To the next minister for climate change & energy: The execution plan for climate mobilisationMay 5, 2022
Climate decisions taken here and globally within the next three years, the term of the new government, will determine the future of humanity. Climate is not a single issue. It is going to change every aspect of our society, so we cannot allow a continuation of the lies and deception around climate policy which the two-party system perpetuates.
For thirty years, Coalition governments have been in denial of human-induced climate change, despite science and evidence repeatedly confirming that the phenomenon is real and rapidly moving beyond human influence. But the Morrison government has taken climate denial and deception to new levels, not withstanding the fact that their three-year term has been dominated by climate disasters; first the 2019/20 bushfires then floods in profusion, not to forget that Covid is climate-related. Even greater climate disasters now occur regularly worldwide.
Contrary to political scaremongering, climate change, not China, is the greatest security threat we face. A threat which, because of political inaction here and globally, is now existential, meaning that it may either annihilate life or permanently, and drastically, curtail its potential. A threat facing the world at large, whose resolution requires co-operation rather than belligerent confrontation.
The latest IPCC AR6 reports, ignored by our politicians, confirm this future. There are no easy solutions. Carbon emissions globally must peak and reduce far faster than currently accepted politically, to reach zero as close to 2030 as possible. Atmospheric carbon concentrations must also be drawn down fast. A monumental undertaking requiring a fundamental re-framing of climate policy built around emergency action and the rapid phasing-out of the fossil fuel industry. As the IEA has stated, no new fossil fuel projects should be developed henceforth.
Yet despite the fact that we are already one of the world’s worst carbon polluters, the Morrison government bets the future of Australia on precisely the opposite. Namely massive expansion of the fossil fuel industry via a gas-led recovery and refusal to rule out coal expansion. Despite soaring rhetoric about commitment to climate action via its criminally irresponsible “Australian Way” policy, the government is doing everything possible to subsidise and otherwise shore up the future of the industry. In addition to this outrageous taxpayer-funded financial support, fossil fuel proponents have been deliberately installed in every climate management institution, to ensure real action is delayed. The flurry of appointments and additional funding immediately prior to the election being called is blatant corruption; yet another attempt to further extend the fossil fuel era.
Apart from outright climate denial, the neoliberal ideological argument for clinging to our past fossil glory is apparently that we should supply the markets until demand dries up. Ignoring the fact that it is this free market philosophy which has created the climate emergency, and proved incapable of solving it. But no matter, the government believes it is entitled to make matters worse, destroy our future, waste our limited resources in promoting the fossil industry to create even more stranded assets, and throw away our opportunities because it lacks the imagination and leadership to face reality.
Little wonder that Australia’s credibility as a responsible global citizen is rock-bottom, particularly amongst our “Pacific family”.
Unfortunately, the ALP, shadowing the government for electoral reasons, parrots this charade, and the mainstream media refuse to take up the real implications of climate change. The result is that our two-party political system is incapable of realistically addressing the greatest security threat facing Australia. Given that the top priority of any government should be the safety and protection of its people, this should be of great concern to every voter at the forthcoming election.
Hence the interest in independent candidates to cut through the fossilised inertia of our politics.
Whatever the outcome of this election, the urgency is such that Australia, as a nation, must mobilise at both national and community levels to face the climate threat, akin to wartime. So to assist the incoming Minister for Climate Change and Energy, here is the start of an Execution Plan for Climate Mobilisation:
Climate Change, as our greatest security threat, must be given absolute priority in national policy and decision-making, with its risks & uncertainties comprehensively assessed to provide the basis for policy and action – something, astonishingly, that has never been done officially in Australia.
The first priority, here and globally must be a rapid reduction in carbon emissions, along with drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere, to reach as close to zero emission as possible by 2030. An orderly transition to achieve this outcome is no longer possible. Discontinuity and disruption will be the new normal, which will require flexible planning, adaptation and resilience.
Cascading compound events must be planned for, as already evident with recent drought, bushfires and floods merging, often with insufficient intervals between them to enable recovery.
Systemic change is required across society, to ensure reforms and innovation are self-reinforcing and synergistic. Technology start-ups are important, but they must be part of a wider systemic process, otherwise they become little more than the silo-based incremental change to the status quo which characterises the government’s “Australian Way”. Far more focus must be placed on demand reduction, for example via energy efficiency, conservation and lifestyle change.
Systemic change also requires that the implications of climate change and the related geopolitics be assessed holistically, for example in designing integrated policy to ensure food, water and energy security, supply chain resilience etc, rather than treating each separately as per the current silo-based approach.
Fundamental reform to the neoliberal economic system is essential, recognising that conventional growth is no longer sustainable on a finite planet with increasing population, resource scarcity and environmental degradation. The neoliberal “free market”, having created the climate and other threats which are now breaking planetary boundaries, has shown itself incapable of solving them. Hence an increased role for the State is critical, part of which must be urgent attention to reduce burgeoning inequality.
Precautionary action must become a central tenet of climate risk and uncertainty management: “What is the worst thing that could feasibly occur, and what do we have to do to prevent it?”. This applies particularly to climate tipping points.
Initial Ministerial Actions
Post the 2022 Federal election, immediately convene a bi-partisan Climate Action Summit to agree on implementation of national mobilisation, based on the above principles.
Appoint a well-resourced, apolitical, independent task force to co-ordinate the response to the threats of climate change and their impact on the community. Members would be selected to obtain the best leadership and expertise across the national spectrum, encompassing science, emergency management, politics, business, finance, law, academia and community. Elected politicians, present or former, would not automatically take leadership roles or even participate.
Each member must be committed to emergency climate action and be genuinely independent, not associated with vested interests, so that the community can be confident the task force is acting for the common good. The task force would be charged with integrating and directing the multiple agencies, Federal and State, currently set up to address aspects of climate change, incorporating the best scientific and business knowledge.
Core objectives would be: preventing climate impacts becoming worse, to the extent possible; preparing communities for impacts which cannot be avoided; protecting the most vulnerable communities and natural systems on which we depend for our future survival; and integrating climate action into wider systemic change within society and economy.
The starting point must be a comprehensive whole-of-nation climate risk assessment, pulling together the best available information to anticipate possible climate impacts. Followed closely by a review of existing emergency services, including volunteer institutions, use of the ADF, international co-operation etc, to determine their suitability to manage these risks.
And much more, using the solutions now to hand, so that the resulting plan provides a sound framework for real climate action, which can be supported across the community, dispensing with the political games of the last three decades.
Global experts indicate that climate decisions taken here and globally within the next three years, the term of the new government, will determine the future of humanity.
Climate is not a single issue. It is going to change every aspect of our society, so we cannot allow a continuation of the lies and deception around climate policy which the two-party system perpetuates.
Use your vote wisely.
Read more in articles like this in our series if I was a minister.