Tag Archives: Australia

Canberrans are recycling about 10 tonnes of computers and televisions each day as part of a free e-waste dumping scheme.

PHOTO: About 10 tonnes of televisions and computers are being handed in each day. (ABC News: Kathleen Dyett)

Between May and the end of November last year, more than 1,900 tonnes of e-waste was dropped off at the Mitchell and Mugga Lane recycling stations.

That is almost double the number of television and computers recycled in the entire 2010-2011 financial year.

ACT Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury says the free national dumping scheme is proving successful.

“It will provide a long-term solution to e-waste. This is important as these products make up an increasing part of the overall waste stream, contain valuable materials that can be re-used and contain hazardous materials which need to be managed in a safe manner,” he said.

The ACT Government expects to have more sites operating by the middle of the year.

“Having multiple providers in the marketplace will lead to more options for the community on how they dispose of their unwanted televisions and computers,” Mr Rattenbury said.

The scheme does not accommodate other electronic waste such as mobile phones and DVD players. Mobile phones are already covered by the voluntary scheme MobileMuster.

Source: ABC News



A pilot project in Karratha, that creates algae for use as biofuel, has reached its final milestone under the Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) fund.

The Western Australian Government’s LEED fund supports technology that cuts greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector.

Aurora Algae was allocated $2 million to help develop a system using carbon dioxide, seawater and sunshine to produce algae which is turned into biofuel, stock feed and dietary supplements.

Plans are underway to construct a larger scale commercial plant in the next couple of years, with the aim of supplying the local mining industry with biodiesel.

Aurora’s Matthew Caspari says the grant required the project to reach 10 targets, including running a vehicle on its biofuel.

“Integrating different pieces of the process, so our production process to our harvesting process and actually drying to create the end product and we also had a milestone tied towards producing biofuel from the facility and running a vehicle on it,” he said.

“To have these successful results and the technology we are very excited and we are looking forward to the next stage which is the commercial project.”

Source: ABC News


Australia’s drinking water may be at risk from climate change. Credit: Cate Grant (ABC News)

AUSTRALIA’S DRINKING WATER SUPPLIES may be at risk from threats from left field, according to two recent scientific reports. Climate change is implicated in both of them. It’s evidence, as if we needed any more, that the consequences of climate change may be entirely unexpected.

Groundwater – water trapped in rocks and tapped by bores – supplies vast amounts of Australian agriculture. But in some places, Perth for example, it supplies the drinking water too. In a recent AM report, Dr Adrian Werner from Flinders University in South Australia, expressed concern that underground drinking water supplies near the coast could be rendered unusable by rising sea levels.

“If you take water out of the aquifer, the higher density of the sea water forces it into the aquifer and the high salinity of the sea water means the aquifer – or at least those wells – are no longer usable,” he said.

“I think as Australia’s population continues to increase especially in the coastal zones, as the sea levels rise, and as the climate changes, I think the pressure on coastal aquifers will continue to grow.”

Over at the University of New South Wales, Dr Stuart Khan and colleagues published a report into recent water quality problems and their relation to unexpected weather events.

They found that while a weather calamity can affect drinking water quality, the real problems arose when a combination of weather calamities came fast upon each other’s heels. “[W]ater quality impacts were caused or exacerbated by the occurrence of multiple significant weather events, rather than individual extreme weather events,” they wrote.

It is exactly the conditions that are expected with climate change.

“In the coming 50 years in Australia it is expected that the average temperature will increase with hotter droughts, longer and more intense fire seasons and changes to the frequency and intensity of rainfall patterns.”

In one example, the drought of 2001 to 2007 reduced a dam to 33.6 per cent of its capacity, and a bushfire in 2006 resulted in a build-up of ash in the catchment area. When a rain came along and washed the ash into the partly full dam, and a strong wind stirred the dam water, it created perfect conditions for a blue-green algae outbreak.

This case of drinking water rendered non-potable joined nine others in the study, with combination punches by the weather being the reason water became undrinkable.

Australia spends a vast sum of money each year on creating drinking water. The health and prosperity of our nation rely on the very basic requirement for clean water.

But with suggestions that salt-water intrusion and increased extreme weather events could affect our water supplies, it is clear that our ability to deliver clean water in the future may be compromised.

Engineering could no doubt remedy the situation – desalination is a proven method of securing water supply, traditional water treatment can expunge contaminants from natural supplies – but engineering solutions are expensive.

Tom Mollenkopf chief executive of the Australian Water Association in a submission to a NSW inquiry into the adequacy of its dams said this week:

“As a result of climate uncertainty, it is difficult to comment on the capacity of existing water storages into the future.”

