Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Last Wednesday I hosted a forum at the Cockburn City Soccer Club in my electorate on the subject of climate change. There were 90 attendees, and the room was full despite the fact that it was held on a weeknight and at a busy time of year. In addition to presenting the government’s position on climate change, I also arranged for two expert speakers to address the forum: David Hodgkinson, a climate change consultant and author of Global Climate Change: Australian Law and Policy; and Brad Pettitt, Dean of Murdoch University’s School of Sustainability. I am grateful to both David and Brad for their thoughtful presentations on different aspects of the challenge that faces Australia and that faces the global community.
The main purpose of the evening, however, was to receive direct input from Fremantle constituents, and there was an impressive range of contributions. People spoke or asked questions about emissions trading, solar energy, feed-in tariffs, green building code requirements, public transport, bicycle lanes, renewable energy targets and electric cars. There were people who thought the government should be doing more, those who thought the government was moving too slowly, and others who thought it was moving too fast. There was a gentleman who wanted proof that climate change was happening and that it was anthropogenic. A man in the audience took the microphone, introduced himself as Karl Dyktynski, an Environmental Scientist at Murdoch University, and explained the empirical basis for the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its causes. In my view that is what Australian democracy is all about—an open and passionate but also courteous and reasonable discussion of the issues.
In response to the flyer that advertised the forum I also received almost 100 written contributions. All the responses and the forum transcript will be collated in a report that will be distributed to attendees and I will forward a copy to the Minister for Climate Change.
One of the themes to emerge from the forum in Fremantle was a recognition that many, if not all, of the policy changes that we are now considering as a response to climate change make good sense in themselves. We need to increase renewable green energy as a proportion of our energy profile because we need to reduce carbon emissions and because we need to decrease our reliance on hydrocarbons and because it will improve the air quality in our communities. We need to look at the demand management side of both the energy and water equations because using energy and water more efficiently is not only better for the environment, it is also cheaper for households. I would go further and say that living in balance with our environment, which we have not been doing for some considerable time, even before climate change arose, requires a mindfulness and respect for life on this planet and for the life of future generations that is a virtue in itself. A shift towards the culture of sustainability is a shift towards greater responsibility, maturity and stewardship on the part of humanity.
One of the last contributions to the forum was by Paul Loring, who said that good government should not just bring quantitative change but also qualitative change. I could not agree more.