VIC Climate Change - 16 Feb 2016

VIC Climate Change - 16 Feb 2016
Our panel of experts, recently back from Paris, spoke about the likely implications for the water sector from the Paris Agreement .

Post-Paris - Implications for the water sector

On the 16th of February, the Australian Water Association (AWA) held a seminar dedicated to the implications of climate change for the water sector, following the Global Agreement reached in Paris during COP21. The seminar was proudly sponsored by GHD and took place at Norton Rose Fulbright’s Melbourne offices. AWA invited a panel of experts, recently back from Paris, to discuss the consequences of the Agreement for the water industry in Australia. It is clear that it will have important implications across all sectors, including governments , business and industry. Addressing this issue will present both challenges and opportunities. Forty-five people attended to the seminar, which was also where AWA launched its program of events for the year.

Andrew Roy, senior environmental scientist and manager of GHD’s Natural Resource consulting team, introduced the meeting, highlighting that both State aband Federal Governments will have to consider this global agreement. In that sense, Victoria has already declared its intention to provide a model about how to respond to climate change in Australia. Furthermore, the role of the water industry in mitigating climate change is significant, especially considering the predicted increase of storm events, flood damage and sea level rise. Mark Bartley, master of ceremonies on behalf of the AWA Vic Branch Committee, also argued that community support is indispensable, to endorse the fight against climate change.

The first presentation was by Scott Power, Acting Assistant Director of Climate Information Services for the Bureau of Meteorology. Based on the IPCC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the leading international body for the assessment of Climate change), he analysed the scientific evidence of Climate Change and presented scenarios to provide an overview of the future impacts in Australia. How has the earth’s climate changed? What caused these changes? What will happen? What are the risks and how do we reduce them? A simple way to make people understand climate change is to provide a time series of concentrations of carbon dioxide from the pre-industrial period. The natural variability has clearly been overtaken and average temperatures have increased, culminating in the warmest year, 2015. Despite these sophisticated and remarkable models, predictions are still imperfect, illustrating the extent of natural variability. Scientists now attest with high confidence that increasing environmental damage creates a higher risk for human life, especially in Southern Australia.

The second presentation was by Elisa de Wit, Head of Climate Change for Norton Rose Fullbright, who attended the COP21 in Paris and was impressed by the sound organisation of the event and the innovative ways to lead negotiations. She invited the audience to think about the ambitions that emerged after the agreement, especially the need for adaptation, mitigation, finance, transparency and “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities” (CBDR). Indeed, the different national circumstances can’t justify the divergent financial compensation between developed and developing countries. The Green Climate Fund, which supports projects in developing countries, was reviewed and the amounts devoted will be adjusted every five years. The funds must come from both the public and private sectors. In Australia, the Emission Reduction Fund (ERF) should support the water sector for the use of renewable energies (remote, solar, off-grid, storage, etc.), new technologies, energy efficiency and productivity and work on “greening” infrastructure.

Finally, David Karoly, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Melbourne and member of the Climate Change Authority, which gives independent advice to the Federal Government, gave a briefing about Australia’s policy response to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Economic assessments have demonstrated that combatting climate change would only reduce economic growth by 0.06% a year, which would only represent 1-2 weeks. David also attributed an increase of emissions to the abandonment of carbon pricing from Australia’s climate policy regime. In his view , the ERF is a “polluter benefits”, not a polluter pays system.

In conclusion, if Australia, as one of the highest emitters of carbon dioxide per capita of the developed countries, wants to reach the objective of being carbon neutral by 2040, we need to tackle this issue with strong policies, such as stopping deforestation, increasing opportunities to capture carbon in every sectors (especially agriculture and transport), developing an explicit carbon price with regulations, managing a strong domestic policy, etc. Moreover, these recommendations need to be credible, stable and sustainable, because any delay in action makes future emissions more costly. Finally, there are many opportunities in Australia, in particular with solar and wind power generation. Indeed, economists have proved that community and health benefits would fully offset the costs, and that’s the way climate change should be handled.

Experts Panel   Guests
 Panel of experts    Guests

With thanks to our sponsors:

GHD   Norton Rose Fulbright
16/02/2016 5:00 PM - 16/02/2016 7:30 PM
Norton Rose Fulbright
Level 15, RACV Tower
485 Bourke Street

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