“Climatic events are becoming more extreme, and we need to have infrastructure, technology and skilled people to cope with future conditions… [M]odelling, monitoring and learning processes can build an inherent adaptive capacity within the water industry which will allow new approaches to evolve apace as different climate change effects unfold.”

How much of our taxes would need to be redirected to clean our water? How much would water rates rise? How much new infrastructure would need to be built? Would we have the skills to address the demand for new water infrastructure? Do we have the health services to deal with a rise in giardia or cryptosporidium cases? Will we have enough water for everyone?

These are the kinds of questions governments need to be addressing today, in order to prepare for a future that deals effectively with the challenges presented by climate change.

When something as elementary as clean drinking water for the Australian people is at risk, the full threat of the unexplored consequences of climate change suddenly becomes real.

Author: Sara Phillips
Source: ABC Environment


PHOTO: Talks break down: Hazelwood power station in the La Trobe Valley in Victoria’s south-east (AAP: Greenpeace)

The Prime Minister says Australia will still meet its carbon pollution reduction target despite the collapse of talks aimed at closing some of the country’s dirtiest power stations.

The Government had been negotiating contracts to close five high-polluting power generators – three of them in Victoria – as part of its plan to cut the nation’s carbon emissions.

But the talks have failed to agree on an appropriate level of compensation and negotiations have been abandoned.

The move undermines a key element of the Government’s carbon tax package, and the Greens say it will make it harder for Australia to reach its goal of cutting carbon emissions by at least 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

But Julia Gillard insists the emissions reduction target will be met through the price on carbon which came into effect on July 1.

“The reduction strategy is right on target and we will reduce carbon pollution by minus 5 per cent by 2020,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Perth.

“That means that we will reduce the carbon pollution that’s in our atmosphere by 160 million tonnes – that’s the equivalent of taking 45 million cars off the road.”

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson says the talks with power generators fell over when it became clear the two sides could not agree on a price.

“The real issue was a difference in value from the Government’s point of view and the operators’ point of view, with respect to what they thought we should pay [them to close down],” Mr Ferguson told ABC Local Radio in Victoria.

“I’ve said all along that there was no bottomless pit in terms of the amount of money available from the Government’s perspective to actually buy out electricity generation.

“On the basis of the outcome of discussions to date, I simply say there’s no value for money for the Government in continuing this process.”

And he said it was now up to the power stations’ operators to decide their future.

“In terms of the Latrobe Valley [in Victoria], there’s a large degree of certainty as to the future,” Mr Ferguson said.

“Those coal-fired power operations will continue to operate on a commercial basis, and the companies themselves will make their own commercial decisions as to their future over time.”

The operator of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria, which participated in the negotiations, has released a statement saying: “We will continue to focus on providing competitive and reliable base load power to the National Electricity Market.”

The Government had been hoping to close down 2,000 megawatts of carbon-intensive power generation by 2020, although it never disclosed how much money it was willing to put on the table.

The offer was only available to high-polluting power stations, including those that rely on brown coal, which is relatively inefficient because of its high moisture content.

Mr Ferguson said recent forecasts showing declining energy demand in Australia raised questions about the value for money attached to closing down the coal-fired power stations.

He said the decision to link Australia’s carbon pricing scheme to the European Union and abandon the carbon floor price was only a “minor factor” in the final outcome.

The Victorian Government has welcomed the decision, because its Hazelwood and Loy Yang power stations in the Latrobe Valley were considered the most likely to close under the scheme.

Premier Ted Baillieu says while he is happy the stations will stay open for now, he is disappointed with how the process has been handled.

“It was the state Labor government who wanted to close the Hazelwood Power Station and they put the Latrobe Valley through all the trauma of that and then they changed their minds,” he said.

“And then the Commonwealth stepped in and said they were going to close Hazelwood, and they’ve put the Latrobe Valley and many Victorians through the trauma of that, and now they’ve changed their minds.”

But the Greens have described the decision to abandon talks as a “serious breach of faith” on behalf of the Government and has accused Mr Ferguson of only making a half-hearted attempt at getting a deal.

“This is a breach of faith with the Australian community, a breach of faith with the Multi-Party Climate Committee, and it really goes against the spirit of everything we’ve been trying to do and that is close down the dirtiest power stations in Australia – particularly Hazelwood in Victoria,” Greens leader Christine Milne said.

“You’ve got a minister who will be smiling all the way to the next coal pit… and really thumbing his nose at global warming and at the efforts that have gone in around the country to the transition out of fossil fuels.

