Green Cities 2011

Green Cities, green finance goes global and some very hot water for uncool federal cuts

1 March 2012  – All green knights will be gearing up for Monday’s launch of Green Cities 2012. This is the highlight of the year for this industry and as a consequence it’s the focus of the most critical eyes.

How will it compare to last year? Will the crowds be bigger and better because it’s in Sydney? Will it be “same old same old” or excitement and challenging discomfort? Will there be anyone to match last year’s hugely controversial figure of Bjorn Lomborg to taunt the green believers with his so-called conversion to the climate cause?

We notice it’s been quiet on the Lomborg front since the sharp GC2011 delegates cut and sliced their way neatly through his spin and fake leads, such as asking people to switch their attention to solving malaria if they really cared about the impact of climate change on humans.

The Fifth Estate sort of cornered him after his presentation and asked him how he could live with himself (well, practically), but he was impenetrable and kept dragging up his endless dazzling statistics, which all proved it was a waste of time to worry about carbon emission and we couldn’t be bothered giving him any more oxygen.

Like Lord Monckton and his supporters in the Gina Rinehart camp, these purveyors of Climate Sceptics Mark II nod heartily to cleaning up pollution, cleaning up the oceans, achieving water and food security. But for goodness sake, whatever you do, they urge, don’t touch carbon emissions: it’s a waste of time, too expensive won’t make much of an impact blah blah blah. You would say that if the mining industry is funding you, wouldn’t you?

Now that’s we’ve got that off our chests,  (apologies), let’s see what’s on the agenda this year for GC2012:

High notes will come from Mary Ann Lazarus and the amazing work of bio mimicry; the art or science of working with nature instead of against it, and even mimicking it even in the built environment. Obvious as that sounds, it’s a revolutionary concept and one sure to bring in the hoards of the curious and the sceptical.

Nils Kok has a gift. Well several we’re sure, but one of them is to turn the dry bones subject of investment data into an animated and exciting experience. Of course his point, that green buildings make better returns, helps. After a healthy and honest green heart there’s not much better guaranteed to tingle the nerve cells of our green crusaders.

Another highlight will be (TFE will be there with notepad poised) Robert Whitehead director, marketing and newspaper sales, The Sydney Morning Herald.

GC2012 even has a fringe program, cleverly co-opting the random events that have sprung up by themselves in previous years. This one has harnessed the street cred of the City of Sydney itself so it can take over Sussex Lane for a sustainable makeover and some fun speakers. Both the Pecha Kucha and Greenups events were sold out early.

Bocskay goes global on Melbourne’s environmental upgrade model
Melbourne’s environmental upgrade finance model is going global, with Sustainable Melbourne Fund chief executive Scott Bocskay presenting to some serious financial people around the globe in recent days.

On Thursday he addressed German business people at an Austrade seminar in Munich.

“Melbourne is well placed to attract investment from Germany, one of Europe’s industrial powerhouses and a leader in sustainable technologies, and reap flow on benefits including economical energy, local job creation and stimulated economic activity,” Bocskay said.

Last week he presented at the Global Energy Basel summit in Switzerland, attended by more than 150 finance industry, government and business leaders and experts on low-carbon sustainable infrastructure from around the world.

The summit focused on “financing sustainable urban infrastructure, particularly energy-efficient buildings and transportation, as well as renewable energy supplies,” a spokesman from his agency said.

But there’s more. Bocskay also presented on environmental upgrade finance at a meeting in London with the Better Buildings Partnership, Low Carbon Workplace, City of London, British Property Federation and the Urban Land Institute attending.

There was significant interest in the Victorian model, particularly from the United States and the United Kingdom, he said.

Disappointed, wrong footed, and completely appalling timing
Well that was rude. Day one (Tuesday) of the brand new Gillard order in Federal politics and the first thing that happens is the government announces it will can the renewable energy bonus scheme for solar hot water systems. Not quite as bad as dumbing down the carbon tax, but it’s in the same wrong wrong direction.

As The Greens pointed out, the government saves a few nickels and dimes by axing the scheme while they throw squillions at the aluminium smelters and car industry. And the government actually defends the early axing by saying it was all Malcolm Turnbull’s idea (like that’s a good thing) because Turnbull when he introduced the plan in 2007 had planned for it to end in mid 2012 anyway.

The newspack went ballistic: one question to the minister Mark Dreyfus referred to more than 7000 jobs at risk; the big hot water companies said they were shocked and had lobbied for the program’s continuation and genuinely thought they had a good case.

On Thursday the Greens moved a motion in the Senate to immediately re-instate the scheme and it passed with the support of the Opposition.

Solar is a “clean green manufacturing industry,” Greens deputy leader Christine Milne said.

What it does not have is a huge belching chimney stack sucking up 28 per cent of Victoria’s entire energy output when it’s at full pelt, like Alcoa’s aluminium does, she said. Otherwise the government would be “bending over backwards” to help.

We know there are a lot of secret pressures on any government in power but Gillard needs to hold firm on climate change. No more weakening of policies can be tolerated. She needs to keep near and dear the lessons of the past few bloodletting weeks: that firmness is what will save her. Not weakness and popularity contests. Ironically.