An image that sums up climate emergency campaigning for me is a dinghy of people in fast moving water heading for a waterfall. One passenger is frantically paddling to avoid the drop. The others look anxious - some even alarmed - but they sit idle and somehow resigned to whatever outcome the single paddler can achieve.
Climate emergency campaigners work really hard. They have sacrificed money, careers, job security, and family time. Some might have ditched the dinghy and swum their loved ones to safety if that were possible but the dinghy metaphor doesn’t extend that far. There’s no Planet B - we’re all in this together.
To be clear, a climate emergency means breaking business as usual to the same degree COVID-19 has broken it and more, but swap staying home, face masks, and hand sanitiser, for green armies, mass retrofits, and technological leaps. Grassroots campaigners forged the climate emergency path, campaigning for what is necessary, not what is convenient.
The climate emergency paddlers swelled 10,000 fold with the rise of Extinction Rebellion and Friday for Future School Strikes since early 2019 but there are still not enough paddlers to change the fate of the dinghy. When the climate emergency campaign gets momentum, opposing forces just pull harder. Typical excuses of those sitting idly by are they don’t know enough - others would do a better job, or they are too busy. I’ve used both of these excuses.
To respond to the first excuse - not knowing enough, there are 1000s of jobs going in the climate emergency sector with every skill required - full-time, part-time, casual, or occasional (Disclaimer: jobs are unpaid). Since you are reading this, you likely have a better grasp of the issues than Scott Morrison. Claiming ignorance doesn’t cut it. Below is a range of opportunities to get your hands wet. You learn on the job.
Join Extinction Rebellion. Extinction Rebellion is a crash course in the climate emergency. Civil disobedience in the face of the climate emergency had to happen broad-scale. Why wouldn’t we break the law to change our horrific trajectory when polite discourse has failed? To find an XR group near you, head to facebook.
Join Fridays for the future. If you are still at school or have kids who are at school you can join 10,000s protesting every Friday outside their national or local parliaments demanding that our elected governments take action on global warming.
Link with climate emergency campaigners and offer your help. Join facebook groups like ‘What I did today to reverse global warming’ and link with people who may need your help, from eye watering admin, proofreading, web skils, fundraising, leafleting, policy writing, sound, media and legal skills, the list is endless. You might have to be persistent and take initiative as it can be time consuming to absorb someone into a focused and urgent effort. See the list at the end of this blog for Australian groups.
Stand as a climate emergency candidate in local, state or federal elections - or help someone else running as a climate emergency candidate. Run as an independent or in Australia contact Save the Planet or One Planet.
Organise a climate emergency talk at your workplace or community group. See the list at the end for those groups well versed in speaking on the climate emergency or try Extinction Rebellion.
Help do the research for the solutions that will save us. Volunteer with groups like Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) to work on their transition plans across every sector - there are lots of openings besides just engineers - but engineers are also wanted. Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration publishes research papers on the climate emergency.
Help write the policy and legislation that will save us. Are you a policy wonk? Try Research and Strategy for Transition Initiation Inc. RSTI produces the foundational legislation governments will need to move into emergency mode.
Join or start a local climate action group or network. You can pester local politicians for a climate emergency response - including local councils, get active at election time. Stage events, leaflet the neighbourhood, post climate emergency billboards and signs. If you’re starting your own group, other CAGs/CANs will be more than happy to mentor you. Make sure any CAG/CAN you start or join calling for full emergency action rather than calling for incremental change or suicidal targets which reinforces non climate emergency action. If your local CAG/CAN is a problem, start a new one focused on getting a full emergency mobilisation by all levels of government including your local government. See CACE for getting your council into emergency mode.
Campaign for a fair media that will tell the truth about the climate emergency. There are many groups making headway - or start your own campaign to write letters to the editor. A more or less truthful media is a pillar of going into climate emergency mode.
And to respond to the first excuse - you are too busy. If you’re really too busy to help then find a grassroots organisation that is making a difference, give them money to do what they do - just do something to help them! (Warning: They probably won’t have tax deductible status). Even small amounts make a difference.
Lastly, if you don’t see yourself in an activist role or don’t mix in circles that would accept you in a climate emergency role, then you are just who the climate emergency needs outside the echo chamber.
Paddling vanquishes despair. And even if we go over the fall you’ll be able to tell your kids you tried.
List of Australian Climate Emergency Grassroots organisations (may not be exhaustive)
Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE)
Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration
Centre for Climate Safety
Council and Community Action in the Climate Emergency (CACE)
Research and Strategy for Transition Initiation Inc. (RSTI)
Save the Planet
Sustainable Living Foundation (SLF)
Victorian Climate Action Network (VCAN)
By Bryony Edwards
by Bryony Edwards
You’ve had a pretty tough time lately. Your numbers are diminishing and you’ve lost a total of $700 billion of your $8 trillion in the past year. More importantly, you are no longer seen as maverick winners but are demonised for your planet-trashing lifestyles and rampant entitlement (sorry if this is the first you’re hearing of this).
There’s even growing pressure on you with your untold wealth to save the planet - like you should finance the roll out of a 100% zero emissions grid for some fossil fuel laden country. Technically your combined wealth could probably afford such a grid rollout across 27 Earths, but you’d have to liquidate all your shares and so violate tons of laws with respect to your collective shareholders.
The good news is, you don’t have to bankroll saving the planet by yourselves What if I told you there's a country where for every single dollar invested, the venture of your choice receives over $15,000 of taxpayer dollars? That’s right! In Australia, an ‘above-the-counter’ lobbying investment of only $1.9 million AUD (that’s 2018-19 figures) resulted in $29 billion (that’s 2.3% of GDP!) in public subsidies directed to the lobbyists' industry of choice (in this example, the fossil fuel industry). Best estimates for the US, based on a quick google search are not as favourable, so Australia is a no-brainer to start, but I’m sure you are already aware of which country provides the best returns.
