Clean Green Bellarine

France jumps feet first into tidal energy, offshore wind to come 2015

By Joshua Hill on 4 December 2014

CleanTechnica

A round of government leasing for tidal pilot projects in France completed this week, with companies including GDF Suez, Alstom, and EDF among the big winners.

And the announcement of this round of tidal projects comes at the same time as France’s government promised another offshore wind leasing round some time in 2015.

A joint venture between GDF Suez and Alstom was awarded the go-ahead to build a pilot tidal stream project in France Tuesday, while a second group consisting of EDF, DCNS, and OpenHydro were also awarded a contract to install seven turbines of 2 MW each.

Both projects are set to be located in the Raz Blanchard, and are the result of a Call for Expressions of Interest announced back in September of 2013 as part of France’s Programme des Investissements d’Avenir.

“Thanks to this project, Alstom technology will be in a position to demonstrate its efficiency, its optimised costs and its maintainability, a necessary prerequisite to considering any future move towards a commercial phase on a larger scale,” said Jacques Jamart, Alstom Senior Vice-President in charge of new energies.

These latest approvals will give Alstom a chance to test its Oceade 18 1.4 MW tidal turbine under installation and operational conditions similar to those in commercial facilities.

A team of 80 Alstom engineers have been working on the Oceade turbine prototype, and this pilot farm in conjunction with GDF Suez represents a “decisive step towards setting up commercial operations in tidal energy.”

 

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For complete detail and graphics – http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/france-jumps-feet-first-tidal-energy-offshore-wind-come-2015

Australian households could go off-grid by 2018 …..

UBS: By Giles Parkinson on 9 May 2014

For complete article: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/ubs-australian-households-go-grid-2018

Global investment bank UBS has highlighted the challenges facing Australian energy utilities by suggesting that the falling cost of solar and battery storage means that the average Australian household could find it cost-competitive to go off-grid by 2018.

The report by its Australian based analysts says the current cost of going off-grid for a households consuming the average of around 7 megawatt hours would be around $39,000.

That translates to an average cost of around 44c/kWh for the life of the system. That leaves it in the hands of early adopters and hobbyists in the city, but assuming capital cost falls of just 5 per cent per annum, by 2018 it would become cost competitive for average households with staying on the grid.

For those in remote rural communities it may already be attractive – a situation recognised by Rob Stobbe, the head of SA Power Networks, who suggested last week that rural communities could soon decide that looking after their own energy needs will soon be a viable option.

UBS offgrid solar

As RenewEconomy pointed out from the Energy Networks Association conference last week, there is a growing recognition, particularly among regional network operators, that a new business model is needed to deal with technological changes,

UBS takes up this point as well, but notes: “The current regulatory system for networks (cost minimisation) and the desire to protect the current asset base of the unregulated companies make them poorly placed and incentivised to respond to the disruptive change.”

It notes that lithium-based storage is starting to become commercially available and the cost currently comes to around $0.70 kWh of energy consumed. That is 40 per cent above the cost of grid-delivered electricity in Sydney, and while there may be limited scope to reduce the costs of the battery side of the storage devices, the balance of system costs could fall greatly if demand rises.

UBS argues that battery storage at the household level is likely to be most cost effective if the household remains connected to the grid, and simply uses the grid when storage is insufficient. “Since the current grid is largely a sunk cost there is little penalty to society for using the existing grid in this fashion,” it notes.

“Storage intuitively makes the most sense the further consumption is from production, i.e. where the grid costs are highest, as the regional networks with just three or four customers per kilometre of poles and wires. UBS notes that it is “interesting to obverse therefore that some of the network owners are now themselves looking at micro grids and community level storage.”

UBS notes that the cost of household storage varies, with some reports suggesting that lead acid battery storage can be achieved for  less than $0.30/kWh. But it notes that the focus is on lithium technologies, and the economics of systems such as this of Zen Energy are coming down quickly.

“Based on about $30k installed for a system that can deliver 5 kW of power and 14 kWh for 3000 cycles, the cost per kWh comes to $0.71 kWh. This compares to $0.50 kWh for peak electricity in Sydney. In other words, it’s not economical yet, but it’s not hard to imagine costs coming down further over the next five years. The Zen system is packaged with the “command and control” system that decides what the household system should do at any time i.e. buy from grid, charge from solar or supply to the house.”

