Friday, April 16, 2021

Statement by John Englart on Synthetic Turf to Moreland Council


John Englart addressing Moreland Council on Synthetic Turf 14 April 2021
(Image courtesy Moreland Council)

I made the following statement to Moreland Council on 14 April 2021 on Synthetic turf and its climate and environmental impact, although a few sections had to be skimmed over for brevity and meeting the 2 minute time limit. I also note problems with the audio feed during my speech on the video recording.

The vote to defeat this motion indicates that some Councillors may have already made their mind up prior to the public engagement being reported back to them and in listening to scientific advice on the subject. I identified clear flaws in the previous consultants report (February 2018) content and its presentation to Council in April 2018 that should indicate the need for a more transparent and in-depth independant assessment of current science on synthetic turf and artificial surfaces for proper triple bottom line decision making and governance.

Literature Review: Synthetic Turf carbon footprint, environmental, health, microplastics and biodiversity impacts


Hosken Reserve: grass oval used for soccer training, informal recreation, off-lead dog exercise
Hosken Reserve: grass oval used for soccer training, informal reacreation, off-lead dog exercise
(Photo by John Englart)


The conversion of a grass oval to synthetic turf at Hosken Reserve, Coburg North, is about a failure in transparency and consultation with the local community, and poorly framed triple bottom line decision making by Moreland Council. There are questions about the integrity of the triple bottom line decision making embracing the social, environmental and economic impacts, costs and benefits, that was used in the process in the past decade for this site. And there are questions how triple bottom line decision making and weighting of factors will be applied for the current process. 

This literature review provides numerous reasons why conversion of a natural grass oval and open space to a fenced synthetic soccer pitch should not take place. It finds that there are two primary reasons against synthetic turf at Hosken Reserve, and that either reason is significant in itself for the primary project not to go ahead. These two essential reasons are - synthetic turf carbon footprint (up to 1500 CO2e tonnes) in total life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, and synthetic turf increasing waste to landfill contributing to toxic leachates pollution and microplastics pollution. On both these grounds conversion of a shared use natural grass oval to synthetic turf would appear to conflict with existing Council policy and frameworks related to climate change and the climate emergency, and Council’s zero waste to landfill by 2030 target. 

On the triple bottom line factors we found the social factors weighed up with some positive and some negative, the environmental factors were mostly against, and the economics didn’t stack up, even after factoring in 2 to 1 equivalence usage factor for synthetic turf. This review investigated peer reviewed science, grey literature and relevant policy documents to ascertain the following issues with synthetic turf::

  1. Derived from fossil fuel petrochemical industry
  2. Produces greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing and as it degrades
  3. Increases landfill at end of life
  4. Produces microplastics pollution
  5. Increases urban heat island effect on local residents.
  6. Replaces natural grass which allows soil organic carbon sequestration, provides oxygen
  7. Reduces soil biota, grass seeds and insects with a trophic impact on local biodiversity primarily birdlife.
  8. Compacts the soil increasing stormwater runoff
  9. Toxic Chemical leachates from rubber infill pollute waterways
  10. Results in increased lower extremity injuries in elite players
  11. Long term human health impacts uncertain, but vertebrate model confirms toxicity to human health of rubber infill leachates
  12. Enhances infection transmission risk. Encourages a microbial community structure primarily defined by anthropic contamination. 
  13. Appears to improve water conservation, but the situation is far more complex when life-cycle assessment and irrigation to reduce heat for playability is taken into account
  14. Other issues: increased fire risk, increase in traffic, parking on quiet residential streets

The Climate Action Moreland full submission to Moreland Councillors and Hosken Refresh Consultation can be downloaded in PDF format (27 March 2021). This contained extra information regarding Hosken Reserve and Moreland Couuncil.  The version below has extra references and minor updates but focuses on the science.

This document was researched and prepared by John Englart, Convenor of Climate Action Moreland and was subject to peer review by group members and other active members in the Moreland climate community.

Publication Date: 15 April 2021 

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.28126.56646

Supplementary: Annotated Bibliography on Synthetic Turf and Climate, health, biodiversity and microplastics pollution issues, 

Suggested Citation: Englart, J (2021), Literature Review on environmental and health impacts of synthetic turf., Climate Action Moreland, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.28126.56646

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Annotated Bibliography: Synthetic Turf and Climate, health, biodiversity and microplastics pollution issues

Increasing use of synthetic surfaces and synthetic turf is problematic for Several reasons. 

