Wednesday, June 6, 2007

World Environment Day highlights global climate change

Did World Environment Day pass you by? A few people in Melbourne remembered and gathered on the steps of the old GPO in the Bourke Street Mall, to highlight the risks of inaction on climate change, or adopting ineffectual policies such as geo-sequestration or nuclear power instead of radically reducing emissions through renewable energy technologies and energy conservation.

World Environment Day - June 5 - was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Another resolution, adopted by the General Assembly the same day, led to the creation of UNEP.

In 2007 UNEP has highlighted climate change as a central issue with the statement "Melting ice - a hot topic?" prominently on its website.

The rally in Melbourne was addressed by several speakers including anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney, Adrian Whitehead from the Zero Emissions Network, Marcus Greville from the Stop the War Coalition and Margarita Windisch from the Socialist Alliance.

I was interested in what Whitehead had to say, and so recorded his speech, although missed recording his introductory words. Here is a rough transcript of the second half of his 7 minute speech.

"If we don't start re-engineering our society and reorganising our society around to deal with these issues of climate change and oil peak which are simultaneously affecting us, the social disharmony and effects are going to be widespread and felt by everyone.

"We have a great opportunity here in Australia to use an amazing amount of intellectual resources that we have. We have fantastic scientists at many universities. But unfortunately they are not being funded to go ahead and develop their projects to commercialisation. Instead we see some of our best scientists heading overseas to countries like America and China where they are developing renewable technologies to commercialisation that were designed and instigated here in Australian universities. Unfortunately under this Federal government Australia is missing out on climate change solutions and the windfall development that will be associated with it.

"We are in danger of becoming a stranded economy, an economy based on old technology largely based on coal"

"If you look at the science, we are actually heading down a really disastrous track. Even though today it is nice and cold, we are seeing an average temperature 2 or 3 degrees above average this last autumn. If we continue down this track our environment want be sustainable. We will have a massive reduction in water availability, our forests and our natural systems. Our agriculture, in many cases already on marginal areas, will be forced off that land. And we may even suffer a major collapse of core agricultral land across Australia."

"We really need to get serious about this issue, and we really need to get serious about it now. And the only thing that is really going to make any difference is if we go for zero emissions. Zero Emissions is the goal we can actually implement. The solutions are there, the solutions aren't cheap but their there, the technologies developed, you can buy it off the shelf today. And if we don't go down this line now, every year that we wait, every year that we propose alternatives that might be carbon cap-and-trade or geo-sequestration, every year we talk about going down the nuclear path is one more year that we will have to play catch up. And the costs involved in catching up will be far more than it will cost us today in implementing on a large scale zero emissions technology, especially around renewable energy and the transport sector."

The gathering hovered between 60-80 people with a constant fluctuation of shoppers and city workers passing by, some stopping to listen for a little or to sign a petition before rushing to their appointments or journey home.

Organisers were expecting more, however the masses just didn't eventuate and the planned march up the street to BHP headquarters was thus cancelled.

Further Information:

* World Environment Day UNEP
* Zero Emission Network
* Nuclear Free Australia
* Carbon Equity