Australia’s watershed moment for a new decade


Amid the wildfires burning through much of south eastern Australia lies a multitude of lessons and heartache for a nation mostly known internationally for its unique wildlife and beautiful beaches.

So many thresholds have been passed – the first time firefighter crews have swapped over by air, the first time the army has been called in to help during bushfires.

And that’s not counting the some reported 12 million acres that have burnt so far. 

But these elements won’t remain in the memories of most Australians as much as the ‘horror movie’ blackened skies that occurred due to the ferocity of the fires, in the states of New South Wales and Victoria. And that’s just for those who had the fortune of not being caught up in the fires themselves.

How will the thousands of tourists remember the seemingly endless hours spent in hot, smokey, darkened skies while waiting for the military to evacuate them from the much-maligned coastal town of Mallacoota? And all the other tourists who had to evacuate or return home early from impending doom?

How will the children stuck in small towns circled by fire remember this event, bearing witness to people all around them who themselves had never seen anything like it? 

So many thresholds have been crossed, on so many levels – images of townsfolk refusing to shake hands with the visiting Prime Minister will forever remain in the Australian political landscape. Singed and screaming koalas, frenzied kangaroos, upturned dead cows, blackened sheep – the list goes on.

And it is only the start of the second month into summer, which usually lasts well into March in the south-eastern states especially Victoria.

Politicians on all sides will, as expected, take sides as to whether climate change is to blame but of course it is not.

Australia’s natural disasters include fire and drought, but climate change makes worse what is already happening. Climate change could be likened to an amplifier – loud speakers applied to music already in the background.

As the International Panel on Climate Change reports (PDF), scientists have high confidence that Australia will have more more intense and frequent fires.

These wicked fires are Australia’s watershed moment in its national journey on climate change policy.

The new year of the new decade will show what happens next.


How many people does it take to change a light globe?

Bathroom mirror in darkness

This is a story about teamwork.

The sole, fluorescent light globe above the only mirror in my bathroom (pictured) suddenly died recently. It had been six years since the light fitting was installed during my home renovation, so it was a new problem.

But this was no ordinary light fitting. There was a tight-fitting, plastic shield over the long globe, which had to be removed to get to the globe and replace it – but how?

Helpers gather round

After numerous attempts to remove the globe myself, I asked a member of my family – let’s say, male – to help with the task. He is quite the handyman, with a very high success rate, but this task was perplexing. His attempts failed too, the hard plastic cover proving too stubborn to work with.

A visit to Beacon Lighting, where I had purchased the light, was the beginning of what I soon realised was the important ingredient in my quest – teamwork.

The salesperson was unfamiliar with the product that was no longer on the shelves, so she phoned her mum who had long worked for Beacon Lighting and who knew her way around tricky light fittings. Advice was dispatched via FaceTime, and off I went with renewed optimism.

Attempt no.2

Upon returning home, my new attempt at removing the light globe had to be taken seriously. With a sturdy ladder, quality leather gardening gloves, and swimming goggles as protective eyewear, I started to have another crack at this oddly perplexing task.

I jiggled the bulb against springs at either end: no luck. The cover had to come off. I rotated the cover several times, to find the best angle with its very small opening. I noticed screws behind the globe that helped to keep it against the wall.

How was this thing installed anyway, when the globe was in the way of the screws? That was it – I had to remove the cover. Everything after this point worked like clockwork.

Bittersweet triumph

Returning to Beacon Lighting with a victorious grin and the expired light globe in my hand, my newfound luck was shortlived – somewhat. The product was discontinued, but a store on the other side of Melbourne had some in stock. Would I like to place an order?

It would take a week to arrive. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. One more week of trying to find the best angle to see as much as I could in my mirror amid a background of distant, dimming winter light. But every time I looked up, at the vacant light fitting, I was comforted with my victory.

Victory at last

A week later, with new lightbulb in hand, the picture became complete – order had been restored in my bathroom. I could finally see my face clearly in the mirror.

This problem unfolded over the space of two weeks. That’s a very long time when you consider the fundamental importance of personal grooming. Sure, I had an all-purpose light in the middle of the bathroom that I was using in the interim, but had it not been for the efforts of all four people involved in this task, would I still be in the dark?