“Keeping the dirtiest coal-fired power stations in Australia operating longer is going to make it harder to meet our greenhouse gas emission targets.

“It also means that it will be an excuse the Government uses for why they can’t lift the (emissions reduction) targets.”

Senator Milne says the collapse of talks show the level of compensation for the power industry is evidently too generous, and she will be asking the Productivity Commission to bring forward a review of the amount of industry assistance.

The Opposition says the latest development shows the carbon tax was poorly designed and believes the decision to abandon negotiations is more about trying to deliver a budget surplus.

“I think what we have seen today from the Government is a desperate attempt to patch up the budget,” Tony Abbott told reporters in the regional Victorian city of Bendigo.

“It’s a desperate attempt to preserve the microscopic budget surplus by failing to spend the money that it had previously promised on carbon tax closures.”

Conservation groups have also criticised the move.

“Certainly with the big assistance package they’ve got and with a fairly modest carbon price they’ll continue operating and continue polluting for years to come,” Tony Mohr from the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

“That’s really unfortunate and it’s really slow progress towards making Australia’s energy networks clean and green.”

The five generators that participated in the negotiations include Alinta Energy in South Australia, HRL in Victoria, Hazelwood power station in Victoria, RATCH-Australia in Queensland and the TRUenergy plant in Yallourn, Victoria.

Author: Simon Cullen
Source: ABC NEWS


A RECENT REPORT, which has attracted significant media attention, suggested that cycling participation rates in Australia declined between 1985/86 and 2011. That analysis, however, did not account for changes in the age-structure of the population. We have re-analysed the data, using age-standardisation to account for the ageing of the Australian population, and we found an increase in cycling participation.

A cyclist makes his way to work in Melbourne on ‘National Ride to Work Day’ that encourages employees to cycle to work, October 14, 2009. Credit: Joe Castro (AAP)

We read Sara Phillips’s article in The Drum on Professor Chris Rissel’s latest cycling research with great interest. Like Sara, we were somewhat surprised by the results of his analysis of a 1985/86 Australian travel survey (pdf) and a 2011 survey (pdf) of cycling participation in Australia, as reported in the media:

“A Sydney University study says that while the total number of cyclists has risen, so has the country’s population, meaning that on a per capita basis bike riding has dropped by 37.5 per cent between 1986 and 2011.”

The figure of 37.5 per cent comes from the University of Sydney press release on the research. A decline of this magnitude in per capita cycling seemed unlikely. After reviewing the actual research paper by Gillham and Rissel, we discovered that this result appears to have been calculated by subtracting the 20.9 per cent change in cycling trips reported in the research from the 58.4 per cent change in population over the same period.

Gillham and Rissel state in their paper (quoting slightly different cycling trip estimates): “…a comparison of people nine years and over in 1985/86 and 2011 shows the number of bicycle trips per day increased by 26.2 per cent from 1985/86 to 2011. Compared to the increase of 58.4 per cent from 1986 to 2010 of the population nine years and over, this adjusted analysis shows that on a 25 year comparison of cyclists aged nine years and over, the rate of growth in Australia’s daily cycling participation was 32.2 per cent less than the rate of population growth.”

It seems that they arrived at their figure of 32.2 per cent by subtracting 26.2 per cent from 58.4 per cent. Although the arithmetic is correct, such a calculation is, of course, epidemiologically just plain wrong.

The correct approach is to calculate the overall average daily cycling trip rate per person by dividing the estimated cycling trips per day in the entire population by the estimated size of the population. In epidemiological parlance, this is known as the crude rate. For the 1985/86 cycling survey, this gives an estimated crude rate of 0.133 trips per person per day, and for the 2011 survey, 0.103 trips per person per day.

These rates can be compared by calculating the rate ratio, which is 0.78, or the percentage rate difference, which is -22.2 per cent. In other words, based on the data from the two surveys, the crude per capita daily cycling trip rate dropped by 22 per cent between 1985/86 and 2011. It did not drop by 32.2 per cent as reported by Gillham and Rissel in their paper and not by 37.5 per cent as reported in the University of Sydney press release.

Gillham and Rissel account for this drop thus, in the conclusion to their research paper: “Reasons for this [decline] are unclear, although a historical lack of investment in cycling infrastructure coupled with mandatory helmet legislation may have contributed.” In the press release, Professor Rissel puts his hypothesis rather more assertively: “The most likely major deterrent to more people cycling is helmet legislation, which is a significant feature of the cycling environment in Australia.”

One might also speculate that other factors, such as increasing motor vehicle traffic on our roads might also have played a role, but there is one obvious change over the last few decades which Gillham and Rissel seem to have completely overlooked, and that is the ageing of the population.