Synthetic turf is:

  1. Derived from fossil fuel petrochemical industry

  2. Produces greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing and as it degrades

  3. Increases landfill at end of life

  4. Produces micro-plastic pollution as synthetic turf breaks down

  5. increases urban heat island effect on local residents.

  6. replaces natural grass which allows soil organic carbon sequestration, provides oxygen

  7. reduces soil biota, grass seeds and insects with a trophic impact on local biodiversity primarily birdlife.

  8. compacts the soil increasing stormwater runoff

  9. Toxic Chemical leachates from rubber infill pollute waterways

  10. results in increased lower extremity injuries in elite players 

  11. long term human health impacts uncertain, but vertebrate model confirms toxicity to human health of rubber infill leachates

  12. encourages a microbial community structure primarily defined by anthropic contamination

  13. appears to improve water conservation, but the situation is far more complex when life-cycle assessment and irrigation to reduce heat for playability is taken into account

  14. Other issues: increased fire risk, alternative infills, traffic, parking and cycling

This annotated bibliography was developed for the issue of conversion of an existing grass sports fields to synthetic turf in Moreland Municipality, and includes specific policy documents relating to the issue in Moreland. Most of the articles are peer reviewed science studies plus some relevant grey literature on climate. Most articles I have personally read, although for a small number I only had access to the scientific abstract to review. Google Scholar was used for researching this subject, as well as following reference trails from some science papers.

Moreland Council needs to reassess current recommended plans to rollout synthetic surfaces in the municipality with regard to Council policies developed in recent years. These policies include, but are not limited to, the Climate Emergency Framework including the Zero Carbon Moreland 2040 Framework, Waste and Litter Policy (aiming for zero waste to landfill by 2030 and a circular economy), and the Urban Heat Island Action Plan.

I have cast my scientific reading wide to encompass: total life-cycle assessment analysis related to synthetic fields and natural turf; water use and conservation; energy; soil carbon sequestration; greenhouse gas emissions; heat retention and urban heat island effect; microplastics and pollution; impact on biodiversity and plant health; health impacts and sports injuries. 

This annotated bibliography was prepared for Climate Action Moreland and is current as at 15 April 2021. Climate Action Moreland has published a submission and reference list as: Synthetic Turf and the Tragedy of the Commons in Moreland. Two other related articles were also published recently on carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, and synthetic turf increasing urban heat island impact:

John Englart Convenor Climate Action Moreland.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Community Panel recommends 21 actions for EV transition for Victoria to reduce Transport Emissions

Community Panel for Infrastructure Victoria on Transport Emissions. I was on this panel which had 211 Victorians (most age groups, Metro and Regional) and met online during late January to mid February 2021.

The 'Tackling Transport Emissions' Community Panel successfully worked together in a virtual environment to deliver 21 recommendations to Infrastructure Victoria using principles of a Just Transition, Equitable Access, and Shared Knowledge.

These recommendations have now been taken forward by Infrastructure Victoria to undertake a detailed technical review. This may include seeking out additional evidence or undertaking further analysis where required.

The reviewed recommendations will inform Infrastructure Victoria’s advice - to support the broader community to take up zero or low emissions vehicles sooner - to government in Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy. This Strategy is planned to be released in mid-2021.

The community panel was titled 'Tackling transport emissions'. Some members felt the need to broaden the remit question's scope to include public and active transport. I was one of those people. Clearly the panel was misnamed and should have been titled 'Tackling the transition to net zero emissions by 2050 through zero emission vehicles' Of course transition to EVs is needed, but we also need to look at mode share change in behaviour for more public and active transport journeys, and urban and transport planning to change transport behaviours. Sadly this wasn't part of the remit.

Monday, December 14, 2020

UN Secretary General calls for leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency

United Nations Secretary General at the Climate Ambition Conference called for all leaders to declare a climate emergency.

While previously aknowledging that we have a climate emergency, this is the first time Antonio Guterres has called for all Government leaders to declare a climate emergency.

The pandemic has cancelled this years UN climate change conference - COP26 - scheduled for Glasgow December 2020. But an online conference of leaders was organised to mark the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement: the Climate Ambition Summit.

Antonio Guiterres told the summit: "I call on leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached.

"Five years after the Paris Agreement, we are still not going in the right direction.

"Let’s make the promise of a net zero world a reality."

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Australia Clause and Kyoto Carryover Credits demystified

Worth watching this for demystification of The Australia clause and Australia's Kyoto Credits.