2014 Bellarine 2050 Our Place Our Future Your support

 

BELLARINE 2050, OUR PLACE,
OUR FUTURE FORUM 4 2014

A group of people interested in the future of The Bellarine
is looking for passionate leaders to get involved with
determining
 how it will look, feel and function by 2050.

Forum 4 / Aim and Outcomes
Creation of an integrated development and
investment strategy for The Bellarine to be used
by Victorian Government, G21 and COGG for future
planning and investment programs in conjuction
with the Committee for Bellarine.

REBECCA LAUNER – March 27 2014   

Member Jessica Chapman said Bellarine2050, which
is a subsection of the Committee for Bellarine but run
by a group of students, was looking for people who
were passionate about The Bellarine and interested in
influencing its development.
“We are particularly looking at young people, as they are
responsible for the future of our region,” Ms Chapman
said.

“If you are a local secondary school or university student,
a local professional/entrepreneur, a farmer, an artist or a
designer, we want you to join us.
“We are particularly looking for leaders who want to head
this project, to lead other passionate people and to consult
with council, consultants and others to achieve this vision.”

Ms Chapman said the group aimed to hold yearly forums
for people to think about the region and produce ideas
and plans for its improvement.
“We will collaborate with government, consultants and
investors to analyse the feasibility of these ideas and to
plan their realisation.”

 She said work with collaborating partners was also under way to provide the foundations of the project – such as urban planning analysis and case studies, research on population statistics and analysis of new farming technologies.

Ms Chapman said the Bellarine2050 group would meet on a monthly basis, and would run activities on some weekends to engage the public and promote awareness.“If you are unable to commit to monthly meetings, but are still interested, the yearly forums that we will hold will be opportunities for you to outline your view of the Bellarine in the future.”

 

2014-2050-FORUM-4

We can’t just geoengineer our way out of climate change …….

 
 

 

Reproduced from David Suzuki Foundation -[subscribers@davidsuzuki.org]

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Photo Credit: Paul Bica

Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected.

DDT was considered a panacea for a range of insect pest issues, from controlling disease to helping farmers. But we didn’t understand bioaccumulation back then – toxins concentrating up the food chain, risking the health and survival of animals from birds to humans.

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, seemed so terrific we put them in everything from aerosol cans to refrigerators. Then we learned they damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful solar radiation.

These unintended consequences come partly from our tendency to view things in isolation, without understanding how all nature is interconnected. We’re now facing the most serious unintended consequence ever: climate change from burning fossil fuels. Some proposed solutions may also result in unforeseen outcomes.

Oil, gas and coal are miraculous substances – energy absorbed from the sun by plants and animals hundreds of millions of years ago, retained after they died and concentrated as the decaying life became buried deeper into the earth. Burning them to harness and release this energy opened up possibilities unimaginable to our ancestors. We could create machines and technologies to reduce our toil, heat and light our homes, build modern cities for growing populations and provide accessible transport for greater mobility and freedom. And because the stuff seemed so plentiful and easy to obtain, we could build vehicles and roads for everyone – big cars that used lots of gas – so that enormous profits would fuel prosperous, consumer-driven societies.

We knew fairly early that pollution affected human health, but that didn’t seem insurmountable. We just needed to improve fuel efficiency and create better pollution-control standards. That reduced rather than eliminated the problem and only partly addressed an issue that appears to have caught us off-guard: the limited availability of these fuels. But the trade-offs seemed worthwhile.

Then, for the past few decades, a catastrophic consequence of our profligate use of fossil fuels has loomed. Burning them has released excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a thick, heat-trapping blanket. Along with our destruction of natural carbon-storing environments, such as forests and wetlands, this has steadily increased global average temperatures, causing climate change.

We’re now faced with ever-increasing extreme weather-related events and phenomena such as ocean acidification, which affects myriad marine life, from shellfish to corals to plankton. The latter produce oxygen and are at the very foundation of the food chain.

Had we addressed the problem from the outset, we could have solutions in place. We could have found ways to burn less fossil fuel without massively disrupting our economies and ways of life. But we’ve become addicted to the lavish benefits that fossil fuels have offered, and the wealth and power they’ve provided to industrialists and governments. And so there’s been a concerted effort to stall or avoid corrective action, with industry paying front groups, “experts” and governments to deny or downplay the problem.

