Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How green is NSW living? now we can tell

September 12, 2007

Over the past few weeks there has been a running commentary on the effect of the crisis in the US subprime mortgage market on the Australian sharemarket.

When it emerged we saw record falls on the Australian market. When the US Federal Reserve intervened, confidence was restored and the sharemarket surged upwards.

We love watching numbers go up and down. Even if they don't move, they seem to spark interest.

And if it is reported, it must matter.

Of course, this is not restricted to the sharemarket. We know we want dam levels to rise, the dollar to rise (unless you are a farmer), pollen levels to be low and mortgage rates to go down.

But do you know what happened with our greenhouse gas emissions last week? Did they go up? Stabilise? Or, more hopefully, go down? Do you have any idea how much NSW emitted?

With climate change one of the most critical issues facing the planet and our release of greenhouse gases critical to this, this seems to be a significant oversight.

It would be good if we took as much interest in how greenhouse gas emissions were tracking as we did in other indicators. There is little doubt that reports on dam levels helped raise awareness of the need to save water and contributed to cutting water use. If we had weekly information on how much greenhouse gas we produced, perhaps we would realise that rather than cutting our emissions, we were actually increasing them.

This year the Climate Group introduced in Victoria a weekly indicator of greenhouse emissions.

From today, NSW will also be able to track greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired electricity, natural gas-fired electricity and petroleum products.

The NSW Greenhouse Indicator - on the facing page - keeps an account of about 65per cent of NSW greenhouse gas emissions. Remaining emissions come from agriculture, waste and industry. Surprisingly, information on emissions like this is not provided weekly anywhere else in the world. As in other countries, the Federal Government releases an annual report a couple of years after the emissions.This data, while comprehensive and critical for policy planning and scientific assessment, is too slow for us to respond to in the manner necessary to tackle this problem.

The good news is that there are many ways to make substantial cuts to greenhouse gas emissions now, without a huge cost.

As the indicator shows, our biggest source of greenhouse gas is coal-fired electricity. By buying government-accredited GreenPower, you can eliminate overnight all the emissions produced from electricity.

Driving your car more efficiently, walking or cycling more often, or catching public transport, or buying a more fuel-efficient car can help slash petroleum emissions.

Rupert Posner is the Australian director of The Climate Group. (www.theclimategroup.org/indicator). Check the Herald each Wednesday for latest greenhouse gas figures.


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