Close your ears children for an Honest Australien Government ad on use of Kyoto Carryover Credits.

No, really. This really does cut through all the bullshit and explain how Australia has cheated the global community, and ourselves, for ther last 23 years.

Most other countries see through the bullshit. While they have set targets to actually reduce emissions, Auustralia was allowed to increase our emissions. No wonder Scott Morrison was not given an invite to speak at Climate Ambition Summit tonight (1am-6am) when Australia offers exactly zero ambition.

Watch the video:

Thanks The Juice Media for an excellent piece of demystification

5 Year Fossil Awards - the Paris Agreement Five years on and Australia

It's been five years since the UNFCCC climate conference in Paris in 2015. Five years of annual conferences. Five years of Fossil of the Day awards at those conferences. The year of pandemic has thrown a curve ball to annual negotiations with COP26 due to be held in Gasgow right now delayed to 2021.

Nations have continued to push ambition even during this pandemic year. Co-convened by the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France, and in partnership with Chile and Italy, have decided to hold a Climate Ambition Summit, a digital event.

The Climate Action Network provided its own alternative Fossil of the 5 years special event too.

Official citation

11 December 2020: Five years after the Paris Agreement, countries continue to outdo each other at being best in doing the worst to fight the climate crisis. But some are always better than others (hint: surprise they haven’t been invited to the Paris Agreement Birthday Party).

Through a fair and democratic voting process (that required no recounts), Climate Action Network, the world’s largest network of 1,300 civil society organisations working on climate change in over 130 countries, chose the USA as the overall winner of the Colossal Fossil of Five Years to mark the 5th Anniversary of the Paris Agreement. USA also won a second Fossil Award for Not Providing Finance and Support. Australia won a Fossil Award for Not Honoring the 1.5°C Commitment, and Brazil won two Fossil Awards for Not Protecting People from Climate Impacts and Not Listening to the People and Shrinking Civic Space.

USA: Colossal Fossil of Five Years

Let’s be honest, the USA has never been the loudest cheerleader for climate action. In some ways President Trump simply said the quiet parts aloud. ‘America First’ has always been the north star guiding the US’ official line in international climate talks, like when verbally bulldozing proposals for climate compensation and finance for Loss and Damage to vulnerable countries, arm-twisting poorer nations into accepting weak climate targets from rich countries and flexing their diplomatic muscle to break or make deals, all the while with handshakes and smiles. Until….2016.

A Colossal Fossil of Five Years can never capture the depths of ineptitude and damage of the Trump years: from amplifying climate denialism, to dismantling domestic environmental policies to undermining progress in multilateral spaces like the UNFCCC, the IPCC, the G20 & G7 and the GCF.

USA: Fossil for Not Providing Finance and Support

In the Trump years, the USA has been particularly stingy on finance for climate action. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement was bad enough but the USA used its bully pulpit to obstruct finance to developing countries. By ceasing all finance to the Green Climate Fund (inspiring other countries like Australia) it deprived millions of people in poor countries critical resources to adapt to the climate crisis. Funding to the IPCC was also summarily halted, unsurprisingly some might say, by an anti-science administration.

So when it comes to climate change, ‘America First’ only means the USA’s outsized lead as the largest historical carbon emitter. To be clear, this is not a fossil award to the American people. We salute them for voting out a climate denier! Polls consistently show Americans want a climate-safe future and President-elect Biden must act on this mandate. He must take a seat at the international table and ensure the US does its fairshare on cutting its domestic emissions drastically by 2030 and substantially increasing international finance. Rejoining the Paris Agreement and recommitting money to the Green Climate Fund will be the starting steps in this new journey. It is time for the wealthiest nation to put the planet and all its people first.

Australia: Fossil for Not Honoring the 1.5°C Commitment

Before Scott Morrison became Australian Prime Minister, he once brandished a lump of coal in parliament. That was in 2017, when he accused his opponents of having a “pathological fear of coal”. A few short years later, the only pathological behaviour remains his government’s ongoing infatuation with fossil fuels when the rest of the world has moved on. As the largest exporter of coal and gas, Australia’s federal government has done virtually nothing over the past five years to tackle the climate emergency. The government's woefully inadequate 2030 Paris Agreement target is in line with a catastrophic 3°C rise. And it has tried to cheat by using carryover credits from the Kyoto Protocol to meet around half of it. The Australian government has refused to set a national long term target (net zero by 2050)despite every State and Territory of Australia having now set a long term net zero climate target. Australia’s current emission reduction trend will reach net-zero in 300 years! And to top it all, Australia has withdrawn funding entirely from the Green Climate Fund.

