Category Archives: Economics

Economics of Happiness Movie Night

Join us for our next Monthly Movie night and ‘The Economics of Happiness’

Economics of Happiness Poster

Summary
‘The Economics of Happiness’ features a chorus of voices from six continents calling for systemic economic change. The documentary describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, all around the world people are resisting those policies, demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance – and, far from the old institutions of power, they’re starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm – an economics of localization.

Watch the Trailer Here

Reviews
7.5/10 on IMDb

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The WA State election and our four degree future

As a young adult living in WA I am dismayed to see the vast gulf between the latest climate science and observations, and the decisions being made by our State Government. Certainly, 2012 was a year of extreme climate events: the Arctic sea ice reached a new record low summer melt; the Greenland ice sheet experienced an unprecedented melt with 97% of its surface thawing over four days in July; temperature records tumbled around the world; and prominently, the USA suffered wildfires, drought and super-storm Sandy.

Here in Australia, we just experienced a January with seven consecutive days of national-average maximum temperatures above 39°C. This smashes the previous record of four days in 1972. Perth experienced a record eight heat waves last summer, while Perth metro recorded its 12th driest year on record and the driest July in 137 years, with just 34.6 mm.

Contrast this to the decisions being made in WA. The Barnett government removed all CO2 emission requirements for the Wheatstone and Browse basin projects, the impact will be equivalent to the emissions of 650,000 homes. These two LNG projects alone will increase WA’s emissions by more than 60%! And that’s not even taking into account the emissions caused by burning the fuel – that’s just from processing it.

Add to this, plans to develop unconventional onshore gas through hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’). In November, the government signed an agreement to facilitate the exploration of the Canning Basin in the Kimberley, which is estimated to be the fifth largest reserve in the world. The development of that field could mean over 100,000 fracking wells across the Kimberley, not only adding to our climate woes, but potentially polluting water and degrading some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes.

Along with the decision to refurbish Muja  power station, which we recently learnt has experienced a cost blow out of over $100 million. Instead of locking in another 30 years of coal, how much renewable energy could have been built for a quarter of a billion dollars? Not to mention the demolition of the state Climate Change Unit and the release, after four years, of a State Climate Change Policy that has been described by prominent Australian scientist Ian Lowe as a ‘ten page picture book’.

Internationally, world governments have agreed that we must stay below a 2°C ‘guardrail’ of warming to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Although we should note that, given the impacts we are now seeing with only 0.8°C of warming, most scientists now consider even 2°C unsafe.

A key question that faces us is: how much CO2 can we emit before 2050 to stay below 2°C?

Scientific studies have attempted to answer this question, with results suggesting that we can emit a further 550 Giga tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GT CO2), if we are to give ourselves an 80% chance of staying below 2°C. With business-as-usual – that is, on our current emissions path – we’re likely to have used that up by 2026, nearly 25 years ahead of schedule. This is why both the World Bank and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers released reports late last year saying we’re heading for 4°C plus of warming. A catastrophic future to say the least.

Earth Burning

If that’s not scary enough, there’s another important question to ask: how much CO2 is contained within the currently known reserves of oil, coal and gas? The answer is that there are over 2795 GT of COequivalent in known reserves. More than five times what we can ‘safely’ release!

This has massive implications for fossil fuel companies like Chevron and Woodside. What if 80% of your product could never be burnt? Ever. The world’s second largest bank, HSBC, just released a report suggesting oil and gas multinationals could lose 60% of their market value, if we strive to limit climate change, as we must. Hence a recent campaign in the USA by 350.org to get public institutions, especially universities, to divest shares in fossil fuel companies.

It doesn’t much matter that gas emits less CO2 at the point of combustion than coal, as the International Energy Agency has noted that overall emissions associated with a “golden age of gas” would still result in exceeding our greenhouse gas budget in much the same way. All emissions count, and all emissions will push us closer to the edge of tipping points, where natural feedback loops take matters out of our hands.

Given these numbers, the implications for our current direction are huge. The decisions being made in WA have global consequences. So, what about the leaders of our state? Will they break the climate silence of this state election campaign? Will we hear discussion of these numbers? And most important, will there be meaningful action after the election? I hope so, our future depends on it.

