What is sustainable development?
Sustainability is about a community that is living within its means. Living within your means used to be in terms of income. Ultimately, it means family, community, state and nation. Living in way that is good for their opportunities, income, education as well as good for the environment. When I was Premier of South Australia, I appointed myself as the Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Social Inclusion and I was also Australia's first Minister of Climate Change and Sustainability. People thought that was really odd. You can't be minister for econ devt, mining and industry and be minister for climate change as well. What I wanted to demonstrate in my own job is that you can have space to be pro-growth, pro-jobs and also pro-environment and be an international leader of that. What we've seen is that we easily lead Aus in renewable energy. We've seen the fastest drop in emissions in any mainland state in Australia and at the same time had record employment and econ growth. So it can be done.
Why the scepticism or reluctance to accept it by some?
It basically comes down to complete and utter ignorance. People have managed to con many politicians dishonestly that if you take action on climate change it takes away jobs. South Australia has been able to demonstrate that in the driest state in the driest continent you can have the strongest growth ever and also have a drop in emissions and also embrace clean industries and energy. What we have to do is stop listening to myth-makers and start listening to the truth. Look at places where it's been done. One of the people I'm travelling with is Mr. Mike Cherett, CEO of the Ecological Sequestration Trust. What they've done is developed technology which with CO2 from for example, power stations can be reused and captured and sequestered. To give one example - to make soils more fertile for farmers so that there's more food, health and profit. Ultimately, it's about who's the smartest. It won't be the strongest of those who survived but the strongest of those who survived and prospered. I've now retired and am involved with climate groups like the Ecological Sequestration Trust. Why am I doing that? Because I think eco sequestration is one of the great breakthroughs in the battle against CO2. What we're doing here in India is meeting politicians as well as some of the biggest industrialists to talk to them about some demonstration projects in India to show how you can be pro-growth, allow coal-fired power stations to exist and use this CO2 for more productive purposes.
What is the major focus in Australia right now in this regard?
The central govt has just passed a legislation to put a price on carbon and that is, the biggest polluters will have to pay for the pollution they create. The Central govt has crafted this in a way to insulate lower income level people from the price rises. So it's going to damage biz or families. It is to ensure that these big polluters pollute much less than before. For years, we followed the rest of the world in climate change. We now have a federal govt that is actually becoming a real area in this area. Australia's gone through the global financial crisis much better than most other parts of the world.
What about the role of financial institutions?
Financial Institutions have a big role to play even in developed countries like Australia. One of the things that has come out of our new legislation is that they're setting up a $10bn clean energy finance authority that would be there to provide loans, loan guarantees and even take equity in clean energy innovations. I think it would be terrific to see banks around the world be much greener. A lot of people in a lot of countries were hurt every badly by the actions of bankers internationally through the global fin crisis. It would be terrific to see the banks take charge in putting something back in terms of a more sustainable world in terms of backing clean industries and clean technologies.
Is it necessary to abandon fossil fuels altogether?
By 2020, my state will have 33 per cent of its power come from renewable energy but we'll still have the rest of it from mainly gas. We've also legislated to make it virtually impossible to make another coal fired power station in S Australia. The great thing that the Ecological Sequestration Trust has improved is that the CO2 from fossil-fuel based power stations can be recycled to make for instance, farmlands more fertile.
What did you think of the outcome at the Durban COP 17 summit?
My view is that there is still a lack of guts to tackle internationally the problem. For a few year, climate change was the greatest threat to mankind. And then they got hit by the financial crisis and they thought, oh well, hang on, there's this other thing. What's really imp to see as we move towards Rio is national govts doing what Australia has just done by passing a legislation to put a price on carbon. It's not going to put biz out of biz. It's going to basically mean that we have to be smarter. One of the things that the state govt has done is to purchase a very large former Mitsubishi car manufacturing site and we're turning that into a green industry park. And part of that will be an educational facility that will train 8000 students a year for the new green industries for the future. It ultimately comes down to leadership. The subsequent Rio and COP summits, we don't want to see people cop out in terms of their responsibility to the planet.
Where are we now?
My view is that in too many conferences around the world, we keep hearing about what the problem is. We already know what the problem is. What we need to see is at every level of govt is action rather than words. One of the other things is that design is going to be really important for the future. We call it the philosophy of integrated design. We've had an internationally recognized Canadian architect to come down and help us plan different ways of design. It's not just about making buildings sustainable. It's also about making the spaces between the buildings. It's about a more intelligent investment in cities. The next step is to make our cities more sustainable by using this philosophy of integrated design. So it's not just about technology but also about design.
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