All those baby boomers who were young adults or middle aged in 1985 are now retired or approaching retirement. The 2011 Australian survey reported cycIing participation in the previous week of 49.1 per cent in 0 to 9 year olds, 33.6 per cent in 10 to 17 year olds, 13.4 per cent in 18 to 39 year olds, dropping stepwise to 7.1 per cent in 60 to 69 year olds, and just 4.0 per cent in 70 to 79 year olds.

A similar pattern was evident in 1985/86. As one gets older, those hills really do seem steeper (not to mention bones becoming more brittle and blood vessels more fragile). That is not to suggest that older people should not ride bikes, but it is easy to appreciate why biology is a major factor in the lower cycling participation in older age groups.

Fortunately, there are well-known epidemiological techniques which permit valid comparison of rates derived from different underlying populations – in this case, the Australian population separated by three decades of demographic shift. The simplest and most widely used technique is called age/sex standardisation, and for the data available from these surveys, a variant called indirect standardisation must be used.

The principle is simple: from the 1985/86 survey report, we calculate the daily per capita cycling trip rate for each age group/sex stratum of the population – these are called age/sex-specific rates. We then do the thought experiment of asking how many cycling trips per day would we expect in 2011 if the age/sex-specific cycling trip rates from 1985/86 still applied – this is easily calculated by multiplying the 1985/86 age/sex-specific rate by the 2011 population for the same age/sex stratum, and summing the results. We then calculate the ratio of the observed (or rather, estimated) number of cycling trips from the 2011 survey to the expected number of trips if the 1985/86 cycling rates still applied. That ratio is 1.08.

In other words, after adjusting for the overall ageing of the population between the 1985/86 survey and the 2011 survey, the per capita cycling trip rate has actually increased by eight per cent. In addition, the absolute number of cycling trips per day has, as Gillham and Rissel correctly pointed out, increased by at least 26 per cent. Based on the data in these two surveys, cycling participation is up, not down. For the curious, details of these calculations, together with the underlying data abstracted from the original survey reports, are available at

Of course, we should not put too much store in any of these figures – the two surveys on which these calculations were based differ in several important ways, and like all such surveys, each has its own margin of error, which we haven’t been able to estimate from the information available. We think these are valid concerns, but even taken at face value, there is nothing in these cycling survey results which can be construed as a bad news story for cycling participation in Australia.

The apparent drop in the crude cycling trip rates reported by Gillham and Rissel is more than adequately accounted for by demographic shift in our ageing population. There is no need to speculate about lack of investment in cycling infrastructure as a cause for a decline in cycling participation, and absolutely no need to invoke the bogeyman of mandatory bicycle helmet laws.

It will be very interesting to see what the trip-to-work mode share for cycling is in the 2011 Census when these data are released in October 2012. Predictions are that cycling will have increased substantially in the five years since the 2006 Census, having hovered around the one per cent mark in each census since 1976.

We do agree with Professor Rissel on one thing – as he is quoted as saying in the University of Sydney press release: “Qualitative research consistently reports that people not confident riding on roads prefer bike paths separated from traffic.”

Jake Olivier is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of NSW. Andrew Hayen is Associate Professor of Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of NSW. Scott Walter is Biostatistician at the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research, University of NSW. Tim Churches is a Medical Epidemiologist. Raphael Grzebieta is Chair of Road Safety, Transport and Road Safety (TARS) Research, University of NSW.

Author: Jake Olivier et al.
Source: ABC Environment


Sidney, Austrália, 09 jul (Lusa) – Mais de 85 por cento dos recifes do Triângulo de Coral, na Ásia, está diretamente ameaçado pela ação do Homem, nomeadamente pela poluição, pesca em excesso e pelo desenvolvimento costeiro, alerta um relatório divulgado hoje.

Lançado no XII Simpósio Internacional sobre Recifes de Coral que decorre até à próxima sexta-feira na cidade australiana de Cairns, o documento refere que a ameaça é substancialmente maior do que a média global (60 por cento), apelando a um redobrar de esforços.

“Quando estas ameaças se combinam com o recente branqueamento dos corais, provocado pelo aumento das temperaturas dos oceanos, a percentagem de recifes ameaçados sobe para cerca de 90 por cento”, indica o texto.

Fonte: Expresso / Lusa


IT WAS MEANT TO BE one of the key planks of the government’s carbon policy – a floor price of $15 when emissions trading starts in 2015.