You could just use whatever cash you can scrape together from your collective billionaire petty cash boxes to outbid fossil fuel lobbyists at the Australian government’s back door.
Here’s an example of what your combined $3 million outlay would be purchasing (topping the the fossil fuel lobby's figure by $1 million):
For the list of demands above, you would probably have to surpass the going fossil fuel bid by a million or so to get past some ideological challenges, particularly among the ‘bring on the apocalypse’/‘coal is good for us’/'I hate pinko-greenies' LNP. The ALP will be simpler - you’ll just need to distract them from their fracking overlords.
Forbes says that out of the 15 richest billionaires, only a couple built their wealth on fossil fuels so chances are this won’t be bad for your business (Richard you might take a hit - but your planes rank 83rd on the Atmosfair Airline index so go suck an 747-9 Dreamliner tailpipe). Surprisingly, these odds are similar among Australian billionaires, where only a couple of our 14 or so of our plutocrats stand nose-deep in open cut mines filled with fracking sludge, dead koala and shredded Native-Title.
Unless you are heavily invested in industries relevant to saving the planet, you might not see a direct monetary kickback for your handiwork, so get busy! We want to pile on the wins for you. Another win is that your kids may just have a future that doesn’t involve trading homemade crossbows bolts for dried Jerusalem artichokes and way out-of-date Ventolins.
The $3 million above excludes below-the-counter contributions. But very quietly, one extremely common (and apparently effective) covert lobbying tactic is offering the rancid MPs cushy jobs for when they retire from politics (we are urging immediate retirement). Imagine an additional $500 million worth of salary packages over a few years for 100 odd MPs we need to buy off. Scott Morrison, our PM, would cost more to compensate for his Messiah complex, but this could all be taken care of with shady corporate accounting and be spread among your many corporations. The beauty with the joint effort is you collectively represent many more corporations than there are MPs, so the chances of your staff having to suffer a meeting with both Barbaby Joyce and Peter Dutton are controlled.
We would like to provide you more support on the dark arts of bribery and blackmail but this is an above board proposition, and we assume that getting to where you are means you have the necessary expertise for dealing in the shadows.
While a 200 of you might focus on Australia, the remainder can tackle the US, UK, Canada, and, perhaps with the right Linkdin connections, the EU, Russia and China.
We're deeply sorry to put you in this position, but climate criminals hold the wheels of all of the worst climate-offending nations and their media (ie Rupert Murdoch). Democracy is broken. The will of the people is a currently a pipe dream.
Please take this opportunity to make up for the climate, environmental, and human rights havoc many of you have wrought (Jeff, Alice). If you need more inspiration, imagine France in 1789 or have someone explain to you.
Unfortunately, you may be our only hope.
The Australian people
Some hard facts -
By Bryony Edwards, Save the Planet/CACE
Just months ago in Australia pre COVID-19, it would have been unthinkable that:
We are seeing both use of ‘command and control’ (centralising powers to deal with an emergency) alongside massive public spending focused on the common good with funds that were not supposed to exist. Both are an anathema to a neoliberal government. The curtain has dropped, and we can see what governments are actually capable of doing if they want to.
It’s from a crisis that opportunities arise and that long term change is most likely to occur. We can’t blow this opportunity. It’s not enough to just say the standard operating model is wrong - what are the concrete ideas we have to replace the neoliberal operating system that puts corporate profits ahead of the common good?
The LNP’s 'stimulus' package for coming out of COVID-19 will most likely focus on pumping more public funds into corporations and sectors that donate to the party in the name of jobs, including mining and fossil fuels. There is evidence that mining firms are taking the COVID-19 opportunity to increase automation - there go the jobs. Fossil fuel extraction is a dying sector and we would only be investing Australia’s future in stranded assets.
We are also seeing environmental destruction ramp up under the cover of COVID-19. In Victoria alone we’ve seen the extension of agreements that exempt the logging industry from conservation laws for 10 years and the onshore gas moratorium rolled back.
But what should the government’s response look like, understanding that the impact of COVID-19 will likely take years to recover from and could be more serious than the Great Depression when unemployment reached 30%?
Once isolation is over, a massive fiscal stimulus will be required. Where would the funds come from? Our government, with the support of Parliament, can create those funds digitally. Yes, federal governments with floating sovereign currencies can do this and all they need is approval of Parliament/Congress. The Australian $80 billion-plus released so far for COVID-19 was created this way but the amount was then traded in government bonds. Federal bonds don’t raise capital - they are not a loan to the government. At the federal level, the government creates the dollars required and then gets investors to accept the liability of those dollars for the promise of a financial return.
Adding money to the economy this way should not cause inflation unless the economy is approaching full employment, and in the context of a stimulus post COVID-19 there would be plenty for that money to do - this is at least the premise of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Links below provide relevant background to MMT. The risk of inflation is irrelevant when contrasted with the risk of no fiscal stimulus - and inflation is easily controlled for using taxes and interest rates.
As radical as this may sound, the stimulus should put the wider common good at the centre. As such, the response should be a climate emergency investment package because the climate emergency is the ultimate crisis we face, and the climate emergency requires a ‘wartime’ mobilisation effort.
And there would also be likely support for such a response. The Australia Institute recently found that two thirds of Australians (66%) agree that Australia is facing a climate change emergency and should take emergency action, as was taken during the world wars.
A true climate emergency response if implemented globally is one that could stop and then reverse global warming to ultimately restore a safe climate. Such an effort at a national level would create:
What should the climate emergency response and stimulus look like?
