Page 1157 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008

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Switch to green brought together the four key stakeholders in Canberra—government, community, business and the scientific community—to talk about our future. Over 1,500 people visited the expo, with over 30 commercial exhibitors and 15 community groups, and 80 attended the conference. I am advised also that stallholders there received several orders while the conference was going. I am also pleased to hear that the Jamison Sea Change Group have just made a bulk purchase of solar hot water heaters and photovoltaics from a new group called Amala Solar here in the ACT, at a much less expensive rate than normal.

The Chief Minister opened the expo on Thursday evening. The expo included a practical workshop program showcasing what government advisory services can offer and what community groups are doing locally to reduce carbon emissions. Some of the keynote speakers at the conference were Dr David Mills, the founder and CEO of the California-based Ausra Pty Ltd, one of the world’s leading solar thermal power station providers; Professor Will Steffen, Director of the Fenner School of Environment at the ANU; architect Caroline Pidcock, chair of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council; Professor Peter Newman from Curtin University; Molly Harris Ollson, the Director of Ecofutures; Gesa Ruge from the Property Council of Australia; Dr Steven Crimp from the sustainability program at CSIRO; and Noel McCann from the Canberra International Airport.

Some of the key themes to emerge from the conference were: a zero emissions target is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change and is achievable; solar thermal electricity generation could easily meet the energy needs of the ACT and the whole of eastern Australia—according to David Mills, he wants to see a large solar thermal farm here in Canberra; and Canberra needs to reduce its car use by 50 per cent by 2050. There were some quite interesting targets there.

We also need to address the hassle factor in helping home owners to green their houses. The conference suggested a street-by-street approach, with teams trained to assist sustainability. We need to provide advice to householders on travel, energy, water and waste options to reduce emissions. We also need to adjust our building regulations to make green buildings more affordable. There is also the need for new financial models to assist innovation, and a greater emphasis is needed on solar passive design in urban planning renewal. There was also discussion on retrofitting investment houses and on energy efficiency remaining the low-hanging fruit in reducing emissions.

So what is next for the switch to green? They want to maintain the stakeholder process to promote action to achieve the ACT climate change strategy and to annually measure progress towards the goal of a carbon-neutral capital. The co-hosts will meet in two weeks to review the first switch to green event and begin planning for next year.

I do want to congratulate Russell Rollason and Harold Wilkinson from the United Nations Association of Australia in the ACT for the switch to green conference, a fantastic expo.

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