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The Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) at the University of Melbourne, Australia, brings together researchers from different disciplines to help create a more sustainable society. It acts as an information portal for research at the University of Melbourne, and as a collaborative platform where researchers and communities can work together to affect positive change. This book can be freely accessed from MSSI’s website:

Cite as: Pearson, C.J. (editor) (2012). 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Society. Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne Published by Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute in 2012 Ground Floor Alice Hoy Building (Blg 162) Monash Road The University of Melbourne, Parkville Victoria 3010, Australia Text and copyright © Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior permission of the publisher. A Cataloguing-in-Publication entry is available from the catalogue of the National Library of Australia at 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Society, ISBN: 978-0-7340-4773-1 (pbk) Produced with Affirm Press Cover and text design by Anne-Marie Reeves Illustrations on pages 228–231 by Michael Weldon Cover image © Brad Calkins | Proudly printed in Australia by BPA Print Group



he last two centuries have seen extraordinary improvements in the quality of human lives. Most people on earth today enjoy access to the necessities of life that was once available only to the elites. Most people enjoy longevity, health, education, information and opportunities to experience the variety of life on earth that was denied even to the rulers of yesteryear. The proportion of humanity living in absolute poverty remains daunting, but continues to fall decade by decade. The early 21st century has delivered an acceleration of the growth in living standards in the most populous developing countries and an historic lift in the trend of economic growth in the regions that had lagged behind, notably in Africa. These beneficent developments are accompanied by another reality. The improvements are not sustainable unless we make qualitative changes in the content of economic growth. The continuation of the current relationship between growth in the material standard of living and pressures on the natural environment will undermine economic growth, political

stability and the foundations of human achievement. The good news is that humanity has already discovered and begun to apply the knowledge that can reconcile continued improvements in the standard of living with reduction of pressures on the natural environment. The bad news is that the changes that are necessary to make high and rising standards of living sustainable are hard to achieve within our current political cultures and systems. Hard, but not impossible. That is a central message from this book, drawn out in Craig Pearson’s concluding chapter. This book introduces the reader to the many dimesions of sustainability, through wellqualified authors. Climate change is only one mechanism through which current patterns of economic growth threaten the natural systems on which our prosperity depend. It is simply the most urgent of the existential threats. Climate change is a special challenge for Australians. We are the most vulnerable of the


developed countries to climate change. And we are the developed country with the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions per person. There are roles for private ethical decisions as well as public policy choices in dealing with the climate change challenge. This book is released at the time of ‘Rio+20’, a conference in Brazil to review the relatively poor progress we have made towards sustainability in the past 20 years, and soon after the introduction of Australia’s first comprehensive policy response to the global challenge of climate change. Australia’s emissions trading scheme with an initially fixed price for emissions permits comes into effect on 1 July 2012. The new policy discourages activities that generate greenhouse gases by putting a price on emissions. The revenue raised by carbon pricing will be returned to households and businesses in ways that retain incentives to reduce emissions. Part of the revenue will be used to encourage production and use of goods and services that embody low emissions. The policy has been launched in controversy. Interests that stand to gain from the discrediting of the policy argue that it is unnecessary either because the case for global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the associated climate change has not been proven, or that the new policy places a disproportionate burden on Australians. The health of our civilisation requires us to bring scientific knowledge to account in public policy. Everyone who shares the knowledge that is the common heritage of humanity has


a responsibility to explain the realities to others wherever and whenever they can. The argument that the new policy places a disproportionate burden on Australians can be answered by seeking honestly to understand what others are doing. The critics of Australian policy argue that the world’s two largest national emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the United States, are doing little or nothing to reduce emissions, so that it is either pointless or unnecessary for us to do so. China has advanced a long way towards achieving its target of reducing emissions as a proportion of economic output by 40 to 45 per cent between 2005 and 2020. It has done this by forcing the closure of emissions-intensive plants and processes that have exceptionally high levels of emissions per unit of output, by imposing high emissions standards on new plants and processes, by charging emissionsintensive activities higher electricity prices, by subsidising the introduction of low-emissions activities, and by new and higher taxes on fossil fuels. China has introduced trials of an emissions trading system in five major cities and two provinces. This adds up to a cost on business and the community that exceeds any burden placed on Australians by the new policies – bearing in mind that the revenue from Australian carbon pricing is returned to households and businesses. The US Government has advised the international community of its domestic policy target to reduce 2005 emissions by 17 per cent by 2020. President Barack Obama said

