Business Clean Up Day 2018: ‘Let today be the start of your clean up journey’

Event founder Ian Kiernan has called on all Australians to keep the momentum going after another successful Clean Up Day campaign.

During a week of action, which kicked off with a Carbon Reduction Institute-sponsored Business Clean Up Day on February 27, an impressive 587,962 volunteers joined together across 7,253 locations to remove rubbish and litter.

Speaking from the 2018 Clean Up Day official site in Brisbane, Mr Kiernan said he was proud to see so many environmentally-conscious Australians rally to the cause: this year’s turnout represented a 14% increase in site and a 4% spike in volunteer numbers over 2017.

But he was also adamant that there is no room for complacency when it comes to keeping our parks, waterways, beaches, bushland and roadways clear of mountains of debris.

“We need to do much more than just pick up rubbish one day a year,” said Mr Kiernan, now in his 28th year of campaigning for a rubbish-free Australia.

“Every day is Clean Up Australia Day – so let today simply be the start of your Clean Up journey. “Making a real difference starts with looking more closely at our persIan Kiernan joins CRI on Clean Up Dayonal purchasing behaviour, becoming conscious of the single-use products, packaging and plastics that we buy and then discard.

“We need to continue to challenge our governments to implement effective waste management and recycling programs to reduce the amount of wasted resource that ends up in our precious environment. Our Clean Up activities provide vital community-led data and feedback that influences decision makers.”

Mr Kiernan and CUA’s Business Officer Wendy Chapman, pictured above right, also found time in the busy campaign week to join the CRI team during their Clean Up Day at Taylors Bay Beach near Taronga Zoo in the Sydney Harbour.

The five staff members, which included CRI’s program managers Garth Mulholland and Heidi Fog, picked up between 30-40 kg of rubbish and close to 1,000 items of litter; everything from plastic zip lock bags to straws and bottle caps.

Their contribution will now be added to the estimated 800 tonnes of rubbish collected across Australia, the removal and destruction of which is being off-set by carbon credits bought by CRI.

“If you missed Clean Up Australia, Business Clean Up Day this year; start planning now to get your business involved next year,” added Mr Mulholland.

“It is a great team-building activity, an opportunity to get outdoors during the week and most importantly a chance to help clean up the environment.”

Since the event started in 1998, Australians have donated more than 33 million volunteer hours, removing the equivalent of 350 thousand ute loads of rubbish from over 178 thousand sites across the country.

“The dedication and enthusiasm of our volunteers have made Clean Up Australia Day possible for all these years, and every one of you can be proud of what you have achieved,” said Mr Kiernan.

Results in progress predict volunteers will have removed the equivalent of nearly 16,000 thousand ute loads of rubbish over the last week – just the beginning of what is shaping up to be an outstanding effort in 2018.

Working with limited resources, Clean Up Australia is a not-for-profit NGO which relies on corporate sponsors and donors to supply funding and resources and will continue to provide free bags, gloves and other equipment for as long as it has the funds to do so.

Donations can be made online by clicking here.

Climate Change is a Big Deal at the World Economic Forum: Can Trump be the Reason?

The World Economic Forum has officially kicked off in Davos, Switzerland. The meeting attracts some of the biggest political leaders, the most influential entrepreneurs, and the most eminent business personalities from all over the world. This year’s event will witness the likes of China’s President Xi Jinping, the US Foreign Secretary John Kerry, and the founder of Microsoft Bill Gates.

It’s going to be big.

Impressive though the list of speakers and participants at the forum may be, one particular absence is equally noticeable, if not more so. The American President-elect Donald Trump will not be attending the event. He’s the man, who will, in a few days, occupy the most influential office in the world. And, without him, Davos would be like Hamlet without the Prince.

And one of the economic issues where Trump’s influence will be felt the most in the coming years is climate change. And there’s absolutely no question that climate change is the most important item on the agenda this year. Fifteen of this year’s WEF sessions will focus on climate change. Nine will discuss clean energy. This is the most importance that’s ever been accorded to the issue at the Davos forum.

There are two reasons why global warming and green energy are being discussed more than other political or economic issues like terrorism, trade, and migration.

First, global warming is not just an environmental issue anymore. It’s an economic issue as well. The clean energy industry has, over the years, crossed the billion-dollar mark and become a trillion-dollar business. As the world shifts its focus from oil and gas, alternative energy giants are stepping up their game. But the economic impact of global warming is even larger than that. It involves insurance companies that are increasingly factoring environmental changes into their cost analyses. It includes automobile manufacturers that are striving to take over the nascent electric car market. It also revolves around banks who are lending to all sectors influencing or being influenced by the global drive towards clean energy.

