Gippsland Climate News

A letter to our Federal Member for Gippsland by Tom Moore

On behalf of concerned members of the Metung Science Forum 5th August 2023

Dear Darren,

Thank you for your letter dated June 2023 in which you provided an update of your actions on behalf of Gippslanders over the past three challenging years. We can see that you have been very busy looking after Gippslanders’ interests over that time and we congratulate you on the good work that you have done. It is clear to us that you do have our interests at heart.

However, we note that there is one glaring anomaly in your report. Whereas you briefly acknowledge efforts for bushfire recovery and “practical environmental initiatives”, you make absolutely no mention anywhere in your letter of any climate change issues that we are increasingly facing, especially in East Gippsland. Virtually all of the matters that you refer to in your letter as being important to Gippslanders, will become increasingly more problematical as our climate changes.

It would be really good to see you acknowledge this reality and show support for the actions of organisations (eg. East Gippsland Shire Council, Farmers for Climate Change and Gippsland Climate Action Network to name but a few) who are committed to reducing emissions and attempting to put in place arrangements to mitigate the damage that we are otherwise certain to face in a changing climate. It would also be good to hear from you on actions being taken to decarbonise and develop alternative power sources (eg. wind, solar and e-cars etc) and the employment opportunities these initiatives could help bring to the region.

You say that “At a national level we are living through a period of global uncertainty and security challenges which require bipartisanship and a mature public debate”. Bipartisanship on the issue of Climate Change would surely represent a major step forward for Gippslanders in particular, and more generally for all Australians.

Yours Sincerely Tom Moore

Contact Metung Science Forum PO Box 128, Metung, Vic,3904

Yallambee Aged Care Rooftop Solar Installation

from the Gippsland Climate Change Network (GCCN) winter newsletter

GCCN under the guidance of Chris Barfoot, our Energise Gippsland Project Officer, has successfully completed a solar installation at the 120 bed Margery Cole residential aged care facility as part of the Yallambee Village for the Aged in Traralgon.

Within the first 110 days of the successful installation of 276kW rooftop PV system by local company RACV Solar has produced 108,568kW of power, with (a revenue) cost saving of $27,809.29 and a CO2 reduction of 108.24 tonnes. The cost of the project was $355,200 ex GST with $317,368 being provided through funding from the Latrobe Valley Energy and Growth Program – Stage 2 through The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning within the Victorian Government.

The facility is also expected to receive a Victorian Energy Efficiency Certificate (VEEC) rebate of approximately $105,000 after 12 months of operation for CO2 savings due to solar and energy efficiency measures. Taken without the grant funding and rebates, the installation would be expected to pay for itself after approximately 7.4 years with the VEEC rebates the installation should pay for itself after 5.2 years.

This project is a template for solar installations for approximately 57 other aged care facilities within Gippsland that are looking to develop renewable solutions and for further investigations at Yallambee around the Independent living units on site. The full Yallambee Aged Care Services Solar Installation report can be found on the Gippsland Climate Change Network ‘Resources’ page.

It’s a Climate Emergency… a letter to our shire by Rosemary Gooch

Republished from EGCAN website

Dear Mayor Reeves and Councilors,

I’m writing to request that the East Gippsland Shire declare a climate emergency. I’m writing as a concerned member of the East Gippsland community and as a member of the East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EGCAN).

EGCAN requested council to declare a climate emergency nearly four years ago and we are asking you again now. In the last four years the discussion and awareness of climate change has changed significantly.

Each year there has been more information about the immediate impacts of climate change on human health, property, infrastructure, agriculture and biodiversity and it’s clear that extreme weather events are more frequent and severe; global action has, and is, accelerating.

However, despite this greater depth of knowledge it appears that getting this information out to everyone is a challenge. Concerted campaigns of misinformation and limited acknowledgement of the issues in our media has contributed to this.

Climate change is happening now and without deep emission cuts its impacts on Australia will be devastating. Hard decisions will have to be made and our lives will change as a consequence.

I’m asking you, as our local government, to take a leadership role on this critical issue. While you are doing a great deal of work in this area I’m not sure a lot of people realise this.

By declaring a Climate Emergency, you are saying loud and clear that this is a major issue, that will affect all of us, one way or the other and we must work together to limit its impacts. People need to know what’s ahead so they can make informed choices. How can it be otherwise?

How the seriousness of this problem is communicated to the public is critical.

