“Silence equals acceptance. Speak Out”

Once again, Lighter Footprints took to the streets of Boroondara. This time, 5-6pm, 23 Dec at Camberwell Junction.

Again raising local awareness of climate change, this time with a message to contact PM Rudd and Minister Wong to express dissatisfaction with the government’s climate change policies.

We handed out flyers to passers by which encouraged them to write (or call) and ask and the pollies some questions – we also supplied the contacts of the two politicians. Lots of positive responses from the people we talked with and supportive toots from cars passing by. We did have someone trying to convince us that climate change was due to sun spots “as confirmed by all the scientists“. We think he meant all the skeptics.

To join Lighter Footprints in climate action, contact us here.

End of shift chit chat. Noticably lacking in doom or gloom!
(BTW – there are far more than 6 of us in the LF group . . . !)

Lighter Footprints in action – Kew Junction

After such disappointing news about Australia’s interim (2020) carbon reduction targets (5%), many of us felt we needed to let off steam. Inspired by Lynn’s call to action, a number of the group met at Kew Junction in Boroondara for a one hour demonstration, starting at 3.30pm. We figured that would be a peak time for traffic through this very busy road junction with five major roads connecting through this one point.

We didn’t have a specific message to send to the public – we just wanted to express our dissatisfaction and outrage at the Rudd governments policies, remind people that climate change IS STILL an emergency, show them they are not alone in their concern and perhaps inspire them to take action or join us. All that with one banner, a foam turtle and a few sandwich boards!

The response was heartening. Many drivers tooted horns and waved and passengers shouted their support. We had pedestrians coming over for a chat and information about the group. Of course there were a few who took exception and were less complimentary – one ute driver insisted we ‘got off the dole and got ourselves a proper job’. As he sped by, we didn’t have time to point out that we were not claiming money from the government (unlike big business which insists that tax payers subsidize their profits) and some of us had given up well paid work in order to try and do something about climate change.

In all, it was a fun hour in the sun and we agreed that we’d all do it again, next time at Camberwell Junction on Tue 23 Dec at 5pm. Come join us there or contact Lynn for more information.

Asking the right questions on climate change policy – a fabulous letter

This is such a good letter that I can’t help but forward it to you. They are just the right questions to be asking. Thanks to Deb Hart (of LIVE) for all the hard work she has done.

Dear Prime Minister,

AUSTRALIAN diplomats have been accused of helping turn UN climate talks in Poland into “groundhog day” by failing to support a proposal that rich countries look to the advice of climate scientists when setting greenhouse targets. (The Age, 10/12/2008)

I am following up regarding my recent telephone call to your office. Please note that following my conversation with your courteous receptionist, I was transferred through to Penny Wong’s office to ask these same questions and, along with my colleague Terrie Hamilton-Smith, am awaiting your earliest response:

  • Under your Government’s proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS), when do you foresee Australia’s spiraling greenhouse gas emissions to start falling?
  • Given that the Government’s stated aim is to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, why is it not introducing a national, gross-metered feed-in-tariff to stimulate zero emission energy technologies, like nearly 50 other nations have done so far?
  • Does it concern you that the creation of pollution permits (which resulted in the EEC’s model failing to reduce emissions) to be given away via the CPRS to the 1,000 largest polluters will result in conscientious households and businesses who use less energy and create less pollution simply generating permits to allow other families or other businesses/industries to increase their own emissions?
  • What is going to make your ETS work when the EEC system has failed to reduce emissions? Where is the incentive to reduce emissions below the cap? Where is the stimulus/regulation for those not governed by the CPRS to reduce emissions and be rewarded for this?
  • Do you understand the ramifications of losing the Arctic sea-ice? Do you understand that you will not get a second chance?
  • Do you understand why NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies’ Director, Dr James Hansen, and other eminent climate scientists, have concluded that we must reduce the current atmospheric CO2 level (387ppm and rising) to at most 325ppm to have a hope of restoring Arctic sea-ice and therefore a climate capable of sustaining life on earth as we know it? Do you appreciate that these figures are not negotiable and cannot be adjusted for political expediency?
  • Do you accept eminent scientists’ views that in order to stabilise the climate we must take heed of the short term advantage of the in-built delays (aka slow feedbacks) in the climate system and take emergency action to achieve near-zero emissions as soon as humanly possible while actively drawing down atmospheric carbon with techniques such as biochar?
  • Is your Government really planning to use CPRS funds to prop up coal-fired power stations?
  • Given that zero-emission electricity generation technologies such as concentrated solar thermal and wind are available now and are being deployed on a massive scale in Germany, Spain, Denmark and parts of the USA, why are Australian taxpayers funding the oxymoronic “clean coal”, or rather the newly branded (at massive expense) “NewGenCoal”? Do you not view Government support and funding of private multi-national vested interests as inconsistent with and totally counter-productive to the Government’s policy objectives?
  • Given your Government’s stated aim is to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, have your advisors considered refuelling our existing coal-fired power stations with natural gas – which would nearly halve their emissions within a few years, and then progressively shutting the stations down, starting with the most polluting first, over a period of say ten years while replacing their capacity with a massive roll-out of wind and solar, and societal energy efficiency programs?
  • Does it interest you that energy intense multinational corporations will be urgently seeking stable countries capable of providing large scale low emission energy sources, such as concentrated solar thermal, which would enable them to stay competitive as the world enters a low carbon era?
  • Since the challenges of climate change, peak oil and the financial crises require an integrated solution, why did you not tie in the $10billion stimulus package to “low emissions” spending (eg requiring such monies to be spent on energy efficient appliances/water tanks/solar panels etc,) thus saving pensioners, families and businesses money on their energy costs in the long term whilst at the same time reducing emissions and stimulating job creation and sales in sustainable industries?
  • Do you see the dire warning signs for our climate and our economy in remaining in a quarry; propping up old industries and old technologies when our country is ideally placed to deliver valuable, sustainable zero emission energy on a large scale?
  • Just over a year ago your Government was given a mandate to act on climate change. Do you really want to adopt policies which will see Australia sink further into the quarry and lose what remaining hope is left to avert catastrophic climate change under your watch?
  • Do you realise that, as our climate becomes less conducive to sustaining our vast global populations (which are now all inter-connected, as the recent global financial crisis clearly demonstrates), the financial system/economy as we know it will become unworkable and ultimately collapse? Do you appreciate that a safe climate and a healthy economy are intimately connected?
  • Just because others persist in engaging in human slavery, does that mean it is ok and we should also engage in it? Hasn’t history proven countless times that leadership requires bold action, particularly at times when others are not following suit?

Please consider your answers to these questions carefully as a growing number of Australians are becoming aware of the great divide between what your Government says it is doing about climate change compared to what it is in fact doing. It’s a simple equation, there will be no economy on a dead planet.

At last count there were 300 local climate change action groups working tirelessly to bridge the divide between what is known by climate scientists about global warming and what is known by policy makers and the general public. Please view LIVE’s numerous submissions.

It would not be wise politics for any government in the 21st century to underestimate the community’s deep and growing concerns about climate change. You must listen first and foremost to the climate change policies presented to you by highly qualified progressive economists and policy analysts who understand the science of global warming and the economically viable solutions available here and now, not as has been the case for too long, those of vested, private interests whose profits are under threat.

Yours faithfully,

Deborah Hart and Terrie Hamilton-Smith
Campaigners, LIVE

Climate Change Action Groups – why we do it

A good article on this grassroots movement which explains to others (and perhaps to ourselves) why we do it:

Power from the ground up” by Michael Green, Insight 5, The Age, 13 Dec 2008.

“Around the country, small groups of ordinary but passionate people are banding together, lest they succumb to despair, to force action on global warming”.

Politicians and proponents of business as usual (BAU), beware!

Last meeting for 2008

A reminder that our last meeting for the year is next Wed Dec 3 at 7.45 pm at Carolyn’s house 15 Faversham Rd Canterbury.

This will also be our Xmas do, and so you may like to bring something nice to share. The intention for the evening is to welcome everyone and introduce new people. There may be a few announcements of events such as the January Summit in Canberra, and other events between now and early next year. We’ll then ask for reflections on the highlights of the past year, as each of us sees it, and then time for ideas about the way we might approach the coming year.

This is not our strategic planning time. This is to put out on the table the possibilities for us to work on next year. We will be determining when we will take that half day to focus ourselves for the next year, and it should be February sometime. If you have a particular item you’d like to raise which is not really part of the above process, then let me know and we’ll work out when to do that.

I’ll have the remaining teeshirts here for anyone who’d like to buy one ($20 as a discount for Xmas) I will attach here the events Calendar from Monique and the action and publications report from David Spratt

The article circulated by Ben from George Monbiot is an awful reminder of why we keep plugging away – there is no choice.

Hope to see on Dec 3rd. Would be helpful if you could let me know if you a can come.

Lighter Footprints looking ahead to 2009

In December last year, 15 members of Lighter Footprints met with Boroondara Council officer Lisa Wilkins to discuss the preparation of Our Boroondara- Our City Our Future, a plan which will to guide policy for the next 20 years.