to the Australian Parliament that all countries should take seriously the targets that they had reported to the international community, and made it clear that the United States did so. United States efforts to reduce emissions are diffuse but far-reaching. They now include controls on emissions from electricity generators, announced in March 2012, effectively excluding any new coal-based power generation after the end of this year unless it embodies carbon capture and storage. From the beginning of next year they will include an emissions trading system in the most populous and economically largest state, California. The United States is making reasonable progress towards reaching its emissions reduction goals, with some actions imposing high costs on domestic households and businesses. Australia has now taken steps through which we can do our fair share in the international effort, at reasonable cost. It would be much harder and more costly to do our fair share without the policies that are soon to take effect. What Australians do over the next few years will have a significant influence on humanity’s prospects for handing on the benefits of modern civilisation to future generations. This book will help Australians to understand their part in the global effort for sustainability. Ross Garnaut University of Melbourne 15 April 2012


Contents Foreword by Ross Garnaut Table of Contents

v viii

Author Biographies




1 Population Rebecca Kippen and Peter McDonald


2 Equity Helen Sykes


3 Consumption Craig Pearson


4 Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change David Karoly


5 Energy Peter Seligman





Ethics Craig Prebble



Culture Audrey Yue and Rimi Khan



Awareness and Behaviour Angela Paladino



Local Matters Matter Kate Auty


10 Public Wisdom Tim van Gelder


11 Mental Health Grant Blashki


12 Disease Peter Doherty


13 Corporate Sustainability Liza Maimone


14 Governance John Brumby



Natural Resources


15 Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Rodney Keenan


16 Water Hector Malano and Brian Davidson


17 Food Sunday McKay and Rebecca Ford


18 Zero Carbon Land-Use Chris Taylor and Adrian Whitehead




19 Changing Cities Peter Newman and Carolyn Ingvarson


20 Affordable Living Thomas Kvan and Justyna Karakiewicz


21 Built Environment Pru Sanderson


22 Infrastructure Colin Duffield


23 Transport Monique Conheady


24 Adaptive Design Ray Green


25 Handling Disasters Alan March




26 Twenty Actions Craig Pearson


Further Reading





14 Governance John Brumby


uring my seven years as Treasurer of Victoria it was very common for the media to cover sustainability as a conflict between ‘economics’ and ‘the environment’. The ‘browns’ and ‘greens’ lined up against each other and argued from extreme positions – which all too often resulted in stalemate and inaction. It quickly became clear to me that the way forward lay in harnessing economic solutions to achieve positive environmental outcomes. That meant reconciling the two points of view by encouraging better resource management, investing in more efficient infrastructure, reform of pricing, and incentives to reduce waste and protect valuable environments. In December 2007, a few months after I became Premier of Victoria, I had the privilege of attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali. There I was impressed that many governments were looking at the challenge of climate change as an opportunity – a new door opening to a future based on green jobs and sustainable prosperity. Victoria had been an early mover on greenhouse issues – since the Cain Government in 1988 – but I was struck by the practical progress being made by many countries which were well down the track in adapting their economies to


the realities of a resource-constrained future. There was a ‘climate of opportunity’ for those governments willing to make innovative investments in new industries that adopted cutting-edge environmental technology.

Organisational Reform to Achieve Change For these reasons, sustainability reforms became a centrepiece of Victoria’s economic agenda. My predecessor Steve Bracks had already put in place a range of important policies and targets. Several small government bodies were merged to form Sustainability Victoria, which was given a broad mandate to develop policy and promote change at a legislative, policy and community level. An Office of Climate Change was established within the Premier’s Department to coordinate government-wide action and shift budget priorities. A Cabinet Committee was established to oversee the development of consistent government-wide policies. We decided on a Green/White paper process to engage business and the community in the detail, and allow everyone to have their say. The result was a productive discussion that gained support from business, environment groups and many other


The Council of Australian Governments meets in 2010. Source: taken by AUSPIC and supplied by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

stakeholders, and the end-product in 2010 was the passage of Australia’s most comprehensive Climate Change legislation, with the support of all political parties. This set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, based on year 2000 levels. Victoria’s ‘Climate Change Act’ requires that climate change become part of the mainstream business of government, to be considered systematically at all relevant points of decisionmaking, and that climate-related policies be integrated across government agencies.