I realise making climate change information relevant, interesting and engaging for a general audience is a challenge. I’m sure there are many people and groups in the area that would be keen to help with this.

For example, EGCAN is planning a Climate Art Expo and information event early next year where Climate change information and climate change impacts will be represented in many ways using a variety of media.

Possible ideas that the Shire could consider might be to offer regular forums with guest speakers or less formal Kitchen Table like events where people can come and just talk/listen.

Please give this request due consideration.

Electrify Bass Coast by Werner Theinert

First published in the Bass Coast Post*

 We’re currently in the midst of a worldwide renewable energy revolution which is also taking place in our own national electricity market.  Because of our vast solar and wind resources, we have the opportunity to lead the world in developing a renewable energy economy.

One of the most influential figures in this revolution has been Saul Griffith, a Wollongong lad who recently returned to Australia after doing some amazing work in the USA. He’s one of the lead influencers in the recent release of the Inflation Reduction Act in the USA and the recent inclusion of renewables and hydrogen in both the state and federal budgets.

His book The Big Switch (about rewiring Australia) and his Quarterly essay The Wires That Bind (electrification and community renewal) are essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the future of sustainable energy in Australia.  He explains where we are now, where we will be in the future, and what we must do to get there. 

The two videos on the home page of his electrify2515 website are also a great introduction to understanding how we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions as a community, and how we can also save a lot of money on the way.  For further details I would recommend the home page of the Rewiring Australia website.

The vision is to replace our current domestic gas-consuming appliances (when they require replacing) with more efficient renewables-powered electric appliances.  For industry, the aim is to change over major industrial processes so that we’ll be exporting green steel and green aluminium instead of iron ore, coal, bauxite and alumina.

When thinking about your next appliances, think about the total cost of the fuels you will use to power those appliances during their lifetime – their true cost not just the upfront cost. The biggest savings come from efficient electric appliances using rooftop solar.

*see here

Q&A with Indigo Aurora on Climate Action

Republished from the Bass Coast Post*

On Tuesday, local students took time off school to protest at the NAB’s financing of the coal industry. The Bass Coast Post asked Indigo Aurora why she attended.

Post: Why did you get involved with School Strike for Climate (SS4C)?

Indigo: I only got properly involved with SS4C this year, but I’ve been passionate about fighting for climate justice for years. When I joined Newhaven College at the start of 2023, my amazing friend and activist Joey Thompson introduced me to a local climate action group, and I’ve been helping to organise and attend local actions ever since. It makes me feel so empowered to get out there and fight for our environment, alongside other passionate individuals. Although we live rurally, it’s important that we join this national movement, as we can still achieve great things that will make an impact.

Post: Climate change makes me feel …

Indigo: Trapped, like my generation’s future is hopeless. It’s sometimes hard to maintain a positive mental attitude when it feels like the world is slowly crumbling around us.

Post: Do you talk to your friends and family about climate change and climate action?

Indigo: I talk about climate change with my friends and family very frequently, as it’s on my mind so often. My family are more than supportive of me, and my friends seem to care when I discuss it with them.

Post: Is this your first climate action or have you been involved in direct action before?

Indigo: This is not my first direct action, I have attended over five in total, and helped to organise three.

Post: “You should be in class!” What’s your response?

Indigo: The SS4C movement is not at all disregarding the importance of our education, it’s simply asserting that it is so crucial to fight for our dying climate, that we will sacrifice an important part of our lives for it. Students and young people often get treated like we have no power, so we use one of the only things we do have – the ability to strike from school and disrupt the daily order of things, to force the government and other people in power to take the climate crisis seriously.

Post: Do you expect the June 20 rally to influence the banks? Or do you see other benefits to the rally?

Indigo: Of course our main goal is to influence the banks to end all relationships with coal corporations, but the June 20 rally will have many other positive impacts. By gathering a large student population, we will not only disrupt the banks, but also raise awareness and form a social bond between all the protesters. This opportunity to get involved is invaluable, especially in a rural community where large climate actions aren’t particularly common. We hope to see many people there, fighting for climate justice alongside us.

Indigo Aurora is a year 10 student at Newhaven College. She lives in Cape Paterson.

*See here

Gippsland Alliance for Climate Action

From Environment Connect Winter Issue 23

The Gippsland Alliance for Climate Action (GACA) is a formal collaboration of councils across Gippsland working on climate change. The aim is to find shared and collaborative ways to address climate change at the local government level across our region.

