Enough! People are sick of dithering on climate change
Politicians are severely testing the patience of Australians on climate change.
It has taken more than a decade of wrangling for politicians to finally deliver some detailed policy to the floor of Parliament. Yet, when action appears close enough to touch, there is further delay or prospects of more unconditional handouts to big polluters.
An Auspoll survey taken last week shows that only 13 per cent think Australia’s Parliament is moving too fast on addressing climate change. Around half believe progress is too slow and only a solid, sceptical core of seven per cent thinks we should do nothing at all.
And despite the fear campaigns from big polluters and renewed noises from those challenging the science, a very solid majority wants the Coalition to get on with passing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) legislation.
The Auspoll survey of 1400 Australians asked whether the Liberals should support or oppose the CPRS. Seventy eight per cent thought they should back it, virtually unmoved since May’s seventy seven per cent outcome.
In each case the numbers are stronger for women and those under 34, key segments of swinging voters.
To better understand people’s concerns and hopes, The Climate Institute, and our partners in union, welfare and environment groups, has been talking with communities around Australia. In areas like the La Trobe and Gladstone there is a recognition that high polluting industries must change. They know they won’t remain competitive without new technologies and improved efficiency.
There has been an unprecedented campaign of deception from big polluters and others seeking special treatment or to block climate action portraying such action as a “jobs killer”. But the reality is very different.
All credible economic models say we that we can grow new clean energy jobs and industries as we significantly reduce carbon pollution. Indeed, the Minerals Council of Australia’s CEO, Mitch Hooke acknowledged as much during a recent Senate Inquiry hearing when he said: “we are not suggesting this is scorched earth. We know we are going to continue to grow.”
Perhaps more importantly, the non-modeled real world is turning to clean energy. In 2008 for the first time, investments in clean energy sources outstripped investments in fossil fuel technologies. And worldwide, the renewable energy sector already employs around 2.3 million people – more than the total number employed directly in oil and gas.
Australians can sense this opportunity. In a February poll on whether tackling climate change creates opportunities for jobs and new investments in clean energy (solar, wind, geothermal), 75% agreed or strongly agreed.
In recognition of this public frustration and thirst for action, labour, welfare, environment and research groups came together to launch a National Clean Energy Jobs Campaign at the weekend. This is multi-media and grassroots campaign supported by The Climate Institute, ACTU, Australian Council of Social Service, Australian Conservation Foundation and the WWF.
It’s a serious but cheeky campaign calling on “dinosaurs” in Parliament and in business to “evolve” by showing leadership on climate action to grow hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs as well as building a clean energy economy in which we can all be employed.
Our groups are calling on politicians to strengthen and pass the CPRS and renewable energy legislation now before Parliament and to take further action in areas like energy efficiency and providing dependable financing for clean technology solutions in Australia and in developing countries.
The campaign, which will run to the December UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen and beyond, is also urging Australians to help their politicians “evolve”. We’ll be visiting key communities as well as publishing more research and policy solutions.
This unusual alliance of groups is motivated by the urgent importance not only of avoiding the enormous social, environmental and economic costs of the climate crisis. It is also motivated by the missed opportunities of inaction. Australia has one of the most polluting and energy wasting economies in the developed world. If we don’t shift we risk being left behind.
There are challenges in making the shift but we are confident that Australia can make a just, fair and decisive shift to a clean energy economy.
With urgent climate action we can not only grow jobs and be competitive in the global clean energy economy, but cooperative in achieving an effective global climate agreement - imperative to both our environmental and economic security.
The message to politicians and polluters, many of whom remain a reptilian stride behind public opinion, is clear: “It’s time to evolve”.
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