash group has been operating for a few months but is a relative newcomer. There is, as yet, no Voices for Gippsland movement.

What is earnestly hoped for, and desperately needed, is a strong cross bench in our next Federal government, similar to that of the Gillard minority government, holding the balance of power, that will, as a start, immediately pass Zali Steggall’s climate bill and Helen Haines federal integrity commission bill. Hopefully Get Elected and the Voices groups will help us get there.

*the author is a former councillor and mayor of Baw Baw Shire. Her website is here.

**copy in the East Gippsland Shire Library

***in my favour is that I was trying to publicise and promote the climate emergency rather than ‘getting elected’ and in this I was moderately successful.

Climate Action Firmly Back On Agenda

Queen Koala, EGCAN mascot and some picnicking climate campaigners

East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EGCAN) Media Release

EGCAN  celebrated easing of COVID restrictions with a picnic at Howitt Park on Sunday. Members were keen to raise awareness of imminent COP26 talks in Glasgow involving more than190 global leaders including Prime Minister Scott Morrison. With real commitments to climate action wanted by most world leaders, Australia’s Net Zero 2050 plan was seen as disappointing by the group assembled in Howitt Park. “It’s time Australia becomes a much more responsible contributor in solving the global warming catastrophe,” said a deeply frustrated member.

Congratulating the East Gippsland Shire Council for its motion of support for the PM’s announcement of a Net Zero Emissions Target was also topical. Discussion centred around a really positive message – that action on climate can bring so many benefits to us in regional areas. “As individuals we can all make an effort to create a safer world, but in our families, friendship groups and local organisations we can all initiate discussion, awareness and ultimately contribute to the change that is needed on a global scale,” commented Robyn Hermans.

EGCAN will continue its meeting schedule and peaceful lobbying whilst encouraging our community to become involved in other ways to get their own message of climate urgency across to government representatives.

Contact Tony Peck Email here.

Mirboo North Forest Report

A brief article entitled “Just Released: Mirboo North Forest Report by Marg Thomas” was recently published in the Gippsland Climate Change Network News. Marg wrote that this “meticulously prepared informative Report ‘Conservation Values of the Mirboo North State Forest Immediate Protection Area’, will give the reader a better understanding of the importance and uniqueness of the Mirboo North forest, its value to the Mirboo North community and its importance in preserving a natural area.” The full report was published by the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) and is accessible here.

The VNPA website noted the “Mirboo North State Forest is a High Conservation Value Forest, with significant classes of vegetation deemed either vulnerable, depleted, or endangered” and that this includes “State-listed threatened (Victoria) and nationally listed endangered animals…including the Greater Glider, the Powerful Owl, multiple Burrowing Crayfish species and the Lace Monitor. Community field surveys identified a significant population of Greater Gliders despite the isolation and small size of these forest areas…Iconic and regionally significant fauna species include the Strzelecki (or South Gippsland) Koala, the Superb Lyrebird, and Platypus.”

Marg Thomas noted that the report “takes the reader on a journey into a small but important part of the Strzelecki Ranges Bioregion. It tells of the many native plants and animals found there, of their value to the biodiversity of Victoria and nationwide, of how they provide sanctuary and well-being for the local community and visitors. It tells of how they sustainably contribute to our local economies and critically, the role our forests play in keeping our air and water safe for future generations. The Report tells of why their protection within Australia’s protected area system is so critical. It also tells of how the Mirboo North and district community came together with passion and dedication, backed by citizen scientists, in a campaign to protect these forests.”

The report highlights the importance of biodiversity in a small patch of the bush. And maintaining biodiversity is an essential part of the climate change struggle. Added together they make the case against the logging industry overwhelming. As I have stated on many occasions logging must be ended as soon as possible (see here and here) and we should not have to wait until 2030 for the phase out our government currently intends.

Councillors call for ambitious COP26 emissions target

Media Release courtesy of South East Councils Climate Change Alliance (SECCCA)

In the lead up to the upcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Councillors from across Melbourne’s south-east have called on the Australian Government to commit to an ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target and a clear plan to achieve it.

“A 2050 emission reduction target is welcome but without an ambitious 2030 target and a clear plan to get there we are just kicking the can down the road. The opportunity for Australia to lead the way and become a clean green thriving economy will not wait for the coal to run out,” stated Councillor Michael Whelan*, Chair of the SECCCA Councillor Advisory Group.

