Climate Change and Intergenerational Equity: What is Needed in Energy Policy? Part 3

The Reality of the Politics

I am the first to admit that the view of politics from the outside is different to that from the inside.  But I am sure that relying on internal advice from political advisors and government officers is not always the best way forward or the way to institute change.  The critical first step is for effective politicians to have a clear honest view of the facts.  Most of these facts are available outside of the government system and entrenched culture, from my experience.

In order for Western Australian governance to be effective on addressing Climate Change it will take at least 40 years of transition, from a largely fossil fuel based economy to a more balanced, sustainable solar economy that allows time for the continual evolution of alternative energy solutions to be adopted and economically applied.  A period of 40 years may appear to be a long time.  It is not!

Reflecting on my own career, along with those of my colleagues with a similar professional commitment to the environment, who started advocating the adoption of passive solar building four decades ago, not a lot has changed in that time.   Although passive solar design is now an accepted solution for achieving high levels of energy efficiency, its entry into the market place has been relatively small due to poor public awareness and conservative industry inertia to keep ‘business as usual’.  Although there has been progress, the rate of change is and will be, far too slow.  Also, many projects that claim to be sustainable are of low quality and off the mark of what could be achieved if reality was more important than ‘green wash’.

The greatest challenge is to change for the better while not destroying the obvious economic benefits of continuing to use fossil fuel.  It is realistic to understand that fossil fuels need to be used in an ecologically sustainable fashion, as increased renewable systems and technologies deliver the desired outcomes.  For this reason, all governments must somehow increase levels of innovation processes and speed up change from the old economy to a new, workable one.

It is not all about technologies either.  The change in the cultural use of water and energy has to be an important focus until new usage habits are established.  A restructured, sensible lifestyle and appropriate patterns of development need to be embraced sooner rather than later, if contemporary society has any chance of surviving the next 50 years.

It is overwhelmingly recognised by the most respected Climate Change scientists that the normal rate of change in Western societies is way too slow to counteract the dire results of increased greenhouse gasses and changes in the chemical constituency of the atmosphere.  In most notable opinions, the very slow rate of progress will most certainly result in a run-away greenhouse effect that could devastate human habitation on this planet.

Non-scientists or those semi-trained do not seem to realise the catastrophe this world will face if ‘business as usual’ persists.  It is high time for politicians, who often don’t know or understand the thermodynamic aspects at play with the Greenhouse Effect, to find out the facts, refute controversies constructed by sceptics, and to stop ‘playing politics’.

All political parties will need to work together to get results in the community and more importantly, to support industry, which I have witnessed is often far ahead of government policy.  If encouraged, they have the capacity to research and develop and change more efficiently than solely relying on government intervention and expensive regulation.

It is high time that an independent review of these issues be considered in coordination with past and present Federal Government policies.

Existing long-term visions need to be reviewed to determine positive ways forward for the growing built environment, redevelopment areas and the best focus for regional development.  We also have to look at ways of having a growing economy without more consumption (in other words quality over quantity).

This paper is deliberately not a referenced academic document.  Hopefully it may help to consolidate ideas in bipartisan politics in this State and will be useful for politicians setting goals and priorities.  Maybe, it will be useful in questioning ‘business as usual’ approaches constantly demanded by lobby groups.

Sustainability is not all about money.  It is about our collective and children’s future!

An Independent Professional Opinion by Garry Baverstock AM, B. Arch, MSc, LFRAIA,
Adjunct Professor, Built Environment Program, Research Institute for Sustainable Energy (RISE) at Murdoch University.
Director of Wise Earth Research Centre.

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