Now that climate change has become undeniable, with consequences getting worse daily, many experts are eyeing solutions. Some are touting massive technological fixes, such as dumping large amounts of iron filings into the seas to facilitate carbon absorption, pumping nutrient-rich cold waters from the ocean depths to the surface, building giant reflectors to bounce sunlight back into space and irrigating vast deserts.

But we’re still running up against those pesky unintended consequences. Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, studied five geoengineering schemes and concluded they’re “either relatively ineffective with limited warming reductions, or they have potentially severe side effects and cannot be stopped without causing rapid climate change.” That’s partly because we don’t fully understand climate and weather systems and their interactions.

That doesn’t mean we should rule out geoengineering.  Climate change is so serious that we’ll need to marshal everything we have to confront it, and some methods appear to be more benign than others. But geoengineering isn’t the solution. And it’s no excuse to go on wastefully burning fossil fuels. We must conserve energy and find ways to quickly shift to cleaner sources.

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor

 
 

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The trouble with offsets – delusional at best.

Reproduced in full with the gracious permission of Background Briefing: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/2014-03-16/5320906#transcript

Sunday 16 March 2014 8:05AM

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IMAGE: IN JANUARY 2014 OVER 100 PEOPLE SHUT DOWN CONSTRUCTION AT THE MAULES CREEK MINE. THE PROTESTERS USED TRIPOD STRUCTURES TO BLOCK ENTRY TO THE MINE. (FLICKR/LEARD STATE FOREST ALLIANCE)

Environmental offsets are supposed to compensate for ecosystems and biodiversity that are bulldozed to make way for development. But there’s mounting evidence the policy is being subverted, as governments approve controversial offsets across Australia. Di Martin investigates.

A Senate inquiry has just been launched into claims a key environmental policy, offsetting, is falling over.

Under offsetting, developers have to compensate for what they’re bulldozing. They need to protect other properties that contain the same sort of vegetation and habitat as what’s being cleared.

To me it is akin to some guy going into that art gallery and pointing at the Mona Lisa on the wall and ‘saying sorry mate we need that bit … so the Mona Lisa has to go. But we will paint you another one’.

PROFESSOR RICHARD HOBBS, ECOLOGIST

The promise of offsetting is that development can happen and biodiversity will be no worse off.

However offsets have always been controversial and an increasing number of scientists, ecologists and conservationists say there are many loopholes and the policy is being manipulated by governments who won’t say no to developers.

Federal Greens Senator Larissa Waters pushed for the Senate inquiry, listing five developments for investigation.

They include the Abbot Point Coal Terminal and Waratah Coal’s Galilee Coal Project in Queensland, the Jandakot Airport in Perth, and the Maules Creek coal mine in northern NSW.

Clearing has already begun on the Maules Creek mine site, destroying critically endangered white box gum grassy woodland which is down to 0.1 per cent of its original range.

The mining company, Whitehaven Coal, says it’s protecting large areas of critically endangered box gum woodland on its offset properties.

This article represents part of a larger Background Briefing investigation. Listen to Di Martin’s full report on Sunday at 8.05 am or use the podcast links above after broadcast.

But local ecologist Phil Spark says Whitehaven’s claims are wrong. He took Background Briefing to the two largest offset properties in an area marked as white box grassy woodland.

‘We are looking around us and we see the dominance of stringy bark, probably 80 per cent stringybark. And it’s not white box at all,’ Mr Spark said.

There are now four local ecologists who’ve looked at Whitehaven Coal’s offsets and found serious problems.

Dr John Hunter is a botanist who specialises in critically endangered communities and has helped develop offset plans for other mines. He has prepared a preliminary report on 1600 hectares of Whitehaven’s offsets, and says that 95 per cent of their mapping is wrong.

‘I think there’s at maximum, five per cent of what they are saying is box gum woodland there,’ he said. ‘All of the dominance that we found there, are actually trees that they haven’t listed as occurring.’

Instead, the dominant trees that Hunter found were stringybark, New England blackbutt, orange gum and Bendemeer white gum, which weren’t represented in the mapping.

‘The maps are patently wrong. They are just completely wrong,’ he said.

Another local ecologist, Wendy Hawes, sat on an expert panel that wrote the condition criteria used to identify box gum grassy woodlands. She has looked at four areas mapped as box gum grassy woodland, and found hardly any at all.

‘It is not the community they claim it is,’ she said. ‘There are within their offset areas … small patches that could potentially meet the [criteria], but they are very small areas, so they are a couple of hectares. Nothing like the hectarage they are claiming.’