The main comments from the group were that the current strategic plan was missing the opportunity to focus, right now, on a determination to become ‘carbon neutral’ within the next few years, not to mention the next twenty. Members offered to work with the Council explore what that approach might mean for both the Council, and for the community. The experience of other Councils in various parts of the country in reaching carbon neutrality showed this to be do-able.

The environment statement needed to adopt ecological sustainability principles and practices, said the group, which has implications for every part of the strategy, meaning that equal weighting needed to be given to environment, economy and social well being of the community.

Overall the group was conscious that the Council was showing increased interest and concern in sustainable approaches, but interestingly members had noted that Boroondara Council documentation and its website did not reflect this approach, unlike Whitehorse which pushes it right upfront. (This is not to say that each Council’s practices reflect their rhetoric, but it is worth noting the difference). Lisa Wilkins took the comments back and the group will be interested to see if the ensuing documentation and approaches will reflect these concerns.

Since then our group has been pursuing local action. After running two successful forums on climate change with candidates for both the Lower House and the Senate, we are looking to focus our strategic plan on post-electorate issues for this year. At the next meeting of Lighter Footprints, on February 6th, a planning day for Sunday afternoon Feb 17 will be confirmed. That session will be at Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre. Everyone is welcome.

At least one of our actions for next year will include the canvassing of our local area for interest in solar panels. We have negotiated a scheme which means we are seeking 50 homes to make use of the current Government subsidy. It is not clear how long this scheme will be available and the current subsidy of $8000 for 1 kw of solar panelling (6 panels) offers very good value.

We are supporting the first of the Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre meetings organised by its Sustainability Committee, which is from Angela Crocombe who has written a book called ‘A Lighter Footprint’, based on practical help for those seeking ways to apply a less heavy impact. This is on Tuesday Feb 27 at 8 pm, at the house at SHNC. Please come.

We continue to collect information and research from around the world which shows the speed with which climate change is impacting, and that it is induced by the rising levels of greenhouse gas. Our concern is that this has now reached crisis levels and our actions this year are likely to reflect this growing level of concern.

Join our emailing list if you would like copies of relevant research, and our events.

Lighter Footprints grows

If you have been reading our reports over the past year or so, you may have wondered if we are a growing group or just a small declining rump.

The group has in fact grown, by cementing relationships across what were independent groups previously. The Coalition of Climate Change Action Groups that came together to run the Kooyong forum in the Hawthorn Town Hall in September last year (where representatives of four political parties discussed their climate change positions prior to the last election) has stayed together. We have kept the name of Lighter Footprints but the group has expanded significantly with the merging of these other groups. This has been the driver that has enabled us to focus on the wide range of projects we have in hand.

A brief update of these projects may entice some like-minded local residents to join us. We are limited in what we can work on, by the numbers we have to work with. More hands would be very welcome

1. Energy efficiency projects:
– clothes drying innovations;
– household energy research and audits;
– case studies of changes in two households.

2. Automotive – research and writing of submissions on new approaches to transport.

3. Greenpower – what does it mean and how can we promote it.

4. Trees/Water/Carbon – how are they linked and what do we know about them – and what positions should we be promoting as best for limiting climate change.

5. Local government – preparing submissions for Our Boroondara – Our City Our Future and attending workshops & seminars seeking community views on actions concerning climate change in both Whitehorse and Boroondara. Working with SHNC on the up-coming Sustainability Festival.

6. Political Strategy – working with other climate change groups around Melbourne and across the country in building a coherent strategic approach to federal and state governments, and other appropriate organisations.

All of us work on local issues – we try first and foremost to limit our own footprint on this earth and to find old and new ways to do this. Many of us also work at translating our sense of urgency for action to our governments at the three levels. The more our network of climate change action groups taps into the research, the more concerned we become at the level of general complacency over the rate that we will experience this change. There is a time imperative that we cannot ignore.

If you share our concern that our government is showing too little leadership in limiting our race towards global warming and its consequent perils for this earth, and you’d like to participate in the actions Lighter Footprints think are needed to push for changes, then join us. We need you.

Carolyn Ingvarson
Lighter Footprints

The GreenPower Accreditation Program – You can be sure it’s Green

What is GreenPower?
Established in 1997, GreenPower is a national accreditation program that sets stringent environmental and reporting standards for renewable electricity products offered by energy suppliers to households and businesses across Australia. Suppliers who sell accredited GreenPower products buy electricity generated from accredited renewable generators on your behalf and feed it into the National Electricity Grid.

What qualifies as ‘eligible’ renewable energy?
Renewable energy never runs out, and is derived from sources that cannot be depleted or energy that can be replaced, such as solar, wind, biomass (waste), wave or hydro. Renewable sources don’t produce greenhouse gas pollution.

What is accreditation?
In GreenPower’s case the renewable energy product is endorsed by a collection of state governments that manage the GreenPower program. To gain endorsement from the GreenPower program it must be generated from:

1.Eligible renewable energy sources that meet strict environmental standards
2.A new renewable energy facility that was built since January 1997 (Other renewable energy exists, but it may not be accredited because it was built before 1997, and was already contributing energy to the electricity grid)

Accreditation ensures that companies are producing renewable energy of the same standard, making it easier for customers to choose between different renewable energy products. Accreditation means that GreenPower retailers’ sales and purchases are audited annually.

Accredited GreenPower versus non-accredited GreenPower
Generally non-accredited products source their renewable energy from old sources that were established decades ago, such as large hydro-electric projects. Purchasing products from old renewable energy sources does not contribute directly to new investments in renewable energy.
In some cases the same electricity being offered to customers as ‘green’ (but not GreenPower accredited) is being counted towards electricity retailers’ mandatory requirements. The federal government already requires that energy companies buy a small percentage (2-3 percent) of electricity from renewable energy sources. Accredited GreenPower purchases involve additional mandatory requirements on electricity retailers to purchase renewable energy, which increases overall demand for renewable energy.

The same strict guidelines and other independent audit processes may not exist for non-accredited renewable energy products so it cannot be guaranteed that purchase of these products will contribute to further investment in clean renewable energy in the future.

What does the GreenPower label mean?
An accredited GreenPower product will always carry the ‘tick’ label. This accreditation label is supported and managed by governments throughout Australia. These labels tell you the amount of accredited GreenPower your energy retailer is purchasing on your behalf, as a percentage (10% – 100%) of your household’s electricity consumption.

Why switch to Green Power?
Traditionally, electricity on the central grid is mostly produced by generators that burn coal, which is the most greenhouse intensive form of energy production. In New South Wales and Victoria for example, more than 90 per cent of electricity comes from burning coal. GreenPower helps make it easy to significantly reduce your impact on climate change by:

1. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
2. Driving demand for investment in renewable energy
3. Helping to reduce water consumption (renewable energy generation uses much less water than coal and gas powered stations)

As an individual, does it make much difference what I do when it comes to electricity usage in terms of greenhouse gas production?
Yes, it really does make a difference! Approximately 50 per cent of your household-generated greenhouse emissions come from electricity. This is because most of our electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas.

These emissions are rising rapidly, by 66% since 1990. We can reduce them by conserving energy, becoming more energy efficient and by switching to renewable energy. Changing the way that our electricity is produced is one of the actions that we can take to help avert dangerous climate change. At present, only about 8% of our electricity comes from renewable sources, despite Australia having excellent wind and solar resources.

So I’ll sign up for renewable energy…There, I’ve made a big difference already!!
Look closely at the “renewable energy” product before you sign up for it. Make sure that the renewable energy you are purchasing is accredited GreenPower. This means you can reduce your emissions by up to approximately 50% (depending on the percentage of accredited GreenPower that you buy). For an average household, this could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 7 tonnes per year. Buying GreenPower means you increase the amount of renewable energy in Australia over and above any mandatory targets.

But GreenPower will increase my power bill by a huge amount, won’t it?
You will pay extra for most GreenPower products, but you need to “do the maths” just to see how much more it may be. The cost to the average household for 100% GreenPower is around $6.00/week. A couple of coffees!

And it is relatively easy to increase the energy efficiency of your home, thus reducing your power consumption. Buying GreenPower is an investment in further development of renewable energy sources, helping to reduce our reliance on coal-generated electricity. The cost of buying accredited GreenPower will vary, depending on the amount of GreenPower in the product, and also the source of the energy,.eg. if you buy a product that is 50% accredited GreenPower, it will cost less than 100% ; solar is more expensive than wind.

How do I know that it’s accredited GreenPower that I’m buying?
Because these products carry the ‘tick’ label, which also says “GreenPower Accredited Renewable Energy”. The people behind GreenPower are representatives of several state government agencies and departments plus a number of non-financial members. The National GreenPower Accreditation Program sets the rules for GreenPower products and independently audits GreenPower retailers’ sales and purchases and generators’ operations to make sure they are meeting the accreditation criteria.

NB. We would like to know whether our 100% GreenPower Campaign has been effective. If you decide to take up 100% accredited GreenPower please let us know by emailing ci@the.inter.net.au.


Material sourced from www.greenelectricitywatch.org.au and www.greenpower.gov.au