Your health and the climate in the US: snapshot

A new major report on how climate change impacts the United States was recently released. It’s called the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4).

The US Global Change Research Program, comprising 13 Federal agencies, produces the National Climate Assessment (NCA) for the US Government every four years. The Program was established in 1989 to produce findings on global warming independent of the global IPCC reports.

NCA4 has a chapter dedicated to health impacts.

Top five health impact findings for the United States:

  • An additional 9000 people will die each year, across 49 large US cities, from extreme hot and extreme cold temperatures under a ‘business as usual’ greenhouse gas emissions pathway by the end of this century.
  • Food will contain lower levels of iron, zinc and protein due to higher carbon dioxide concentrations. 
  • Hospitals could save around $15 billion over 10 years by adopting basic energy efficiency and waste-reduction measures. 
  • More people will be exposed to ticks carrying Lyme disease and to mosquitoes that transmit West Nile, chikungunya, dengue, and Zika viruses.
  • Alcohol and tobacco consumption will increase with the anticipated increase in longevity and severity of droughts.

What are some of the solutions?

Social connections, good coping skills, and disaster planning. Above all, the report found, communities that take it upon themselves to come up with solutions to climate risks and projections are going to survive.

Here is a diagram showing how climate change impacts on the health of vulnerable communities:

Information graphic depicting the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities
Source: EPA, NCA4

You can read more about the impacts on health in the United States here.


Carteret islanders: last boats to Bougainville

How do you move 1500 people from their ancestral homes, across more than 86km (53.4 miles) of ocean, to another place, with little funding and few resources?

With dedication and persistence.

Those two qualities are the driving force behind Papua New Guinea’s Ursula Rakova who has been gradually moving clans from the Carteret Island atolls (Tulun) to nearby Bougainville Island, PNG’s most eastern province in the Pacific Ocean.

The Green Herald recently met her during a visit to Australia.

It all started in 2006 when storm surges and king tides were becoming much more frequent for the islands that sit approximately 1.2 metres (3.9 feet) above sea level.

“I look at it more as an obligation to my people,” Ursula says.

“I just feel that I have this obligation to help my people because if I don’t, who is going to help these people?

“Who is going to get them organised and advocate for them?”

Tulele Peisa Founder Ursula Rakova pictured seated, in Melbourne

Tulele Peisa Founder, Ursula Rakova, in Melbourne recently

Rapidly-changing tides in the Carteret Islands

To paint a critical picture: in 1984 it would have taken you 20 minutes to walk from one end of Ursula’s island to the other.

Today that walk takes one minute.

“We love to swim in the sea, but now it’s turning against us. It’s no longer the happy sea that we want to swim in.”

“It’s really really sad and like a matriarchal society like ours, we will not be able to pass on any land to our daughters.

“Where is justice when it comes to things like that?

In the latest global assessment of climate science – the Climate Science Special Report from the US Global Change Research Program – the current rate of sea-level rise (about 3 inches since 1993) is faster than the rate during any preceding century in the past 28,000 years.

A map of the Carteret Atolls

The Carteret Atolls

Called on by her people

Ursula, who has always worked in the environmental movement, says she never set out to become the leader and campaigner for the plight of her people.

In 2005, when she was working for Oxfam in Bougainville, elders from the Carteret Islands approached her about problems stemming from increasing shoreline erosion, storm surges and intrusion of seawater into homes and food-growing yards.

The elders made that trip twice more before she eventually agreed to take on their cause.

Tulele Peisa was born. Ursula set up the not-for-profit organisation to manage the relocation program, which is voluntary.

Four other staff assist her in running the relocation program.

Islanders with a boat used in the relocation program

Islanders with a boat used in the relocation program

A slowly-emptying atoll

So far Ursula says she has moved 150 families – equivalent to around 1500 of the 3000 islanders who call the Carteret Island atolls their home.

They have relocated to new islander villages near the coast of Bougainville; close enough to the sea so they can still pay their homelands a visit; far enough from the shore so the sea water keeps away.

But not all families, or clans, have adapted to their new location, Ursula says.

“Just last year one family had to return to their island, because they couldn’t cope with the physical hardship of growing their own food, making sure their plantation is kept clean and tidy, and so on,” she says.

“They were faced with a lot of criticism from their relatives because they told them ‘why did you have to move back? There is no food here’.”