“The foolish part of inaction is that we are missing an opportunity to lead the world in retooling our economy. I am inspired by Minister Kean’s new strategy for hydrogen and investment in green energy”

“In Paris, Australia committed to containing global temperature increases below 2 degrees and preferably to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. We are currently on target to exceed 3 degrees. A stable climate must be a primary priority for all levels of government.

“Communities across the southeast region and around the world, are right now experiencing the devastating impacts of global warming and these impacts will worsen if the increase in emissions is not halted.

”Councils in the region have declared a climate emergency, set ambitious emission reduction targets and developed clear plans to achieve them. States have also given clarity on how they will achieve emissions reduction.

“The Australian Government’s response to global emission reduction efforts needs to be clear and decisive. Australia’s commitments must reflect the scale and scope of the challenge – simultaneously an existential threat to our human civilisation and the biodiversity of the planet. It also presents the greatest economic opportunity since the invention of the internal combustion engine.”

Information on SECCCA

The SECCCA is made up of nine local governments in the south-east of Melbourne. SECCCA Councils span the metropolitan, peri-urban and rural divide and have some of the fastest growing residential developments on the fringe of metropolitan Melbourne. Together, SECCCA Councils serve over one million residents. Through SECCCA, these Councils collaborate to act on climate change. This action includes mitigation and adaptation projects and advocacy for the community.

SECCCA’s vision is for a thriving and productive southeast Melbourne region that has a safe and sustainable climate. Together with a majority of member councils, SECCCA has declared a Climate Emergency recognising the existential threat climate change poses to our communities and our environment, and calls for urgent action to address the risks.

*Councillor Michael Whelan is Chair of the SECCCA Councillor Advisory Group and Deputy Mayor Bass Coast.

Gippsland Solar Update

The Perry Bridge solar farm is now a year behind schedule. A recent media release announced “the establishment of a joint venture between Octopus Investment and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and a partnership with the Industry Capability Network”. The joint venture is seeking “expressions of interest from local suppliers looking to access opportunities on the Project” and decided “to expand the project onto an adjacent property. The revised proposal will see the project increase from the initial proposal of a 44MW solar farm (plus batteries) on 232 acres of land, to 60MW (plus batteries), on an additional 78 acres of land.” With community consultations, planning amendments and so on this will further delay the project.

The Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation solar project has also been in the news lately. PV Magazine Australia reported the “Corporation has won over $1 million in funding from the Victorian Government for the development of a 4.9 MW solar farm, as well as several other community arrays. This is a win for Indigenous self-determination and a proven long-term income and employment stream which will help to “enable a healthy, strong and vibrant Aboriginal community”. The project is small as far as solar farms go but is welcome nonetheless and is located in Longford.

The Gippsland Community Power Hub (GCPH) has created a number of rooftop solar projects around Gippsland. These include: Coronet Bay Hall – 11.2 kW, Venus Bay Community Centre – 9.9 kW, Heyfield Wetlands Centre –13.34kW, Neerim South Hospital – 99.8kW, and the Mallacoota Water Treatment plant. The GCPH asked “If you have a renewable energy idea the team would love to hear from you.” (Contact here or here)

Also of interest but rarely in the news are the ‘behind the meter’ rooftop installations being built across our region. I have noticed a number recently installed in Bairnsdale including 30kw of north and west arrays on the roof of the Department of Health and Human Services. But by far the largest is the east and west arrays on the Aldi store with about 350 panels generating about 100kw. I have yet to get the full details on this project but it appears to be the largest behind the meter installation in town. No doubt there are many others of this kind and size across Gippsland that have passed unnoticed. Well done all concerned!

The Climate Emergency and the Population Diversion

A recent comment on the Metung Science Forum (MSF) raised the question that the main problem we face is overpopulation rather than climate change. I sympathise with this view as I was a member of Zero Population Growth in 1972, a fan of Paul Erhlich and wrote several short essays on the subject more than 20 years ago, but for a number of reasons I think this emphasis is wrong. Both these problems are huge but the humane solutions to the population problem – such as universal education and the empowering of women – are long term, whereas the solutions to the climate problem are clear and immediate.

Then there is the equity problem. For 250 years the developed world has burned fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow. In terms of the best average temperature for the earth that probably maintained by 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide is the ideal – set in about 1910. Since then the economies of Europe and America have consumed a large amount of the fixed carbon budget leaving little room for the overpopulated countries of India and China to achieve a similar high consuming standard of living.

The first world continues to produce large amounts of greenhouse gases whilst the third world has a long way to catch up. The fact that the CO2 production of an Australian citizen is 17.1 tons pa whilst that of an Indian citizen is 1.9 tons illustrates this.

