Time to step up and tackle climate change, says Peter Quinn

By John Lewis

During the next few weeks, The News will run a series of interviews with community leaders about their views on climate change.

We asked four questions:

1: What is your position on global warming and climate change?

2: Are we doing enough to mitigate the impact of climate change in the region?

3: Do community and business leaders have a role in advocating for more action, and positioning our region to take advantage of emerging opportunities?

4: What is your Number One priority to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Today we feature the responses of Goulburn Valley Water managing director Peter Quinn.

What is your position?

Climate change and global warming are happening now. The impacts and effects are becoming more and more visible – both locally in the Goulburn Valley and on a wider scale across our country and internationally.

Climatic conditions are becoming more volatile and unpredictable: in the past year alone, we’ve experienced unusual, unseasonal weather events – devastating fires, summer snowfalls, fewer but more intense rainfall periods, extended heatwaves and droughts.

Last summer in this region, we saw our water storage volumes decrease at a rate never seen before, and with warmer and drier seasons, we’ve experienced lower inflows into our catchment areas and storages. This warmer climate will mean less water available as well as changes in the quality of the water in our rivers and streams. The current experience in New South Wales is evidence that we can’t be constrained by our existing knowledge of what the ‘worst case’ conditions look like.

Are we doing enough?

I think positive initial steps have been taken and some great work is under way in the Goulburn Valley. There is still much more to be done and right now, I think there is a significant opportunity to take steps to address this.

Historically, we’ve focused on seeking solutions through traditional thinking and engineering measures, but to face what is an increasingly important challenge, we need to think more broadly and look to the practices of tomorrow. We have an opportunity to innovate and think beyond ‘normal’ responses. Mitigation efforts should focus on culture change and build resilience through alternatives – for example, alternative water sources, renewable energy, being energy conscious and alternative farming, to name a few.

Importantly, we should be equipping our communities with the knowledge and capacity to build their own response and resilience to climate change and give them tools to proactively respond at a grassroots level.

Do community and business leaders have a role?

It’s critical that community leaders step up and drive initiatives and lead by example. There is a responsibility for leaders to strive to create opportunities, and then act.

There are opportunities to collaborate to develop initiatives across the community – cross-business and community-business partnerships are paramount. Partnerships between a range of players could lead to the development of waste-to-energy facilities, for example.

Businesses can be leaders through visible, climate related projects, or by supporting initiatives from community groups to help mitigate and adapt to climate change. Facilitating community capacity is key to seeing increased action to capitalise on emerging opportunities.

What is your number one priority?

The immediate priority is to create a pathway to carbon neutral for Goulburn Valley Water. We’re also investigating opportunities and new technologies that will enable us to fast track carbon emission reductions.  We’re already working to achieve this through our renewable energy project to install solar panels at several of our sites, including our Fryers Street office. We are also reducing energy use at all of our sites and planning to source renewable energy for a large part of our requirements.

In the future, we need to develop innovative ways to offset wastewater processing emissions, continue building community education campaigns, and position GVW as a leading example on climate change mitigation and adaption.

Ultimately, we need to support the community and industry to promote growth and prosperity, while at the same time finding innovative ways to reduce energy consumption and offset emissions.