Planting resilience in the economy

Written on the 17 November 2009

Planting resilience in the economy

The challenge of climate change is immense. Combined with other converging economic and security issues, such as peak oil or ocean acidification, the problems can appear overwhelming. But according to the CEO of Environment Business Australia (EBA) Fiona Wain, it’s exactly why now is the time that Australia should be recognising, championing and investing in the value that post-carbon economies offer.

ENVIRONMENT Business Australia has proposed to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the United Nations that each country develops a ‘five project’ approach alongside targets and timelines.

This has evolved from concerns here in Australia and internationally that what is on the drawing board to curb and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is too little, too late to avoid an average global temperature increase of two degrees Celsius or more.

Climate scientists are saying that the ‘peak’ in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will be with us for the next 1000 years. Time is of the essence if we are globally to peak at the lowest possible concentration.

At EBA we believe there is commercial opportunity in this commercial project approach ­— in 2008 the global value of the low carbon and environmental goods and services sector was more than $6 trillion (UK Government report on low carbon and environmental goods and services sector) and recently the clean-tech market has surpassed IT.

Tackling climate change and re-establishing value in the global economy go hand in hand. Australia is better positioned than any other country to take an economic development perspective on tackling climate change because of our vast resources and stable economy.

By showing that an energy intensive economy can make the transition to new markets, Australia will open up new opportunities and can help developing countries at the same time. It’s not a question of either or.

But for solutions to be deployed in time and at sufficient scale requires a sensible price for carbon and regulated targets, timelines and standards for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Without these key drivers and incentives it is unlikely that solutions will be unleashed quickly enough.

Corporate Australia must build new value and resilience into the economy. That is what will be on show and up for discussion at Carbon Market Expo on the Gold Coast from October 26-28.

I encourage everyone to participate in Carbon Market Expo, it is Australia’s biggest think tank and showcase of solutions where investors, bankers, consultants, policy makers, project developers and technology companies openly exchange cutting edge ideas and compare the benefits of new action. This compares with approaches that have been in use for many decades and have benefited from ‘artificially deflated prices’.

Negative impacts on society and the environment need to be properly priced if big visions and new technologies are to take their place in the market.

Last year’s event attracted more than 1100 people from 27 countries and in spite of the global financial crisis, participants have told us that millions of dollars of in deals were negotiated nationally and internationally because of contacts made at Expo.

This year sees fraught negotiations internationally in the lead up to the Copenhagen meeting in December. In Australia there is still much work to be done to get the emissions trading scheme passed in the Senate and the Waxman-Markey Bill still has to pass the US Senate. So this year’s Carbon Market Expo comes at a critical time in the decision-making process and points to ways that the market can help governments deliver real outcomes.

Five projects for Australia
1. Energy, resources and materials efficiency –
implement systemic and economy-wide
energy efficiency programs


2. Major renewable energy projects linked
with a smart and HVDC grid – position
Australia as a regional hub for minerals
processing, manufacturing and electricity
supply using solar thermal, geothermal,
marine and wind energy that also provides
base load electricity


3. Drawdown ‘legacy’ carbon from the
atmosphere – create terrestrial and biological
carbon sinks to draw ‘legacy’ CO2 from the
atmosphere, rebuild degraded soils and
improve agricultural productivity


4. Capture and use CO2 emissions from large
point-sources such as coal-fired power plants
– with algae photosynthesis CO2 can be
turned from a pollutant waste into a valuable feedstock for biodiesel, animal meal, and fertiliser


5. Smarter cities and better transport systems
– commercial scale roll-out of electric vehicle
technology and re-development of public
transport systems; energy efficiency
standards for new commercial building and
retrofits.


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