Celebrities all over are espousing their love of green. Australia’s business and political bosses are no exception. Up-and-coming senator Andrew Murray announced recently he would become carbon neutral by buying a hybrid car, joining the green electricity grid and buying a bus pass. Insurance Australia Group’s chief executive Michael Hawker has replaced his old gas-guzzler with a Prius. Rising Australian Labor Party star and union boss Bill Shorten is also buying a Prius.Origin Energy’s Tony Wood has planted 4000 trees on his property, and BlueScope Steel’s Kirby Adams has added a rainwater harvesting system to reduce his home water consumption.
The resources sector has been slow to jump on board the debate, and Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief Sam Walsh is lagging behind in his own green choices, too he’s just put down a deposit on a luxury Lexus LS 600 hybrid car that has a V8 engine hardly a greenie’s vehicle.
Many say they are changing their lifestyles in a quest to reduce individual carbon emissions. The petrol/electric hybrid has the lowest fuel-consumption rating of any vehicle on the Australian market. A former rugby star, Hawker’s been a long-time advocate of the dangers of global warming, installing solar panels and wind turbines to the roof of his house.
So why the sudden urge? It seems that Perth-based environmental organisation Carbon Neutral has been working hard to sign up businesses that want to offset their emissions or at least appear to do so.
However, it seems that one of the hardest habits for the Australians to give up is also one of the worst individual acts against the environment. Very few Australian senior executives and politicians are likely to want to give up air travel.
Carbon Neutral spokeswoman Angela Tillier says the average Australian is responsible for about 13 tonnes of domestic carbon emissions each year – well above the sustainable level of about two tonnes. But a return flight to the United Kingdom or continental Europe will create an estimated 12 tonnes of greenhouse gases per person. Roughly speaking, a Melbourne-Sydney return flight needs three trees to be planted per passenger to offset the emissions, according to Carbon Neutral.
Organisations, including several West Australian government departments, had paid “anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars” for Carbon Neutral to plant trees on their behalf to negate their emissions.
“Flying is one of the single worst things you can do,” Ms Tillier said. “We have to reduce air travel and encourage companies to do more teleconferencing and web-conferencing, or to send one delegate to a conference instead of sending a few.”
Ms Tillier said her not-for-profit group had been inundated with requests from companies in the past few months – which she attributed largely to the success of Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. Unfortunately, it seems that Gore’s brand of outward piety and frequent flying is a trend Austalia’s bosses are eager to follow.
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