Sunday, 14 December 2008

For effective climate change policies, ask the right questions

This is such a good letter that I can't help but forward it to you. They are just the right questions to be asking. Thanks to Deb Hart (of LIVE) for all the hard work she has done.

Carolyn Ingvarson
Lighter Footprints


Dear Prime Minister,

AUSTRALIAN diplomats have been accused of helping turn UN climate talks in Poland into "groundhog day" by failing to support a proposal that rich countries look to the advice of climate scientists when setting greenhouse targets. (The Age, 10/12/2008)

I am following up regarding my recent telephone call to your office. Please note that following my conversation with your courteous receptionist, I was transferred through to Penny Wong’s office to ask these same questions and, along with my colleague Terrie Hamilton-Smith, am awaiting your earliest response:
  • Under your Government’s proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS), when do you foresee Australia’s spiralling greenhouse gas emissions to start falling?
  • Given that the Government’s stated aim is to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, why is it not introducing a national, gross-metered feed-in-tariff to stimulate zero emission energy technologies, like nearly 50 other nations have done so far?
  • Does it concern you that the creation of pollution permits (which resulted in the EEC’s model failing to reduce emissions) to be given away via the CPRS to the 1,000 largest polluters will result in conscientious households and businesses who use less energy and create less pollution simply generating permits to allow other families or other businesses/industries to increase their own emissions?
  • What is going to make your ETS work when the EEC system has failed to reduce emissions? Where is the incentive to reduce emissions below the cap? Where is the stimulus/regulation for those not governed by the CPRS to reduce emissions and be rewarded for this?
  • Do you understand the ramifications of losing the Arctic sea-ice? Do you understand that you will not get a second chance?
  • Do you understand why NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies’ Director, Dr James Hansen, and other eminent climate scientists, have concluded that we must reduce the current atmospheric CO2 level (387ppm and rising) to at most 325ppm to have a hope of restoring Arctic sea-ice and therefore a climate capable of sustaining life on earth as we know it? Do you appreciate that these figures are not negotiable and cannot be adjusted for political expediency?
  • Do you accept eminent scientists’ views that in order to stabilise the climate we must take heed of the short term advantage of the in-built delays (aka slow feedbacks) in the climate system and take emergency action to achieve near-zero emissions as soon as humanly possible while actively drawing down atmospheric carbon with techniques such as biochar?
  • Is your Government really planning to use CPRS funds to prop up coal-fired power stations?
  • Given that zero-emission electricity generation technologies such as concentrated solar thermal and wind are available now and are being deployed on a massive scale in Germany, Spain, Denmark and parts of the USA, why are Australian taxpayers funding the oxymoronic "clean coal", or rather the newly branded (at massive expense) "NewGenCoal"? Do you not view Government support and funding of private multi-national vested interests as inconsistent with and totally counter-productive to the Government’s policy objectives?
  • Given your Government’s stated aim is to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, have your advisors considered refuelling our existing coal-fired power stations with natural gas – which would nearly halve their emissions within a few years, and then progressively shutting the stations down, starting with the most polluting first, over a period of say ten years while replacing their capacity with a massive roll-out of wind and solar, and societal energy efficiency programs?
  • Does it interest you that energy intense multinational corporations will be urgently seeking stable countries capable of providing large scale low emission energy sources, such as concentrated solar thermal, which would enable them to stay competitive as the world enters a low carbon era?
  • Since the challenges of climate change, peak oil and the financial crises require an integrated solution, why did you not tie in the $10billion stimulus package to “low emissions” spending (eg requiring such monies to be spent on energy efficient appliances/water tanks/solar panels etc,) thus saving pensioners, families and businesses money on their energy costs in the long term whilst at the same time reducing emissions and stimulating job creation and sales in sustainable industries?
  • Do you see the dire warning signs for our climate and our economy in remaining in a quarry; propping up old industries and old technologies when our country is ideally placed to deliver valuable, sustainable zero emission energy on a large scale?
  • Just over a year ago your Government was given a mandate to act on climate change. Do you really want to adopt policies which will see Australia sink further into the quarry and lose what remaining hope is left to avert catastrophic climate change under your watch?
  • Do you realise that, as our climate becomes less conducive to sustaining our vast global populations (which are now all inter-connected, as the recent global financial crisis clearly demonstrates), the financial system/economy as we know it will become unworkable and ultimately collapse? Do you appreciate that a safe climate and a healthy economy are intimately connected?
  • Just because others persist in engaging in human slavery, does that mean it is ok and we should also engage in it? Hasn’t history proven countless times that leadership requires bold action, particularly at times when others are not following suit?
Please consider your answers to these questions carefully as a growing number of Australians are becoming aware of the great divide between what your Government says it is doing about climate change compared to what it is in fact doing. It’s a simple equation, there will be no economy on a dead planet.