The second explanation for the increased interest in global warming is that the world seems to be gearing up for Trump. His fiery political rhetoric during the campaign suggested he is keen to reverse the progress America has made on climate change, mainly by pulling out of the Paris Agreement. And, it seems, he is keen to do exactly that once he’s in office. This is partly reflected by the nomination of Rick Perry as his pick for Energy Secretary. Perry, a staunch traditional Republican has been on record as saying he doesn’t just want to weaken the government’s environmental agency. He actively wants to abolish it.

No wonder the world seems so keen to discuss the future of the global clean energy regime and the state of progress on global warming. Now, the question is, can Donald Trump single-handedly halt the global progress on global warming and green energy? Probably not, you might argue. But can he damage the ongoing effort? Absolutely!

And that’s a scary thought.

The Paris Agreement: Is Australia’s Commitment More Than Hot Air?


There were tears of relief from the low-lying nations’ delegates at the historic 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

A 195-nation accord had just given them a lifeline; a commitment to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The landmark agreement sent a wave of hope through the masses of people looking for greater climate action, but not all see the agreement as a success.

The father of climate awareness, Dr James Hansen of Colombia University, immediately denounced the agreement as a “fraud”. “It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises,” he told The Guardian at the time.  “As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

A year later, the jury is still out on whether Australia will even come close to playing its part in the ultimate goal of global net zero carbon emissions by 2050, despite ratifying its obligation to the landmark UN agreement on November 4.

CEO of the Carbon Reduction Institute (CRI) Rob Cawthorne is excited by the hope the agreement brings, but also recognises its lack of teeth. “With no enforcement, the agreement is little better than a handshake,” he believes. “If China or the US fails to meet their commitments, are we really going to enforce carbon tariffs or trade embargos?”

CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation Kelly O’Shannassy told The Huffington Post Australia she also has grave reservations. “At 1.5 degrees [of global warming] and above they [islands such as Kiribati and Tuvalu] lose their homes,” she says. “At 1.5 degrees and above, we lose the Great Barrier Reef… we’re already seeing this and we haven’t even got to those levels of warming yet. If we don’t get on to reducing pollution fast, it is just a piece of paper.”

Australia has pledged to cut 2005-level emissions 26-28 per cent by 2030, and reinforced that commitment at the recent 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco where signatories met to iron out a roadmap for the landmark agreement.

Many delegates there were reportedly sceptical of just how Australia proposed to achieve that target, but Australia’s power-players Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Environmental and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg remain buoyant.  Mr Frydenberg continues to make the case for gas as the transitional fuel to help coal-dependant Australia deliver reliable base load power while lowering carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, Ms Bishop says the $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), the “centrepiece” of the Government’s 2020 policy package, proves the plan is working – already 15 per cent of our households use solar energy, the highest proportion in the world. “Australia has a strong track record on international emissions reduction targets,” Ms Bishop tells Fairfax Media.  “We beat our first Kyoto target by 128 million tonnes and are on track to meet and beat our second Kyoto 2020 target by 78 million tonnes.”

But others aren’t so convinced.

As recently as mid-2015, Australia was still labelled a climate change “free-rider”, dropping off a list of nations taking “credible” action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to a panel led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The latest data from the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) – independent scientific analysis produced by three research organisations – is perhaps the most damning evidence that Australia is lagging well behind other developed nations in climate control.

CAT believes that under present policy settings, Australia’s emissions are set to increase to more than 21% above 2005 levels by 2030, equivalent to an increase of around 52% above 1990 levels.

Unless there is a radical review of ERF, Australia will miss its 2030 target by a “large margin”, maintains CAT.

Mark Butler, Labour’s climate spokesman, echoed those sentiments recently. “The Turnbull Government has no policy for renewable energy investment post 2020, which is also crucial to meet our Paris obligations,” he told Fairfax. “As the ACTU [Australian Council of Trade Unions] has also pointed out, nor does the Government have a plan for a Just Transition to a clean energy economy, as the Paris Agreement calls for.”

Liberal MP Craig Kelly, the chairman of the Government’s backbench committee on the environment and energy, went even further, labelling the Paris Agreement a “cactus” in a Facebook salvo immediately after US President-elect Donald Trump’s upset at the polls. George Christensen, the outspoken Liberal National party backbencher from Queensland, later backed Mr Kelly’s view.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull concedes that the “mechanisms” currently in place to meet the 2030 Paris Agreement targets may need to be revised at the Direct Action climate policy review in 2017. But he remains steadfast in his conviction to the promise, and unshaken by the imminent arrival of such a powerful climate science dissenter to The White House.

“With all the great work done by the US in reducing its fossil fuel usage over the last eight years, maybe Donald Trump could use carbon tariffs as a way of balancing the costs for manufacturing; we can only dream,” adds CRI CEO Rob Cawthorne.

