On Saturday, 21 May 2022 we provided ourselves with a new chance to make a difference to our future, writes Richard Weller.
Inner city electorates and many other voters across Australia have asked for change. The LNP lost its way when it turned its face against the scientific fact and called climate change a crock. It has taken almost 10 years to bear fruit. I believe this point in time may be seen in future as a turning point in the fight against the climate crisis.
To have any chance of achieving the Paris goals of 1.5C or even 2C, we must move urgently to a zero carbon economy. We must try to take the rest of the world with us. While Australia is smaller than the big emitters such as the USA, Europe, China, India, etc, our exports amount to a very large liability in the face of the global drive to de-carbonise.
Action is urgent. All the reports say we must have no new investment in fossil fuel facilities and indeed, we must plan to shut many existing ones down over the next 15 years. We must do this or abandon our children’s future. This is not some radical agenda. This is simply what the science tells us we must do.
Australia must show we are willing to do our bit to transition or abandon any appeal to the big economies that they must also take swift action. Just because we have a Chihuahua while others have Great Danes, we should still pick up the dog poo.
What is the task required for Australia?
Achieving a target in temperature rise requires us to limit ourselves to a “budget” of total emissions. Every year we continue to emit greenhouse gases, we must subtract the amount emitted from this budget.
When the budget is exhausted, we will have essentially committed to breaching the target temperature for that budget. The idea of an “end target”, such as net zero by 2050, is meaningless without a profile of reductions over each year up to the end point.
More than half of Australia’s emissions come from fossil fuel electricity and our transport fleet. Moving to renewable electricity and electric transport at the same time will get Australia onto the right pathway. The correct target for this would be to aim for 2030, but targets for the years up until then must be part of the plan to comply with the budget.
Australia is a caring society where everyone should get a fair go. I do not believe we would abandon the vulnerable during this transition. Jobs must be transitioned to the new low carbon industries that will come to replace fossil fuels. This takes planning and a Transition Authority would perform a useful role.
The opportunities for new industries are huge
Australia has immediate opportunities with our fabulous renewable energy resources. Our solar resources are the best in the world. We also have wind resources spread right across the country. Our large land extent provides for space and to enable us to build storage into the electricity grid. Companies are lining up to invest in Australia. We have a stable political and economic environment that makes us a very attractive investment location, especially now that our government will support such investment.
We have a rapidly developing market just to our north with Asia finding its feet through economic development. Australia is ideally placed to provide low carbon exports which we can produce using renewable energy from wind and solar. Several very big projects already underway aim to export green energy, either as electricity via undersea cables or as ammonia or hydrogen.
While emissions reduction is the most vital response to the climate crisis, we must also prepare for the impacts that we have already allowed to build up in the climate system. Repeats of the Black Summer bushfires and the flooding of this year are now inevitable. Such extreme events will also get worse in the future. This is the result of decisions made over the last 30 years, but these are now in the past and cannot be changed. We must look to the future and prepare for unprecedented extremes.
Facing up to the climate crisis is no small task. Australia has faced diversity before in our history. The simple fact is that we have little choice. We must take on this challenge and plan in detail and well ahead or fail to survive the changes that are coming, or to put a break on the spiral towards worse extremes.
We are starting a new phase in Australia’s history from a very low base. Let’s get it right.