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Tag Archives: Melbourne

Construction of new urban infrastructure could exhaust the world’s carbon budget within 5 years

By Dr Anthony Horton

According to a report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the infrastructure that is already in place around the world effectively accounts for 80% of the 1000 Gigatonnes of carbon (based on 2012 measurements) required to stay on a maximum 2°C average warming trajectory. The problem is that if current infrastructure trends continue, the world’s entire budget could effectively be locked away within 5 years.

The SEI analysis added to a recent assessment by the UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and C40 cities. As part of the assessment, two scenarios were presented-a reference scenario in which global urban greenhouse gas emissions may evolve if incremental changes are made. The second scenario examined how emissions could be reduced if Governments take bold actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The annual and cumulative long term emission implications (called “committed emissions”) of new investments in infrastructure and equipment under both scenarios were calculated.

The analysis specifically focused on the role that the construction of new urban infrastructure has in future infrastructure related Carbon dioxide emissions. They attributed approximately 30% of the 45 Gigatonnes of Carbon dioxide expected from all infrastructure annually to urban infrastructure.

The construction of new buildings and transport systems provides an opportunity to rethink urban areas and deploy the most efficient designs and appropriate materials and technologies. Building low carbon infrastructure now can facilitate the development of skilled labour forces that will be essential to roll out progressively lower carbon infrastructure in future, particularly in rapidly growing urban areas in developing and emerging economies such in the South and East Asian regions.

In the longer term, savings in energy costs in the order of US$500 billion per year could be realised by implementing design principles, appropriate materials and technologies. Choosing such initiatives now can also realise savings that would instead be expenditure required for retrofits to keep up with more stringent climate requirements. This is especially significant when the cost of retrofitting building to the same energy performance standard as newly constructed buildings is approximately 5 times higher (US$50 per tonne of Carbon dioxide compared to less than US$10 per tonne of Carbon dioxide).

Urban areas are being presented with a unique opportunity to choose a greener urban infrastructure path, and those in Government can implement appropriate policies to support such infrastructure as well as public transport. Such initiatives are not only necessary to reduce emissions and meet increasingly stringent climate requirements, they will also ensure that urban areas are more liveable.

It is quite clear from the SEI analysis that Jamie Briggs, Australia’s Minister for Cities and the Built Environment has his work cut out for him. On October 11 Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt (Senior Minister Responsible for Cities) outlined the Government’s infrastructure plan for Victoria to the year 2200, which includes two road, two rail and one port project, with the goal being to ease pressure resulting from an anticipated booming population as part of the Government’s vision to transform Melbourne. Minister Hunt’s vision consists of an upgrade of the Monash Freeway at a cost of $200 million, a Metro rail project consisting of two 9km tunnels and 5 new stations at a cost of $11-15 billion, an 18km East West Link road and tunnel (linking the Western Ring Road with the Eastern Freeway) at a cost of $6-8 billion (Stage 1), a link to connect the Eastern Freeway and East Link with Metropolitan Ring Road ($6 billion), undergrounding Melbourne’s metropolitan train lines (cost unknown) and relocating the container Port to Hastings and Geelong (cost also unknown).

The SEI is rightfully concerned with the South and East Asian region given the number of existing and emerging megacities in the region and the sheer numbers of people relocating from regional and country areas into those megacities. I would be interested to see what the outcomes would be if a similar project was conducted in Australia. Given recent reports of the costs associated with traffic congestion in Sydney and the seemingly endless discussion of the transport needs of Perth going into the future, infrastructure is clearly a significant issue here as well. The point of difference is that many cities and countries have moved beyond the discussion of infrastructure for its own sake and are confronting the reality that carbon emissions are an inevitable accompaniment to construction and therefore designs, materials and technologies have to be chosen with this reality in mind. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if such an issue was tabled in Australia? Maybe some of the skilled Australian scientists that have had to leave to pursue international opportunities in the cleantech sector due to the sheer lack of prospects may be tempted to return . . . but then we know the fundamental problem with that at present don’t we?

rWdMeee6_pe About the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

Abbott’s Ever Diminishing Campaign Options

I read online Friday morning that Australian Border Force were planning to conduct visa checks across the Melbourne CBD starting the same day and continuing over the weekend.

I read that the ABF would be “positioned at various locations around the CBD” and they would be, “speaking with any individual we cross paths with.” They warned Melburnians to “be aware of the conditions of your visa; if you commit visa fraud you should know it’s only a matter of time before you’re caught out.”

At first I thought it was a piece of satire but on closer view I realised it was wasn’t. What on earth did it mean? I don’t have a visa so if I went into the city should I take my passport with me? If I’m accosted and don’t have any identification on me, will I be apprehended?

The messages were very clear. The ABF were up for interrogating anyone on the streets. I decided I would stay home. Then later in the afternoon I learned that, in a ‘William Wallace’ type twitter call to arms, the concerned citizen response was swift and united.

A crowd of several hundred complete with banners, megaphones and plenty of spirit converged on Flinders Street Station. To borrow the now immortal words of one of our favourite sons, the late Ted Whitten, they ‘ stuck it up them’.

It happened, I read, because the Twittersphere went viral.

police One can’t help feeling for the Victorian Police. A body the majority of Victorians view with the greatest of respect, was somehow blindsided, along with Yarra Trams, the Victorian Taxi Directorate and others, into playing ball with the Australian Border Force when the ABF had no real idea what they were doing.