Two members of the family had since developed illnesses and were in a health centre, Ursula says.

But some elders aren’t ever planning to leave the Carterets

For the remaining Carteret islanders – who need to move by 2030 at the latest – more land needs to be found for their new homes on Bougainville.

Elders aren’t planning to move from their homelands at all but rather live out their remaining years before the sea completely swallows up their atolls, Ursula adds.

The Catholic Church in Germany, the US and Australia have been funding the relocation program.

A new village for the Carteret Islanders, Bougainville

A new village for the Carteret Islanders, Bougainville

Climate Investment Funds, through the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, could not be used for relocation costs, Ursula says, but only for “strategic resilience” of the atolls. Australia has pledged $200 million over four years to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) especially for the Pacific region.

More funding and donations needed

The current church funding represents one third of the total cost of relocating families, she says, and neighbouring governments – including Australia – should be doing more to fill the gap.

“The Bougainville Government has really slackened down in appreciating the fact that an organisation like Tulele Peisa has taken on the role of moving displaced peoples due to climate change,” Ursula says.

“And the Australian Government is a big brother in the Pacific, it really needs to be committed to funding climate change solutions.”

Ursula also called on corporate Australia to exercise their social responsibility and invest in new, clean energy infrastructure in poorer communities such as Papua New Guinea.

“We have talked so much about climate change, so we are still talking policies,” she says.

“It’s okay for maybe other communities but it’s not okay for communities that are already facing the real situation, so we need to start acting.”

The role of ‘big brother’ Australia

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) says the PNG Government and Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) have primary responsibility for the resettlement of PNG residents.

“The Australian Government has supported the ABG to facilitate the resettlement of Carteret Islanders on Bougainville Island,” the spokesperson says.

Australian and PNG government authorities are in discussions about what additional assistance Australia might provide to PNG’s responses to climate change.

The DFAT spokesperson adds the Australian Government is also spending $300 million from 2016 to 2020, on climate change resilience activities in the Pacific, including $75 million for disaster preparedness, under the Australia-Pacific Climate Change Action initiative.

“Australia believes that the best response to the impacts of climate change is preparedness through effective adaptation and mitigation in the first instance, followed by well-supported and planned internal relocation,” the spokesperson says.

Pacific to meet the Arctic

Ursula says she is involved in efforts to bring together displaced communities from the opposite side of the world.

In October this year, she says more than 56 Pacific and Alaskan communities will come together in Anchorage, Alaska, to forge an alliance to garner support and funding for climate-forced displacement, organised by the US-based Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.


Nobel Laureate Q & A: Professor Peter Doherty

One of the world’s Nobel Laureates recommends building more energy-efficient buildings as one way to protect our health from global warming.

Australian Nobel Laureate and author, Professor Peter Doherty, 77, recently met with The Green Herald to talk about the health impacts of climate change from his acclaimed perspective, punctured with his own sense of humour.

In 1996, Professor Doherty shared The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Professor Rolf Zinkernagel, for discovering the nature of cellular immune defence, resulting in the development of further vaccines and medicines for infectious diseases.

He was awarded Australia’s highest honour in 1997, the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).

Laureate Professor Peter Doherty and The Green Herald’s Caroline Gonzalez

TGH: Can you think of any climate change health impacts that will force us to potentially develop a raft of vaccines for diseases that we don’t yet have?

Prof Doherty: There are whole families of viruses that we could think about as potential threats but you can’t really predict. There’s been a whole lot of stuff about what will be the next influenza, you can’t do it actually. I know there are various people who try, but you just can’t predict these things.

We just had a meeting on influenza this week – it’s the 100th anniversary of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed more people than the First World War. The First World War killed 37 million people. The flu pandemic probably killed 50 (million) – maybe 100 because they didn’t count them neither in African colonies very well, with the communication systems and the rest of it, so we don’t know.

We’d like to know better how to make vaccines against a lot of things more quickly. It still takes six months for us to get a flu vaccine out there after we start a pandemic and that’s one of the most familiar vaccines on the planet.

So when you see a movie like…Contagion, it is really quite good. I talk about it in all my slides. They discover a vaccine and two days later they’re giving it to everybody. Well, it just doesn’t work like that.