The arguments around this question are many. Since the problem has been caused by first world countries, they should be the ones doing the most to reduce their carbon pollution as quickly as possible. They should also be making a large financial contribution to assist poor nations who are imperilled by the extreme weather events and other effects of climate change, but have done little or nothing to cause it.

Tom Moore in MSF added “it is not correct to say that population growth has caused Climate Change. Climate Change has (is being) caused by increasing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. The main reason that we have increasing carbon dioxide is that for the past 200 years…human beings…have been…cutting down forests and burning fossil fuels, adding carbon to the atmosphere and the oceans and reducing the natural balance that was possible via photosynthesis. Some have been burning more fossil fuels than others. We have also adopted farming practices that have exacerbated the situation and acted in other ways that cause global warming.”

The population argument does not recognise the immediacy of the climate emergency and the existential threat of warming. There are two ‘d’s from the Michael Mann thesis involved here –  there are those who are ‘doomers’, that is we can’t do anything about it and so give up, and ‘deflectors’, being diverted from immediate action on the climate emergency. Mann’s ‘ds’ are just more subtle tools of the old climate deniers and those yet to perceive the urgency of the climate crisis.

COP 26 Comment from Metung by Tom Moore

Extract Metung Science Forum Weekly 4.10.21

As Cop 26 approaches and our Federal Government continues to feverishly develop climate policy on the run, I thought it worthy of quoting my favourite astrophysicist, Neil de Grasse Tyson as follows:

“One of the great challenges in this world is knowing enough about a subject to think that you are right, but not knowing enough about a subject to know when you are wrong.”

Pretty hard to keep strictly to this statement and I have to acknowledge not doing so more often than I like to admit but it certainly does set the tone for many discussions that we have in our day to day lives.

So, whilst scientists have been making a clear case for “Net Zero by 2050” for quite some years now, and as our government tries to convince the Man in the Big Cowboy Hat that we belatedly need to adopt this target, the latest science is screaming from the rooftops that to actually achieve this goal we need to adopt “50% by 2030”. That is to say that it is widely accepted that, because the world has not taken meaningful action earlier, we must now half our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 2010) in order to have any chance of keeping temperature rises to those outlined in the Paris Agreement.

In the meantime, we should note that on current trajectories we are heading for a 16% increase in global emissions by 2030. So, will the World wake up in time? Will our own government accept Neil’s advice and accept that it doesn’t know enough about the subject and listen to the scientists? Will we hold our heads high at Cop 26 or come away from it with our tail between our legs?

Community Power Hub Launches in Gippsland!

From the GCCN Newsletter*

Gippsland Climate Change Committee and its partners the Energy Innovation Cooperative (EIC) and the Mallacoota Sustainable Energy Group (MSEG), this week launched the Gippsland Community Power Hub (GCPH), to help community organisations in Gippsland action their sustainable energy ideas. The Hub will provide support to community organisations in Gippsland through three hublets (Eastern, Central and Southern) that address critical issues such as poor energy literature, access to technical advice and funding sources, and partnerships and links with renewable energy providers in Gippsland.

People across Gippsland want to shift to renewable energy to reduce the long-term cost of energy, improve the reliability of energy supply, and forge a path to a more sustainable Gippsland. Yet over three quarters of Gippsland’s population say they know little about renewable energy options. A study by Sustainability Victoria found that 91 per cent of people in the Latrobe Valley support renewable energy, however, of this same group just 4 per cent said they knew how to shift to sustainable energy source. This demonstrates the need to empower communities to make the sustainable choices they already want to make.

The Hub’s work focusses on three key areas: 1. Technical advice – support to understand the technical and legal requirements for community energy projects including behind the meter agreements and power purchase agreements. 2. Financial support – assistance with project budgets and funding sources. 3. Connecting communities – providing links and partnerships between communities of shared sustainable interest and building support for renewable energy service providers in Gippsland.

Gippsland Community Power Hub’s Coordinator, Darren McCubbin, said the program’s mission aims to empower local communities with the knowledge and the education to adapt to renewable energy sources, with action that can be scaled Gippsland-wide. “Literally, our future depends on us living with less impact on our planet and its precious resources.”

*GCCN website is here.

