Net zero by 2050, an embodied carbon NABERS rating, COP26 and so much more — another big week with plenty of eyes on sustainability.
Who could have predicted such a negative reaction to the Prime Minister finally doing what we’ve all been asking for and committing to net zero by 2050?
Perhaps the PM, who at this point has all the popularity of a cold sore, might have seen it coming himself.
Fact is the “plan” gets us part way to nowhere and is tantamount to the government finally rounding first base and calling it a victory — when we need a home run to win.
“Keep running!!” we scream from the sidelines like the exasperated parents of second graders.
But they just stare back at us, apparently oblivious to the rules of the game (science) and the trauma they’re inflicting on us and the planet.
Reactions to the announcement ranged from unimpressed to very unimpressed, and many were scathing about the lack of additional policies to achieve the target.
Another resounding issue was with the timeframe, which falls woefully short of what is actually needed. The smart money says we need at least 100 per cent renewables and 75 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 to stay in line with a 1.5 degree warming scenario.
Lucy Manne of climate activist group 350 Australia asked who invited these guys anyway?
“This is the climate policy equivalent of showing up late to a party, refusing to bring what the host asked you to, and then trying to ruin the party for everyone,” she said.
Others were slightly kinder and took a more optimistic view of what was, regardless, a step in the right direction.
ClimateWorks chief executive Anna Skarbek, reminded us that a federal commitment to net zero emissions, while overdue, gives “all agencies the chance to work backwards from the same endpoint, and collaborate to drive down emissions.”
But there’s still the difficult pill to swallow that regional jobs and opportunities are being left on the table because the regions’ top representative (by office) has his cowboy hat pulled over his eyes.
Just ask Charlie Prell, fourth generation sheep farmer in Crookwell NSW, and chair of Farmers for Climate Action.
“There is now clearly data and reports that are amplifying the reality that renewables are a boom for regional Australia — if we take charge… and we plan for the rollout of that renewable infrastructure,” he said.
“All of the commodity councils and most of the business representative councils and Farmers for Climate Action have all produced reports that quantify the benefits, not only the climate benefits but the economic benefits, of renewables to the region.”
If our government’s ineptitude wasn’t embarrassing enough for us alone to witness, next week they’ll be taking it to the global stage where our country is already being called “the rich world’s weakest link.”
At least they called us rich though, and isn’t that what really matters?
Of course the built environment has a crucial role to play in all this, and with a mix of top-notch rating agencies, industry will and state government leadership, this week our field did not disappoint.
Plans to develop an embodied carbon rating tool into NABERS had us excited, particularly in the wake of our own event on the issue, which garnered a runaway amount of interest.
The question was even asked by one of our audience members what NSW was planning to do on the matter, forcing designated government representative and program leader for low emissions materials, Turlough Guerin to navigate his way through a response without giving the game away.
Lord knows the government doesn’t comment on anything it doesn’t have to, even if it’s positive. Why have transparency when you can have secrecy?
But this week it spilled that not only would the NSW government cough up several million to fund establishing a designated NABERS rating tool, but embodied carbon would find its way into the upcoming draft of the new Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP).
As NABERS director Carlos Flores told us, it’s baby steps to begin with, but once a nationally accepted framework is established there will be no excuse for not introducing stringent requirements on embodied carbon, embedding it into the design and development process alongside energy efficiency.
“That’s a NSW specific planning policy, but it’s the planning policy for the state,” Flores said.
And at the moment it seems like a very motivated state indeed. With sustainability sympathiser Matt Kean acting as both Treasurer and Environment Minister we’re crossing our fingers for even more announcements from “this great state” as Gladys would say.
As for the feds we ain’t holding our breath, lest we go as red as Barnaby in a midday parliament session.