Tuesday, 2 February 2021
Climate Change, Australia Day
The Prime Minister has been dragged kicking and screaming to say something about the climate crisis. He says that we're potentially going to have net zero emissions by 2050. By 2050 it will be too late. Targets for 2050 are very attractive for do-nothing governments, oppositions and businesses that don't want to lift a finger in this the critical decade—the decade that scientists have said is the last chance for us humans not to lose control of a spiralling, reinforcing breakdown of our climate system. If we don't succeed by 2030 then by 2050 the domino-like collapse of our planet's natural processes will be unstoppable. It will affect our farms, our oceans, our forests, our cities and our suburbs. It's what we do by 2030 that matters. Net zero by 2050 blows our carbon budget. It is code for someone else's problem. There will be no aspect of life left untouched, and nothing we will be able to do will be able to stop the damage if we don't clean up our act by 2030.
The new US President understands the urgency and the seriousness of the problem that neither the Liberals nor the Nationals, or even, sadly, Labor, have quite grasped—100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035 and $2 trillion on job-creating clean energy infrastructure. Within the first few days of his presidency, Mr Biden has yanked away permits for massive oil and gas pipelines, withdrawn exploration permits, rejoined the Paris Agreement and committed to an all-electric fleet of homemade vehicles for the government's use. He did more in two days to create jobs and protect the climate than the Australian government has done in its entire seven years.
The coal, oil and gas industries there have been left stunned. To quote one oil executive:
The industry is aghast at these changes … They are more direct, more fierce and quicker than what folks expected.
But that is how you start to act when you truly deeply realise that we only have a handful of years to stop a runaway climate breakdown. It is simple maths. There's only a certain amount of carbon left that we can burn before we go over these tipping points. Here, at home, the independent Climate Targets Panel updated Australia's obligations based on the new global carbon budget. The government has to double its 2030 target, to 50 per cent, for a two-degree hotter world and triple it for a safer 1½ degree one. The pathway for a two-degree world is net zero by 2045 and the pathway for a 1½ degree world is net zero by 2035. That is what a science based target looks like.
If the Prime Minister ever gets a call from the new United States President and if he invites us to the climate summit in April—which we shouldn't be confident about given the UK and France barred us from speaking at the UN conference last year—what is the Prime Minister going to do? He can't take his gas fired recovery there, because US climate envoy John Kerry explicitly said that gas is not a bridging fuel and warned against new gas projects. He said:
… when we haven't really exhausted the other possibilities, we're going to be stuck with stranded assets in 10, 20, 30 years.
The only thing that this government can do to not remain isolated on the global stage, with other petrostates like Russia and Saudi Arabia, is to commit to 2030 science based targets and have a fully costed plan to get us there, just like the Greens have.
The day that dispossession commenced is marked on 26 January. It's a day of mourning for First Nations people, and it's a day of shame and reflection for an ever-growing number of Australians. For those who insist that we continue to celebrate dispossession and all the misery, pain and suffering that followed, they not only make the pain and hurt for First Australians worse but they deny the truth about our shared history. It is only by facing up to our shared history and accepting it that we can then start preparing for our shared future.
The Greens are calling on all leaders across society not just in this place but in business as well as local community leaders, sports leaders and club managers to listen to and respect the wishes of First Nations peoples so that we can close the gap, acknowledge and address sovereignty, achieve justice, negotiate treaties and repair and protect country. This is a future we should all be striving for—listening, respecting, healing and contributing.
Individuals can do it and governments can do it too. But when governments do it, it's called treaty. Treaty and truth-telling are the foundational processes for giving First Nations meaningful control and power over their lives, and that is when we will see all the gaps meaningfully and permanently closed. By healing ourselves, we can heal country, and, in turn, by healing our country, we can heal ourselves. By listening and contributing positively, we can do the things that need to be done to make this country a better place.