Federalism Australia’s governance is built on three separate levels: Commonwealth, State and Local Government. Substantive reforms require

cooperation between all three levels and a commitment to joint goals. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has existed in different forms for many years, but around 2005 a common cause was found between the Howard Coalition Government and the states (at that time mostly Labor). A new round of national economic reform was agreed that focused on rationalising regulation, investing in infrastructure and boosting our ‘human capital’ by investing in the health and skills of the Australian population – starting from preschool and lasting right through the workforce to retirement. The power of COAG was also applied to sustainability – most notably in setting future strategies for managing the Murray-Darling



Basin and climate change. Sadly these efforts were compromised as party politics and local interests intervened, and entrenched interests resisted change. Having led the way on water reforms, for example, Victoria stood to be punished as other states refused to make their own savings.

Targets Clear, well-thought-through targets are essential in achieving substantive change. They challenge government agencies and the community to work towards a clear goal, and give the market and private sector a reliable indication of government intentions and timeframes, which can then be incorporated into planning. Examples include Victoria’s 20 per cent target for renewable energy to be achieved by 2020, and the Target 155 campaign to encourage Melburnians to conserve scarce water resources. The most important target set during my term as Premier was that of a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2020. Contrary to public perception, many countries around the world have set more ambitious greenhouse targets than Australia, and a number have gone the extra step of legislating them. The progress at the UN Conference in Durban in November 2011 suggests the terms for a global agreement on binding targets for all nations may be finalised by 2015. The question is sometimes raised: Should one jurisdiction set a target first to encourage the others and thereby risk putting themselves at a disadvantage – or will each country hang back and refuse to commit until everyone


else has? In my view, leadership is the most important factor in achieving change. Someone must be brave enough to set a target and back it up with the policies to achieve it. Being first also positions you to reap the rewards by pioneering new industries and jobs. Victoria has one of the highest per capita production rates of greenhouse emissions due to our historic reliance on old brown coal power plants. The onus thus fell on us to set an example by establishing a legislated target and by showing clearly how the reductions could be achieved. The Federal Government has recognised this by not only setting a 5 per cent overall national target, but also providing funding to buy out 2000 megawatts of old brown coal capacity. Under a ‘business-as-usual’ (BAU) scenario Victoria’s emissions are projected to increase to around 130Mt in 2020 (the dark blue line in Figure 1). This scenario includes the National Renewable Energy Target (RET), but excludes the carbon tax commencing on 1 July 2012. The green line represents a likely emissions trajectory if Victoria is to achieve a 20 per cent reduction by 2020. This can be achieved through a combination of investments in energy conservation and renewables; retirement of 2000 megawatts of brown coal; and more efficient homes, buildings and appliances. In the medium and longer term, significant reductions will also need to occur in the transport sector. Victoria worked with Toyota to secure the manufacture of hybrid Camrys in Australia and undertook to buy fuel-efficient vehicles as part of the government fleet to set an example


Cutting Victoria’s emissions by 20% 2020 BAU ~ 130 Mt


2008 = 121.9 Mt

Greenhouse gas emissions (Mt)


20% target = 96 Mt




Victoria’s historical emissions (Dept. of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency


Victoria’s projected emissions – BAU (Access Economics)


‘Likely’ emissions reduction trajectory (Victorian Government)

0 2000











Figure 1. The current trend in greenhouse gas emissions and the trajectory needed to reach a 20 per cent reduction by 2020. Source: Victorian Government White Paper Implementation Plan 2010.

to fleet managers generally. We also invested $5 million in a trial of electric vehicles, designed to examine the practical issues involved in using EVs for urban commuting.

Green Jobs Setting targets also helps create the green jobs of the future by getting Australia into growth industries on the ground floor. Victoria’s early investments in wind power paid dividends as a strong industry developed, injecting jobs into rural communities. Initially Victoria was successful in attracting one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wind equipment to establish a plant in Portland. Unfortunately when the then

Federal Government failed to act on national targets the plant was closed and production moved offshore. Early on, Australian scientists developed several promising technologies – but again, lack of government support and follow-through meant these patents were taken overseas. For example, Dr Zhengrong Shi obtained his doctorate on solar power technology at the University of NSW before returning to China to establish SunTech, which is today one of the largest renewable companies in the world, employing thousands of people. Given our skill base and innovative culture, many opportunities exist for Australia to create green jobs. There is merit in governments providing funding to enable the establishment of new



technologies through pilot plants and research. However, past examples demonstrate that if those subsidies are excessive they create a short-term boom which cannot be sustained – particularly if the technologies fail to realise their full promise.