What you want to do is have very good diagnosis and very good health professionals who are looking at any outbreak anywhere on the planet. And the American CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, has been doing that.

Look at China for instance – they have at least two enormous infectious disease hospitals that are ready for a pandemic. There’s one on the outskirts of Shanghai I visited, that has about six or eight hospital buildings – seven of them aren’t in use, they are just being maintained and the eighth one is in use. But what would happen if they had a major pandemic is: infectious disease professionals from all over the country would go there and they would boot this thing up. And there’s another one (infectious disease hospital) outside Beijing and in Hong Kong.

TGH: Was it ever a goal of yours to have something like The Doherty Institute?

Prof Doherty: No, absolutely not. I started as a vet so if things had gone the way my career would have normally gone – within a reasonably successful career – I would’ve been director of the Geelong lab with the CSIRO, that’s where I was headed. And then we made a big discovery and took me off-track. I would have been living in Ocean Grove…and I would have been retired for at least 12 to 15 years. I’m still not fully retired, I’m working three days a week.

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne – “the closest thing to a CDC (Communicable Disease Centre) in Australia” says Prof Doherty – consists of a:

  • University academic department
  • State viral diagnostic lab
  • State bacterial diagnostic lab
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) Influenza Centre (one of six in the world).

TGH: What do you think countries like Australia should be doing for adaptation for the health impacts of climate change?

Prof Doherty: In so many buildings here in this city, there’s no double-glazing, little or no insulation, nor energy-efficiency…and no plants around them. What we need to be building, are healthy buildings – buildings that will actually protect people from extremes of temperature. I think that’s one thing we could be doing at a relatively limited cost, but we’re not doing it.

If we’re going tackle this, it’s like any big issue…it has to be done through government. What really matters is to get the right policy settings in place. If you have the right policy setting, then things will start to happen.

I’m so despairing about the politicians, I think this is a terrible (Federal Australian) government.

TGH: What are you up to nowadays?

Prof Doherty:  I help out and particularly with writing stuff up. I’ve been trying to train people to write. People don’t write very well…particularly scientists.

I’m so sick of scientific writing – I mean, it’s awful!

The people who work with me are supervising the students. I sort of go to lab meetings and give my 10 cents worth occasionally.


Laureate Professor Doherty – who spent most of his active research career in the United States at the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis – is writing his sixth book due out in October.

It’s based on his extensive global travels for his work over many years.

“It’s called The Incidental Tourist, some rotten person had stolen The Accidental Tourist!,” Prof Doherty says with a grin.

Laureate Professor Peter Doherty

Laureate Professor Peter Dohert

What are the health impacts of climate change?

Impacts can be direct – a heatwave – or indirect – such as increased risk of tick-borne diseases due to changes in the environment. The impacts heavily depend on whether you live in a developed or developing country.

Here is a short list:

  • heat stress
  • malnutrition
  • rise in asthma
  • increase in malaria, dengue
  • rise in bacteria and viruses.

Sources: World Health Organisation ‘Climate change and health’,  IPCC AR5 Working Group II Chapter 11, ‘Human Health: Impacts, Adaptation, and Co-Benefits.

Prof Doherty’s recommended actions:

  1. Get involved in citizen science.
  2. Install solar panels.
  3. Insulate your home.
  4. Build energy-efficient homes and buildings.

An environmental take on Bladerunner 2049

A poster image of Bladerunner 2049

Showing at a cinema near you (source:

The new Bladerunner 2049 film, much like it’s precursor, paints a stark picture of the state of our environment in the future.

Sickly cities choking on pollution and perpetual smog play centre stage for most of the 2.5 hour new Bladerunner 2049. Constant rain, and snow, seem to dominate the weather in a seemingly post-geoengineered climate. In a sunny state like LA, it’s almost unfathomable.

Strong parallels can be drawn with an Australian book, The Sea and the Summer by George Turner. Published in 1984 and in the US under the title Drowning Towers, the book centres on a climate-change ravaged Melbourne in and around the year 2040. It depicts a gritty, crime-ridden city: a no-go zone for anyone barely resembling a middle-class status with clean clothes on their backs.

An image of the front cover of The Sea and Summer

The title by George Turner (Source:

Bladerunner 2049, much like The Sea and The Summer, shows our core human values started withering away after the demise of our environment. Both show how filthy cities have to deal with tides of an overflowing ocean and what little value we have left for whatever lies outside of towering buildings.