City of Swan draft strategic plan

The City of Swan recently released their draft strategic plan (Strategic Community Plan). It outlines the key objectives that will guide the city’s activities for the next 10 years.

While there are many good things in the plan, there are also areas where we think the City could aim much higher. The public submissions period just closed and below is the response from the steering group of Transition Town Guildford or here. What do you think?

Response to the City of Swan Strategic Community Plan 2012-2022

Transition Town Guildford participated in the public development of the City’s Strategic Community Plan (SCP). We are pleased to see the outcome of the process and welcome the opportunity to provide further input at this stage.

We were encouraged to see reference to climate change in the SCP. However, the plan seems to lack any clear sense of the urgency or scale of changes required to address climate change. It is widely regarded that the next decade is the critical period for action to give us any hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

“This is the critical decade for action. The choices we make between now and 2020 will shape our future. To minimise climate change risks we must begin to decarbonise our economy and move to cleaner energy sources this decade. The longer we wait the more difficult and costly it will be. Western Australia has abundant potential for expanding renewable energy generation, with some of the best wind and solar resources in Australia.”The Critical Decade: Climate Change Impacts for Western Australia, by the Climate Commission

Yet there is no reference in the SCP to renewable energy, peak oil or decreasing dependence on fossil fuels. While there is an objective to reduce carbon, waste and greenhouse gases (N1.1), there is no concrete target (for example, striving for the City of Swan to become carbon neutral or zero waste). Specific, measurable and ambitious targets are essential in transitioning to a low-carbon local economy in the near future.

The term ‘sustainable’ is used extensively throughout the document, yet it is not defined. For example, what does the City of Swan consider ‘sustainable growth’ to mean? We consider a clear definition of such key terms to be vital to effective implementation of the SCP.

There is no mention of community groups or community engagement in the objectives. The City of Swan needs to build into its Community Plan actions to engage with, support and encourage community groups. We therefore request the inclusion of an additional objective under Governance, as follows:

Objective
G1.3 – Promote community engagement
Strategies
G1.3.1 – Promote active liaison with new and existing community groups
G1.3.2 – Encourage public participation in decision-making

We also wish to make the following comments and suggestions regarding descriptions of the following strategies currently included in the Plan. Our specific suggestions are highlighted in bold italics below:

Economics
There is no connection or acknowledgement of the relationship between business and industry aspirations outlined under Economics, and the environmental ideals listed in Natural Environment. These aspects of the SCP are addressed separately but are in fact intimately intertwined. We believe it is important that this is reflected in the Plan as the economy depends entirely on the health and resources of the natural environment.

E1.1.4 Target and attract identified industries to capitalise on the power economy and renewable energy sources of Western Australia

Natural Environment
N1.1.1 Effectively manage resource consumption, including water, energy and non-renewable resources

N1.1.3 This strategy currently states, ‘Preserve and protect air quality’ but there is no mention of soil quality or fertility. This is surprising, given the highly valuable Swan Valley with its rich soils is located within the City.

N1.2.1 Minimise the impact of extreme weather conditions through emergency management planning, community education and preparation

N2.1.1 Conserve open spaces, natural vegetation and bushland with support from local community groups

We suggest the following two additional strategies to conserve native biodiversity:

N.2.1.2 Conserve and enhance existing native flora and fauna.

N 2.1.3 Implement ‘best practice’ in management of processes threatening to native flora and fauna including invasive species, fire and loss of habitat

N2.2.1 Protect waterways through appropriate land management practices, particularly prevention of further river bank erosion

Build Environment – Sustainable transport solutions
B3 We strongly endorse the third built environment outcome to provide sustainable transport solutions

We look forward to seeing the final draft of the SCP encompassing community input. We also look forward to supporting the City to implement this Plan over the coming years.

Sincerely yours,
Transition Town Guildford Steering Committee
Dr Peter Langlands
Dr Barb Frey
Dr Chris Hogan
Simon Kilbane
Rod Mitchell
Tammy Hanson
Tanami Magnus