A Low Carbon Future: Unlocking Australia’s Renewable Energy Potential

Wednesday 30 March 2016
6.00 - 7.30pm

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Charles Perkins Lecture Theatre, Johns Hopkins Drive, University of Sydney


“We have some of the world’s best renewable energy resources, the best scientific research and know-how, and a skilled workforce, but we need policies to capture this opportunity.” Mark Butler, MP

Fundamental changes in global energy production pose significant challenges for Australia. In particular, as the recent Paris climate agreement highlights there is now international consensus among nation states for dramatic reductions in carbon emissions. Combined with the technological disruption of low cost renewable energy technologies, it is clear a global transition towards a low-carbon economy is now underway. While Australia has some of the world’s best renewable energy resources, scientific research and know-how, and a skilled workforce, it currently lacks policies which can harness the full potential of a low carbon future.

Mark Butler, MP is currently conducting formal consultations across Australia with industry, employers, unions and community groups to determine an appropriate emissions reduction target.  This aligns with the international commitment to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius.

With Climate Change touted as one of the key issues that could affect the outcome of the next Federal election, the Shadow Environment Minister drops into the Sydney Environment Institute for a conversation about the future of climate policy in Australia and where the party stands on the issue for Australia’s future.

SEI Respondents:
Professor Tony Vassallo, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Sydney

Lisette Collins PhD candidate, Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney



Mark Butler is currently the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water.

Mark was elected to Federal Parliament in 2007 representing the electorate of Port Adelaide. His career in Parliament has so far included; Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Minister for Social Inclusion, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and Water.

Before entering Parliament, Mark worked for 15 years in the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) including 11 years as State Secretary and was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2003 for services to trade unionism.

Mark holds a First Class Honours Law degree, an Arts degree and a Masters degree in International Relations.

Professor Tony Vassallo holds the Delta Electricity Chair in Sustainable Energy Development in the Faculty of Engineering & Information Technology. Although a physical chemist by training he can masquerade as an engineer when required. He is a passionate advocate of the need to transition to low carbon energy sources, and in particular, the development of battery energy storage to facilitate very high levels of renewable generation. He teaches sustainability and researches energy storage.
A past President of the Australian Institute of Energy, he is also Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Development in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.

Lisette Collins is a PhD candidate in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, specialising in climate change adaptation policy at the local government level across Australia.  Her PhD research focuses on the prioritisation of sociopolitical concepts (education, vulnerable groups and mental health) in adaptation planning. The research involves the development of a unique database of adaptation plans from across the country which has been sought out by local government employees in New South Wales, Western Australia, and Victoria. She is also part of a research team, which considers the relationship between vulnerability prioritisation and community consultation in local government adaptation planning.