President's Report 17 March

Photo on 19 1 20 at 2.20 pm 2The BREAZE Board has decided to take a conservative approach to the Coronavirus pandemic, in line with advice regarding social gatherings and maintaining social distancing. Our monthly talks programs—Smart Living Ballarat and Green Drinks—will not be going ahead in their usual physical locations. However, whenever possible, BREAZE Talks Coordinator, Paul Duggan will be live-streaming the Smart Living Ballarat talks advertised in our 2020 program, via the SLB Facebook page. Audience members will be able to post questions for these talks online as they happen. In the spirit of the BREAZE mission of sustainable living and a zero emissions target we urge you to continue to participate in these shared experiences albeit as a virtual audience. Green Drinks has been cancelled for the duration of the pandemic. 

 Recent commentary has understandably, drawn comparisons between the official response to the coronavirus pandemic and the disengaged response to the climate crisis. While the immediate risk to human life posed by COVID 19 is obviously perceived very differently to the slower moving, changing climate, nevertheless, with the devastation of this seasons's bushfires and glaciers now collapsing it is clear that calamitous and sudden changes to the environment also pose immediate and sudden risk to life. We mustn't let the current health crisis distract governments from the climate emergency and the need for action. They need to multitask. It has been heartening to see medical scientists treated and respected as experts in this health emergency. It would certainly be good if this current respect for science translated to an equivalent respect for climate scientists and our environmental emergency once the pandemic is past. At present media and public focus on COVID 19 makes it too hard for climate action to cut through. This was something Zali Steggall acknowledged today when she announced that she was delaying tabling her bill for a National Climate Act in federal parliament.  If you haven't yet signed the petition to support the Act please consider doing so today. There is a link on the BREAZE website. We can only hope the current public health emergency will establish useful precedents for making the case for a  climate emergency in due course.

Since mid-February, there have been a number of key announcements impacting on Australia’s fight against climate change, from all three levels of government.

At the federal level, February ended with the Minister for the Environment, Angus Taylor, launching his ‘Technology roadmap to reduce emissions.’ Problem is it won’t. As Climate Councillor and former head of BP Australasia, Greg Bourne, said the ‘roadmap’ puts fossil fuel companies ahead of the public interest, focusing on expensive and unproven Carbon Capture and Storage and choosing dirty black hydrogen over green hydrogen, to unnecessarily prolong the role of fossil fuels in the energy system. With still no plan or target for moving to a zero carbon grid, the renewables sector has again been deprived of the business certainty needed to attract investment. Zero emissions by 2050 please Minister.

On a brighter note, on 17 February Victoria’s Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, announced the Andrews Government would break away from National Electricity Rules to fast-track upgrades to state electricity infrastructure, to better accommodate lower-cost clean energy and enable projects such as giant batteries. This will be welcome news to wind farms compelled to operate below capacity and to those home owners who have been told they can’t install solar, because local power infrastructure can’t cope with the extra load.

And at the local level, another positive note with action from the City of Ballarat, as a member of the Cities Power Partnership, urging the Andrews Government to commit to an Emissions Reductions Target (ERT) of 70% by 2030 (on 2005 levels). This is the level of GHG reductions needed if we are to keep global warming to 1.5°C as advised by the IPCC. Inexplicably, in its report, the Combet Committee—established to advise on Victoria’s ERT which is tol be set this month—recommended a figure of 45-60% by 2030 (on 2005 levels) despite acknowledging that a cut of 67% was needed to meet the 1.5°C objective. 


In a related community initiative launched in March, Ballarat Climate Action (BCA) has sought signatures for a joint community statement to encourage the Andrews Government to set an ERT that will meet the requirements for keeping emissions to 1.5°C — in line with IPCC advice and with the Paris COP21 agreement, to "pursue efforts to" limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. BREAZE Inc. is a signatory to this statement.

Also at the community level, the Buninyong Smart Building and Living Expo held on 23 February at Royal Park, being doubly blessed with great weather and a rich diversity of stall-holders, drew a turnout of over 2000. BREAZE Inc was among the many community groups dedicated to sustainable living that filled the hall. Plaudits to Andrea Mason, Expo Director, for putting it all together and to BREAZE Board member, Paul Duggan, who had his time cut out, setting up stalls and expounding the merits of Tesla EVs. 

ALSO CANCELLED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS:

  • 21 March - Action Day Camp St, Ballarat Action Climate Co-Op (BACC), a group affiliated with School Strike for Climate Australia,
  • 25 March – Wheeler Centre Talk at the BMI – ‘Everyday Climate Action’. The Wheeler Centre’s events page notes that bookings will be automatically refunded.

One upcoming event that BREAZE is involved in which we hope will go ahead, pending the progress of the pandemic, is the St Alipius Sustainability Fair on August 15. Peter Reid, BREAZE Treasurer and member of the Ballarat Community Power Hub Project Control Group will be holding a workshop on Community Power sometime between 11:00 am and 3:00pm.

A BREAZE/BEN sub-committee is continuing to work on planning the Biodiversity Climate Adaptation Forum, hopefully for September, also pending news re COVID 19. This follows on from the New Bushfire Reality Climate Adaptation Forum held in November last year. BREAZE members who would like to be involved in the Forum should contact the BREAZE Board- 

Among the various things that BREAZE Inc. does—apart from our two monthly talks, Social Solar initiative, hosting Ballarat Community Power Hub etc— is providing assistance to other smaller community groups committed to sustainability via our incorporated status. Among these groups, the most recent addition, Repair Café has distinguished itself as a stand-out success having repaired/saved 240 kg of broken goods from landfill.  Growing community interest in sustainable living, indicated by Repair Café’s success, has now sparked another initiative that BREAZE Inc. is pleased to be hosting – the Ballarat Tool Library, which will offer locals the opportunity to share and borrow some of those expensive bits of equipment we tend to only use occasionally. Unfortunately both these groups will be on hold during the pandemic. Stay tuned for updates on our website and Facebook page.

The BREAZE Board is meeting via web-conferencing for the time being so our usual invitation to participate is also on hold, but BREAZE members, please get in touch if you have any thoughts or ideas about what we should be doing. Email me at

All the best

Mary

Mary Debrett, President, 17 March 2020