Climbing the mountain of climate change

Where do we go from here, do we remain at base camp for another 15 years?
The going has become more difficult as international chaos threatens! Here are my thoughts, we welcome those of any member.

BREXIT and more

Brexit is just one of the increasing barriers to the successful prosecution of climate change. Why?

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has indicated that the Paris agreement may have to be redrawn after Brexit. This year the agreement has to be ratified by countries representing 55% of global emissions. The UK reduction in emissions can no longer be taken for granted……

Those seeking power in the UK are Farage (“I haven’t got a clue whether climate change is being driven by carbon-dioxide emissions”) and Boris (Buffoon as some know him) who says that warm weather caused by humanity is “without foundation”.

In 2008 the UK became the first country to set a long-term binding law mandating emissions be cut by 80 percent by 2050 and it commenced a voluntary emissions market before the EU launched its own carbon trading system. 

Right wing activity already in play in many European countries will be fortified by Brexit. These populists use fear and denigrate science. 

Brexit is a symptom of complex disease in civilisation

Addressing mitigation is set to become much more difficult as three processes augment each other. They are tipping points of a different ilk which now confront us.

The first is economic stagnation, born of capitalism itself, a system at best irrational and at worst destructive for it thrives on individualism and eschews collectivism; its end point appears to be inequality, with lack of capital for essential tasks other than making more money, and stagnation for most other enterprises. Growth is vital for successful capitalism to provide jobs for expanding populations and for the aspiration of increasing living standards. Economic stagnation has become world wide and Governments have been able to do little.

The second is increasing evidence that the growth model is being impaired by the barrier of finite resources; there may still be plenty of coal but not productive land, water and available biological resource. The size of the cake is becoming fixed and it may have to be shared in diminishing proportions. This barrier is one cause of developing world instability and hunger with 60m people on the move.

Third climate change sequelae are now factors pitted against effective greenhouse mitigation. For example budgets are stressed in many nations by the cost of reparation and most importantly the 60m refugees from conflict and climate change. They are creating political instability and are being used by the opportunists to gain power.

Some of these factors have undoubtedly played out in BREXIT.

In Australia we sit securely surrounded by sea and tighten our borders, avoid leadership, reduce overseas aid and in reality let the rest of the world get on with it.

After the election, what next?

Despite the increased public interest in action on climate change, this election has indicated that effective policy still escapes Australia. The only difference to the last election is that emissions are higher now. DEA action with political candidates has indicated their policy bankruptcy.

So after the election whether Coalition or Labor is in power the tasks before us are considerable,-

According to the Climate Policy Credibility Assessment: Federal Election 2016 from the Climate Institute, the outcomes of current policies of the Parties, if other nations had the same policies, are  

•    Coalition 3-4°C of global warming,
•    Labor 2-3°C,
•    Greens and the Glenn Lazarus Team (GLT) 1.5-2°C 

Furthermore current goals or targets do not have much substance to deliver.

Australia’s lack of commitment is reflected by the following;- the Coalition’s current 2030 emission reduction targets would put Australia’s per person pollution at 18th among G20 nations, ahead only of Russia and Saudi Arabia. Labor’s current targets would place Australia 15th, and NXT 10th. The Greens and GLT targets would place us 8th.

DEA Interaction with Federal Coalition and Labor

Both Coalition and Labor will undertake policy reviews following the election.

The health implications of climate change have scarcely entered Party policy to date. As far as we can determine, leadership offered by AMA and Colleges has been limited to a few grand statements and it is doubtful if their commitment will increase. DEA must aim to involve itself in The Party review processes because the health co-benefits and economics thereof have not yet entered the deliberations.

This matter will not be difficult to raise with Mark Butler’s office; the Coalition will be more difficult.

To have impact on these deliberations it will be essential for DEA to work urgently on updated policy.

DEA interaction with the States and communities

The past 3 years of federal inaction on emission reduction has pointed to the role of States, cities and local authorities in emission reduction. Some states have recognised that the transition to renewable energy offers economic and development advantages. The opportunities lie in Victoria where the DEA State committee has developed successful interaction with government and similar opportunities arise in WA leading up to the State election, in SA and with Tasmania. The latter two States see potential for renewable energy with more interconnector capacity.

In many countries where the national government has been unwilling to act, incompetent or under the influence of fossil fuel interests, progress has been made by communities towns and cities. DEA energies need to be directed at these opportunities during the next 3 years, an important role for DEA state committees.

DS 30 June 2016

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