‘So the majority of the stuff that they are protecting its stringy bark communities. Not white box,’ Hawes said.

Neither the state nor the federal government did on the ground surveys of the offset sites before approving the Maules Creek mine.

Whitehaven Coal’s CEO Paul Flynn was not available for interview, but the company said in a statement that it is committed to meeting its offset obligations. It also claimed that reports critical of its offsets are incomplete and deliberately distorted, and the company is protecting an area far larger than what is being cleared on the mine site.

The dissenting ecologists agree that Whitehaven’s offset area is larger, but maintain the vegetation it contains is not the same as what is being bulldozed.

When the Maules Creek mine was approved, Whitehaven Coal was required to complete an independent review of the offset sites. That report has been handed to the Federal government, but has not been released.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt declined to be interviewed, but issued a statement saying he’s aware of the issue, and his department is now considering the independent review.

The department recently told a Senate estimates hearing that it’s investigating what it calls a criminal matter regarding the Maules Creek offsets. It is a crime to be reckless or negligent in providing false or misleading information about offsets.

The Environment Department said it could be some months before its investigation is complete.

The ANU’s Phil Gibbons, who helped develop offset policy for the federal and NSW governments, says the theory behind offsetting is very attractive.

‘A fair-minded person would agree that if a developer destroys some of Australia’s natural capital in making a buck, then they should really offset that impact elsewhere,’ he said.

‘But the devil is in the detail.’

Gibbons said he sees an increasing number of examples where governments are cutting corners. Some offsets are not like for like and others are not being properly managed or restored. Some sites have been approved that weren’t in danger of being cleared or lost in the future.

‘Anything that you do in terms of an offset must be a genuine gain, must be something that would not have happened anyway as under business as usual,’ Gibbons said.

‘I think what people are doing is getting very creative in finding biodiversity gains when really they are things that would have happened anyway.’

With less and less good quality bush to be found, developers are putting up old cattle paddocks and mine sites as offsets, land which they say will be restored to its original state.

However, according to restoration ecologist Professor Richard Hobbs, those sites can take decades to develop, and there’s no guarantee they will be the same as what was cleared.

He scoffed at the idea that Australia’s biodiversity will be no worse off under offsetting, and called the practice ‘a Faustian pact’.

‘I’ll say it’s a furphy. To me it is akin to some guy going into that art gallery and pointing at the Mona Lisa on the wall and saying sorry mate we need that bit … so the Mona Lisa has to go. But we will paint you another one.’

‘We run the risk of trading something irreplaceable for the short term development gains with the mirage of having a good conservation outcome in the future through the activities of the offset.’

TIDAL PLAN.. NEXT STEP PORT PHILLIP HEADS ???

Atlantis-model

 If only it was as easy as building the model above to put on top of your xmas tree and dream it may come true in Port Philip Bay.

Imagine the benefits of a power generating turbine below the waves silently powering the Bellarine. It could be true if the government would look at it seriously!

 

Morgan Stanley-Backed Atlantis Raises $33 Million for Tidal Plan

By Louise Downing Feb 20, 2014 7:00 PM ET

 

Atlantis Resources Corp., a Morgan Stanley-backed maker of tidal turbines, raised 20 million pounds ($33 million) with a European grant, funds from a government institution and an initial public offering in London.

The Singapore-based company raised 12 million pounds by selling about 12.8 million new shares at 94 pence each on London’s Alternative Investment Market, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cornelius said. That values Atlantis at 72 million pounds.

Most investors were London-based institutions, with some from continental Europe, Cornelius said. Morgan Stanley, which had 45.7 percent before the placing, didn’t sell any shares.

“We chose AIM because people in the U.K. market are familiar with the renewables sector and there is good support,” Cornelius said. “People understand the landscape here.”

Atlantis also raised 8 million pounds through a cash grant from the European Commission and from a government institution that offered non-recourse financing repaid from future profits.

Funds investing in renewable energy have listed in London in the past year as investors seek steady dividends that beat returns on government bonds. Ingenious Media Holdings Plc last month said it was planning to raise 160 million pounds.

The tidal-power industry is in its infancy, with developers testing prototypes in the hope of bringing systems to market. As yet there are no commercial-scale projects in operation.

“It’s a growth story because we have a global portfolio and it’s a new and emerging market,” Cornelius said by phone. “From that perspective I think people tend to find it really interesting. It’s not solar and it’s not wind.”

