Marguerite Marshall shares her thoughts on how Australia can move towards renewable energy. Marguerite is a Uniting Church member and was trained by Al Gore as a climate reality leader.
Generally, our leaders have acted wisely in this pandemic because they took the advice of medical experts. Australia (apart from Victoria) is emerging out of this crisis relatively well, certainly in comparison with most of the world.
Yet alongside this huge challenge is another that needs attention now for the sake of a safe future – for the sake of our children’s future. That is climate change, which experts say will devastate our world unless we act effectively now.
Globally, super-storms, droughts, bushfires, bleaching of coral reefs, food insecurity and sea level rise are happening now at 1°C of warming since pre industrial times. The world is on track for at least a catastrophic 3°C of warming, according to climate experts such as the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The IPCC recommends limiting warming to 1.5oC, which will require the very rapid decarbonisation of the global economy to reach net zero emissions well before mid-century.
Christians, like everyone, find it difficult to deal with major crises, but we have hope. We know that God is at the centre of life and we need to use our God given gifts to love others.
Humanity has all the scientific, technical, and industrial knowledge to solve the climate emergency and to usher in a healthier world, says the IPCC
Fossil fuels are the major source of carbon dioxide producing about 80% of the world’s energy says the UN International Renewable Energy Agency.
Fossil fuels must be replaced with clean reliable renewable energy as soon as possible. Renewable energy can provide reliable power with the use of such technology as thermal storage, batteries, pumped hydro and smart grids.
Renowned economist Professor Ross Garnaut says renewables could meet 100% of Australia’s electricity requirements by the 2030s and at lower prices.
Even in this devastating pandemic there is hope. As we rebuild our economy we have an important opportunity to make major changes, which would help create a safe climate.
Australia could create one million new jobs without using fossil fuels, according to a plan by multi-award winning think tank, Beyond Zero Emissions. These include jobs in developing renewable energy, building (including social housing), manufacturing, transport, recycling, land use and training.
The Climate Council recently launched a 76 000 clean jobs plan that state and territory governments can start immediately.
Seventy per cent of these jobs are in construction, administrative, support and logistics services – sectors where 80 000 workers have already lost their jobs.
Forty-two per cent of the job opportunities are for regional Australians.
Yet the federal government is being urged to support a dramatic expansion of gas supply with tax incentives and finance, by its economic recovery advisory board National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, chaired by Neville Power, former CEO of Fortescue Metals Group.
The government should instead cut subsidies for fossil fuels, says Tim Buckley of the IEEFA (Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis). And Garnaut says, governments must underwrite new investment in renewable energy electricity supply and provide regulatory certainty.
Is Australia too small an economy to make a difference to global emissions?
No. Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter and the third largest fossil fuel exporter says the Australia Institute 2019.
Will our future safety be decided by business interests, who are not seizing the opportunities that renewable energy presents them?
Christians have a mandate to love others. So we must do what we can to ensure a safe climate future for all. Christians represent around 52 percent of Australia’s population. Together we can make a difference. We can join our church’s climate change bodies and so strengthen their voices to governments.
Our governments are making decisions now about rebuilding our economy for the October budget announcements. Now is the time to contact them and say we want them to respond to the science of climate change in the way they have responded to COVID-19. They need to develop clean new industries such as outlined in the BZE million jobs and the Climate Council 76 000 clean jobs plans. We can write and see our local MPs preferably representing groups such as our congregations.
Together we can influence elections such as council elections later this year by meeting our representatives. We can join the international divesting fossil fuel shares campaign. We can make personal changes like installing solar panels and encouraging our families, friends, workplaces and schools to do likewise.
We can pray that the spirit of truth will prevail so that as in the pandemic, governments will act wisely by consulting experts and acting accordingly.
This would help keep a safe climate for our children and grandchildren.
For suggestions on what faith communities can do and how to contact MPs visit the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change website, and read the Australian Conservation Foundation plan.