The Age has reported on a new indicator developed by the Climate Group, a non profit organisation, which in a world first will allow weekly measurements of Victoria’s contribution to climate change.
The first set of publicly available data, states that Victoria contributed a total 1.919 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses. While coal based electricity remains the largest contributor (65%), emissions caused by petrol consumption come second (28%).
Any indicator or benchmark is only useful if the results are translated into action. While the usage of coal can be reduced through the purchase of green electricity, not all of Melbourne is equally able to reduce its vehicle emissions. This is due to the fact that two thirds of Melbourne lacks readily available public transport.
The effects of a lack of public transport and, as a consequence, car dependence, are clearly reflected in the data for total vehicle kilometres for the years 2005/06 (source: VicRoads).
For inner Melbourne (which is relatively well-served with a comprehensive train and tram network) overall total vehicle kilometres travelled fell by 1.9%. In contrast however, total vehicle kilometres travelled fell by just 0.3% in the outer suburbs.
This fall occurred during a time of high petrol prices, where people were readily pursuing alternatives to driving. The fact is, while alternatives to driving, such as public transport, are readily available in the inner suburbs such transport choice is sorely lacking in outer Melbourne.
Greater usage of public transport, through the increased provision of services, complemented by other forms such as walking and cycling, will be the only way to reduce petrol based greenhouse emissions.
While alternative fuels have some potential to reduce overall greenhouse emissions. The fact is that these alternatives cannot simply replace our existing dependence on oil. As I reported through the Committee of Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) conference on peak oil, alternative fuels cannot be produced in the large quantities required to replace oil:
Unfortunately no single alternative exists to replace our dependence on oil. Simply replacing our dependence on oil with biodiesels, such as ethanol, would require all the land that is currently for agricultural within the world to be diverted into producing ethanol. This would obviously leave no arable land available for the harvesting of food thus not being a practical alternative. Hydrogen, another potential replacement for oil, requires more energy to produce than it actually provides as a fuel making the mass usage of hydrogen incredibly inefficient.
Melbourne will not be able to drastically reduce its petrol based greenhouse emissions while the Government neglects to provide all of metropolitan Melbourne with fast, frequent and readily available public transport.
The current policy of delaying all rail and tram extensions for at least fifteen years and providing nothing more than tokenistic hourly bus services will do little to actually mitigate our rising contribution to greenhouse emissions. The onus is on the Bracks Government to match its rhetoric about climate change to action. The government can begin by providing a public transport network that provides real transport choice for metropolitan Melbourne.
- The weekly greenhouse indicator is available from the Climate Group at www.theclimategroup.org and will be featured exclusively in The Age each Monday.