The world watched swathes of Australia's bush burn last summer contributing to significant biodiversity loss and impacting the most vulnerable people. Besides stinking up the planet, Australia appears to be reneging on acommitment to net zero emissions made to Pacific Island Neighbours in October 2019. How does Australia face its Pacific Island neighbours, many of whom will be displaced in the next two-to-three decades unless we scale up efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C? Australia must get sensible fast otherwise the Morrsion government is staring at a dark legacy of climate inaction. Will future generations have to view plastic replicas of the Great Barrier Reef in a museum of climate horrors alongside stuffed mounts of the critically endangered Mountain Pygmy Possum?

Brazil: Fossil for Not Protecting People from Climate Impacts

An alarming climate tipping point could happen much sooner than expected when the dense, green canopy of the Amazon rainforest turns into a dry open savannah, an irreversible process that is being hastened by increasing fires and logging. The policies of “Chainsaw” Bolsonaro have ensured that the ‘"Cooler of the Planet"’ is now a scarred, choking mess. This year’s fires are among the worst in ten years with a 14% increase in fires compared to the already catastrophic figures from last year. The world’s largest tropical wetland, the Pantanal, was consumed by flames this year, wrecking the lives of Indigineous communities there and all its biodiversity. Things look grim in Brazil as Bolsonaro offers concessions to agribusiness and mining magnates, turns his back on Indigenous communities and repeatedly denies climate change. Just to prove the point, Brazil has pledged over 70% of funding under its existing energy plan to fossil fuels and has extended subsidies to offshore oil exploitation until 2040!

Brazil: Fossil for Shrinking Civil Space

Despite tough competition from Russia, Brazil was voted for a fossil for its escalating crackdown on civil society groups resisting its regressive policies and fighting for the rights of Indigenous communities. A leaked document shows Brazil’s military plans to control “100% of NGOs working in the Amazon” and is set to advance policies to starve NGOs of funding. It is no wonder that Brazil ranks number three in the world for the murder of environmental defenders. "Civil society, despite being threatened in Brazil, must strengthen itself to pressure, nationally and internationally, for effective emission reduction measures, to preserve our forests and protect Indigenous Peoples", said Nayara Castiglioni Amaral, general coordinator of Engajamundo, a Brazilian youth organization.

Watch the whole ceremony:

About the fossils: The Fossil of the Day awards were first presented at the climate talks in 1999, in Bonn, initiated by the German NGO Forum. During United Nations climate change negotiations (, members of the Climate Action Network (CAN), vote for countries judged to have done their 'best' to block progress in the negotiations in the last days of talks.

About CAN: The Climate Action Network (CAN) is a global network of over 1,300 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in more than 120 countries working to promote government and individual action to limit human0induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.

Friday, September 25, 2020

DELWP fails consumer choice on electricity plans and greenhouse gas emissions

The Victorian Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning provide a website to compare gas and electricity plans. But a problem with this website is it prioritises solely on price. Some people like myself would like the option to compare plans on social and evironmental utility - on the level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Compare electricity in Victoria? DELWP need to do better with this website on comparing energy offers. It fails to empower Victorian consumers in how to maximise reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in their electricity bill plans.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Letter to Peter Khalil MP on gas lead recovery announcement for Australia

Dear Peter,
I hope you and your family are keeping well during these pandemic times. I am occupying myself with a thousands small jobs from the local to the international on climate advocacy. I appreciate your confidence in speaking up in recent months, and in debating Dave Sharma with Patricia Karvelas on international policy areas.

I am writing to you in your role as my Federal MP for Wills, on the Government gas lead covid recovery announcement by Prime Minister Morrison..

I write as a Victorian voter, a parent and grandfather being very concerned about increasing climate change and as a person who has attended 4 UN Climate Change conferences (COP21, COP22, COP23, and COP25)

I am very concerned about the “gas-fired recovery from COVID-19” as announced by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison today (September 15).

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Zero net emissions targets and climate action plans need to be reflected in 2040 Hume Council Horizons Vision - Submission

My submission to the Draft City of Hume Horizons 2040 document to Hume Council. Quickly pulled together with 24 hours notice and submitted an hour before the midnight deadline. The Hume 2040 Horizons document can be read and tracked through the engagement process.