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Welcome to Issue #17

Melbourne may have had a cool summer this year, but looking ahead, we see a much hotter future. Our recent forum on urban forests drew a clear picture of the consequences of letting canopy cover decline in our suburbs. Read our wrap-up of the forum below, and check out the Climate Council’s Heat Map of Australia, which is a great tool for understanding the local effects of extreme heat. See how your home will fare. 

 

PECAN representatives recently met to set goals for the coming year – see a summary of our session below. 

 

The Port Phillip EcoCentre is a great resource for the local community, and does important environmental research, education and activities. Their work deserves our full support, and more funding in the upcoming council budget. The EcoCentre has several Drain sorts happening during April, where citizen scientists can learn what rubbish ends up in the bay.

 

Each month the EcoCentre hosts very popular Climate Cafes that look at how people can manage their emotions around climate change. In May, Carol-Ann Allen, who facilitates the Climate Cafes, will be giving an important talk on Holding Hope in Uncertain Times in the EcoCentre.

 

And finally, the EcoCentre will be putting on a Deep Time Walk in April which considers the development of our planet since it was initially formed.

 

Extinction Rebellion invite you to their weekly 6pm Tuesday catch-ups at the Local Taphouse on Carlisle Street in St Kilda East. You can also help keep their Get Off Gas banner flying at the intersection outside St Kilda Town Hall, every Wednesday morning from 8am. Get the details for each week’s event, and sign up to join the Rebellion

 

In very concerning research, it seems that our (un)reliable popular news services are downplaying the all-too-obvious impacts of climate change. Perhaps they are pandering to their advertisers and not serving the public good? 

 

You have to love the headline: Australia collects more money from the Higher Education Contribution Scheme than from the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax. It just so neatly encapsulates some of our country’s problems. Will you sign the Australia Institute petition to greatly increase the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax? The Institute also has a good video summarising their position on this issue.

 

Looking for more worthy petitions to sign? Parents for Climate have an excellent open letter asking government to fit solar panels onto all our school roofs so that they can use low-cost, renewable energy. Sign the Parents for Climate petition

Leave the world better than you found it, take no more than you need, try not to harm life or the environment, make amends if you do..

Paul Hawken

We are living and working on the unceded lands of the Yalukit Willam people. We pay our respects to the traditional owners of the land and their ongoing connection to land, waters, sky and culture.

 
image: pecan.org.au

Urban Heat or Cool Green? 

PECAN hosted this forum on urban greening, in conjunction with the EcoCentre and participation by the City of Port Phillip. If you were part of the capacity crowd that attended, thank you for coming! For those who couldn’t make it, here’s a summary. There is also a video of the event here, and a nice article about it here.

 

Dr Greg Moore brought his wealth of experience in aboriculture to show us that while Port Phillip might feel leafy, it actually has one of the lowest canopy covers of all Melbourne municipalities (around 17%) – and it’s falling by the day. Even now, heatwaves kill more people than bushfires, and this hidden human cost will only increase with the rise in urban heat, especially in Port Phillip with its dense population. Increased planting in public land can’t get us to 30% tree canopy on its own, so it’s vital we protect and plant trees on private land to get the canopy back up to the ‘sweet spot’ of 30% coverage.

 

Jen Witheridge, who is leading the City of Port Phillip’s Urban Forest Strategy, talked about Council’s plan for achieving 30% tree coverage across Port Phillip, and about the challenge of greening public land, including heritage expectations (there is a lot of love out there for the controversial plane tree!) and competition for space both under and above the ground, which can make it difficult to plant new trees. She offered some hope in the form of the Green Factor tool, which offers greening guidelines for developers and builders, and which the Council hopes to adopt shortly.

 

Jen spoke of the importance of planning to plant not just trees, but the right trees in the right place. Naturalist Gio Fitzpatrick held us spellbound as he reiterated and expanded on this theme through vivid stories of co-evolved dependencies between insects, birds and trees. Many of our beloved Port Phillip parks are in fact ‘green deserts’, offering nothing for local fauna, and planting ‘non-native natives’ like flowering gums from WA can create situations where noisy miners and other birds who aggressively defend a nectar supply will drive off smaller local birds. On the other hand, planting truly native-to-the-area trees like black wattle and drooping she-oak can work small biodiversity miracles in our yards and streets. 

 

As with so many environmental issues, we are in a narrowing window of opportunity for action, but the window is there. If you have space to plant, find out how you can best use it to promote biodiversity, coolness and wellbeing.

 

And, as always, Have Your Say! The Council’s urban forest strategy will be going out for community consultation shortly. Watch this space.

 

PECAN’s recent planning day

We held a planning workshop at the EcoCentre on Saturday 23 March to identify our priorities for the rest of 2024. Sixteen members of the PECAN committee attended and we had a really fruitful discussion. We reflected first on PECAN achievements for 2023 and then discussed areas for improvement, before turning our attention to determining priorities for 2024.