Renewable Energy and Conservation Victoria’s reliance on brown coal is a major reason why Australia has the highest per capita production of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. It is a problem that must be addressed – particularly considering the age of our power plants: Morwell is now 55 years old and Hazelwood 45 years old. But as well as achieving our renewable energy targets, we must also continue to explore technologies that have the potential to utilise brown coal with greatly reduced carbon emissions. We should continue to examine the possibility that carbon emissions can be captured and stored permanently underground. The geographic conjunction of the Latrobe Valley coalfields and the Bass Strait oil basins appeared promising, but the progress in developing a viable technology has so far been disappointing. Our Climate Change Act altered legislation to encourage carbon sequestration in forestry on public land, which is now complemented by similar Commonwealth measures for private land. The sequestration of carbon in soil shows great potential for both reducing emissions and improving soil fertility. When it comes to renewable energy, Victoria started from a low base with only three per cent of our electricity coming from renewables in


2002 (with another three per cent coming from Victoria’s one-third ownership share of Snowy Hydro). Due to strong support from our government, wind energy has grown rapidly – although total renewable generation was hit by the drought and a halving of available hydro power. The latest figures from the Clean Energy Council show that both wind and solar have continued to grow strongly, while hydro production is now higher than in 2002 (due to a return to more normal rainfall patterns and the new 140 megawatt Bogong hydro power station that I officially opened in late 2009). The Basslink cable to Tasmania also allows Victoria to draw substantial renewable peak power while exporting off-peak electricity from the Latrobe Valley. Given the large number of projects in the pipeline, Victoria’s target of 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 remains challenging but feasible. Another 537mw of wind turbines are under construction at three places in Victoria and are due to be online by 2013. Despite cutbacks in subsidies some 4.5mw of rooftop solar panels are being installed each month as costs continue to come down. The Silex plan for a large solar plant (500GWh) for Mildura is making slow but positive progress; but the TruEnergy proposal missed out on federal ‘Solar Flagships’ funding, throwing it into doubt. Around five such plants would be needed by 2020 to achieve the target – assuming continuing good take-up of domestic rooftop panels.


2002 (a)

2009 (a)

2010/11 (b)








591 est





Solar photovoltaic



200 est

Total renewable generation




Total Victorian generation (c)




Proportion of generation




Snowy and Tasmania imports




Proportion of consumption




Table 1. Modest growth since 2002 of renewable electricity generation within Victoria (GWh). Sources: (a) Victorian AuditorGeneral’s Office, Facilitating Renewable Energy Development, April 2011 from Figure 1D. (b) Clean Energy Council and Sustainability Victoria data. (c)Australian Energy Regulator data from State of the Energy Market 2010.

Water The protracted drought from 2002 to 2009 necessitated water restrictions across Victoria, and this received strong public support. There were big changes in attitudes to water consumption, and per capita consumption dropped sharply. As a result, when the drought started to ease in 2009, our government was able to implement permanent changes to water rules, and we set Target 155 (155 litres of water per person per day) as a goal to encourage continued sustainable water use. There was a strong public response, shown in changed consumption patterns that have largely continued since the end of the drought. These behaviour change messages need to be consistently pursued and hence require the support of successive governments to make a long-term difference.

A good example of the application of economic solutions to environmental problems was Victoria’s Northern Food Bowl project, along with the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline. Long-term neglect of irrigation infrastructure meant farmers were burdened by leaky channel systems that lost a significant proportion of irrigation water through evaporation and leakage before delivery to the farm gate. Lining channels and replacing pipes enabled large increases in environmental flows while at the same time increasing farmers’ productivity. In 2008 COAG achieved significant agreement on the future of the basin for the first time since Federation – and despite some continued wrangling this will mean massive water savings and more efficient water use.



Community Engagement The capacity of governments to implement reform is limited by the degree of community support for change. Hence it is critical to match legislative and policy reform with community education and engagement programs, and to encourage those in the community who want to implement local sustainability solutions. Our BushTender program was an innovative way of involving local landowners in conservation efforts, and also an example of using competition to achieve positive environmental outcomes. Landholders are now able to bid for government funding to protect areas of their own land that are identified to be of high environmental value. Preserving native vegetation is an important way of both addressing groundwater hydrology and maintaining biodiversity.