As to the details - these have been worked on and modelled by groups such as Beyond Zero Emissions, Zero Carbon Britain and others. Plans exist. A ‘negative carbon Australia’ is possible.
The climate emergency package can also look however we want it to - based on our priorities and the key performance indicators we put in place to guide our society. For example, how central is equity? Education? Etc.
And why would Australia go out on a limb to do this when it can’t save the planet alone? Because Australia has vetoed stronger action on climate for over 20 years. Previously we stood in veto with the US and now stand in proud veto with Russia and Saudi Arabia. If Australian coal and gas exports were taken into account, we would be in the ranks of the top emitters globally, and we have the equal highest per capita emissions. Australia now needs to lead.
Yes, the likelihood of the proposed climate emergency action under the current government is next to laughable, but the alternative is giving up on a safe planet. We can’t let the Aus government use this opportunity to further entrench neoliberalism and prioritisation of corporate profits, corruption, and authoritarian lawmaking. We have to be louder than the lobbyists and loud in the media via letters to the editor, op eds etc. We need to contact our MPs and share this vision with them.
Are you lucky enough to be able to sit at home in isolation? Use at least some of your time in isolation to give our future a chance.
Modern Monetary Theory, COVID-10 and the economy. Dr Steven Hail
We're in 'emergency mode' for coronavirus — we can do the same thing for climate. Margaret Klein Salamon,
Things we can learn from COVID-19 to help with the climate emergency, The Fifth Estate
A Green Stimulus to Rebuild Our Economy: An Open Letter and Call to Action to Members of Congress
VIDEO - Prof Stephanie Kelton - The Deficit Myth - 2020 Harcourt Lecture - 15 Jan 2020
Australians Want Gov. to Mobilise Against Climate Change Like a ‘World War’, the Australia Institute
Why should I run as a candidate if it’s unlikely I’ll get elected?
Firstly, Save the Planet is trying to get candidates elected. However, in Australia, a candidate can make, and has made a huge difference without getting elected.
Influencing other parties
In Australia candidates speak with each other during the election campaign at various times and more formally so they can order the preferences on their how-to-vote card (or senate preferences). This is the opportunity for climate emergency candidate to share ‘shock and awe speaking points’ with potential policy makers.
The conversations Save the Planet candidates had with the likely councillors during the 2016 Darebin election campaign were key to getting Darebin to become the first council to pass a climate emergency motion thus kicking off the global council climate emergency movement.
While most other parties do preference deals, Save the Planet preferences are based solely on climate policy (see an example here) so we can ask for more from other candidates. Through preferencing discussions, two other minor parties have formally adopted (although not followed through with) the suite of Save the Planet climate policies.
Save the Planet tells the truth about the climate emergency. In candidate forums, we have seen other candidates once hearing the Save the Planet candidate speak, and advocate for more from their own party.
Educating the Community
Leafleting, door knocking, handing out how to vote cards, speaking at public forums, poster and stickers, and speaking directly to voters is how we share the climate emergency message with the public.
The education focuses people on both the threat of global warming, the need solutions and the emergency mobilisation we need if we are to save ourselves.
Every seat where we run a candidate will have a climate-emergency party name on the ballot exposing those voters to the concept of the climate emergency. (the ballot name is being negotiated with One Planet, the party we joined forces with to get registered).
What if I’m not the best person to run?
There is no current competition for who will be the candidate in each seat. If you meet all of the criteria below, you are most likely the best person to run:
What’s the difference between StP and other ‘climate’ parties?
There are crucial criteria:
2. Emergency Mobilisation focus
Restoring a safe climate, cannot be achieved via business as usual operations. We need the federal climate emergency declaration and then mobilise and prioritisation of resources to reduce and drawdown emissions and build societal resilience to current and coming impacts. This task is so huge it cannot be achieved via business as usual operations - or even tweaked business as usual. We need the federal climate emergency declaration and then a restructuring of federal and state governments to mobilise.
3. Broad climate policies that cover every sector of the economy
Most other parties focus on stationary energy and transport only. Save the Planet has climate emergency policies on all sectors affecting global warming including energy, transport, forestry, land management, animal agriculture, population, democratic systems, climate justice, climate refugees, resilience geo-engineering and even the structure of our economy and monetary system itself. Most other parties define global warming as just an energy and transport issue.
4. Climate emergency targets
Targets set the pace for how fast we need to work. Of course, this work should have started decades ago. Save the Planet’s targets are:
While these targets would be unrealistic under a business as usual scenarios, the are not for an emergency scenario. Beyond Zero Emissions has modelled and costed many sector plans. The question of how we would pay for this is immaterial. When governments undertake mobilisation, they print money.
Why should Australia adopt such targets when we account for less than 2% of emissions (coal exports notwithstanding)? Because:
Wouldn’t I be taking votes from the lesser evil/my next favourite party/helping the worst party to win?
Most Australians are confused by how our voting system works and think voting for a minor party or independent is a waste. This is simply not the case.
As voters we rank the parties in order of our preferred choice on our ballot papers from "1" (most preferred) to least preferred. If no candidate gets the required number of votes to win, which in a single member electorate is 50% of the vote plus 1 vote, candidates with the least votes get knocked out and their votes are distributed at full value to remaining candidates.
See this 1 minute video for a more detailed and graphical explanation.
Multi-member (eg. Senate, Victorian Upper House) electorates are slightly more complex. However, the same principles apply: a minimum number of votes is required for each available position, and those candidates with the lowest number of votes are knocked out of the race and have their votes redistributed at full value until all the positions are filled. The only difference is that excess votes from candidates who have already been elected to a position have their votes redistributed at a reduced value proportional to the amount of excess votes they received until all positions are filled.