As a result of the protest the entire exercise was cancelled and the blame game began. The MSM were in no doubt that the real culprit was Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Whether he was or wasn’t became irrelevant when the broader reality dawned.

Up until yesterday national security was the only issue the Coalition had in their kit bag that they hadn’t already stuffed up in a monumental way.

‘Border Farce’ as it quickly became known, has taken care of that. While it’s anybody’s guess when the next election will be held, one gets the feeling that the government is fast running out of winnable strategies to take to the people.

National security was going to be front and centre. Having now missed that bus, one would think that all their efforts will be concentrated on the Trade Unions.

No, hang on, they stuffed that up too. Whether Dyson Heydon stays or goes won’t matter. His personal query directed to Bill Shorten that he was “concerned about his credibility as a witness” has sort of rebounded, quite spectacularly.

They can’t campaign on health, education or infrastructure without making people laugh. Nor on our reputation overseas which has gone from sound and steady, to mockery and derision.

Science and Technology are two more no-go zones for fear of the gasps that would come from an incredulous public. They could have a crack at renewable energy technologies but that would be a bit hypocritical.

peter They will also have to be careful how they play the ‘economy’ card. If you juxtapose their record over the past two years with their rhetoric leading up to the 2013 election, it makes for a litany of confusion and contradictions reminiscent of Joh Bejelke Petersen’s days as Queensland premier in the 1970s.

When Joe Hockey said he would produce a budget surplus in his first year and each year thereafter, he unwittingly demonstrated how ill equipped he was for the job. We all know how that’s working for him now?

Both he and the Coalition are also seriously compromised on the ‘How are you going to pay for it’ wedge. Joe Hockey is presently unable to tell us how he would fund the intended tax cuts he so desperately wants before he reveals any other goodies he might be contemplating.

They can hardly campaign on their overall performance either because they haven’t done anything…oh wait..yes, they got rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax and stopped the boats.

In the meantime they doubled the budget deficit, added $1 billion to the national debt for each week they have been in government and broken so many promises that any promise they make this time around, will only be met with more fits of laughter.

If Tony Abbott is still at the helm when the election is called, it is difficult to see them mounting much of a campaign at all. If Scott Morrison is the new PM then the extreme right wing of the party will have shot themselves in the foot.

If it’s Malcolm Turnbull, there will be some hope but given everything else that has transpired, it is hard to see him restoring enough confidence back into their copper veins any more than Kevin Rudd did for Labor in 2013.

Turnbull’s performance with the cost blowout of the now second rate NBN has left him looking quite sheepish and vulnerable. He’s also a republican which won’t help. Then we have Julie Bishop who has never been seriously tested and, I think, would not cope with the pressure.

abf They have, in fact, limited their options so severely that their only weapon will be fear. That might work but then again, they wouldn’t want to promote the ABF as the nation’s great protector.

Their last resort would be to try and convince the more gullible within the electorate into thinking that no matter how bad they are, the alternative will be so much worse.

Given how bad they have been themselves, that would really stretch the limits of our imagination, wouldn’t it.

History. And why our grandchildren should be paying off debt!

  1. Victoria. Kennett has been elected, and his main platform was that the State was “broke” and that we were in so much debt that our grandchildren would be paying it off.

Slash, burn, cut the public service! INCREASE taxes – not because he wanted to, but because it was necessary. You see, Labor enjoys increasing taxes so we should criticise every single increase or new taxes, but Liberals only do it out NECESSITY. Some argue that Kennett didn’t have to move so quickly. Some find his cuts to services while spending money on improving the dining in Parliament House or bringing “Sunset Boulevard” to Melbourne offensive.

But whether Kennett moved too quickly or cut too deeply, he DID pay off Victoria’s debt. And it doesn’t take several generations. It takes less than the seven years he’s in office.

Of course, the asset sales and the lower interest rates probably helped, but the point is: Whatever was said before he was elected, our great-grandchildren weren’t paying for the debt. Neither, for that matter, were our children.

Although, it could be argued that these ARE the people who paid for the debt. The ones who missed out on educational opportunities. Or the people who died waiting for an ambulance – although it was considered bad form to try to make political capital out of that, unlike these days when the Liberals suggest that Labor have blood on their hands over the Pink Batts. (“Should have been more regulated! Because private industry needs regulation, although once we’re in power we can cut red tape because as with the economy, it’ll all be ok then!”) And of course, the generations who are told that power prices have to go up because the private companies that Kennett sold our assets to haven’t spent money on infrastructure and that the public transport system can’t be improved because the private companies can’t afford to.

Liberals are fond of using household budgets as an analogy, and I suspect that my son would rather be left with a small mortgage on a house that was safe for him to live in than being debt free but homeless. That’s the thing with debt, it’s always relative to assets. The Australian Government – or the taxpayer – may be $300 billion in debt, but servicing that debt is only costing $2 a week for every working Australian (my source is a Murdoch paper!) And as for assets, well the $300 billion is less than a quarter of our Superannuation. Or about equivalent to what the Government spends in a year.

Basically, the debt isn’t that bad. We can pay it back over ten years by just a small increase in tax.

Or we can say it’s out of control. Sack half the public service. Cause a recession. And spend the next ten years blaming Labor for our inability to deliver a surplus. The Kennett option isn’t possible because there’s nothing left to sell. Apart from Medibank Private.


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