Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

REPORT | Green Cities & Garnaut

The Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Cities Conference has been in full swing in Melbourne the last couple of days and we’ve been following the tweetstream at #gc2011. The GBCA’s Jorge Chapa posted some key points from the conference wrap yesterday which responded to the question ‘What is the next plan for greening Australia?’ The following steps were tweeted and we felt, as propositions, they warranted posting:

Step 1. Move away from GDP? It is a valid indicator, but why just limit ourselves to this one? #gc2011
Step 2. Agree to decouple economic growth and natural capital. Let’s figure out how to increase the first without destroying the second #gc2011
Step 3. Not just climate chance mitigation strategies, but also adaptation strategies #gc2011
Step 4. Have a ‘cities’ policy. Create software and hardware for an individual to prosper. #gc2011
Step 5. Have a sovereign fund, to pay for the greening of the country. To take Australian precincts make them self-sufficient. #gc2011
Step 6. Set the ground rules and use technology to have true community engagement. This will then create true debate. #gc2011
Step 7. Finally, radical idea: privatize the design of public policy. Use idea incubators and ngo’s to truly move the policy forward #gc2011

Yesterday, Linda also attended the launch of the Garnaut Climate Change Review‘s Update Paper 4, Transforming Rural Land Use. Premier Anna Bligh made the point that the agricultural sector is lagging in relation to greenhouse gas management. However, a discussion about transforming rural land use cannot be done without talking about rural futures including the cultural and social dimensions of rural life in the towns, industries and properties that punctuate the landscape.

Noting the impact and cost of the recent flood and cyclone events, Premier Bligh also pointed out the costs of inaction would be great given Queensland’s vulnerability to extreme weather events. While not stated at the launch event yesterday, there’s an unspoken problem of what might happen in Queensland as more and larger cyclones hit southern coastlines. South East Queensland is the population and economic centre of the state with about 45% of the state’s population resident in the region. There’s a question of resilience in the state’s capital city as it plans for a growing population.

The clear message of the Garnaut Review is that ‘business as usual’ is not an option – incidentally, this is a theme that has been identified by the Regional Development Australia Brisbane Committee in its Regional Roadmap, which Harbinger Consultants prepared drawing significantly on stakeholder input. While Queensland is a major carbon polluter, cities are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and there is a need to address this. Biosequestration offers one approach to mitigation. However, as the Premier said, climate change is a diabolic policy issue and the debate about climate change more fractured than it has ever been. While Queensland is at great risk from climate change, the state is also well placed to transition to a post-carbon economy through transformative technology and investment. However, as the Premier pointed out at the launch of the Beyond Zero Emissions Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, the state’s economy is 80% coal, indicating the magnitude of the challenge in transitioning. Professor Garnaut echoed an optimistic perspective, stating that the while Australia was exposed to greater risks due to climate change, there were also more opportunities for effective mitigation including rural abatement and flexible rural production. Such opportunities could significantly improve the economic prospects for Australian farmers. Both the Premier and Professor Garnaut reiterated the need for incentives and sound policy to ensure that the opportunities were pursued.


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