A chat with Sir Tim Smit – co-founder of the Eden Project

Today I had a chat with Sir Tim Smit, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of the Eden Project, ahead of his forthcoming presentation for the Planet Talks at WOMADelaide 2017.

In the prologue to his book, Eden, two sentences stand out, and they sum up the spirit of our chat: “Neither do I make any apology for being optimistic about the future. I am.”

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The government is right to fund energy storage: a 100% renewable grid is within reach

In a speech to the National Press Club, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared that the key requirements for Australia’s electricity system are that it should be affordable, reliable, and able to help meet national emissions-reduction targets. He also stressed that efforts to pursue these goals should be “technology agnostic” – that is, the best solutions should be chosen on merit, regardless of whether they are based on fossil fuels, renewable energy or other technologies.

As it happens, modern wind, solar photovoltaics (PV) and off-river pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) can meet these requirements without heroic assumptions, at a cost that is competitive with fossil fuel power stations.

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FactCheck: What are the facts on Australia’s foreign aid spending?

Robin Davies, Australian National University

Aid was at its highest under Menzies, at 0.5% … when per capita income was much lower. – World Vision Australia chief advocate Tim Costello, quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, December 28, 2016.

A news report highlighting the fall in Australia’s foreign aid spending quoted World Vision Australia Chief Advocate Tim Costello as saying aid was at its highest under Prime Minister Robert Menzies, at 0.5% of gross national income – at a time when per capita income was much lower.

Is that right?
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Saudia Arabia – making friends, making enemies

The Saudi regime won’t like this magazine. Nor will the Western governments who kowtow to it while exploiting its wealth and paranoia – which have been on full show recently.

The Saudi justice ministry threatened to sue a Twitter user who compared the regime with ISIS after poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death ‘for spreading atheism and disrespecting the prophet’. This was met with an international #SueMeSaudi campaign.

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A global deal that drives good decisions: what success at the Paris summit should look like

This is the final part of a three-part essay on the prospects for a global climate deal at the Paris 2015 talks. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Much like the internet, climate change is here, and as each day passes, it only gets bigger. This is true not only of the science – another year passes, greenhouse gas concentrations rise, and the warming and severe weather events intensify – but also of the human, political and policy response to the problem. There is always another international meeting to prepare for, a new report to digest, a new policy to consider.

It is the relentlessness of the problem that can drive fatigue. People feel they have heard it before. Policies have been tried, their success has been mixed, and the debate – certainly in Australia – is either nasty, or tired, or both. Continue reading

Why the Paris climate talks won’t be another Copenhagen

This is part 2 of a three-part essay on the prospects for a global climate deal at the Paris 2015 talks. You can read part 1 here.

For three years leading up to the last significant United Nations climate summit, at Copenhagen in 2009, I was the strategic director of the Copenhagen Climate Council. The purpose of this group – which included chief executives of major global businesses headquartered in China, Europe, and the United States, as well as policy experts, scientists and other leading academics – was to shed light on the importance of reaching a global climate agreement, and to define what that agreement should include. Continue reading

The Road to Paris: three myths about international climate talks

With only nine months to go before the most important international meeting on climate change since Copenhagen in 2009, what are the chances of success at this year’s Paris talks? What might “success” mean? And can the mistakes and challenges that have befallen previous meetings be avoided and tackled?

To help address these questions, let’s first dispense with three pervasive myths that continue to make the task of achieving an adequate global response to climate change harder. Continue reading

Reflections on Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

All Australians should feel deeply disturbed by the impending executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. The two Australian citizens, convicted in 2006 of attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of Bali into Australia, will, barring an improbable eleventh-hour reprieve, be put to death by the Indonesian state at an as yet undetermined time in the coming weeks. Once transferred to a prison island off Java, the men will be dressed in white, bound at the hands and feet, tied to poles alongside one another, and finally sprayed with bullets by a 12-member firing squad. If Chan or Sukumaran do not die immediately, the commander will step forward and shoot them in the head as many times as is necessary to achieve the desired result.

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G20, growth, degrowth, GDP, magical thinking and climate

The assumption that the G20 goal of 2% growth in GDP is good per se has received little challenge. But what about quality of life, climate and sustainability?

Could it be that there is magical thinking even in the title of the G20 policy note “A G20 agenda for growth and resilience”?

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The tipping point on the Great Barrier Reef

There is rarely a time when both reality and written word marry seamlessly as they do when our incumbent Prime Minister and his phonetic namesake represent more than just their respective entities, but rather an important ‘fork in the road’, one that will have long and lasting consequences. The other similar pair is Joe Hockey and the hockey stick of carbon dioxideemissions. They are both occurring at the same time. A sign?

We are currently faced with a government which – against all common sense and due diligence – is willing to turn Abbot Point into a dump for three million tonnes of dredge spoil to create one of the world’s largest coal ports, without fully understanding the effects on the Great Barrier Reef.

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