Is Climate Delay the new Denial? by Nola Kelly

First published by the Metung Science Forum

The rhetoric started with “the climate has always changed” and moved on to “well it does seem to be changing but it is not human induced”, and seems to now have reached “well the climate does appear to be changing and humans may have had some impact but we will deal with it later”. Probably by taking some small actions in 2049. It has come to the point when anyone with a brain capable of analysis, and even a basic level of critical thinking, has finally come to the conclusion that they must accept the science on climate change or risk looking like a total fool. But still we dither, talk about what might be happening, think about exciting new technologies that will save us all, talk some more about perhaps setting some targets into the future, but all the time still actually doing next to nothing.

It has always intrigued me how some of us become captivated by reality TV shows involving such things as cooking or DIY when often none of the skills that may have been learned from the program appear to be translated into our lives. We don’t all of a sudden become gourmet cooks or build that extension with our own two hands. They do however serve a very real purpose – they allow us to live vicariously. We might “feel” like a great cook while watching Masterchef as we eat our takeaway, have a real sense of pride and achievement in that new deck we just helped build by watching and commenting as someone else built it, or even believe we are fitter because we just watched the football. Talking or reading about climate change can become the same, we feel as though we are doing something without actually having to act. As Greta Thunberg would say it becomes “Blah, Blah, Blah” and nothing really changes.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe issues and problems certainly need to be researched and discussed, but once we reach the stage of believing the science, even if we can’t recite all the minute detail, it surely then becomes time for us to act on those beliefs. Put our “money where our mouths are” so to speak. Walk the walk, not just talk the talk! With knowledge comes responsibility. Once we know something we can’t unknow it. Once we become aware of injustice, or wrong doing, or the looming crisis humanity will face in the future if we don’t take steps right now to mitigate it, we are obliged to act. To quote an old saying “If you’re not part of the solution you are part of the problem”.

It might sound trite, but for us to make changes to mitigate the looming disruption that nature will force upon us, our lives actually have to feel different. Business as usual is no longer an option. We all need to do whatever is within our power to act. Install those solar panels, buy an electric car, plants some trees, reduce consumption, lobby a politician, join a demonstration, spread the word and lead by example. Do whatever we can but we need to DO SOMETHING NOW. By acting we can regain our power, feel less helpless, and play a constructive part in the world. Delay is no longer an option and we all have a role to play.

Electric Vehicles on Phillip Island (Part 2) by Zoe Geyer

Solar charging Nissan Leaf at home

First Published in Bass Coast Post*

​How much does it cost to run an EV compared to a petrol vehicle? “Much cheaper to run. A 300km charge will cost $7.20 off peak or $14 peak from grid power (current Origin charges) but we are able to charge for little or no cost from our solar system. Minimal service cost, for example brake pads last much longer due to using regenerative braking to slow down in most situations and no oil to change.”

“We have 10kw of solar on the house roof and a Zappi 22kw charger in the garage. We can fully charge in just over 2.5 hours. We often just charge for 1 hour before going out and gain an additional 100km + in the battery which is fine for travelling in the Bass Region. We are learning to time charging with peak solar output to reduce our carbon footprint & costs or, if required, we use off peak grid power to maximise economy.”

EVs are becoming more prevalent and more affordable year by year. Many countries, including the UK, China, Japan, France and Canada, have banned the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. The Victoria Climate Change Strategy is targeting 50% of all new car sales to be zero emissions vehicles by 2030.

But back to Michael and Theresa’s comment that their 2019 Renault Zoe ZE40 is an economic purchase over time but more expensive to buy. The upfront expense can be challenging. I was able to buy my own Hyundai Kona EV through my small business as a work car with a monthly payment plan, but I was fortunate that my circumstances allowed it – otherwise the upfront cost of an EV would have been beyond my grasp.

So how do we bring about easy access to EVs for the community to align with Bass Coast’s climate action plan? Totally Renewable Phillip Island recently contacted the Good Car Company (part of EnergyLab, dedicated to the clean energy transition) which buys second hand EVs in Japan and brings them to Australia for resale.  Their model is a bulk buy for interested communities. They have worked with communities including Hepburn, Southern Tasmania, Canberra and Geelong.

We asked the Good Car Company if they could offer their second-hand EVs for sale on Phillip Island and Bass Coast. They were supportive of a bulk buy but want to understand what interest there is in Bass Coast. Have you thought about buying an EV? If you have, please fill out the TRPI survey or respond via direct link. The survey takes a couple of minutes. Note, this is not a commitment to buy. Let’s just see where it takes us.

*the author is co-ordinator of Totally Renewable Phillip Island. The full article is here. Earlier blogs on EVs here and here.