The price of carbon needs to be high enough to encourage businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: Ilya Naymushin (Reuters)

But Federal Labor is now secretly negotiating to dump – or dramatically rejig – the proposed three year floor price.
Three separate sources have confirmed for Radio National Breakfast that the government wants to walk away from the price floor.

One said that negotiations are at “a pretty sensitive stage”.

Crossbench MP Rob Oakeshott said two months ago that he wanted to abandon the floor price.

He said yesterday: “There are rights and wrongs on both sides of this argument. In the end, what I am interested in is how we can get full bang for our buck in regards market confidence, how we can get bi-partisanship built into the Australian emissions trading scheme, and how we can link internationally as soon as possible.

“I am watching closely and listening closely to where a carbon floor price may be working against market confidence rather than for it, and where it may be working against international linking, rather than for it.”

Despite the passing of the original Clean Energy Act in November 2011, it’s now understood that to impose a price floor, new regulations need final sign off by both houses of parliament. So is it a dead duck?

Rob Oakeshott is not sure. “Not necessarily. I think we are still having a conversation amongst friends of an emissions trading scheme rather than any attempt to rip apart emissions trading in Australia or cause political trouble.”

What’s not widely known is that the government has hit a ‘perfect storm’ in trying to nut out the practicalities of delivering a floor price on carbon once trading starts. And it’s not just because business is lobbying furiously to ditch it. In fact, in some ways it’s hard to believe that last year Labor ever agreed to implement one.

It was opposed by Treasury, and the Department of Climate Change – and still is. But the real problem for the government at the moment is what’s called “international linkage” – Australia trading its carbon credits with the rest of the world. Put simply, these markets just don’t like a floor price.

Rob Fowler is the representative for Australia and New Zealand from the International Emissions Trading Association. “There is a really practical challenge in trying to impose a floor price on an internationally traded commodity. The units that are included in the Australian mechanism are often traded overseas, there are many people who own them or trade them on a daily basis. So for Australia to provide a floor price on those units is very difficult from a practical perspective.”

So does this mean Australia can’t impose a floor price on what is an internationally traded commodity?

Rob Fowler: “It’s very complex, it involves a lot more intervention in particular companies activities than what most people like in Australia and so imposing some sort of floor price there is very difficult. There is however the opportunity to impose some form of reserve pricing on the options for domestic units. And that could have a similar impact while not creating the challenges of an international floor price.”

Richard Denniss, an economist with the Australia Institute, says a two-tiered system – domestic credits with a price floor and international credits at a floating price – is fraught.

“It’s going to make the scheme even more complex, administratively and economically, rather than people being able to swap permits that they don’t need with someone who does need them, if there are two classes of permits floating around the market is not going to work as efficiently, so I hate to say it but I think the scheme is turning into a bit of a Frankenstein.”

But Rob Fowler has let the cat out of the bag. He says in 2015, Australia will have different prices for domestic and overseas credits.

“There is an opportunity to be more sophisticated about splitting those two. At the moment we expect that in 2015 if the current policy settings are maintained, we’ll see dual price in the Australian market, with international units trading one way and domestic units trading at a different level.”

Richard Denniss says one of the problems with a $15 floor price is that it’s never been clear what it was meant to deliver. “A price floor can work, but a price of $15 in this instance isn’t going to deliver [greenhouse gas abatement] for the environment and it’s not actually going to lead to more renewable being built … wind or solar. If $29 doesn’t encourage solar, $15 certainly won’t.”

What’s not clear at this stage is why – after digging in their heels initially on a floor price – the Greens may be open to changing their mind.

The speculation is that they will demand a deal to fix the problem with the 2020 Renewable Energy Target of 20 per cent overlapping as it does with the new Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Renewable energy credits – or RECs – from the Corporation’s $10 billion war chest threaten to further flood the REC market, keeping prices low and making it harder to get up ambitious projects that the Greens want to see, such as big solar. For example, the problem helped contribute to the recent collapse of the $1.2 billion Solar Dawn project near Chinchilla in Queensland.

The EU doesn’t have a price floor, and there’s been considerable debate about the need for one.

Last year, the UK Government announced a carbon price floor of £16 per tonne of carbon dioxide in 2013, rising to £30 by 2020 in 2009 prices. The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said last year that the aim of the UK carbon price floor is to provide a stronger, more certain carbon price for investors in the face of the weakness and volatility of prices in the EU ETS.

John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, said a price floor was emerging as international best practice – California already has one, and China is considering it, with the International Monetary Fund recommending it. Connor says that business who see the opportunities in low- and zero-carbon technologies also support it, including the Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC) and energy companies like AGL.

Author: Gregg Borschmann
Source: ABC Environment


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