Striving for more than just “…blah, blah, blah…”

Greta Thunberg has put climate change in the spotlight.

The Swedish environmental activist, known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action for climate change (like in her famous “…blah, blah, blah…” speech), kept us all honest during the COP26 talks in Glasgow.

COP26 was the 2021 United Nations climate change conference. For nearly thirty years, the UN has been convening almost every country on earth for global climate summits. They’re called COPs which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’.  COP26 was regarded as the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control. 

COP21 in Paris in 2015, countries have been working under what’s been known as the Paris Agreement. An Agreement where countries committed to bring forward plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions. These plans were to contribute to the aim of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees; to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate; and to make money available to deliver these aims.

COP26 ended with a stark warning of the importance of this coming decade to enact change. We’re yet to see the upshot of commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow, but since Paris (and even before that) the City has been working hard to reduce greenhouse emissions.

What is the City doing?

Our Sustainability Framework & Action Plan 2020-2022 has 66 actions divided into priority areas including protecting the environment, community wellbeing and social equity, and responsible and transparent business. The City will report annually against the Global Reporting Initiative Standards and align its activities with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Backing up the Sustainability Framework and Action plan is the Environment Strategy 2020-2030 and the Climate Change Response Plan 2021-2030, along with a commitment to plant 1 million trees by 2030. We’ve got an Urban Forest StrategyStormwater Services Strategy and Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy. And we’re a UNESCO City of Design, which commits us to Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities.

We’ve set targets including:

  • by 2035, it’s our aim that the Geelong region will have net zero carbon emissions
  • all City-managed operations are to be carbon neutral by 2025
  • all City-owned light fleet vehicles are to be powered by zero-emission sources by 2030
  • 100 percent renewable electricity supply for all City owned and operated buildings and streetlights is to be achieved by 2025
  • establishing an additional 1,000 hectares of protected natural habitat is to occur by 2030 and
  • halving the volume of organic materials going to landfill from residential waste bins between 2020 and 2030, with a target of 20 per cent reduction by 2025.

We’re also doing clever things like looking at how to make our urban growth areas more sustainable in a multitude of ways, including reducing the heat island effect.

Before all this we knew something had to be done to work towards low carbon economic growth. So some forward-thinking staff created a program, found a partner (in the Geelong Manufacturing Council) and won money (from the Victorian Government) to deliver a market development program for clean technologies.

It came after the Geelong Manufacturing Council ran a conference back in May 2012. The conference was in collaboration with Enterprise Connect and the City of Greater Geelong and was called the Clean Technology Conference. It was geared towards empowering businesses transitioning to clean technologies.

At the conference, keynote speaker, John Thwaites, Chairman of ClimateWorks Australia provided an overview of our changing environmental and economic climate and why it is important to embrace Clean technologies. 

At the conclusion of the conference, when the audience was asked what they would like to have happen next, they requested that a clean technology cluster/network be set up. This cluster/network would help to identify and secure growth opportunities in the cleantech sector for local manufacturers in Greater Geelong. So we set up a business support program to drive the growing cleantech sector in Geelong. Cleantech Innovations Geelong is a business and industry support program to develop markets for cleantech and circular economy solutions.

Clean technology is defined in Australia as economically viable products, services and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of natural resources and cut or eliminate emissions and wastes [1]. We refer to it as cleantech and we also sprinkle a little circular economy in with it just for good measure.

Cleantech is a growing market with broad opportunities across renewables, energy efficiency, clean cities, waste management and recycling, water, green buildings, biomaterials, biofuels, stimulating demand for cleantech goods and services, and ultimately, circular economy solutions.

Market analysis conducted in 2013 indicates that every job created in the cleantech sector, generates two to six further indirect jobs in the sector [2].

Our vision is to establish Geelong as a Centre of Excellence for cleantech and circular economy solutions in Australia, by attracting investment, creating jobs and building skills. The business support program is now in it's ninth year, delivering projects which provide economic growth outcomes for Greater Geelong, as well as opportunities which are good for the planet.

We’ve been demonstrating clean technologies and circular economy solutions. Seven clever and creative organisations have conducted demonstrations in our region with support from Cleantech Innovations Geelong. Capricorn Power, Deakin University, Focus Pty Ltd and Geelong Sustainability Group Inc. completed clean technology projects that address stockpiled landfill, household energy use, community solar production and renewable energy.

We’ve been using our buying power to stimulate innovation, using a pioneering method for the first time in Australia, called Procurement for Innovation. This innovative method stimulates market demand and supply through public procurement. Using the substantial buying power of public sector procurement, the method helps to move markets to more sustainable options. Essentially, a public sector procurer establishes a forward commitment to procure a product to respond to an unmet need, which is not yet available on the market.

By making this commitment, suppliers on the market are assured that if investment in research and development of a response to an unmet need is undertaken, there is a commitment to procure when the public sector buyer goes to tender. We’ve developed age-defying bridges using the method.

A second Procurement for Innovation project was initiated by the City of Greater Geelong, for the design and supply of road infrastructure products that apply the principles of a circular economy. We’re stimulating the availability of pavements, road surfaces, kerbs and guttering that apply circular economy principles (a circular economy continually seeks to reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption, while enabling economic growth through more productive use of natural resources).

We’ve even created an eLearning training course to teach others how to use the Procurement for Innovation method. 

We’ve been creating new cleantech products. A grant was provided to Sequence Digital to develop a remote monitoring system for combustible materials (for example: organics and other recovered materials), to achieve processing efficiencies and improve safety on sites.

We’ve been expanding cleantech businesses. A grant was provided to STRUT to conduct field trials of an innovative technology, using the Internet of Things. The device makes it easier for local producers to get the best from their agricultural activities through soil and water management.

We’ve been growing cleantech capabilities. Several research projects, training programs, events, and marketing activities have been delivered through Cleantech Innovations Geelong’s support. Some of these include the Runway-RICE Circular Economy Business Growth Program, Geelong ClimateLaunchpad, G21 Commercial & Industrial Food Organics study, countless conference presentations and journal articles. Our work has even been featured in the Economist.

Since its inception in 2014, Cleantech Innovations Geelong has delivered 25 projects, which have created and maintained over 650 jobs (directly and indirectly), developed skills amongst over 2,000 people, expanded 49 businesses and increased sales in businesses by over $18 million.

The international talks on climate change at COP26 have galvanised our efforts to develop markets for more cleantech and circular economy solutions. We know the next decade is critical. If the time to act is now, it’s reassuring to know that the City continues to invest in clean technology and circular economy market development. This commitment acknowledges the positive outcomes delivered by the City (and partners, Geelong Manufacturing Council and the Victorian Government) since 2013 through Cleantech Innovations Geelong. Going forward we’ll continue this important work and add more to our efforts.

Our plan is to:

  • establish Geelong as a Centre of Excellence in cleantech and circular economy solutions
  • attract and support more businesses to conduct cleantech and circular economy demonstrations and take the existing demonstration projects to the next level
  • optimise a market driven response - leveraging urban growth developments, product development activities, Procurement for Innovation opportunities and taking a deeper dive to build skills and capabilities through our Procurement for Innovation training and
  • initiate our self-funding model. Over the past three years we have investigated ways the business support program can self-fund its activities.

This article features just some of the projects we’ve delivered through Cleantech Innovations Geelong. To go back in time and see our work since 2013 view our future proofing business and industry page.

[1] Source: Australian Cleantech

[2] Leggett, A., Cleantech Innovations Geelong: Market Analysis, Australia, December 2013

Page last updated: Monday, 13 November 2023