At last count there were 300 local climate change action groups working tirelessly to bridge the divide between what is known by climate scientists about global warming and what is known by policy makers and the general public. Please view LIVE’s numerous submissions.

It would not be wise politics for any government in the 21st century to underestimate the community’s deep and growing concerns about climate change. You must listen first and foremost to the climate change policies presented to you by highly qualified progressive economists and policy analysts who understand the science of global warming and the economically viable solutions available here and now, not as has been the case for too long, those of vested, private interests whose profits are under threat.

Yours faithfully,

Deborah Hart and Terrie Hamilton-Smith
Campaigners, LIVE

1 comment:

  1. Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
    Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

    Charles Mann ("1491") in the Sept. National Geographic has a wonderful soils article which places Terra Preta / Biochar soils center stage.
    I think Biochar has climbed the pinnacle, the Combined English and other language circulation of NGM is nearly nine million monthly with more than fifty million readers monthly!
    We need to encourage more coverage now, to ride Mann's coattails to public critical mass.

    Please put this (soil) bug in your colleague's ears. These issues need to gain traction among all the various disciplines who have an iron in this fire.

    I love the "MEGO" factor theme Mann built the story around. Lord... how I KNOW that reaction.

    I like his characterization concerning the pot shards found in Terra Preta soils;

    so filled with pottery - "It was as if the river's first inhabitants had
    thrown a huge, rowdy frat party, smashing every plate in sight, then
    buried the evidence."

    Biochar data base;

    I also have been trying to convince Michael Pollan ( NYT Food Columnist, Author ) to do a follow up story, with pleading emails to him

    Since the NGM cover reads "WHERE FOOD BEGINS" , I thought this would be right down his alley and focus more attention on Mann's work.

    I've admiried his ability since "Botany of Desire" to over come the "MEGO" factor (My Eyes Glaze Over) and make food & agriculture into page turners.

    It's what Mann hasn't covered that I thought should interest any writer as a follow up article;

    The Biochar provisions by Sen.Ken Salazar in the 07 & 08 farm bill,

    NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.

    The many new university programs & field studies, in temperate soils; Cornell, ISU, U of H, U of GA, Virginia Tech, New Zealand and Australia.

    Glomalin's role in soil tilth, fertility & basis for the soil food web in Terra Preta soils.

    Given the current "Crisis" atmosphere concerning energy, soil sustainability, food vs. Biofuels, and Climate Change what other subject addresses them all?

    This is a Nano technology for the soil that represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.

    Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.

    In a recent National Public Radio interview, Michael Pollan talks about how he was approached by a Democratic party staffer about his New York Times article, The"Farmer & Chief" article is an open letter to the next president concerning U.S. agriculture/energy policy. The staffer wanted Pollan to summarize the article into a page or two to get it into the hands of Barack Obama. Pollan declined, saying that if he could have said everything that needed to be said in two pages, he wouldn't have written 8000 words.

    Michael Pollan is well briefed about Biochar technology, but did not include it in his "Farmer & Chief" article to President Obama, (Which he did read & cited in a speech) but I'm sure Biochar will be his 8001th word to him.

    540 289 9750

    Breaking NEWS:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 12, 2008

    POZNAN, Poland, December 12, 2008 - The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) announces that Micronesia has filed a submission at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) proceedings underway in Poznan to introduce biochar as a technology for consideration as a "fast-start" strategy to "mitigate climate change in the immediate near-term." The submission places biochar on the draft agenda to be considered during UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009.

