The commitment by the ALP to a target of zero net carbon emissions by 2050 is a welcome sign that Australia may eventually join 73 other countries in doing so, but it doesn’t go far enough, states DEA’s national co-chair Professor Kingsley Faulkner.
Labor’s target of zero net carbon emissions by 2050 was delivered in a speech by the Leader of the Federal Opposition Hon Anthony Albanese MHR.
The speech was also a withering criticism of the lack of federal leadership on climate change prior to the widespread devastation and death suffered during the horrific 2019/2020 summer and the prolonged drought preceding it.
The toxic nature of discussion on climate change and the tortured politics associated with it in Australia for more than a decade meant that the speech was very cautious in outlining the measures needed to achieve the 2050 end point or providing an interim road map for achieving it. The interview with David Speers on the ABC Insiders program soon after the speech was no more enlightening, but the promise has been made and the details must eventually follow.
This commitment to zero net carbon emissions 30 years ahead will be an absolute minimum.
The scientific evidence makes it very clear that major emission reductions will have to occur this decade. They will need to be greater than those pledged in the Paris Agreement of 2015. Extreme weather events are already occurring in Australia and across the globe as a consequence of a 1 degree centigrade rise. Climate scientists are sounding the alarm. The consequences will become worse with a 1.5 degree C rise and a 2 degree C rise may usher in tipping point scenarios.
The environmental, economic, health, social and security costs of inadequate and ineffective actions are already huge and will eventually dwarf the costs of taking decisive action. Multiple medical groups, including DEA and the AMA, are already describing the current conditions as a public health emergency.
What is needed most of all is honesty among our leaders in facing up to the crisis facing Australia and the world and urgently planning for the transition to a predominantly fossil fuel free future. Australian action alone will be insufficient, but it must lead and positively influence global solutions.
All of the Australian states and territories have already made the commitment to the target of zero net carbon emissions by 2050, as have many local governments and the Business Council of Australia.
Many corporations and millions of individuals understand the dangers and are taking action. Federal leadership is needed to provide confidence in investing in that future and protecting the environment and the community as well. It has failed so far.
Technological advances in the renewable energy sector and the economic modelling now readily available makes it clear that such a transition will be cheaper, create more jobs than those lost and lower energy prices. Outstanding union leaders and other workforce planners are stepping forward to assist in making that transition as fair as possible.
As Professor Ross Garnaut recently outlined in his latest book entitled Superpower, Australia has the intelligence, expertise, natural renewable energy resources and energy storage potential that would enable it to be a global powerhouse in the production and transmission of renewable energy to our region as well as satisfying domestic needs. It just requires political vision and will.
The challenge for the ALP is to carefully outline a road map for change this decade and beyond. That means phasing out coal and gas with much greater urgency and wisdom than is currently being proposed.
Those plans will need to address the technological, economic and industrial challenges of doing so and clearly and powerfully present the multiple environmental, agricultural, economic, health and other consequences of failing to achieve that goal.
Public opinion in Australia has changed during this summer. A rehash of excuses by the federal government for failing to take this issue seriously enough is wearing very thin. Federal government policies could change but it remains so internally conflicted about the reality of climate change and its major cause that it is, so far, unable to effectively lead.
The community expects much more from their leaders.