Law & Legal & Attorney Politics

What Can You Sensibly Do To Reduce Carbon Emissions?

Are you bored by politicians and various interest groups posturing about global warming, carbon and carbon trading? I certainly am and I am passionate about the subject. I should think many people are totally "over it".

Thank goodness Copenhagen came and went. Hopefully the Australian Government will now allow us to have a rational national debate about the issue. They were elected largely on a "green" vote to help prevent global warming and to fix the Murray Darling water problems and in my opinion they have done little that is effective about either.

So what can we do to reduce our carbon emissions? There are three practical suggestions.

1. Increase the size of the renewable energy target and start building gas-fired power stations on the sites of the existing brown-coal power stations. Get brown coal out of the system as soon as possible.

2. Homes and commercial buildings should start taking energy efficiency seriously.

3. Help the small to medium business sector to understand the problem and take action to make savings in their businesses.

Then there are other things like sorting out some of the tax subsidies that actually encourage some industry sectors to consume fossil fuels.

It certainly makes sense to stop paying polluters before we implement a polluter pays scheme. I believe that the Australian Government's proposed scheme will push up prices and because it will subsidize big business and low income households there will be little incentive to change behaviour, leaving small to medium business badly squeezed in the middle and have little if any impact on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from Australia.

On a global scale, we need to help developing countries like Indonesia retain their forests because trees are one of the very best ways to absorb carbon dioxide.

At present deforestation globally has the same impact as all the global vehicle emissions every year. If we reduced vehicle emissions AND prevented deforestation that would really make a difference. What a contrast from the Chinese approach where they are closing the dirtiest power stations, building enormous renewable energy installations, producing most of the world's solar panels and limiting cars to only drive on alternate days so nearly halving vehicle emissions. They have a huge population so their total emissions are huge but they are minuscule per head compared to ours. And they have set very substantial targets for emission reductions. I don't see anything sinister in Chinese reluctance to be monitored as I think there would be a huge resistance to international monitoring of US or Australian emissions. I see this as a dignity and trust issue.

A recent survey conducted for BankSA found 69% of business owners and 68% of consumers preferred direct or voluntary action - rather than an enforced emission Trading Scheme - To reduce carbon emissions by 5% by 2020.

The survey on sustainability also found that while consumers have embraced targets for mains water conservation, the plastic bag ban 5that is in place in South Australia and bottled water consumption cuts, they reject change in areas that affect quality of life, as shown by a reported rise in power consumption for air-conditioning.

And business owners are yet to be convinced about the selling power of sustainability, with 55% saying they do not believe green credentials attract customers. Only 15% are promoting their environmental efforts and only 13% have any formal environmental certification.

In spite of what they say, almost one-third of consumers are actually using more electricity and gas, as well as fuel for vehicles.

Seeking greater sustainability seemed to be off-limits in other key areas, with 75% of consumers rejecting a switch to toilet paper made from recycled paper and I am with them on that - my bottom does the voting there; using their own vehicles instead of public transport. My observations with the transport is the inconvenience of waiting because the services are not a frequent, they are uncomfortable and also dangerous as with no seat belts people get thrown about. Certainly when I fly into Sydney and especially Brisbane, I always catch the train in preference to taxi because it is convenient, faster and much cheaper so even carrying luggage, the train is a better choice.

BankSA Managing Director, Rob Chapman says the results show commitment to sustainability is both price-sensitive and influenced by the desire for comfort and convenience.

"More than 90% of the businesses we surveyed were actively seeking to reduce the amount of waste they sent to landfill, while 69% of consumers said they were prepared to pay more for grocery items produced using better environmental practices," Rob says.

"However, we also found that lifestyle and cost can be deal-breakers.

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