The Alliance was established in 2022 and is a partnership between East Gippsland, Wellington, Latrobe City, South Gippsland and Baw Baw. GACA is also collaborating with the seven other Victorian Greenhouse Alliances, to deliver regional mitigation and adaptation programs, including emerging best practice solutions and advocacy.

GACA is auspiced by the Gippsland Climate Change Network, with supporting funds from the Victorian State Government Department of Energy Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) and council partners.

The Alliance will assist East Gippsland Shire Council to deliver on our sustainability commitments outlined in the Council Plan 2021-25 and Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2022-32.

The Alliance has developed a Strategic Action Plan 2023-24, with six priority projects proposed for collaborative development, including:

1. Climate change risk analysis

2. Electric vehicle fleet transition

3. Decarbonisation and gas elimination plan

4. Greenhouse gas monitoring

5. ESD adoption in council and community facilities 6. Communications

Wonthaggi Climate Rally and March – Stop the banks funding coal! by Jessica Harrison

 Forty local people rallied and marched through Wonthaggi on Tuesday 20th June, calling for the banks to stop funding fossil fuels.

The rally was led by students from Newhaven College, Bass Coast College and the Village School, who spoke out at each branch about the uncertain future we face if fossil fuels are mined and burnt, continuing to pollute our heating planet.

Joseph Thompson, Newhaven College student, said “The big 4 banks cannot continue allowing the expansion of the destructive fossil fuel industry. This is a direct attack on our future as young people, and so we are rising and rebelling, and we will come back, again and again, week after week, to demand an end to these climate crimes.

We will continue to advocate for climate justice, until we are taken seriously by these big corporations like NAB and Whitehaven.”

The rally began at NAB. Whitehaven Coal, a Queensland-based coal company, needs a loan of $4.4 Billion to expand their coal operations. National campaign “Move Beyond Coal” is calling for NAB to stop any loans to Whitehaven Coal. An announcement about whether the loan is approved is expected any day.

Indigo Aurora, a student at Newhaven College, said “It’s so uplifting to fight for such a crucial movement with so many passionate people from all walks of life. People have been fighting for the climate for decades, and we’re not going to stop now.”

The march continued around the streets of Wonthaggi, to ANZ and Westpac banks, with songs and chants echoing through the wintry streets.

After the rally, a number of local people made clear to the protesters that they plan to change their bank accounts to an ethical alternative.

Locals supporting Fridays for Future by Judy Ireland

On most Fridays there is a familiar small gathering of people and posters beside the Princes Highway at the western end of Bairnsdale. A similar scenario is also frequently seen on Fridays on the highway at Swan Reach and sometimes in Stratford.

These committed locals are part of a worldwide action known as “Fridays for Future”.

Fridays for Future developed out of a youth led and youth organized movement that began in August 2018 after 15 year old Greta Thunburg and other activists sat in front of the Swedish Parliament for 3 weeks every school day, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis. She held a sign that read “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“School strike for climate”). After posting what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter and it went viral. The action changed to promoting student strikes on a Friday, rather than every school day.

Inspired by Greta, students and people generally gathered worldwide to express concerns about climate. A global strike on 15 March 2019 gathered more than one million strikers in 2,200 strikes organised in 125 countries. On 24 May 2019, in the second global strike, 1,600 protests across 150 countries drew hundreds of thousands of strikers.

Having a local weekly roadside prominence to support climate action was first considered by East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EGCAN) in November 2020, as Victoria was coming out of COVID lockdown. In February 2021 a small group gathered on a Friday by the highway, holding clear signs with messages about the importance of climate action. This group mirrored a similar action in Warrnambool, bookending eastern and western ends of the Princes Highway in Victoria. Ballarat and South Gippsland also joined in the action.

Two and a half years later Fridays for Future remains a commitment by local climate -conscious activists from 3.30 to 4.30 most Friday afternoons. Drivers who pass this way regularly on a Friday have come to expect their presence. There are many who toot or give a thumbs up and of course a number who are not supportive.

The message from the global Fridays for Future network remains at the essence of the local action:

“We are fighting for our future and our lives because they are directly threatened by climate crisis and the ecological breakdown. We are taking action against it because we want to protect the beauty of the earth, the diversity of species and the lives of all beings. Our goal is to overcome the climate crisis and to create a society that lives in harmony with its fellow beings and its environment.”

