Bendigo Peoples Climate March MC #COP21 Thoughts

The latest UN Climate Change Conference is happening right now in Paris. Last weekend saw the biggest day of protest in human history, with 2300 marches taking place in 150 countries to put the spotlight on world leaders. I was asked to MC the Bendigo march and ABC Local Radio recorded my introduction to the March and played the first three minutes on local radio. Nice! I thought I'd add the text of my entire speech here, along with the soundcloud file from the ABC, a gallery of photos from the Bendigo March and a climate change timeline that I put together in 2008. Enjoy!

MC Climate March Notes

Peoples climate March: 2300 events registered in 150 countries. 

To start the official proceedings I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on Jaara Country of which the members and elders of the Jaara community and their forebears have been custodians for many centuries and have performed age old ceremonies of celebration, initiation and renewal.

We acknowledge their living culture and their unique role in the life of this region, and today we especially acknowledge their care of country and lasting relationship with the earth.

Today’s people’s march is a Global event. 

World summit in Paris

World leaders have now met for 27 years on climate: RIO, Kyoto, Joberg, Bali, Copenhagen: they have created tiny incremental improvements in that time.

Climate: 2015. 

I’m 37 years. old. I have never lived in a year of below average global temperatures. 

We are seeing extreme weather events, sea level rises, conflict.

Great divide between reality and politics: Environment Minister saying we'll fix climate change and expand coal is like trying to end smoking by expanding Philip Morris. 

Pope: Encyclical - our common home. Calling for an “ecological conversion”. What does that mean? In the 90s we changed the light bulbs and began recycling. In the 2000s we put up solar panels. But we haven’t yet changed our values. We haven’t changed who we are. That is what the Pope is calling for. Conversations and dialogue on a deeper level.

Today he’s in Nairobi: He said the international community had to listen to the “cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself”.

Barack Obama said earlier this year that “the people keep marching in the streets and we need to heed their call.”

Around the world? Exponential growth in all of the following: Renewables, energy efficiency, batteries, storage, networked smart grids, coal shares, 

Global emissions this year did not rise! First time. 

The Canadian research company Corporate Knights examined the stock holdings of 14 funds, worth a combined $1tn, and calculated how they would have performed if they had dumped shares in oil, coal and gas companies three years ago. Overall, the funds would have been $23bn better off with fossil fuel divestment. 

Turn to person next to you and talk about Hope …

Final thought after the three speakers: courage. Do we have the courage to spend the rest of our lives changing everything about who we are to ensure that we can be here for the long haul?

A Climate Change Timeline: 1880 – 2008

Put together by Ian McBurney: not referenced. If in doubt – google it!

1880s – Industrial Revolution: large scale burning of fossil fuels begins.

1896 - Svante August Arrhenius, Nobel Prize winning scientist publishes first work on the greenhouse effect, finding that "if the quantity of carbonic acid [CO2] increases in geometric progression, the augmentation of the temperature will increase nearly in arithmetic progression."

1950s – Measurements of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere begin with 350 parts per million CO2. Growth in CO2 is steady since.

1970s – Climate Change lectures delivered in Universities. “Limits to Growth” report published which predicted 2050 CO2 levels similar to those of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2005.

1980s – cfcs and ozone hole the big issue: As a result of the 1988 Montreal Protocol the ozone hole is now stabilizing.

1988 – International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set up with the following starting points:

  • We think climate change is a big problem and is caused by the burning of fossil fuels

  • We think we’ll need cuts of 60% by 2050

1989 - Global Climate Coalition founded (an industry lobby group) by 50 oil, gas, coal, car and chemical corporations. Over 11 years it gave $US60 million in political donations, and spent millions on propaganda. It’s stated purpose: "to cast doubt on the theory of global warming."

1992 – Rio Earth Summit fails to set targets

1995 – IPCC Report: human impact on climate is discernable

1996 – Kyoto Summit Protocol created: Only first world countries not to sign are Australia and the USA.

1999 – Vostok Ice core: CO2 levels are 30% higher than any time in the past 400,000 years and rising fast.

2000 – Laviosier Group set up in Australia. See Global Climate Coalition above.

2001 – Nicolas Stern, British economist releases a report on the economic impact of climate change: unmitigated Climate Change will ruin economy: we could spend 1-2% of GDP fixing it now, or 20% later.

2005 – George Monbiot Releases “Heat”

  • Scientists now telling us an urgent CO2 cut of 90% is required by 2030

  • 2 degree temperature rise the ‘tipping point’

2005 – Vostok ice core: 30% higher figure now true for last 650,000 years.

2005 – USA National Science Foundation: Category 5 hurricanes have doubled since the 1970s.

2005 – Tim Flannery releases “The Weather Makers”: Growing scientific consensus indicates that a rapid increase of more than 2 degrees constitutes "dangerous climate change", causing mass extinctions and social and economic disruption.

2006 – Royal Society of London releases public letter asking Exxon Mobil to cease giving $2.9 million annually to 39 named right wing think tanks to “misrepresent the science.”  

2006 – World Health Organisation estimates 150,000 deaths pa due to climate change.

2007 – IPCC Report (based on 2003 science: it takes that long to get agreement from all countries).

  • 384 parts per million of C02 in the atmosphere. Growth rates in CO2 emissions trebled in the first 6 years of this century.

  • Current climate change (a 0.8 degree temperature rise this century) is human caused

  • Global emissions must peak by 2015 and we need a 90% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050

  • Feedback loops (such as ocean acidification, melting permafrost and artic sea ice which all add to the problem) are now looking dangerous

  • Carbon Sinks (such as the ocean and soils) are drying up

2007 – Centre for Alternative Technology in Britain: 80 – 90% cuts required ASAP

2008 – Most IPCC predictions are underestimating the rates and seriousness of change.

2008 – Ross Garnaut (Australian economist) Climate Change Review

  • By 2100, unmitigated Climate Change will remove 4.8% of GDP, household consumption will drop 5.4% and a 7.8% drop in real wages.

  • A 2 degree temperature rise will mean no inflow into the Murray Darling Basin, Kakadu, the Great Barrier Reef and possibly starts an irreversible loss of the Greenland ice sheet (which would cause a 7m sea level rise)

2008 – CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology Report

  • We are set for exceptionally high temperatures every on to two years

  • Drought will now occur twice as often, with twice the severity

  • Eleven of the hottest years on record have occurred in the past 12 years.

2008 - Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics Report says exports of key commodities will fall by 63% by 2030

2008 - Tim Flannery: “There is now a better than even chance that, despite our best efforts, in the coming two or three decades Earth’s climate system will pass the point of no return.”

  • 2008 - Ocean acidity is rising: this means less carbon will be stored and less life can survive.

2008 - 40% of Arctic summer ice is gone since 1970: by 2013 it could be ice free.  The poles are warming 5 times faster than the world.

2008 - Pacific Island nations including Tuvalu and the Cararet Islands are planning to move as surge tides are rendering their islands unliveable.

2008 – The scientific predictions:

  • A 2 degree temperature rise could mean the death of half of all species of life

  • A 5 degree rise would make the Mediterranean uninhabitable and the Amazon rainforest would disappear in smoke.

  • Bendigo will receive less than 11% less rain than now and be more than 3 degrees hotter

  • The loss of the Greenland Ice sheet would lead to a seven metre sea level rise, putting the land of billions of people underwater.

  • 200 million people will be without drinking water as the Himalayan glaciers melt.

  • Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW: acidity in the Southern Ocean will reach destructive levels where it will dissolve the shells of marine organisms by 2030.

2009 - Copenhagen Climate Summit fails on nearly every measure, except that world leaders agree to limit waning to 2 degrees. 

Check out the images from the marches around the world on the Guardian

Looking after the earth enhances your business

Last week a new study appeared that shows (once again) that improving environmental performance is good for business.  OECD economists found that environmental regulations permanently boosted productivity

The other finding of the new study: less productive businesses were likely to see costs rise. In other words, poorly run businesses don't use environmental regulations as an opportunity to stimulate innovation. They continue on as normal, pay the costs and then complain about the costs to anyone who will listen.

For fifteen years now I have been helping businesses improve their environmental performance. At Jimmy Possum we reduced power bills by an average 15% in their stores and they saved money. At Bendigo Community Health Services we reduced the power bills at two sites by 11% and 13%. At Swan Hill Rural City Council we reduced the power bills across four sites by 9%, saving money. At St John of God Hospital in 2014 we increased recycling by 700%, saving money. Yes, that was 700%.

Each of these businesses is in the early stages of transformation. They are reducing their impacts. Being less bad. But what about businesses that are further down the path? Interface Carpets have reduced their impact by 80% since 2004 and have a goal of zero impact by 2020. They report saving $400 million, a huge improvement in their products driven by design for sustainability, a massive improvement in attracting and keeping the best staff as they share a common higher purpose and that the goodwill of the marketplace has been astonishing. No amount of marketing for any price could have produced as much goodwill. Regulation anyone? Do you think Green Tape is ever mentioned at Interface?

“But it’s just not reasonable…” I hear the Industrial Revolution brigade pronounce importantly as they stare down from their dusty parapets, “…Green Tape compliance is a cost to be borne by business!” Australian Treasurer Peter Costello once said that only when the economy is strong can we afford to protect the environment. In 1992 George Bush senior spoke of a "balance" between protecting the earth and making money.  

What they fail to see is that many of the costs of doing business are also environmental costs. Fuel, electricity, gas, water, raw materials, waste and fleet all impact on the environment. Reduce these costs and you have a more efficient business with a lower environmental impact. If business takes this thinking further and imagines how these might be eliminated through design, planning, goal setting, learning and trial and error, then culture, products and services can be remade, improved and reimagined in a big way.  It’s a win-win situation.

Staff are generally the largest cost for business. As Interface found, their sense of a shared higher purpose attracted the best people and kept them together. That's hard to buy. Staff turnover and lack of quality people can ruin business. Investing in a green building can bring increases in productivity too; the City of Melbourne CH2 building boosts productivity through less sick days. A study by the Victorian government showed green buildings boost employee productivity, health and more.

I once heard someone say that regulation is a sign of design failure. The evidence suggests that if you have to even worry about "compliance" (what a horrible word) then you haven't done your job properly. Innovation is always a better path for your business than complying with regulation. 

Goodbye Origin! Here's why ...

Dear Origin Energy,

Ten years ago our family chose your company for our electricity because you headed up a list of green energy retailers in Australia. You offered solar and wind power, supported home solar systems, ran impressive looking green advertising (happy people sitting in trees as I remember) and looked to be heading into a glorious new energy future. 

In the 1980s Kodak was a pioneer in developing digital film. Then they closed the doors to innovation and to a changing marketplace; and they disappeared. 

In the past few years your CEO Grant King has actively and publicly campaigned against the Renewable Energy Targetsolar power and the Carbon Price. All of which were working and none of which were behind energy price rises.  So why the opposition? Because if you support renewables then you will have to change your business model. Shock horror!

Our power system is currently centralised, fossil fuel powered, foreign owned and controlled by large feudal style corporations like you Origin. The sort that pervertedly argue that coal will lift poor people out of poverty. What's with the sudden care for alleviating poverty Origin? Would it be the only twisted moral reason your PR team can come up with to support coal? 

Why would our family support that?

A 100% renewable power grid is the opposite on all fronts. Every building will be a power station and wind, hot rocks, solar PV, solar thermal, tidal, wave and more power sources will link locally together. A distributed, networked, smart grid will transfer power in real time over the internet. Once installed, this system will be near to free, because sunshine, wind and hot rocks are all free.  Every building will be at least 40% more energy efficient than they are today. A third of the average power bill is currently wasted. Energy storage will be huge, with excess power stored locally in our buildings, electric cars and at special node points in the grid for use when the sun doesn’t shine, the wind doesn’t blow or the power price is good enough to sell. This power grid will be far more secure, as anyone who has studied the science of complex networks will attest: a centralised system is far more likely to fail. Even the Saudis know this grid is coming. We're excited about it. 