One female character in the film marvels at a wooden toy and says ‘I’ve never seen a tree’. This makes sense as nowhere in the film do you see a garden, greenery or a tree, but only in a virtual-reality setting with a key female character (Carla Juri) who lives in a clinically-isolated laboratory.

The energy used by humans and replicants in Bladerunner 2049 makes a consistent statement. Concentrated solar thermal – just like the 17MW Gemasolar thermal plant in Spain – makes for a stunning entry in the opening minutes of the film, of row upon row of circular solar thermal farms as far as the eye can see.

Electric, flying cars with drones attached are the main mode of transport. During a fight scene with a replicant and new Bladerunner Officer K (Ryan Gosling) in the early part of the movie, a gas-fuelled hob is steadily boiling a pot on the stove. But nowhere else is there an obvious use of fossil-fuels, just the remains and refuse of a post-‘greenhouse-people’ world.


Wind farm’s a windfall

More than AUD$1million (USD$793,300) has been paid out to the owners of the land on which Acciona’s 128 wind turbines operate, in a country town in southeastern Australia.

The Waubra wind farm, located about 145km (92 miles) northwest of Melbourne, is spread out over a 170sq km (65 sq miles) land area.

One of many turbines laid out across the dry landscape of the wind farm

A section of the sprawling wind farm in Waubra, Australia.

The farm’s Cameron Stowe says each of the 1.5MW wind turbine generators deliver about AUD $1000 a year to landowners who are generally crop or livestock farmers. That’s equivalent to USD$792 or €680.

The 192MW capacity farm was completed in 2009, after a capital investment of $450 million.

Mr Stowe says local residents are employed at the farm that can power the equivalent of up to 110,000 residential homes in nearby regional cities of Ballarat and Bendigo.

He says one of Acciona’s new projects is a 132MW or 44 turbine wind farm at Mt Gellibrand, about 130km (82 miles) south of Waubra and 143km (88 miles) from Melbourne. It is expected the new wind farm will be completed in July next year – a welcome development for the state where one of its longest serving brown coal-fired power plants, the Hazelwood power station, was closed by its French owners, Engie.

The Green Herald Editor Caroline Gonzalez toured the Acciona Waubra Farm earlier this year in an excursion organised by the Melbourne Energy Students Association (MESA) from the University of Melbourne, where she’s been studying climate change.

Caroline Gonzalez, The Green Herald Founder, Writer and Editor, on location at the wind farm

Caroline Gonzalez, The Green Herald Founder, Writer and Editor, on location.


Health and climate change on Kiribati

This article on Kiribati, written by Caroline Gonzalez, first appeared in Inside ACEM, a collection of anecdotes and personal stories of emergency medicine physicians from Australia and New Zealand, published by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) in Australia. A modified version appears here with permission from ACEM.

Imagine only having 100 metres each way between your bedroom and the ocean.

It’s a fine line, but that’s the environment Australian emergency medicine physician, Dr Brady Tassicker FACEM, experienced while working at the hospital on the main island of Kiribati (pronounced ‘Kiri-bass’) for a total of two years.

“It’s one of the most overcrowded stretches of land in the world, it’s ridiculous – it’s 25km long, 200m wide and it’s got 60,000 people on it,” Dr Tassicker says.

A dried-out shoreline in Tarawa, Kiribati

Tarawa, the main island of Kiribati

Jobs and an ‘incredible’ birth rate are driving a rise in the population to the small main island of Tarawa – a location that has been identified as being one of the first to feel the impact of sea level rise in the future as projected by the world authority on the science of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Dr Tassicker has worked on two separate occasions on the island: in 2003, and, more recently, with his young family in the 12 months to January this year.

Dr Brady Tassicker relaxing with his children

Dr Tassicker FACEM enjoying down time with his children

Overstretched healthcare

There are two hospitals on Tarawa – a little more than 100 beds in total. Dr Tassicker says he noticed a surge in the prevalence of tuberculosis in the always-overcrowded emergency department between his two stints on the island.

“It was quite normal to be running at 200 to 250 per cent capacity – with admitted patients,” he says. “The patients overflowed out on to an open air, undercover area.”

