Page 3214 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 23 August 2017

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“(c) take strong action to reduce the ACT’s overall ecological footprint despite the pressures of a rising population; and

(d) continue to take action to reduce the ACT’s greenhouse gas emissions and implement the necessary policy measures to achieve the target of zero net emissions by 2050 at the latest.”.

I will have a bit of a discussion about ecology and ecological impact. The starting point for Mr Pettersson’s motion and Mr Barr’s discussion is that population and economic growth are good. However, unfortunately, if you look at it from a bigger point of view, that is not actually so.

Economic growth driven by population growth and consumption is, unfortunately, unsustainable from an ecological point of view. Looking at ecological impact, we have a commissioner for sustainability who, every five years, does work on the ecological footprint of the people of the ACT. Her website defines “ecological footprint” as measuring—and I quote:

… the amount of land and water required to produce goods and services and absorb waste (including carbon).

In 2011-12—unfortunately, these are the most recent figures we have available—Canberra’s ecological footprint was 8.9 global hectares per person. Global hectares mean productive land and excludes deserts and ice caps. The main component of our ecological footprint is household consumption. The greater the household income, the more income is spent on consumption such as air and car travel, and the construction, renovation and furnishing of buildings.

As well as consuming too much of the world’s resources, we release too much carbon and other pollutants into the environment. Canberrans use an average of 3½ times the global average per person. Also, we are above average per person for ecological footprint of other Australians, who use only 8.2 global hectares per person; we are at 8.9. In total, we use the equivalent of 14 times the land area of the ACT.

There is only one planet. There is no plan B. Eventually, human beings must and will learn to live within our limits. Right now, we are using the savings from past millions of years with fossil fuels and depleting the world’s resources. We are spoiling our home by polluting the atmosphere, the land and our oceans.

I now come to the scariest bit of my speech, which is an equation that I learnt in ecology 101: impact equals population times consumption times technology. This is something that we all, as lawmakers, as part of the government of the ACT, need to be aware of. Ecological impact can be given by the population, how much it consumes and what sort of technology it uses to do its consumption, to live its life.

I will go through this a little bit for those of you who may not be aware of this. I assume that would be the majority of people here. I do not think we would all be supporting Mr Pettersson’s motion if we really thought that population growth could continue in an unlimited fashion, as his motion appears to state.

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