It’s the Carbon Economy, Stupid

By pursuing a green economic agenda a local industry can be established, writes Lord Mayor Martin Haese.

Prior to the 1992 US presidential election, James Carville famously coined the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid” to illustrate the importance of economic management. Given recent debates about energy security, energy costs, new technology and related topics, I encourage you to think about the emerging economic benefits of green technology.

South Australia has well documented credentials when it comes to sustainability. As the world’s fifth most liveable city, the links between liveability, sustainability and economic development are strengthening. In 2007, South Australia was the first jurisdiction in the nation to legislate renewable energy targets. This has seen the state’s share of renewable energy increase to more than 40 per cent and has been a significant driver of a 20 per cent reduction of Adelaide’s carbon emissions since 2007.

In April 2015, we became one of the first places in the world where a state government and a capital city council signed parallel international agreements on climate change. Shortly thereafter, Carbon Neutral Adelaide was born.

Carbon Neutral Adelaide is a vision for innovation, technology, new-economy jobs, investment attraction and clean-tech industries. It is a vision that captivated the attention of governments and NGOs throughout the world when I attended the United Nations COP21 in Paris in December 2015.

Carbon Neutral Adelaide has been covered by the world’s media, Bloomberg included. Elon Musk and Tesla’s recent commission by the state government to install a 100MW battery farm for South Australia now adds even greater global gravitas to the agenda.

Carbon Neutral Adelaide is not about any particular political ideology. Instead, it is about securing a competitive advantage for the city that further underwrites our liveability and strengthens the competitiveness of our economy. While there is an imperative to reduce carbon emissions, Carbon Neutral Adelaide is a strategy that turns thought and policy leadership into investment and jobs reality.

It is a plan to position Adelaide as a global exporter of sustainability solutions to cities around the world that need to solve their water, waste, traffic, building, energy, horticulture and parkland management problems even more acutely than what we need to. Carbon Neutral Adelaide is a tactical play in today’s technology rich global knowledge economy.

carbon-neutral-adelaide-review
Image from City of Adelaide’s Carbon Neutral Adelaide 2015-2025 Strategy document

Policy leadership is one thing; cost leadership is another and we need both. South Australia’s energy costs are presently inexcusable. A lower energy cost environment is key to attracting investment, supporting business growth, gaining widespread acceptance and securing sustainable competitive advantage. Paired with council’s plans for a high-speed fibre optic data network throughout the CBD, Carbon Neutral Adelaide positions our city as a smart, green, liveable and creative place to live and do business. It is not fanciful, it is highly strategic.

The Carbon Neutral Action Plan is the roadmap that outlines initiatives including investment in energy efficient technologies, lower emission forms of public transport, growth of electric and hybrid vehicles in the CBD, reduced building emissions, improved waste management practices and greater encouragement of healthier transport options such as cycling and walking. Council’s ‘tramways, laneways and bikeways’ partnerships with the state government are all part of the plan.

Council is also committed to reducing carbon emissions from its own business operations and is undertaking every possible measure to reduce the city’s emissions. In fact, these measures saved our ratepayers over $800,000 last year alone through reduced energy costs. However, emissions can only be reduced so far and we will ultimately need to explore ways to balance out remaining city emissions. In years to come, this may be achieved through carbon offsets.

Currently, there are little if no accredited carbon offset programs available in South Australia and by pursuing this green economic agenda, a local industry can be established. This will not only ensure that carbon offsets are locally sourced, they could also provide jobs and export markets for local businesses with other governments and companies across Australia and the world as their customer.

We have long passed the point where a strong sustainability agenda is considered a flight of fancy or the pursuit of the ‘radical fringe’. It is now a mainstream objective for almost every city on the planet. Tesla’s interest in South Australia only underscores the opportunity and expect to see greater investment and tourism inflows as a result. The benefits for the City of Adelaide are immense and we are in a unique position where we can capitalise as an early mover.

X