Excess vote redistribution is explained in the following 7 minute video or Juice Media’s version here.
What campaigning would be required as a candidate?
The sky is the limit but at a bare minimum you would be required to:
How much would it cost?
The cost of candidate registration $2,000 - Federal
$250 VIC Local*
$125 NSW Local*
*TBC prior to the election
The cost of printing leaflets/how to vote cards $200+
Social media hits Optional
Coreflutes usually run around $20 each depending on the size of the order
Other miscellaneous costs
The AEC’s cost of running a Lower House candidate has doubled in price this election. However, fundraising could be part of the election campaign.
What support is provided?
Save the Planet provides template leaflets/how-to-vote cards, media releases and on call support. We provide candidate information pack and training face to face or via phone etc. During the election a national campaign manager will be available to answer your questions and provide support.
When would I have to start campaigning?
The sooner the better. Letterboxing is good anytime as material from political organisations is exempt from the ‘no junk mail’ sticker.
What rights do I have - would I have to quit my job?
This will depend on your employer. Public servants are usually ruled out from running in federal elections and most state elections (in Victoria the Human Rights Charter enables political candidacy in state elections but candidates still need to inform their manager they intend to run). Other employees will have to check with their union in the first instance and then their employer, who may turn out to be very supportive.
What about other non-climate policies?
Save the Planet candidates are expected to prioritise climate emergency messaging and not talk about other issues, as important as they may be, unless asked specifically i.e. by a member of the public or ask to speak at a non climate public forum. If speaking at a non climate focused forum you can focus on almost any topic to climate change with a bit of practice.
The climate emergency is the most important issue to talk about. Without restoring a safe climate we have nothing. Other candidates will steer the conversation to other topics because they are not as difficult.
If elected you are effectively an independent on non climate issues and can vote accordingly.
How do I apply to become a candidate for the federal election?
Go to this link.
Today is more than a new year - it will need to be the beginning of a new era in climate campaigning
By Philip Sutton
Today is the first day of 2020 and I think 2019 needs to be the last year of a thirty year era of climate campaigning and action.
Across the country fires are raging, with a scale and intensity that confirms that Australia and the world is now living in the early stages of truly catastrophic climate change. Climate disaster has become a now issue. It is not surprising that the Oxford Dictionaries selected "climate emergency'" as the 2019 word of the year.
Across the globe people have spent the last 30 years incrementally working to reduce emissions in the hope that we can stop the warming before it becomes dangerous. But after those 30 years we have reached the point where the climate IS clearly dangerous, right now (and worse and worse is in the pipeline if current trends are allowed to continue).
The climate movement needs to rediscover the climate issue afresh, as it actually is now (and not as we have became habituated to thinking about it over past decades).
Let's work through the logic given the situation we are in, at the start of 2020.
The world is dangerously too hot now. Because of current climate change impacts, much of the doubt about the reality of climate change is evaporating. More and more people are beginning (very reasonably) to demand that governments take action to protect them –immediately.
Two scenarios could unfold from here.
With fires, droughts, heatwaves on land and in the seas, storms, floods etc. battering people and ecosystems, the cost of coping with impacts and recovering and taking adaptive action to lessen the impacts is mounting so rapidly that it would be very easy for societies to switch most of their 'climate' expenditures into dealing with here-and-now impacts.
What might this world start to look like? Water shortages will be dealt with principally by investing in desal plants. Forests and woodlands will be too dangerous to live near and they will be mercilessly control-burned or perhaps even cleared. Agriculture will need to be shifted as much as possible into controlled environments (ie. into vast buildings). Across the globe, anyone too poor to invest in such controlled environments will be abandoned (ie. a large percentage of the rural poor and indigenous people living on country), Sea walls will be built, or deltas and coasts abandoned. Marine and terrestrial natural ecosystems will be abandoned. Borders will be closed and people will close their hearts to the struggling and the dying. Wars and insurrections will become more and common in areas too poor to adapt, and quite possibly beyond, and the culture of global cooperation will die. But remember that this is a world that is 'dealing ' with climate change and investing huge amounts very urgently in the process.
Is there a better scenario that we could bring into being instead? What might things look like if enough communities around the world decide to do two big things simultaneously, that is:
What has to be done to achieve the second point?
If the earth is dangerously too hot now it means that:
Do we know how to carry out any of these steps?
Zero emissions: Over the last 50 years a huge amount of work has been put into developing zero emissions energy technologies and this effort has finally delivered technologies that are cost competitive against fossil fuels. So the main things we need to do now is mobilise the political will to urgently close down emissions generating energy systems (covering the use of coal and gas and oil). We also need to accelerate the development and deployment of zero emissions technologies across all the other sectors of the economy. While we absolutely must adopt zero emissions technology at emergency speed, doing so will result in cleaning up the air in regions that burn a lot of coal. This necessary clean-up process will remove particle pollution that has a net cooling effect (lowering the warming effect of coal burning). So, by itself, going to zero emissions (which we must do) will by itself raise the global temperature, once-off by about half a degree. So something more needs to be done.
Full scale CO2 drawdown: The earth can be cooled (eventually) by taking all the excess CO2 out of the air. The lowest cost CO 2 capture and storage technologies depend on photosynthesis-driven biological systems – but these systems cannot be scaled enough to deal with all the CO2 that has to be taken out of the air. So additional physical/chemical methods will need to be developed that are affordable at the necessary scale. We know that full-scale CO2 drawdown could take many decades or even hundreds of years to complete. So the cooling effect of the drawdown strategy will not be strong enough for a long time – meaning that massive damage could be done to human societies and natural ecosystems and biodiversity in the meantime.
Direct cooling using solar reflection methods. It is already known that the earth can be cooled back to the pre-industrial level at relatively low direct financial cost using solar reflection methods – and the target temperatures could be reached in just a few years. What is not known is whether this can be done with clear environmental/social net benefit globally (ie. would damaging side effects outweigh the direct benefits?). Clearly solar reflection methods should not be used if the net environmental/social benefit is not positive. But given the staggering social and ecological damage that will be done if temperature relief is not delivered very fast indeed, it seems like it would be highly prudent and ethically compelling to immediately ramp up research and development aimed at creating net beneficial solar reflection methods.
What does our new situation mean for action and activism? We need to commit to a maximum protection approach to climate action and therefore be clear about:
We need to bring the urgency of real and timely protection to bear on climate campaigning.
We can no longer approach climate campaigning largely via a string of drawn out limited target campaigns.
We have to press governments to deliver a climate emergency action package that covers “everything”:
Ideally we would want the national government to take the lead from the start and to mobilise the country around this action program. But for practical purposes the current government is best understood as “the fossil fuel industry in government”. And even if Labor won the next federal election, its culture is currently focused on trade-offs and “doing a bit of everything, good and bad, fairly slowly”.
Instead, for our immediate action, we need to look a bit further down the government hierarchy to find the critical next focus for action.
Between 2016 and 2019, 83 local councils passed climate emergency declarations in Australia (and over 1000 globally). This process needs to be extended to more councils to build the community base, and extended to cover the adoption of an effective action program.
But the big qualitative shift for 2020 needs to be to get a number of state governments to declare a climate emergency and adopt the action program described above. This process focusing on the states and territories began on 16 May 2019 when the ACT Legislative Council declared a climate emergency and the potential was further indicated on 25 September 2019 when the South Australian Legislative Council passed a motion calling for a declaration of a climate emergency.
We need to be practical, recognising that the fossil fuel industry has its claws less securely into the body politic in some states and territories more than others. You can see this with the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania. There is also potential in NSW and Victoria. If these two big states could be got over the line then the country would really start to shift.
Australia is a hybrid polity – part democracy, part monetocracy. To shift Victoria and NSW we will have to convince a large segment of the business community that their wellbeing doesn’t depend on following the interests of the fossil fuel industry, quite the opposite in fact.
Building a powerful business alliance against the fossil fuel industry is not a crazy idea. In the 1970s and 80s the mining industry took on the manufacturing industry to press for the elimination of import tariffs. The manufacturing industry was the Goliath with 25% of the business dollars in the economy and the mining industry was the David controlling only about 5% of the business dollars. But the mining industry was eventually able to build an alliance that controlled more than 25% of the dollars in the economy and the alliance together with some skilful strategising rolled the manufacturers and got the tariff change they wanted.
The fossil fuel industry in Australia is still a minority economic force controlling less than 10% of the business dollars. But the rest of the economy is not yet fully aware that its interests do not lie with the fossil fuel industry.
A campaign to get the NSW and Victorian governments on side for a climate emergency program will depend on mobilising both the community and business around a climate emergency action demand.. And doing both these things will depend on getting support across the political spectrum. Already there are signs that the Liberals and Nations are facing very real internal tensions over the climate issue.
The climate emergency campaign began in Australia in 2016 and was created by grassroots climate activists. In the 3 years since then the campaign has built momentum globally, culminating in the passage of a climate emergency motion by the European Parliament on 28th November 2019.
The challenge for 2020 is for all of us climate activists to do what we can to get the mainstream climate movement to come at the climate issue afresh, acknowledging that the strategies of the last 30 years are past their use-by date.
Now that we are living in the early stages of catastrophic climate change, we have to pull off a massive, urgent and improbable climate rescue. That will require new thinking and new action.
The climate emergency bus is packed and on the move!
We’ve come so far in the past two years. The climate emergency campaign has suddenly swept around the world with a force that will not relent until governments act. Let’s make that action count.
The ‘climate emergency’ phrase is now used not only by school strikers and Extinction Rebellion, but also by Environmental NGOs, several countries, over 1000 local governments across 20 countries, including New York, London, Paris, Sydney and every Australian capital, state and national governments, universities, medical associations and the list goes on. All hats off to volunteer-run CEDAMIA for tracking these declarations!
But the bus is still running on diesel
Recognising the climate emergency is a crucial step to restoring a safe climate but how do declarations and public outrage turn nuts and bolts to radically reduce greenhouse gas concentrations? The public will is growing and we have the solutions, but we don’t have the political will to ‘act like our house is on fire’.
Current impacts of global warming are unacceptable and because we have already set of multiple positive feedback loops that speed up warming (which the rose-tinted IPCC modelling fails to take into account), greenhouse gas concentrations are already way too high. As such, zero emissions targets alone are meaningless other than stepping stones to achieving ‘deeply negative emissions’ to restore safe greenhouse gas concentrations. If you still need more convincing on how fast we need to act, there’s plenty of reading available.
To restore safe levels of greenhouse gases (pre-industrial concentrations were under 300) and avoid runaway climate change or hothouse Earth, we need to:
Work orders for a negative emissions bus
Choosing a liveable future requires full-scale mobilisation, a concept from wartimes. Business as usual ceases and action is taken as though the house is on fire with all efforts focused on achieving specific results - in this case safe levels of greenhouse gas concentration while maximising the survival of our ecosystems and human lives. Mobilisation means doing everything differently to achieve something that would otherwise be impossible.
Think of the UK in WWII: they cut down fence railings and melted them for munitions, there was mass internal migration, victory gardens were established and any number of local community groups that stepped up. Rations lasted 15 years after war’s end, and so much more. This is why Winston Churchill became an unlikely poster child for the climate emergency movement. Churchill’s Tories had been hoping to negotiate a German occupation as fighting the Third Reich seemed scary, expensive and frankly like a lot of effort. It was Churchill that stood firm and helped achieve the impossible (with help from allies). The point is, governments are very slow to arrive at the inevitable where the public good is concerned. There’s more on mobilisation here.
