Reef damage changes minds on climate change prioritie

09 Nov 2009Archived News Energetics in the News

PUBLISHED: Courier Mail by Graham Readfearn - Energetics is mentioned as a participant of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation ZooX Ambassador program.

AN environmental project to put staff from blue-chip companies face-to-face with the effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef has helped to secure more than $2 million in funding for science research.

Brisbane-based not-for-profit Great Barrier Reef Foundation is hoping its ZooX Ambassador program, which gives corporate staff an in-depth field-based crash course in climate change and coral reef science, can turn bosses and staff into advocates for sustainability.

The foundation is using the $2 million raised so far to fund scientific research to find ways to preserve what's left of the Reef, which scientists say is already being devastated by climate change.

Since August last year more than 30 staff from Commonwealth Bank, BHP Billiton, Telstra, Qantas and emissions consultancy Energetics have taken part.

Shay O'Hara-Smith, ZooX Ambassador program director, said all participants had developed projects which they would be implementing when they returned to the workplace.

``Part of the recruitment process is about developing their idea before they take part. Our main outcome is to have the workplace sustainability projects up and running,'' she said.

Late last month 10 staff from Qantas and Commonwealth Bank were on Heron Island, at the south tip of the Reef off the central Queensland coast, for three days of field work where they developed their own projects to reduce the impact of their companies on the environment.

Qantas aircraft maintenance engineer Bruce Buckland is working on a project to make big cuts in the amount of water that's used when aircrafts are serviced before each flight.

Buckland, 37, of Everton Hills in north Brisbane, said: ``Being on Heron has just been excellent. I hadn't really considered the health of the Reef and the complexity of the situation and how the Reef is an excellent barometer for climate change.''

Nicolle West, 30, of Sydney, works in the wealth management division of the Commonwealth Bank and has been auditing the impacts of her department on the environment.

``It's fascinating to come here and seeing the effects of coral bleaching is an eye-opener. You hear a lot about carbon emissions but you don't think of the effect that it's having on the Reef. I felt quite drained to think that this is happening - I want to know what I can do to make a difference,'' she said.

Peter Broschofsky, head of environment and fuel conservation at Qantas Australia, said: ``ZooX is about staff engagement and it's about attempting to change behaviour and create some focus.'' He said about 96 per cent of the airline's global emissions of greenhouse gases came from fuel use, so it was important staff understood the links between their activities and climate change.

Jeremy Baskin, Australia director of the University of Cambridge Sustainability Leadership Program, is part of the ZooX faculty of experts which includes world-renowned coral scientist Terry Done, Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Marine Studies at University of Queensland.

Baskin says companies which are serious about lowering their risk of exposure to a carbon price have not pulled back on programs because of the global financial crisis, but said not enough Australian companies were taking the issue of a carbon price seriously.

``They're behind their global counterparts and maybe that's a short-sighted approach. There are some genuine attempts by some companies to recognise the issue and to see how they can manage the risk. Sometimes it's just greenwash,'' he said.

``Why are Australian companies so reticent? I'm generalising, but it's probably because the economy is so carbon-intensive that they've got an interest in continuing that in the hope the lucky country will get through it.''

http://www.barrierreef.org

For a daily debate on the environment and sustainability issues visit Graham Readfearn's blog at couriermail.com.au/greenblog

Join the conversation