Australians want action on climate and there’s no excuse to look backwards

Matt Kean, the NSW Minister for Energy and the Environment wrote this opinion piece (Sydney Morning Herald 28 October 2020), where he makes it clear that climate change is not only a reality but something that a big majority of Australians recognise and want to be acted upon. The minister expresses his support foe an ‘orderly transition”. What remains is for government to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Nevertheless, Matt Kean’s does contribute towards the debate and the process towards a meaningful change. And it shows how broad the climate change movement has become.

The release of the Australia Institute’s Climate of the Nation Report 2020 should put an end to the pointless, backward-looking arguments about taking action on climate change. Eighty percent of Australians think we are already experiencing the impact of climate change, and they are right.

And 83 per cent of Australians support an orderly transition from coal-fired power stations to renewables, while 82 per cent are concerned that climate change will result in more bushfires – exactly the sort of events that scientists have been warning us about for decades.

In fact, it was NSW’s former chief scientist, Mary O’Kane, who said climate change clearly played a role in creating the conditions that led to last year’s catastrophic bushfires.

I want to thank the many Australians who gave their time to participate in the important research for this Australia Institute report. They are representative of the Australians I was elected to serve. Generous, hardworking, and caring people who love their country. People who choked on the smoke from the summer’s bushfires and worried about the future. People desperate to see our economy recover, but who want to ensure we build back better and stronger.

They are the forgotten people. They are mums and dads in the suburbs, business owners and tradies. They are from all professions and all walks of life. They don’t hold elected office. They don’t have a platform on Sky News. They are ordinary decent Australians who just want to go about their business and for their governments to get on with solving the issues of the day. They are the mainstream, and their voices need to be heard when decisions are made about the energy they use and the world they’ll leave their children.

Australians are, in my experience, hard-headed, pragmatic people. They know the rest of the world is moving on climate change.

Today, more than half the world’s gross domestic product is created in jurisdictions that have signed up to deliver net-zero emissions by 2050. Counting Japan’s commitment to that goal this week, 60 per cent of Australia’s two-way trade is now with countries that will soon be looking for cleaner alternatives to power their economies.

Ignoring the reality of climate change is not just a risk to our natural environment, it is a risk to our living standards, to our jobs and our entire way of life.

If that evidence is not enough to convince you on the need to take action, even big oil and gas companies that have profited from extracting fossil fuels for decades are moving to decarbonise their businesses.

In February this year, BP announced its target of net zero by 2050. It launched a plan to build 50 gigawatts of renewables by 2030.

They are not doing this because they are climate alarmists. They are doing it because they are capitalists and want to ensure they remain a going concern as the world changes.

As this Australia Institute report shows, Australians see the change, we understand it, and we want to make sure we reap the opportunities created for new jobs and investment. And we don’t want to find ourselves on the wrong side of megatrends such as rising carbon-based protectionism while other economies steal our march in new clean technologies and industries.

The quantitative survey for this report was conducted in July and the qualitative research in September – smack bang in the middle of our fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

This should be a final rebuke to the cynical view that concern about climate change was a good-times issue that people would drop when times get tough – because these are among toughest times our country has ever faced.

COVID-19 has up-ended financial markets, stalled investment, increased unemployment and driven some sectors of the economy close to the brink.

We should be using this recovery to build a low-carbon economy, to build our country back better.

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