The ambitious and needed climate emergency mobilisation targets we set will help drive R&D and innovation. The targets can’t be set based on what we think we can achieve, on what’s politically expedient (eg net zero by 2040 or 2050) but on what needs to be achieved (ie, ten years tops to net zero plus massive greenhouse gas drawdown until concentrations are safe, while acknowledging that we should have finished the job years ago for best chances at restoring a safe climate.
The political abyss
The original idea for climate emergency declarations at the council level is that councils would mobilise after acknowledging and declaring the climate emergency. While some local governments have shifted their approach to climate mitigation and resilience significantly, none have ‘acted like the house is on fire’.
Such a response would require not only channeling all ‘discretionary’ funds to resilience building and mitigation projects, but also an emergency lens across all operations. Fundamentally, everything would change - rates, roads, rubbish, planning, greenspace, verge plantings etc. Moreover, a mobilising council would put the climate emergency front and centre in every communication - banners, newsletters, etc. All this would help drive community demands for a climate emergency response from higher levels of government. Councils don’t have the regulatory and economic levers of higher levels of government, but they do have the ability to move more swiftly and can mobilise their communities. Council and Community Action in the Climate Emergency has the guide.
Darebin Council was the first lonely dancer on the now-pumping climate emergency declaration dance floor but now we need a lonely dancer to brave the mobilisation floor.
To complicate things, there are two components to almost any government: the commanders and the bureaucracies that implement the commands. In the council climate emergency campaigns, getting the councillors on board has been the easy part but shifting the council staff, in particular CEOs, has been the stumbling block to council mobilisation. Staff are still being held to account on the old work and reprioritising requires a change management process. Fundamental change management been overlooked by most or all of the 1000-plus climate emergency councils.
Widespread societal mobilisation is downright hard. In the first World War, it took a few years for mobilisation to crank up, with many mistakes made. Postwar, the UK documented how it was done, ultimately using this to guide their mobilisation response in WWII.
A Melbourne-based parent of the global climate emergency movement, Philip Sutton, has absorbed every how-to-mobilise book and distilled them into a federal model, The Climate Emergency (Restructuring and Mobilisation) Act that takes into account both government's commanders and doers. The Act sets up essential processes and structures for government to enact mobilisation.
We have the Mobilisation Act, we have plans for reducing greenhouse gas concentrations, but even with the ‘how to’ taken care of, federal, state, and even local governments do not have the political will to mobilise.
The free rider problem
Needless to point out, in most countries there’s entrenched government puppetry for fossil fuels and other baddies. Mobilisation would not just impact the Coal, Gas, Oil and Native logging Axis of Evil; it would impact every single business and consumer interest - positively or negatively, with current business interests having the most to lose .... unless they're open to fast, radical change.
A key psycho-political barrier to being the first government to mobilise is the potential indignation at paying to electrify the bus while nobody else has even bought a ticket. Why would a government use all their resources to reverse their own jurisdiction’s emissions when all the other governments are pacifying their voters with cheap conveniences, while opening new coal mines and runways?
Australian politicians spruik stats on the global insignificance of Australian emissions - about 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions. But 1% conveniently omits coal and gas exports, which double the output. The vast majority of countries also have a global responsibility of less than 1% of emissions, but together account for about 40%. Should all these countries also ride free? If the answer is yes, then let’s forget a liveable future. The Australian government also fails to acknowledge that Australia has the highest per capita emissions and that Australia, with its best mate (the US) has vetoed global drives for stronger climate action since the late 90s. Australia has been riding free for two decades.
There is no downplaying the political challenges a mobilising government in a neoliberal society will face. However, we can overcome some of the fear of being the only paying rider by understanding that strategies to build societal resilience in the face of climate impacts really do reduce or draw down emissions. For example, fixing soil carbon makes for more resilient agriculture, building microgrids can better accommodate renewables and are more resilient to the impacts of global warming, and there’s more. So framing mobilisation in terms of resilience and full employment can quell potential indignation at being the first paying rider.
Mechanisms for cranking the political wheels to full-scale mobilisation
What needs to happen for the first government to adopt full-scale mobilisation? Greta Thunberg publicly balling out the UN was a cathartic turning point, but politicians work to a depressingly low bar - they only need to look marginally better than their opponent to hold power. Frankly, all but a handful will be dragged to full-scale mobilisation kicking and screaming. We will need to put the thumbscrews on and keep them pressed.
We will need to grab all available political levers and details may vary according to electoral systems - first past the post, proportional, preferential etc.
Here are just four levers you can help pull. Please write others in the comments below:
It is a huge task ahead so let’s get started. If it all sounds too hard, idealistic and unrealistic, ask yourself how else the planet will be saved, while remembering that ‘nobody is coming to save us’.
Quick! The house is on fire!
Bryony Edwards campaigns for a climate emergency response from all levels of government with CACE (Council and Community Action in the Climate Emergency) and Save the Planet.
by Bryony Edwards
Don't use 'climate emergency' in vain! (target setting in the climate emergency)
As climate emergency talking and thinking shifts further towards climate emergency action, it is imperative that ‘climate emergency’ is not co-opted to mean something ‘convenient’ or ‘pragmatic’ (ie. weak goals and slow action). Climate emergency has to stand for safe climate principles: for restoring a safe climate.
Where are we today in the climate emergency campaign?