    Micronesia's proposal follows the filing of a submission by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) endorsing biochar earlier this week. The UNCCD, a sister convention to the UNFCCC, identified biochar as a unique opportunity to address soils as a carbon sink, in line with its 10 year strategic program that calls for the promotion of low-carbon footprint sustainable practices and technologies that assist affected countries in the implementation of their National Actions Programs to Combat Desertification and Drought.

    IBI Executive Director Debbie Reed said, "This is an incredibly important achievement, since Micronesia, as a UNFCCC country party, has officially positioned biochar as a mitigation technology for adoption even prior to the post-2012 framework. The UNCCD submission was an excellent start to what we sought here in Poznan, but the Micronesia submission offers a chance to jump-start efforts to adopt biochar as a climate change mitigation technology."

    Biochar is a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water, resulting in increased soil fertility for agriculture. The carbon in biochar resists degradation and can sequester carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years, providing a potentially powerful tool for mitigating anthropogenic climate change.

    For Micronesia, an island state, early and rapid actionon climate change is of utmost importance. Micronesia has identified biochar as one of a few "action commencing now" technologies that make up an essential "fast start strategy." Micronesia's submission states: "A focus on fast-action strategies offers great advantages particularly to LDCs, small island states and other states vulnerable to extreme weather events and flooding."

    Micronesia endorses "Promoting biochar carbon sequestration as a near-term carbon mitigation and storage strategy, which removes carbon from the carbon cycle by drawing down atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in a carbon-negative process and provides near permanent carbon storage while also improving soil productivity and reducing the need for fossil fuel-based fertilizer."

    Micronesia also emphasizes the "strong co-benefits" of proposed near-term strategies, including "soil enhancement from biochar."

    Underscoring both the co-benefits and the early and rapid action potential of biochar, the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) hosted a side event on Thursday titled: "New stoves for rural households to capture carbon, reduce deforestation, and improve soil fertility." The event introduced the concept of mobilizing rural households to adopt new high-efficiency cookstoves that reduce emissions and also produce charcoal that can be incorporated into soils for both carbon sequestration and soil improvement.

    The side event was chaired by Gregoire de Kalbermatten, UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary, and speakers included: Sergio Zelaya, UNCCD; Barney Dickson, Head of Climate Change and Biodiversity, UN Environmental Program, World Conservation Monitoring Center; Debbie Reed, Executive Director of IBI; and Robert Flanagan, President of S.A.F.F.E (Sustainable Agricultural Food and Fuel Enterprises) Ltd.

    Speaker Barney Dickson emphasized the considerable potential of dryland soils to sequester carbon to combat climate change and enhance soil quality. Dickson said that drylands cover about 40% of the Earth's land surface (excluding Antarctica and Greenland) and that total dryland soil organic carbon reserves comprise 27% of global soil carbon reserves. He said that the fact that many of the dryland soils have been degraded means that they are currently far from saturated with carbon and their potential to sequester carbon may be very high.

    Delegates from both developed and developing countries attended the standing room only event. Following the talks, many delegates expressed interest in including biochar in their development strategies and in working with the IBI on IBI's Developing Country Initiative to introduce and evaluate biochar production technologies at the household and village/neighborhood level.

    The submission from the Federated States of Micronesia can be accessed here:

    To access the UNCCD's submission on biochar, go to and open the document titled: "Biochar in the UNFCCC Policy Context"

    Additional information on the UNCCD and biochar on

    About IBI

    The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) is a registered non-profit organization that serves as an international platform for the exchange of information and activities in support of biochar research, development, demonstration and commercialization. IBI participants comprise a consortium of researchers, commercial entities, policy makers, development agents, farmers and gardeners and others committed to supporting sustainable biochar production and utilization systems that remove carbon from the atmosphere and enhance the earth's soils.

    For further information, please contact:

    Debbie Reed, Executive Director and Policy Director, International Biochar Initiative
    Phone: 202-701-4298 email:

    Thayer Tomlinson, Communications Director, International Biochar Initiative
    Phone: 914-693-0496 email:

    Marcos Montoiro-Allue, Communication Officer, UNCCD
    Phone: 0049-228-815-2806 email: