Climate Change and Intergenerational Equity – What is Needed in Energy Policy? Part 7

Urban Development and Consumption – Adaptive Management Needed

Outdated residential suburban sprawl needs to stop immediately in all our major cities.  The stifling economic effects of upgrading all infrastructure for uncontrolled population growth and the compound effect of wasted energy in commuter traffic, needs addressing urgently.  The following measures are needed for the development of our cities:

  • An awareness that the biggest threat to the planet apart from increasing levels of consumption by individuals, is global population growth and that there are far too many people for the ecology and heath of the planet to support.
  • An urgent debate on the 2050 population targets for Australia and its distribution in all States, based on economic opportunities and the implications for global population control.
  • An urgent debate on the security implications for Australia should GHE start driving huge numbers of refugees and illegal immigrants to our shores from Asia.
  • What defence strategy will be needed to protect our culture and way of life if the GHE problem is not solved and world population continues to grow without meaningful and effective controls in place?
  • What consumption targets are going to be needed and possible, to build a quantity v quality of life in Australia that can be a model for other countries to the north in our region to follow?
  • A focus on regional development in key, strategically identified regions rather than continual population growth in our capital cities.  New infrastructure is often cheaper to build than rectifying and upgrading existing, inadequate systems.
  • A greater focus of adaption and higher density development around transport and shopping/commercial nodes, to maximise the use of existing infrastructure.
  • Set stringent benchmarks for all building developments that will deliver large reductions in energy and water use, thereby starting a process for practical achievement that is superior to the current compliance methods.
  • Develop a set of compliance procedures and a development approval process for complexity that allows maximum creativity and rewards innovation.  At present, the current system is unbearably stifling to professionals wishing to advance the science and develop new built environment solutions.  We need more scope for highest common goal solutions rather than lowest common denominator practises that dominate the approval processes.
  • Offer greater incentives for building reuse and retrofitting, as this is the major challenge for the next 40 years.  Penalising wastage is also needed to give developers who are acting in the public interest distinct advantages over those who choose ‘business as usual’ solutions.
  • Tighten controls on land releases and prevent land clearing to force more urban redevelopment and adaptation, rather than develop new housing estates.
  • Look at ways of shifting the building industry to deliver the new patterns of development, new high standard passive solar designed structures and new technologies that enhance the energy and water efficiencies.
  • Institute culture change initiatives for the general public that assist change process faster than most industries will voluntarily initiate, or have time or the motivation to effectively implement.  This must be government led and fostered.  Non-profit, community based entities can play an important role here.
  • Improve professional education and training to ensure all our Built Environment professions are up to the task.  At present they are not.
  • Improve levels of communications and media to foster and help focus public and corporate action on the issue and not to continually give equal credence to self-serving sceptics or to those who for dysfunctional reasons of ego, are seeking notoriety.
  • Support primary and high school outreach initiatives that prepare the next generations for the challenges they will face and the solutions they can offer.

Conclusion – Failure Should not be an Option

A process of adaptive management is needed.  We need the right experts, with an expert coordinator, in the correct forum that has an attitude that failure is not to be an option.  Only then will a bipartisan political approach have any meaning.

I believe the Australian public is getting very tired of current politics over Climate Change.  Western Australia with its buoyant economy can start to take the lead with the adoption of a politically disarming policy.  Politicians are in a unique position of having WA show the way for the rest of Australia.  In that way our members could have the self-satisfaction of saying: ‘I achieved something great while I was a parliamentarian!’  ‘I took action and we (our parliament) led Australia and the rest of the World in our corner of the world and help to make a difference’.

What is the alternative?  There is no ethical alternative.

Surely the political debate should be over how the scientific outcomes are to be achieved, not a continuing debate on whether outcomes are needed.  It is time to move on!

Back to Part 6

An Independent Professional Opinion by Garry Baverstock AM, B. Arch, MSc, LFRAIA,
Adjunct Professor, Built Environment Program, Research Institute for Sustainable Energy (RISE) at Murdoch University.
Director of Wise Earth Research Centre.

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