In the space of 5 months, the phrase climate emergency has become household. Several months ago, the hashtag #climateemergency resulted two tweets a week from a handful of the usual suspects. A snap count now shows 80 odd tweets in the past 30 minutes, including from mainstream voices.
For the last few weeks, 1000s with Extinction Rebellion are blocking central streets and bridges in London, demanding that their government implement a climate emergency response.
Just a few weeks ago, the Australia Institute released findings from a nationwide survey that the majority of Australians believe we face a climate emergency and want to see a ‘climate emergency’ response including the type of ‘mobilisation of resources undertaken in WWII’. The fact that we are hearing this language from any mainstream institution is a paradigm shift. These majority findings were found across different party persuasions.
As of today, the phrase, climate emergency’ is used by:
What does climate emergency actually mean?
Climate emergency is a call for the necessary urgent action to be taken to restore a safe climate, understanding that:
As such, we need to go to negative emissions to restore safe (pre-industrial) greenhouse gas concentrations (safe at about 280-300ppm) and restore a safe climate. Getting to negative emissions ASAP means:
If we are not very clear with our expectations, it will not happen:
Where did the term ‘climate emergency come from?
Dedicated grass-roots climate campaigners started using the term to represent what was needed to restore a safe climate. In Australia, it was probably formalised in 2016 with the ‘Climate Emergency Declaration’, which translated in the US by ‘Climate Mobilization’.
The thinking for what climate emergency in action looked like was based on earlier work or organisations such as that of Beyond Zero Emissions.
More detail on the history of climate emergency is captured here.
Does everyone talking climate emergency understand what climate emergency means?
Is everyone talking climate emergency prepared to act climate emergency? No! For example, there are councils passing climate emergency declarations that are aiming for net zero by 2050; this includes large councils such as the London Assembly and Vancouver.
After declaring, London quickly went on to approve another runway and Gatwick. Although the UK made a ‘resolution’ for a climate emergency, Labor and Tory Councillors in Cumbria went on to back a new coal mine.
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change (the CCC), an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008, has recommended just ‘zero by 2050’ for the UK’s emergency response. The CCC is similar to Australia’s Climate Council, which recommends the same target for Australia.
It shouldn’t be surprising that soft targets are defeatist. Soft targets set us up to fail.
What is the role of targets?
Governments usually set targets before the full suite of how they will be achieved is known. As such, they tend to set targets for complex work far into the future. But decades-out targets can be easily ignored because any one government can’t be easily held to account on them.
A target ideally works as a slogan of 3 to 5 words, and needs to communicate ‘what we need to do and how fast should it be done’. The target can also include more detail, such as interim targets, which can hold any single government to account.
Given the scope of work for a climate emergency response, once adopted, a climate emergency target should drive policy development, governance and performance measurement across all of government’s work. The target implicitly communicates the degree of priority the work will need, which in this case is maximum priority.
There are good arguments for not providing a target deadline in case it is too ambitious and stakeholders expect failure, but this is outweighed by the benefits of having a timeframe (or the cons of not having one). And with the right governance, more will be achieved with an ambitious target than with a less ambitious one.
A recent example of a target at work is Oxfordshire Council (UK). At the time of writing this, Oxfordshire Council is trying to weaken the target they set with their climate emergency declaration (zero by 2030). The council is worried they won’t meet the target. Perhaps not but having such an ambitious target means the council will have to go above and beyond to try to meet it.
When setting goals for safe climate restoration, it is implicit that these goals will require:
A brief history of climate target setting
We are currently grappling with a very climate-confused public not only due to years of misinformation from hard climate deniers, but also misinformation from the soft climate deniers, generally the large eNGOs, who are supposedly representing a safe climate but present weak targets for governments.
People trust in these eNGOs so they trust the targets of ‘zero by 2050’ that they promote. Hence the general confusion around what a safe target is. Ask a random person whether zero by 2050 is safe climate policy and they’ll probably say yes.
If we are too hot now, how can net zero by 2050 save us?
Why have eNGOs set weak targets?
ENGOs set weak goals because they wanted to be taken seriously be government, but in addition they have:
The eNGOs should have been asking themselves, ‘how do we get the public on board to drive an effective campaign with government?’, not ‘what will government accept?’.
In private conversations, staff from these eNGOs confide that the goals they are setting ‘couldn’t save us’ but they ‘don’t want to frighten people away’. These eNGOs have effectively given up and have created havoc in their wake.
This eNGO campaigning logic was a bit like trying encourage locals to stay and fight an oncoming bushfire by lying that the fire is 200km away, when in fact the fire is already throwing embers and all roads out are closed. Which would you imagine to be more effective at motivating to stay and fight the fire? The eNGOs chose the 200km option. Jane Moreton’s booklet, ‘Don’t Mention the Emergency?’ examines this campaigning dissonance in detail.
If the eNGOs had been campaigning on safe climate goals for the past few decades, we would be in a very different place today with regard to public understanding and what they demanded from government. Yes, the hard deniers would still be around but we wouldn’t be dealing with such a high degree of public confusion on what we need to do.
What are the risks if we couple climate emergency with suicidal targets now?
Just in the past week, two large eNGOs finally woken up to the fact that ‘fear’ is in fact a necessary tool for climate campaigning and have declared a climate emergency. These same eNGOs had refused to use ‘fear’ in climate campaigning for years. ‘Climate emergency’ as a term was officially blacklisted by professionals campaigning for climate action.
As with the past so with the future. If the organisations with the biggest profiles and deepest pockets couple the ‘climate emergency’ headline with soft targets, nothing will have changed other than the word ‘emergency’ and the broader public will believe they are in good hands.
eNGOs’ inability to shift into emergency mode has just been confirmed by WWF. WWF has jumped on the ‘emergency’ bandwagon with their declaration last week but only moved their ‘net zero’ target forward five years from 2050 to 2045.