MeyGen Project

Part of the proceeds will be spent on developing the 86-megawatt first phase of Atlantis’s MeyGen project in Scotland.

Construction is expected to start early in the second quarter, generation is projected from early 2015, and capacity may eventually reach as high as 398 megawatts.

The project seeks to take advantage of government subsidies for the power it produces, withScotland offering one of the highest for tidal energy. Waters in the region are estimated to account for as much as a quarter of Europe’s tidal resource.

Any remaining money from the funds raised will be invested in development of turbine technology alongside Lockheed Martin Corp. and for investments around the world, Cornelius said. The company is pursuing projects in Canada, India and China.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louise Downing in London at ldowning4@bloomberg.net

Historic day for cycling in our Region

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After more than two years we have finally been successful in getting our Principal Bicycle Network (PBN) up in both the City of Greater Geelong and the Surf Coast Shire.

Bike Safe has been actively working with local cyclists, VicRoads and Councils in developing a Principal Bicycle Network (PBN). This plan prioritises key roads and paths across the region for upgrading, modification or building connections. At least 30% of the works can be implemented within existing budgets and infrastructure upgrade plans.

The PBN provides a priority framework for establishing safe, connected cycling routes to and from community hubs. Hubs include the CBD, towns, train stations, schools, tertiary campuses, shopping centres, and recreation centres. It also incorporates commuter and popular leisure cycling routes as well.

Within the PBN there are less roads than in previous strategies, sort of do less but do it better. It also aims to guide engineers and planners to make strategic connections, fix poor design outcomes, and prioritise cycling maintenance. The PBN has also identified strategic Next Generation sealed, separated cycleways leading into the CBD and connecting surrounding suburbs.

Although desirable, not all roads can have bike lanes or shoulders, in which case consideration will be given to speed limit reductions, cycle friendly intersections, traffic calming and signage. Priority for new off-road paths will  be given to those which provide the most direct routes.  If you want more details and maps, here is the link >PBN

FOOTNOTE: Pictured above is CoGG Deputy Mayor Cr Bruce Harwood and Bike Safe President Barton van Laar. Bike Safe also wishes to thank Cr Andy Richards and Cr Eddy Kontelj (and all the Councillors at CoGG and Surf Coast) for their ongoing enthusiastic support.  Bike Safe has funded all strategic and mapping work to date. Now the real work by VicRoads, CoGG and Surf Coast begins, fingers crossed!

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With the support of local managers VicRoads is right now reviewing planned existing works, to see which roads, which intersections can be improved over the next two years. We will keep you updated!

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Well done Borough of Queenscliffe!

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Lots of new bike racks in Point Lonsdale welcome bikes and guess what, locals ride to the shops. Build it and they will come!

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The economic benefits of cycling

Cycling is a viable transport alternative that has significant economic benefits. As an example, the economy benefits by more than $21 every time a person cycles 20 minutes to work and back, according to previous Federal Government reports. The economic benefits of riding and walking to work include better health, less congestion, reduced infrastructure costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, better air quality, noise reduction and savings in parking costs.

Three and a half million people—nearly one in six Australians—ride a bicycle at least once a week, and more than 8 million Australians ride at least once a year. Riding a bike delivers economic benefits of around $1.43 per kilometre.

Cycling is low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Regular cycling has many physical and mental health benefits. It is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis.

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Some welcome sweeping…

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GRUBB RD, OCEAN GROVE – VicRoads

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ABERY RD, NORTH SHORE- VicRoads

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Some welcome fixes…

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SWANSTON ST/KILGOUR ST, GEELONG – COGG

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BARWON RIVER PATH, SOUTH GEELONG – COGG

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BELLARINE HWY, NEWCOMB – VicRoads This took two goes but now no longer dips below the surface of the bike lane. Parking is still a problem.

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PIGDONS RD, WAURN PONDS – COGG Cyclists were actually tracking along the white line and falling into the carriageway. CoGFG did a quick fix after we reported and came up with modifications. The white line was previously 3-4mm above the road surface trapping water.

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Bike Safe Macedon great initiative

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The Face of Cycling in the Macedon Ranges…
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Legend calls for bike safety

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The man known as the voice of cycling, Phil Liggett, was in Portarlington recently for the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic. He joins Bike Safe in promoting cycling safety.