“One of the things I was instrumental in doing was formalising that process in putting in rails and demarcating the area so it was quite clear if you are not in this area, we can’t look after you.”

Kiribati is a speck on the world stage in many measures – including greenhouse gas emissions – but it is ranked in the top three countries in the world for having the greatest proportion of a population with diabetes, says Dr Tassicker.

That’s not to mention a pollution problem – mainly from the fact that most homes don’t have toilets – so contracting typhoid is an ever-present risk when swimming at the tropical beach.

Tarawa Hospital cardiac arrest unit in overflow of patients

Cardiac arrest in overflow, Tarawa

Present and future challenges

Kiribati sits approximately three metres above sea level. However, a minimum sea level rise of 40cm is projected for 2080 to 2100, in the IPCC’s Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report, based on historical greenhouse gas emissions and those in line with a minimum 2°C degree global temperature rise under the Paris Agreement.

Much of the invisible riddle of climate change was evident to Dr Tassicker, that the physical impacts were not immediately apparent.

“Everyone hears ‘Kiribati’ and thinks climate change – sea level rise…but a lot of that I’m not seeing any evidence of,” he says.

“Having said that, they always live on the borderline and with the overcrowding, more and more people are living on marginal land, so they get inundated with high tides and those sorts of things…”

“The future is very grim.”

Adaptation in motion

Greater fluctuations in rainfall are also projected – a major threat to the health and security of the population – and the stressed water supply is currently getting worse, Dr Tassicker says.

While climate change is still considered politically controversial in Australia, he knows first hand that it’s certainly not the case in Kiribati.

“The population is very aware of the issues of climate change… they have working bees to plant mangroves to protect against erosion – there is a background level of anxiety.”

The Kiribati Government has purchased land in Fiji, some people have already moved to New Zealand, and there are moves to recruit help to build islands.

“The people in Kiribati are very attached to their own land,” Dr Tassicker says. “Culturally even the thought of turning your back on the land is very confronting.”

A rewarding challenge

It may not be paradise but Dr Tassicker, who lives in the southern Australian island of Tasmania, would do it all over again.

“You’ve got to have pretty thick skin and be comfortable with failure because you’ll have plenty of patients die on you, that you wouldn’t have die on you back home – lack of resources, challenges of delivering the treatment that you should be able to deliver in practice.”

The Tarawa emergency department

An assessment room of the Tarawa Hospital, Kiribati


The question of climate finance

You may have heard the term ‘climate finance’ somewhere or perhaps you’ve never heard of it.

Climate finance has long been included in the international agreements, protocols and conventions governing actions on global warming – the Paris Agreement, Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Wind turbines can be erected in many environments including islands and hills such as these

Climate finance can fund wind-powered energy projects in developing countries.

It’s basically for the richer, developed countries to help developing nations to gear-up in the latest technology and know-how to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Along the way, developed countries signed on to mobilise US$100 billion a year by 2020 to help shift the globe to greater mitigation and adaptation. The Green Climate Fund and Global Environmental Facility are the two main climate finance organisations.


There is not one agreed, nor concise, definition of climate finance.
The UNFCCC does not define climate finance and in fact institutions, broadly speaking, have individual, independent definitions of climate finance.

The Conference of the Parties – most of the world’s nations in the United Nations Framework Convention or UNFCCC – have yet to endorse the UN’s very own Standing Committee on Finance’s definition, that climate finance is aimed at:

reducing emissions, and enhancing sinks of greenhouse gases and aims at reducing vulnerability of, and maintaining and increasing the resilience of, human and ecological systems to negative climate change impacts.

The problem with climate finance

This lack of an operational, universal definition is the foundation of climate finance contention in international climate change negotiations. It is hindering progress on mobilising the US$100 billion by 2020 and fuelling the fires of climate politics along the way.

How can there be trust and confidence among the various players if there is so much freedom bestowed on developed countries in deciding how much to give and how to disburse their voluntary contributions under the UNFCCC?

During the Fast-Start Finance period from 2010-2012, developed countries were free to adopt their own criteria for whether funds were new and additional as required. How climate finance should be governed, whether it should be grants or loans, net or gross flows, are still points of debate.

It’s common sense

We all know, as a simple fact of money transactions, that money can’t come from an untraceable source without specific regulations and timeframes agreed between the donor or giver and the recipient.

