The Story of Our Planet Unfolds

(6pm, Wednesday 6 August, Customs House)

Thank you, John [Connor, CEO]. Good evening, everyone. Welcome to Customs House and to this very significant exhibition.

For the past two years, Michael has been Creative Fellow at The Climate Institute, using his time there to build on work he had been doing in the previous five years to capture the manifestations and effects of climate change around the world.

The results - haunting, often beautiful - are here this evening, and for the next month - until September 5.

It needs to be widely seen. Climate change is caused by us all, and it's affecting us all, whether in the form of historically devastating bushfires in Tasmania, or Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, in the gradual destruction of the Great Barrier Reef or the fearsome pollution that makes the air in some Chinese cities unbreathable.

Yet as this exhibition reminds us, while we are the cause, we can also be the cure, using science, technology, and creativity to find new and less damaging ways to live.

On a recent visit to China, I was impressed that this vast country - often portrayed as the worst of the carbon villains - is making massive efforts to green its cities.

Seven cities and provinces representing about 250 million people are piloting emissions trading schemes. Beijing is moving away from coal to sustainable energy sources. Shenzhen has recently introduced strict green building standards and is building a 2,000 km greenway for pedestrians and cyclists and installing electric car charging stations across the city.

In Sydney, we've developed a Green Infrastructure Plan to identify renewable energy sources, improve efficiency, reduce waste, save water and convert waste to gas. We're ready to go with trigeneration (a decentralised energy system) once the government makes the necessary regulatory changes to permit economic, precinct-wide trigen.

This will help us reduce greenhouse emissions by 70 per cent by 2030.

We've also initiated a host of programs and projects - from LED street lighting to programs for green offices and green apartments - that residents and businesses are implementing. And they're finding that they're not only making for a more sustainable future, they're also making significant cost-savings.

There are many more examples from Sydney and around the world that I could give but the point is that solutions are being found. Sustainability is not only possible, it can vastly improve the quality of life for everyone.

But we need leadership, especially in Australian federal politics.

I hope this exhibition will be seen by ordinary Australians who might then be inspired to demand change from our Federal and State politicians, and demand the right for their children to inherit a liveable planet. Without that groundswell of support, no real changes will be made.

The choice, as John said when he invited me to open this exhibition, is whether we "rally or dally" in response to climate change.

I want to see us all rally.

I congratulate The Climate Institute on harnessing the power of our artists through their Creative Fellowships. And I congratulate Michael Hall on this wonderful series. The images I am sure will remain with everyone who sees them.

I'm pleased to declare it officially open.