City Hub

Clover plays a starring role in Paris climate talks yet faces mounting criticism at home

BY ANDREW BARCLAY

As Clover Moore met with world leaders and celebrities last week to discuss climate change in Paris her home-grown efforts to address carbon emissions have come under increased criticism.

On December 4th, the City of Sydney Lord joined 450 mayors from around the world at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) to showcase “ambitious targets are possible and compatible with strong economic growth.”

Yet an environmental lobbyist has claimed the purported benefits of the trigeneration plan are little more than a smokescreen.

Matthew Wright, executive director of Zero Emissions Australia claimed the City of Sydney’s plan was “essentially a badge saying ‘we support fossil fuel’.”

“This plan reverses one hundred years of efforts to get pollution out of cities and now we are looking to bring gas burning back into cities,” he told City Hub.

“It’s easy to compare to the coal-dominated status quo… in fact it is quite likely it is more polluting than coal because of fugitive emissions.”

As detailed in this publication last week, the City of Sydney hopes to produce its own energy for Sydney’s Town Hall and staff offices after Council approved a tender for a trigeneration plant.

The technology, also called cogeneration or CHP, is part of the City’s “decentralised” power strategy and uses gas to produce low-carbon electricity, which then creates heat that is used for cooling and heating.

It is part of the City’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 vision to reduce its year 2000 carbon emissions by 70 per cent in 2030 and is based on a $3.05 million grant from the Federal Government.

Instead, Mr Wright argues the council should focus on efficiency boosting measures like solar and heat pumps.

“If it does that, it will find trigeneration completely unnecessary,” he said.

The principal criticisms of trigeneration are its reliance on fossil fuel technology and partial reliance coal seam gas (CSG).

Councillor Edward Mandla, who claims the financials of the project don’t stack up, arguing it won’t generate adequate economic or environmental returns, echoes this.

“It is the whitest elephant in the Clover Moore circus,” he said.

“This is the last desperate roll of the dice to try and make the signature policy of the Clover Moore administration work.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore argued the plant would improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon pollution.

“The plant on the roof of Town Hall House will avoid about 74,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime,” she said “producing clean, local power, heating and cooling.”

On her role in the recent Paris trip she said “it is vital that we demonstrate the pivotal role cities play in reducing global emissions.”

Councillor Christine Forster said she hoped the Lord Mayor came away from the conference “with some fresh ideas about how the City can reduce its environmental footprint in cheaper, less risky ways that pursuing projects like retrofitted trigen power plants.”

Design and construction of the plant is set to begin in early 2016 and to become operational by mid-2016.