Remember these positive ideals when you next drive past a Fridays for Future gathering.

Balance of power by Sierra Dunton

First published in the Bass Coast Post*

THE renewable energy transition is gathering pace across Australia. Homeowners are lapping up opportunities for solar and/or battery installations, with plenty of financing options, timely government incentives, and reduced energy bills for years to come.

For renters, low-income earners, people living in flats or other dwellings unsuitable for rooftop solar, the outlook is less promising, with energy bills expected to spike over the next few years. While most power companies offer “green energy”, it’s often at a premium price, further excluding low-income earners from accessing renewable energy.

What if there was a way to share your excess solar with friends, family and people in your community who are doing it tough? Or at the very least, a way to ensure some of what you pay for electricity is redirected back into your community?

Based in Bass Coast, the Mycelia Energy Collective is a profit-for-purpose social enterprise and registered charity with community energy and equity at its core.

Mycelia was recently selected by WWF Australia for its ambitious Innovate to Regenerate Program rolling out across Australia. The Program aims to support community-led solutions that encourage impact investment in priority areas such as food, biodiversity and climate, and to establish a powerful network equipped to regenerate Australia through linked projects.

Mycelia is proud to be launching this project across Bass Coast and South Gippsland, where there is a history of environmental stewardship and passionate people and organisations taking the lead on climate change.

We are seeking a combination of 100 households and businesses to participate in the pilot phase. By joining up, you’ll help shape and test the model for further rollout across the state, and potentially communities across Australia.

The collective offers 100% certified renewable energy at no extra cost, so nobody is left behind. Members include people with solar panels, some with solar and batteries, and some with neither.

We will use energy matching technology provided through our partnership with The People’s Grid to share energy among members. A pay-it-forward option is also being developed so members can donate their feed-in-tariff to a friend, family member or anyone in the collective being affected by high energy prices. Essentially, the Collective is a means for using your electricity bill to do good!

Ultimately the collective will be able to set real targets for local energy generation, use and storage that yields benefits to members, their communities and the grid, as we navigate the ups and downs of transitioning to renewables.

The benefit sharing fund will direct profits back into partnering communities through energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives. Community-based advisers are working with Mycelia to determine how the fund is distributed and breaking down barriers to participation.

*see here

EV Expo in Bairnsdale

Full house for Bryce Gaton

First Published Environment Connect Winter Issue 23*

East Gippsland Shire Council Deputy Mayor Cr Arthur Allen proudly unveiled East Gippsland’s electric vehicle (EV) charging network in Bairnsdale on Saturday 20 May. The launch took place during Sunrise Rotary’s Electric Vehicle Expo, where attendees had the opportunity to explore a variety of electric vehicles and learn about the technology.

Council’s 50-kilowatt fast chargers have been operational since February, and in just two months, over 315 cars have used them, consuming 7,500 kWh of 100% renewable electricity. This not only demonstrates the success of the charging network but also highlights the environmental benefits, with a reduction of 2.3 tonnes of CO2 emissions so far. The expo showcased the increasing interest and support for electric vehicles in East Gippsland.

Presentations were given by industry experts on charging options for homes and businesses, addressing concerns and promoting the wider adoption of electric vehicles. Bryce Gaton, from EV Choice and The Driven, provided valuable insights into the industry’s latest developments and upcoming electric car models in Australia. Council sponsored Bryce’s attendance at the Expo and were pleased to see attendees gain a deeper understanding of the advantages and potential of electric vehicles as a new and sustainable mode of transport from this presentation.

Attendees also had the opportunity to test drive electric vehicles and speak to local EV owners, gaining a hands-on experience and further understanding of their features and benefits.

The launch of East Gippsland’s EV charging network and the Electric Vehicle Expo showcased the region’s commitment to sustainable transportation and encouraged the community to embrace electric vehicles for a cleaner future. East Gippsland Shire Council remains dedicated to advancing environmentally friendly initiatives and promoting the benefits of electric vehicles throughout the region, and would like to acknowledge Sunrise Rotary, volunteers, local businesses, the St Marys Parish Centre and the Gippsland Climate Change Network for making the event a success.

Note: In 2022 Australia’s transport sector made up 19% of Australia’s emissions. Council’s new charging stations offer a dual charging option and are powered by 100% renewable energy (as part of VECO), making them an environmentally friendly and a more sustainable transport option.

*see here