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“How we get to net zero matters”

Net zero

This opinion piece by TMEC CEO, Ray Mostogl was inspired by an article by Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds – a welcomed voice in a challenge that affects us all. 

There’s no doubt Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds (Mercury, Towards a zero-carbon Hobart Jan 11) is an important voice in the mission to decarbonise our planet. On societal changes, the community has often advanced their thinking further than central governments, so local government leaders closest to their community are a critical part of genuine action in a zero-carbon future.

One of the risks in this grassroots approach is that sometimes the perspective of global issues such as climate change can be very local, so the debate can be somewhat jaundiced by passionate people who genuinely believe what they are seeking is suitable for everyone, but aren’t aware of the bigger, global picture.

To address this in Tasmania’s context, our local leaders have a role to play to ensure the community gets a fulsome picture of the desired change and the consequences. The facts are that some of the beneficial changes we require to decarbonise will include activities that we may not find desirable. Still, you can not have the difference without the other element.

As Lord Mayor Reynold’s piece explains, Hobart’s decarbonisation journey will include many pieces especially as it aligns to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals – which means including considerations such as how low-carbon initiatives may also impact our most vulnerable members of the community.

But it’s not just about “what”, it’s also important to ask “where?”

When you walk through Salamanca and farmers’ markets, you will see how proud producers and artisans are of Tasmanian provenance and the ethics of their ingredients’ supply chain.

How proud are we of what happens on our own doorstep? We can apply the same curiosity and standards of food to the equipment that will be required to enable a zero-carbon footprint in cities such as Hobart.

Where did the material come from? How was it created? How were the workers treated? How much carbon emissions resulted from the manufacture of this item? Whether it’s a solar panel, an electric car, a scooter or a battery – all these items originated from our earth; they were extracted, treated into a concentrated form, shaped into a component, and finally assembled into something for you, I, businesses or even councils to purchase.

Unfortunately, there are communities across the developing and developed world living adjacent to mineral-rich locations who don’t enjoy the same first-world standards as Tasmania has to ensure the product is created sustainably and ethically. These locations may burn oil to generate electricity, involve children to cart sacks of materials out of pits, or be deficient in regulation on how waste is disposed of. Recent media coverage of mineral extraction in Africa shows the importance of knowing what ethics you’re supporting.

So do the progressive people in Hobart care about the origin of their latest carbon-reducing device? I’m sure (and hope) they do.

Tasmanian mines, mineral processors and manufacturers produce goods with electricity which is world-leading in low carbon intensity. Strict environmental regulations and monitoring standards mean everything is constantly being scrutinised, and in a range of cases, ecological challenges improved. Skilled employees are paid at or above award conditions and, in many cases, are amongst the highest-paid workers in Tasmania.

It is essential to understand that every action has a consequence. The discussions we need to have will not be about “right” or “wrong” but about what combination of actions leaves the smallest footprint and has the biggest overall impact on reducing carbon globally.

Any action to restrict these industries in Tasmania effectively results in increased carbon emissions and, depending on which location picks up the shortfall in production, may have terrible environmental consequences and worker exploitation. Sure it wouldn’t be on our doorstep, but it doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye.

I hope all local government members will advocate for sustainably sourced zero-carbon products and services and will help remind locals that Tasmania is already a world leader and deserves our support to be the best in the world. 

General media enquiries: Alison Hilder, TMEC, 0439 033 421
For Comment Contact: Ray Mostogl, TMEC CEO, ceo@alisonh11.sg-host.com M: 0409124710