Carbon economy like the GST: everyone must adapt

The inaugural AASH seminar highlighted the importance of preparing now for emissions trading and higher energy prices.

Aged care providers will need to adopt a new attitude to sourcing and using energy when the federal government’s ‘cap and trade’ emissions trading scheme is introduced next year.

The Director of consulting firm Carbon Managers, Helen Weston told the inaugural Australian Association of Sustainable Healthcare’s (AASH) seminar in Sydney that energy prices will soar under the scheme.

“The actual trading will only directly affect the top 1,000 polluters but the effect will be felt by all businesses and households,” she said. “It’s a bit like the GST in that regard.

“We are entering a totally new economic zone. And the reason is that natural resources have been left out of the economic equation since the Second World War. The priority has been on consumption.”

Electricity prices are expected to rise by 10-20 per cent annually over the next few years and the cost of other conventional fuels such as diesel and petrol will rise significantly too.

As a result health and aged care organisations will need to reduce their energy use and look at different ways of purchasing energy.

But the new economic environment will create a number of opportunities for organisations that are willing to adapt.

The Federal Government is organising a number of grants to help ease the transition, including the $2.5 billion Climate Change Action Fund which will assist small and medium businesses to adopt low-carbon technology.

On a micro level a number of aged care facilities would be able to generate their own power and heating by utilising available wind and solar power, according to Ms Weston.

“It may well be that a facility’s waste may be converted to alternative fuels,” she said.

AASH president John Brodie said the good news is that aged care providers are beginning to realise the need for sustainable business practices.

“A few years ago when I was talking about sustainability in aged care everyone would clap politely and say, ‘That’s nice’,” he said.

“But now they are really starting to engage in the discussion.”

The newly formed association aims to help hospitals, aged care providers and retirement living organisations to adapt and thrive in the changing business and environmental landscapes.

AASH will launch a website soon and it plans to hold a national conference in Hobart at the end of the year.

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