 

We overwhelmingly agreed that the top priority for PECAN this year is to work hard to help achieve a more climate action committed Council at the upcoming October Council Election. PECAN’s Election Working Group is already working on plans for PECAN to play an active role in the lead up to the Election.

 

Other priorities for the year were also agreed:

  • Achieving a strengthened and funded Urban Forest Strategy (Blue/ Green Infrastructure Working Group)
  • Progress with work to advocate for electrifying Port Phillip (Renewables Working Group)
  • Developing a more nuanced population analysis of Port Phillip to identify areas of disadvantage, to focus on a just transition in all our advocacy on sustainability
  • Advocacy around the new Costal Hazards data for Port Phillip, flooding risks, water use and management (Blue/Green Infrastructure Working Group)
  • Improving our communication strategies: website, newsletter, social media.

So, there is a full program of work and activities that will flow from these decisions and we will keep readers of What’s Up? informed as the year progresses.

 

We are also looking for more volunteers to join us in these local actions.

 
image: www.portphillip.vic.gov.au

Have Your Say

The City of Port Phillip currently has public consultations open about:

  • Port Phillip Housing Strategy (until 19 April)
  • Council Plan and Budget (starts 18 April)
  • Gasworks Art Park (until 14 April)

This upcoming Council budget will be crucial for future climate sustainability and adaptation within our Port Phillip community. It’s something we need to make a lot of noise about.

 

In other Council news, the community engagement findings about bike lanes in Inkerman Street are now available. Interestingly, only 13% of people want no change, and everybody else seems happy to lose some (42%) or more (44%) on-street parking spaces to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.

 

The City of Port Phillip is also hosting an Adaption Game event on Saturday 20 April, for people to test their climate resilience. It should be fun, and includes a free lunch!

 

And finally, the Council is running an information session in May on winter comfort for renters

 
image: Deborah Sykes

EV charging with no off-street parking in Port Phillip

PECAN member Deborah has an electric vehicle (EV), but up until now she hasn’t been able to charge it at home. Like many people in our neighbourhood, Deborah doesn’t have off street parking, so she hasn’t been able to use all the solar power her roof panels generate. But she’s just had a ‘pop-up’ kerbside charging unit installed into the nature strip outside her house. It connects up to her house power, so now she can charge the car outside her own house, using her own power.

 

The City of Port Phillip has been piloting the use of kerbside charging units for residents who do not have off-street car parking on their property. It’s the first inner-city council to trial this innovation. The pilot allows for a charging facility to be installed in the kerb by the nature strip in front of a resident’s property via a Council permit. Council will decide whether or not to continue with the trial in April or May. Let’s hope the Council continues to support its residents to reduce their carbon footprint.

 
image: RACQ

Rooftop solar installations keep on getting bigger

The average rooftop solar system generated 2.4kW in 2010, but the average system installed in 2023 produces 9.4kW. Prices have also fallen dramatically. Fearing that changing regulations will restrict future capacity upgrades, people are maximising their initial installation. They may also be planning for future electric vehicles, which dramatically increases home consumption. 

 

Solar is accounting for more and more of the electricity generated within Australia. The capacity of rooftop solar will soon exceed that of coal, gas and hydro combined in Australia’s main grid.

 

This is a good fact check article about unrealistic claims about the dangers of renewables-based electricity grids. For instance, it notes that to wholly power Australia’s East Coast grid with renewables will actually consume about 0.027% of “prime agricultural farmland”, and not the 30+% claimed by some of the anti-solar fringe.

 
image: www.rmi.org

The unstoppable rise of EV batteries

Global demand for EV batteries is booming as economies of scale kick in and prices plummet. Energy storage densities are also ramping up as the technologies mature. This makes new battery applications economically and technically viable, further driving up demand. This virtuous cycle is triggering strong drops in demand for fossil fuels, which is a very good thing. 

 

The always excellent Just Have a Think has recently pointed out how incredibly far battery prices have fallen in recent years, and how much less mining will be needed once we wean ourselves off coal, oil and gas.

 
graphic: Rocky Mountain Institute (rmi.org)
 

And it is a surprisingly big challenge.

If livestock methane were a country, it would rank third among all nations contributing to climate change. Fortunately, there is a lot that agricultural conglomerates can do to reduce their emissions, but most unfortunately, many of them are keeping their heads firmly in the sand and hoping that everyone will ignore the issue. We congratulate Danone for pledging to reduce its methane emissions by 30% by 2030, but it is nowhere near enough, and there are far too many producers not doing anything. 

 

And just for fun…

Those among us who have had to put up with years of noise and other related pollution from the (arguably loss-making) Grand Prix may be surprised to know that after many years of fighting against this event, the current City of Port Phillip Council decided in 2023 to quietly drop its opposition and work with the organisers to expand local business involvement.