“We all live on the same planet. We all want to get from point A to point B safely. A simple mistake or lack of concentration by a cyclist or a motorist can result in the loss of a life. I think it is terrific is that organisations, such as Bike Safe, bring these matters to the fore, with road users and infrastructure planners. All of us, including Governments and Councils need to listen and respond positively. The results are very worthwhile.”  READ MORE >

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Our Facebook page – read it first here

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This post received over 10,500 page views and made the Addy! When stuff happens, we will post it on our Facebook page, here >

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Finally The Science Behind Why Cycling Makes Us Happier

The environment would pay for ‘free trade’ …. read on with care

By Tom Warne-Smith

Posted Thu 9 Jan 2014, 1:07pm AEDT

Extract from:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-09/warne-smith-the-environment-will-pay-for-free-trade/5192156

Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses could devastating for the environment.

PHOTO: Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses could devastating for the environment. (Simon Cullen: ABC News)

Under the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, Australia could be forced to pay foreign corporations not to dig up or destroy its coastline or native forests, writes Tom Warne-Smith.

What would you do if an international company decided to stick a toxic waste dump next to your house? Lodging an objection with your council is a good start – but what if the company could claim millions of dollars in damages if the council said no?

That’s exactly what happened in Mexico when the municipality of Guadalcazar refused to issue a permit to build a waste dump because of the impact on the 800 surrounding residents and $16.6 million in ‘compensation’ was awarded to the dump’s US owners.

Get ready, because the laws that let this happen are coming to Australia too.

A range of experts have recently highlighted the alarming potential consequences of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). This ‘free trade’ agreement between countries will more than likely contain secretive Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses, allowing foreign companies to sue national governments when changes to domestic laws affect the company’s investments, and so limiting governments in the regulations they can make to protect the public.

A lot has already been said about the disastrous effects of these clauses on public health initiatives, like plain packaging for cigarettes. While the thought of paying Philip Morris so Australia can have a law to protect the health of Australians is bad enough, the effects on our environment could also be devastating.

When Germany’s Hamburg Environmental Authority issued a licence imposing water quality standards on a coal-fired power plant, energy giant Vattenfall commenced investor-state arbitration against the German government, seeking about €1.4 billion, plus arbitration costs and interest. Ultimately Germany and Vattenfall settled the dispute, with Germany agreeing to weaken environmental standards in favour of the corporation. Vattenfall has now started proceedings claiming a reported €3.7 billion in compensation as a result of the German government’s decision to phase out nuclear power.

Under Australian federal environmental law there are a number of provisions which allow our environment minister to vary or revoke approvals for projects like mines in certain circumstances, such as when there is new evidence about the environmental effects. An Australian licence holder has to accept the minister’s decision. But under the new rules, an international investor would be able to seek compensation for any loss of profits from the project.

This opens up a legal nightmare. Imagine that there’s been a bushfire, and an endangered Australian species has suffered a huge loss of habitat. If any Australian government then wanted to change a permit to stop a foreign company from clearing habitat that had become vital to the survival of this species, we would have to pay the company ‘compensation’. Similarly, if our government made a decision to protect a rural community from coal seam gas extraction, a foreign investor could potentially take Australia to court and be compensated for their loss of earnings.

Frighteningly, all of this is happening in secret. We don’t know exactly what the TPP will contain. Around the world, no one knows the full extent of the impact that ISDS clauses have had, because when an investor-state case goes ahead, the arbitration decisions are often kept secret. What we do know is that simply having these clauses in place creates the significant risk of ‘regulatory chill’; a reluctance by governments to act because of the risk of an investor-state dispute. Even in claims when the investor corporations are unsuccessful, governments often end up having to pay half the cost of the arbitration and their own legal expenses.

Worse still, the liability created by ISDS clauses continues even if we decide the treaty is a bad idea after all. While our government could subsequently withdraw from the treaty, as other governments have commenced doing after losing ISDS disputes, the companies that had already invested would continue to be protected by the ISDS for typically another 20 years.

The potential benefits from these clauses to Australians are very limited. Australian businesses have apparently never used the ISDS provisions in Australian treaties. The Productivity Commission, in a 2010 report into ISDS clauses, recommended that our government "avoid the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions in [international agreements] that grant foreign investors in Australia substantive or procedural rights greater than those enjoyed by Australian investors" – advice that the Abbott Government appears to be ignoring in the TPP negotiations.

Do we really want to create an Australia where we have to pay a foreign corporation not to dig up or destroy our coastline or native forests? Our laws should protect Australians and the places we love – not the profits of foreign multinationals.