The Climate Institute, for one, was encouraged by the mood in Morocco after the Trump cloud lifted. In a press statement from the event, the institute cleverly subverted the ‘cactus’ dig by calling the agreement a “hardy plant resilient to adversity”. “This has been a remarkable meeting of nations,” said John Connor, CEO The Climate Institute from the talks in Marrakech.“Countries, states, cities, companies and others have responded with grace, vigour and guts to the election of President Trump which could have been a massive blow to climate action. “Australia, like other nations, now needs to get down to getting to zero emissions and recognise that it can be a winner in the global clean energy future.”

Only time will tell if that comes in time for the families of our Pacific Island neighbours.



Climate Control Crusader Jay Weatherill: Can He Weather The Federal Storm?


Dark storm clouds were rolling into Canberra from the halls of power in Adelaide for the final Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting for 2016. They weren’t the kind that plunged much of South Australia into darkness on September 28, but they were shaping to be just as volatile in a political sense.

Defiant South Australian premier Jay Weatherill says Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has thrown his state under the bus by blaming the blackout on issues with the state’s renewable wind-turbine system, rather than a freakish once-in-a-lifetime weather system that tore towers from the ground and brought down high transmission lines.

“Malcolm Turnbull, our PM, took the first opportunity to lecture South Australians about the dangers of renewable energy, and for the Labor states in promoting unrealistic renewable energy targets,” Mr Weatherill told reporters at the time

“Now this was information that was made … in contradiction of the oral advice that we were receiving from the Australian Energy Market Operator. The PM was fearful that he would be blamed for a national electricity market that caused a blackout.

“The PM was fearful that he would be blamed by the right-wing of his party for pushing into renewable energy when he knows that he leads a party which is dominated by coal interests.

“It’s deeply disappointing that we do not have the national leadership which is necessary to deal with this and other issues.”

The Prime Minister added further fuel to what was expected to be a heated COAG agenda on December 9 when he appeared to do a U-turn on considering an emissions trading scheme (ETS).

Mr Weatherill now says he’s left with no choice but to float the idea of a state and territory system, without federal backing.

“States would simply join together and exercise their own carbon emissions intensity scheme,” he told the ABC’s AM program ahead of the COAG summit.

“We have had advice that this is certainly possible.”

Mr Weatherill also told the media he’d prefer a national bipartisan scheme that would provide long-term certainty for investors but believes Federal Government is “very firmly bought and sold by the coal club”.

Over the past decade, South Australia has dramatically changed its energy mix.

Its coal-fired plants have all been moth-balled and wind now supplies 40 percent of its power.

Mr Weatherill has built on previous climate change Labor leadership in SA. As Minister for the Environment from 2008-2010, he benefited from the state’s Climate Change Council, which was set up in 2007 to provide independent advice to the minister responsible for climate change.

Although not without his critics, he’s now arguably the most forward-thinking and progressive climate change politician in Australia.

At the end of 2015,  he released South Australia’s Climate Change Strategy 2015-2050, a landmark roadmap for reducing emissions – and maximising business opportunities – that he hopes will culminate with Adelaide becoming the first city in the world to be carbon neutral.

Just a few weeks later, with a two-person camera crew in tow, Mr Weatherill even fronted at December’s COP21 conference in Paris to spruik his commitment to carbon neutrality.

Although dubbed ‘Jet-Setting Jay’ and criticised for wasting tax-payers’ money – more recently he was in Finland investigating the logistics of SA duplicating that country’s nuclear waste dump – Mr Weatherill is adamant that the investment was a drop in the ocean when weighed against the future benefits.

Unless dramatic emission reduction measures are taken soon, the outlook for SA is a hotter, drier climate – with more frequent and longer heatwaves, drought and increased bushfire risk.

One of the worst impacted areas of the state in the short-term is the Murray-Darling Basin where food production is estimated to drop by 49-72% by 2050, according to Mr Weatherill’s Climate Change Strategy report.

After Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce said he would cut the state’s water allocation, Mr Weatherill has now issued a stern ultimatum to the PM – recommit to the basin plan, or he’ll reinstate the Fight for the Murray campaign.

The Fight for the Murray campaign commenced in 2012 and was successful in ensuring 3200GL of water would be returned to the River Murray – the baseline volume of water needed to keep the system alive as determined by detailed Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation science.

This water is needed to keep the Murray mouth open, reduce salinity in the Coorong and Lower Lakes, increase flows to the Coorong and allow for an increase in floodplain watering across NSW, Victoria, and South Australia.

“The Prime Minister needs to pull his Deputy into line and ensure he does not dud us on the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement,” demands Mr Weatherill.

“We were given reassurance before the Federal Election that the Agreement would be delivered in full.

“Close enough is not good enough – the crucial last 450GL must be delivered, as promised – the Federal Government cannot just cut and run on one of the nation’s most important agreements.

“The future of the Murray-Darling Basin is crucial for all Australians.”