Renewable energy will be locally/regionally owned, operated and managed. My home town of Bendigo spends at least $80 million powering our homes and almost all of that money leaves Bendigo and most leaves the country. Imagine the alternative for our local economy.  Like Hepburn Wind: community owned, producing more power than Daylesford needs and they won the world wind award. Like the People's Solar: crowdfunding solar and building community. Like the Bendigo Sustainability Group and Bendigo Library solar projectOur family wants to invest in a different future to the one you desire.

Our fossil fuel powered grid is moving the world towards 5 degrees of global warming this century, a situation so dire for humanity that imagining your centralised fossil fuel powered business model in existence in that future is laughable. The science is clear and as close to absolute as anything ever has been. And Australia will be worst hit. A world five degrees warmer would not sustain our economies, societies, governments, law and order or the natural systems that sustain our lives: the clean air, water and soil. Over half of all species of life would be extinct, the oceans would be acidic and lifeless and sea levels over a metre higher, displacing millions of people. Climate Change aside, coal kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year as it pollutes our air, water and soil with toxic fumes and effluent. You could not sell fossil fuels on Mars. There is nothing there. Your precious business model is moving the Earths climate in a Mars direction. We have been told that 80% of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to limit climate change. You don't care. You care that you make money now. Our family is heading in another direction. 

Every time we hear your CEO Grant King speak he is talking about the old power system, or apples, when the future power grid is oranges. How about comparing prices properly? If climate change costs were paid, then renewables would be cheaper than coal. If we paid for the power lost in the line on the way to Bendigo, it would make renewables much more attractive. If solar power received a proper feed in tariff when added to the grid at peak times when the price is high, then renewables would be much more attractive. If we spent the billions you are spending (or supporting) on poles and wires on local smart grids then renewables would be cheaper. If we removed the $10 billion our government provides to subsidise fossil fuels then renewables would be cheaper. If the health costs of coal were added to the price, then renewables would be much more attractive. If renewables were a greater percentage of the power system, prices would be lower. If all of these costs were added to the coast of coal renewables would already have wiped coal off the face of the earth.

So here is your marketplace Origin. The growth of solar around the world is exponential. The growth of wind power around the world is exponential. 80% of Australians support renewable energy. Energy efficiency is growing rapidly around the world. Energy demand has peaked. The growth of energy storage around the world is approaching exponential. Two of Europe’s biggest energy retailers have already flipped their business models to facilitate the new energy future, having tried to hold onto the past and lost mega profits. The fossil fuel divestment campaign is growing momentum at over $50 billion. Global carbon targets are heading from 20% fossil fuel reductions by 2020 to 100% by 2050. South Australia is approaching 30% renewables and their power prices are lower. Germany is approaching 31% renewables and they don’t even have sunshine. Denmark is at 39% wind power. One fifth of Australian households now have solar PV on the roof. A system went up every two minutes last year. The head of SA power Generators thinks your business model is dead. Your profits are already on the decline

A recent report by Accenture showed that utilities in the USA and Europe stand to lose $100 billion from these changes. They advise this: "In order to navigate through this demand disruption, utilities will need to fundamentally transform their business models, including the creation of distribution system operations services to manage a more complex and distributed grid."

So how’s your Kodak going Origin? Are you seriously choosing Kodak? You are at the most crucial point in your history. 

Today our family changed our power supplier. We will not support yesterday's thinking. In fact, we cannot think of a single reason to support the direction you are taking your business. The only conceivable reason you have for your position is to protect your outdated business model over the short term. 

There is nothing personal about our decision. AGL, Energy Australia and co just as bad. And we’d happily change back if you have the courage to continue along the path that you began ten years ago.  Push for a larger Renewable Energy Target, push for a carbon price to send the right signal again for the market, support renewables, support storage, help build the smart grid and you will shine. You probably won't be as big and your profits won't be as easy. But as it stands now, your ‘green’ push was just greenwash. A lie. A cheap marketing ploy to trick people.  

And as it stands now, if your short term business model works, we all lose and we have no economy. If it fails, you disappear. 

As Alan Watts said, “The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, go with it and join the dance”. Jump in Origin!