Victoria’s environment fail !!!!!!!!!!

Audits reveal broken promises, green decline

By Emma Fitzpatrick & Sophie Vorrath on 28 November 2013

 

The Victorian Coalition government has been given a resounding “fail” for its handling of environment issues, with the latest report on its green achievements revealing a of pattern broken policy promises and backwards steps.

In its annual ‘Envirowatch’ audit, not-for-profit green group Environment Victoria found that the Coalition government, now lead by Premier Denis Napthine, had broken 13 key election promises on green policy in its three years in power.

These included promises to deliver on Victoria’s greenhouse pollution reduction target of 20 per cent by 2020; to direct an inquire on the design of a market-based gross feed-in tariff scheme for renewable energy; to implement a $20 million plan to replace inefficient street lights; and to transition all existing housing stock to meet an average of 5 star energy rating.

Environment Victoria CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said that in a “terrible three years” for Victoria’s environment, only 16 of the 58 environmental policy commitments made ahead of the election had been delivered in full; nine had been partially delivered, five had not yet been delivered, 13 represented a step backwards and 13 had been broken.

According to the report, some of the above-mentioned ‘backwards steps’ included commercialising National Parks for private interests, reducing government support for solar and wind power, and scrapping greenhouse pollution standards for new power stations.

The delivery of the scathing Environment Victoria report has coincided with the release of results from a major stocktake of Victoria’s environment – the first of its kind in five years – detailing significant worsening trends in critical areas of green health.

The audit – commissioned by the government itself and prepared by Victoria’s Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Professor Kate Auty – has found that, of 30 indicators used to assess the state’s environmental health, 16 have been found to be in poor health, six fair, just one good.

Most notably, reports The Age, the state’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 12 per cent between 1989-90 and 2010-11; the number of wildlife species under threat increased; and the extent and condition of native vegetation was found to be in decline.

The report also recommends several ways for the government to remedy the problems, including policies aimed at cutting CBD car use and congestion, and the development of a plan to “modernise” Victoria’s energy system, including encouraging more renewables and increasing energy efficiency.

All in all, the report offers a total of 32 recommendations of policy measures to help save the government from a legacy of what Environment Victoria’s O’Shanassy has described as taking the state’s environment protection backwards by decades.

“Unfortunately positive environmental action by the state Coalition has been the exception rather than the rule,” O’Shanassy said, noting the two particular exceptions of the government’s strong urban water efficiency agenda and the recently announced moratorium on fracking.

“With actions such as abandoning action on climate change and commercialising national parks, the government is putting the jobs, health and wealth of all Victorians as risk,” she said.

“For the Coalition to have any credibility on the environment at the 2014 election, it would require a massive turnaround in approach, beginning with dropping plans for a coal allocation in the Latrobe Valley and scrapping Ted Baillieu’s anti-wind farm laws.”

IMPORTANT – Rural zone reforms – effective 5th September, 2013

 
15 Aug 2013

The final stage in Victoria’s zone reform has been announced with the release of rural zone reforms.

The reformed rural zones make it easier to start and operate rural industries and to give rural and regional councils much greater flexibility in managing their own municipalities.

Regional growth is supported by providing a greater range of housing options in the Rural Living Zone and less red tape for people in rural areas altering or extending their homes.

Some of the changes include:

  • encouraging agricultural use of land, particularly in the Farming and Green Wedge Zones
  • allowing councils to consider more ‘off farm’ income streams on farms, such as farm machinery repair businesses
  • increasing the permit threshold for extensions to farm out-buildings, such as work sheds, shearing sheds and dairy facilities from 50 m2 to 100 m2
  • removing the need for a permit for primary produce sales, rural stores and most rural industries in the Rural Activity Zone
  • removing onerous restrictions on crop structures, to ensure protection from hail and other elements
  • allow councils the ability to determine smaller lifestyle lots in the Rural Living Zone where land has already been taken out of agricultural production
  • allow greater consideration of tourism uses in all but Green Wedge zones; and
  • promoting farm gate sales such as the sale of fruit, vegetables and other produce.

Councils will also have greater flexibility to consider land uses that were previously prohibited like primary and secondary schools.

The rural zone reforms are the final component of Victoria’s sweeping zone reforms and will come into effect on 5 September 2013.

For more detail refer http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning/theplanningsystem/improving-the-system/new-zones-for-victoria/new-and-improved-rural-zones