Anything else generates corruption or illegal activity, an element of climate finance that has caused distrust among the developed nations in how some developing countries may have been handling their funds for mitigation, resulting in a push for transparency on implementation, capacity and institutional development in poorer nations.

Terrorism, statelessness

However, climate finance is not the only global issue that is suffering from a lack of action due to the inability of UN Member States to agree on a universal definition. There is not one universal definition of terrorism – a definition needed by law and policy in order to implement UN-related activities.

It has been recognised that having a global definition of terrorism means there can be an international strategy and mobilisation of bilateral and multilateral agreements. Schmid (2004) points out that an agreed, central definition of terrorism is more of a political problem than a legal or semantic one.

It makes one wonder whether rich-country negotiators deliberately disagree on definitions so as to not have a legal responsibility in the case of climate change?

When groups or individuals have different value systems and interests in a situation, the definition of one and the same situation has – given the legitimizing function of words – implications for the situation itself and its permanence (Schmid 2004 p.402).

An incoherent definition is also causing problems for the issue of statelessness – the UNHCR does not have a universally-accepted definition of statelessness, which is estimated to effect around 10 million people globally.

Schmid argues (2004) it is a typical UN problem not to have a common global definition. Or are such issues as climate finance, terrorism and statelessness, difficult to define on a global scale given their transboundary nature? Is the focus on a global, public or UN narrative part of the problem?


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Fridahl, M, & Linnér, B 2016, ‘Perspectives on the Green Climate Fund: Possible compromises on capitalization and balanced allocation’, Climate and Development, Linköpings University, p. 105.

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Roberts, T, & Weikmans, R December 22 2015, The unfinished agenda of the Paris climate talks: Finance to the global south, blog post, The Brookings Institution, Washington DC USA, viewed October 2016,

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Setty, S 2011, ‘What’s In A Name? How Nations Define Terrorism Ten Years After 9/11’, University of Pennsylvania Law School, viewed October 2016,

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Energy security at Mt Hotham

Resilience from potential power blackouts is one of the main drivers behind a trial of renewable energy at Mt Hotham snow resort in south-east Australia.

It’s an issue the snow resort knows well at the moment. Mt Hotham and some surrounding areas have been experiencing a telecommunications blackout for at least 18 hours as part of a regional landline phone and mobile service drop-out in Victoria.

View of the Orchard ski area during the 2015 winter season

View of the Orchard ski area (Caroline Gonzalez)

The resort’s management board Chief Executive Officer Jon Hutchins says besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a renewable energy system would make Mt Hotham independent of the electricity grid and provide energy security.

‘Being in a remote area, it’s about resilience, and so we have a chance to get off the grid, guard against blackouts, and provide utility for our guests,’ Mr Hutchins says.

A bank of diesel generators currently provide a back-up source of power in the event of electricity outages, he says.

The International Energy Agency says climate change will have an impact on energy supply and infrastructure. Approximately 1°C of warming can be expected to reduce available electricity generation by 16 per cent in the United States in the 2040 decade.

Pilot projects

Mr Hutchins says there are several small trial projects in renewable energy at Mt Hotham.

It’s part of the snow resort’s Master Plan that will be submitted to the State Government for approval this year.

Solar-powered lights have been installed in the village in addition to PV cells on several ski lodges.

The resort chipped in half of the cost for a geothermal heating project at an apartment complex.

An electric car sub-station was installed at a private apartment in the village, which has an elevation of 1750m – the highest village in the state of Victoria.

Further potential

With the elevation also comes strong winds, up to 120km/hour. The mountain’s Master Plan states that two 2.3MW wind turbines would produce about 16,300MWh of energy each year – equal to about 3050 average homes in Victoria and saving 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Diesel fuel powers the 13 ski lifts, which constitutes about 25 per cent of the mountain’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The renewable energy project will cost an estimated $20million to implement, requiring public and private investment.

Mr Hutchins says climate change is well and truly an issue at all snow resorts but the biggest impact is increased bushfire risk in the summer.

Snowmaking equipment has been used to put out fires on the mountain, he says.

Mixed winter

It’s been a variable winter season in Australia so far. Victorian ski resorts have had several major snowfalls in between periods of heavy rainfall and milder temperatures.