Feature

Beyond Zero Hero

Dr Stephen Bygrave

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Q: In terms of lot of people who are going to be put out in climate displacement, one of the big solutions would be reducing emissions, you would say. So, what are the positive ways you see that are happening?

We have launched a new initiative called Energy Freedom. This is showing households how they can take measures in their homes to increase energy efficiency, thereby reduce their bills, and then by putting solar on their roof they can become energy producers. They can save money from reduced energy consumption, and they can actually make money by selling energy into the grid. The energy utility actually becomes as much a customer of the household as the householder is a customer of the utility.

Simply by riding [a bicycle] to work and getting public transport we can be more connected with our community. Many of our communities are disconnected because we walk from our front door into our garage, into our cars and we are in our bubbles and do not interact with people on the way. We can also maintain a healthy lifestyle through walking, and a little bit more by cycling. I know when I do ride that I feel more energised when I get to work. The endorphins kick in.

Another would be simply by reducing our meat consumption, even by little bit. So, say we eat meat seven days a week and we move to eating meat six days a week that can have enormous impact on environment and greenhouse emissions but also on our diet and health. In fact in Australia, we have already reduced our meat consumption by 43% since 1930s.

Q: Are there high-level examples of positive reduction of greenhouse emissions in Australia?

There are some amazing things that towns are doing and what local governments are doing and also what farmers are doing. We have some amazing case studies for our Land Usereport highlighting the innovative things farmers are doing on their land. There are numbers of towns in Australia called Transition Towns and they are moving to solar, moving to reducing energy consumption, and installing renewable energy.

Q: So at the moment in Australia there many high level leadership challenges to reduce our emissions. How do you stop yourself from becoming jaded along the way?

Our incredible staff, volunteers and researchers around the country continually remind me of the positive energy there is in the community to make a change.

I have been working for climate change for 20 years. When I look back there have been enormous improvements. I have worked on fuel efficiency labeling for motor vehicles where it is now mandatory to have fuel consumption labels on new cars when they are sold.

I helped design the Renewable Design Target that has led to thousands of renewable projects being built around the country. Whenever I travelled by train and see wind turbines in the landscape I feel like, ‘wow I had some role to play in that'.

Our cars are becoming more efficient; our buildings are becoming more efficient, our transport system is becoming more efficient. There are more cycleways dedicated for the cyclist in our cities – and with our mayors, many are taking fantastic action into ways how our cities work and how our regional towns work.

But there is so much more that has to be done urgently if we are to seriously address climate change.

For example, we really need some political leadership on phasing out fossil fuels and on high-speed rail. Our High Speed Rail report confirms that Melbourne to Sydney is the fifth busiest flight route in the world, we've still got a 1960’s railway system. We should be moving to systems which will not only revolutionise travel in Australia but also connect the cities and our country areas a lot more.

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Winner of a Green Lifestyle Award 2014, Beyond Zero Emissions produces ground-breaking research for implementation of a safe, affordable, zero-emissions future.

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