The importance of a climate-smart recovery
Australia has been a global leader in dealing with both the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date this has largely been achieved through the National Cabinet’s demonstration of bipartisan cooperation as well as government decision-making largely based on the advice of medical and other experts. Australia could also become a global leader on addressing climate change because the reality is that the bigger and looming crisis that is climate change has not gone away. (Who can forget the bushfire season of 2019/20?).
The pandemic has brought home the fact that our health and that of our loved ones , our community and country are what really matters. When our health is threatened we will take bold actions to counter that threat. The threats to our health from climate change, whilst less apparent and slower moving, are also very real. For example, every year the combustion of fossil fuels, which is a major contributor to global warming and air pollution, is linked to the premature deaths of 3,000 Australians.
Re-building the economy and re-building from the disruptions to everyday life presents great opportunities to ‘build back better’ with stimulus packages that promote a climate-smart recovery of a faster transition to renewable energy and zero net carbon emissions and a more liveable world.
We’ve seen how effective our governments can be when they collaborate in responding to a crisis, particularly through the National Cabinet. Learnings from the COVID-19 response need to be adopted to ensure our recovery helps us to respond to the climate crisis as well.
Stimulus packages for economic recovery such as Beyond Zero Emissions ‘Million Jobs Plan’ can be for many things including energy improvements in homes and small businesses, transitioning industries and infrastructure projects to clean energy and technologies and support for large and small scale energy storage. Experts have also shown that dollar for dollar investment in clean energy projects produce twice as many jobs as fossil fuel projects. Additionally there are significant health benefits to be gained, including from improvements to air quality and greater availability of active and public transport. The National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board has an important role to play here.
As our National Chair said in his recent blog , all or most of the best of the climate-smart economic stimulus initiatives would need to be implemented at scale in order for significant impact on carbon emissions and this will not be possible whilst the health and environmental costs of fossil fuels are not included in their price – in effect a subsidy that favours the consumption of fossil fuels. That is why Citizens’ Climate Lobby advocates an efficient price on carbon which internalises the social costs of fossil fuels and incentivises zero-carbon technology development and uptake at a much accelerated rate.
There are also great risks that a ‘business as usual’ approach or worse is adopted. The worst being where polluting industries are further subsidised and infrastructure projects fast-tracked with less focus on environmental protection or renewable energy enhancements.
Our communications will be with politicians, and in traditional and social media, as well as with family, friends and the broader community. Our aim is to help build support for a climate-smart recovery where the economic and climate crises are addressed simultaneously so that economic recovery also helps ‘flatten the curve’ of greenhouse gas emissions. We will also call out actions when the opposite is happening.
As we have seen through the pandemic, the approach of bipartisan co-operation and actions driven by expert climate science advice could see Australia also become a global leader in action to address climate change.
What you can do
- Write a letter / email to your Federal MP: Express your support for a ‘climate-smart recovery’ and concern for a return to a ‘business as usual’ or worse approach to building back after the COVID-19 pandemic. A template letter to guide you can be found here. A short video tutorial can be found here.
- Write to a newspaper: Find news items to respond to with a Letter to the Editor or Comment. Here is a ‘How to’ guide and examples of published letters.
- Join the conversation with Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia: on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit or at one of our many events around the country here.
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