Source: Chris Taylor


Our Climate Communities program is another good example of community engagement. It was backed with $102 million over four years, which came from an increase in the levy on waste disposed to landfill – in itself an incentive to increase recycling. The objective was to support local communities to reduce emissions and try new ideas, by providing local groups with advice, information, research and funding to take action.

More Efficient Government Leadership means setting an example. Government agencies are large users of energy, water and paper and need to be seen as leaders in implementing the policies they are asking the broader community to adopt. We succeeded in reducing the energy consumption of government buildings by 20 per cent over


the decade to 2010, and set a target to reduce this by a further 20 per cent by 2020. To achieve this our government invested $160 million in the Greener Government Buildings program to upgrade schools, hospitals and government buildings. We also paid a premium through the GreenPower scheme to reduce emissions by buying from renewable sources. Local governments are often best placed to help their communities prepare for climate change impacts and contribute to the broader response. The Victorian Local Sustainability Accord enabled the development of regional environment strategies, renewable energy projects, biodiversity projects and joint initiatives between councils. A Local Government Climate Change Summit was held to hammer out plans to finance the installation of high-efficiency street lighting and to develop regional climate change adaptation plans.

The Need for Bipartisan Consistency A key governance challenge is to seek a bipartisan approach to sustainability policy. There is little point in implementing new policies if they are subsequently undone within a few years. The solar industry in particular has been beset by frequent changes in policy settings. Hesitancy on wind policy killed our foothold in manufacturing turbines and Australia now relies on fully-imported equipment. The sort of investments required to make Australia more sustainable require consistency over a decade or more – beyond the life of

most governments. Business will be loath to act unless they have a clear signal from both sides of politics that change is predictable and consistent. Of course, achieving bipartisan support is easier said than done as both sides are tempted to look to short-term political benefit ahead of the long-term national interest. Australia needs a serious national discussion on sustainability to ensure the opportunities don’t pass us by. There is an urgent need for a positive approach and a commitment from leaders across the spectrum to a consistent agenda of reforms.

ACTIONS FOR 2020 Australians have embraced solar energy with great enthusiasm. In the last decade, no less than 1000 megawatts of capacity (half the size of the Loy Yang A power station) has been installed on household rooftops. As the volume has gone up, the price of photovoltaic panels has tumbled and government subsidy schemes – critical to kicking off the move – have been able to be scaled back. It is predicted that within five years the cost of power from solar energy will match the cost of electricity from the grid and subsidies will no longer be necessary. But the real gains will come from using solar photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies at an industrial scale. My big idea is that Victoria should aim to have five medium-size solar power stations (up to 500mw) operating by 2020, in the area between Mildura, Echuca, Bendigo and



Horsham, to lift the contribution from solar to five per cent of Victoria’s future electricity needs. Victoria would then have a more balanced transmission network with solar in the northwest, gas and wind in the southwest, hydro from the northeast and a diminishing reliance on Latrobe Valley brown coal – from 95 per cent to below 80 per cent – enabling the retirement of an old inefficient plant such as Hazelwood (1600mw). The investments in the Basslink cable to access Tasmanian hydro, and stronger links to South Australian wind and NSW coal and hydro, have already given greater security of supply for Victoria than ever before. This diversification is bringing hundreds of new jobs to regional centres and strengthening local economies. The opportunities for solar in our northwest are excellent. There are large areas of marginal farmland available for solar developments and most of the environmentally significant land is already protected in the many large national parks across the Mallee and Wimmera. Skilled operators would be in demand, creating new job opportunities for young people in the region. A solar industry for northern Victoria would be good for both economy and environment – a link we need to continue to strengthen as we seek a sustainable future.


Further Reading Governance COAG Murray Darling outcome. Foodbowl Modernisation Project. Victoria’s climate change website. Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet (2010). Taking Action for Victoria’s Future – Climate Change White Paper – the Implementation Plan. file/0019/125416/Victorian-Climate-Change-White-Paper-Implementation-Plan-October-2010.pdf Victorian Government Department of Transport. The Victorian Electric Vehicle Trial. au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/31707/ElectricVehicleTrial-InfoPaper.pdf

Governance | 2020 Vision for a Sustainable Society  

Chapter Fourteen - Governance

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