And these decades-out targets are what governments will adopt, regardless of what is actually possibly under a mobilisation response with technical breakthroughs that mobilising economies can drive ahead of the deadline.
Governments will do all they can to compromise emissions targets. Climate campaigners supposedly representing a safe climate don’t need to do it for them.
Reject suicidal targets from any group speaking on behalf of the planet and promote safe climate targets!
Climate-emergency target setting
We need to set targets based on what can be achieved under ideal circumstances (ie emergency action), not business as usual or or supposedly pragmatic view on what our current political landscape can deliver.
Don't pick up the IPCC report for directions on target setting. Depressing as IPCC's assessment is, it is overly optimistic. The models don’t incorporate major positive feedback loops so the IPCC findings ignore the loops. Also, the chances for success for courses of action proposed are not good enough. Would you take a plane with a 50% chance of crashing? A dense analysis of the IPCC shortcomings are available in Breakthrough’s ‘What Lies Beneath’.
Beyond Zero Emissions have shown that 10 year transition to zero across most sectors is possible in their collection of sector ten-year transition plans but we can probably do much of it faster than 10 years if we really tried, and given how far the tech has moved since most of the reports were released.
High level targets for Central governments
What we need to capture in a high level target is three main components:
But how to turn this 3-part target a slogan of 5 words or less? These could include:
If implemented globally it could be ‘A cooler planet by 2025’ or ‘a safe climate by 2030’
‘Negative emissions yesterday’ is great as a slogan for communicating the urgency.
Targets for Councils
A council target is more complicated because many councils lack regulatory and economic levers to achieve net zero or net negative emissions.
Councils should acknowledge:
In addition, the council can state what they will do or achieve across each sector that is within their control. In the declaration, these targets could be captured as, for example:
It is amazing what can be accomplished in emergency mode (Eg UK in WWII) when government realigns to achieve something ambitious, when the public is properly informed, when vested interests are forced to stand down.
If this is our last ditch effort at saving the planet, why would we comprise safe climate principles before we’ve even sat at the government negotiating table? Compromising on safe climate principles is how we got here in the first place.
There is a lot of rubbish being spun in the media around the new Senate reforms. In short the reforms are a reaction by the more established players (Lib/Nats., Labor, Greens and Xenophon) to the success of the micro parties in the Senate. Off course all these players stand to benefit from this change at the expense of the micro parties. The large parties stand to gain by limiting the number of players they have to deal with in the Senate when in Government. The small players (Greens and Xenophon) benefit from becoming the sole voices controlling the balance of power in the Senate. After initially supporting the changes Labor is reversing its bi-partisan stand to play politics in an election year and create an opportunity to differentiate itself from the Liberals and Greens.
So let's look at the actual changes.
1. There is no more group voting tickets.
You use to be able to simply vote 1 for the party of your choice above the line and your preferences would be allocated according to the whims of your party. Parties big and small used this control of their Senate preferences to make deals. Micro parties realised under the guidance of Glenn Druery that if they swapped their preferences with each other they could help each other get elected.
This practice will end under these proposed changes so micro parties and major parties will now have to get pieces of paper in people's hands to tell them how to vote. Major parties and the Greens will be the only parties who can staff most of the booths across the nation unless there is another big spending Clive Palmer-type character: bad for micro parties, more power to major parties and the Greens, and very bad for Glenn Druery who organised the micro parties to work together.
2. People are asked to vote for at least six candidates above the line.
This is a good change and means it is much more easy to give your preferences to the parties of your choice rather than having to number every box under the line and risk an informal vote. Also you don't have to stop at six, you can number more but it does mean you DON'T have to give your preferences to parties you don't want to and can stop your preference flow whenever you want to (more on this issue below).
3. A single 1 above the line is still a vote.
Even a single tick or cross is a valid vote. This means that people unfamiliar with our voting system or who might have difficulty reading or understanding the instructions properly can still have their votes counted even if they make mistakes. You can even cast a valid vote for less than 6 parties i.e. 1 and 2 or 1,2,3,4 for example and the vote will still be counted.
4. Limiting the number of parties a person can register.
This is a plan to stop the same people setting up and running dummy parties. It should be noted that each party registered has to have different members so in limiting the number of parties a single person can register will have really no effect as most dummy parties will simple find a different person willing to be the registered officer. Having multiple smaller parties under the other changes specifically “no group tickets” means you really have no or little advantage running multiple parties. An unnecessary change targeted at a specific senator.
5. Party Logos.
Great to have a logo. This will help people know who they are voting for.
Do these changes affect Save the Planet? No. Save the Planet doesn’t make preference deals and we were unlikely to benefit from preference flows. We might be the only party in Australia that doesn't do preference deals. Save the Planet simply gives our preferences to the parties and candidates with the strongest climate policy first, putting those with really bad policy last, while also holding sitting members to account for the action or lack of action on tackling global warming. We don’t deal but will happily explain to parties how to improve their climate policy.
Do I support the changes? Yes I do, but my problem is with the framing of the reasons for the change. Instead of being honest and saying “we are changing the system because it no longer provides us with the power it use to and we want to remove almost any chance a micro party has of getting into the Senate so we can control the Senate more easily”, people such as The Greens' leader Richard De Natalie and Senator Nick Xenophon have been harping on about some miscarriage of justice claiming that voters who support micro parties end up with micro parties on the other side of the political spectrum. Yes, this can happen sometimes but voters of micro parties know this and realise that the ONLY hope of getting their representatives elected in an undemocratic system dominated by a handful of major parties is swapping votes with other micro parties. Micro parties are also not stupid. They first seek to support like-minded micro parties' chances of getting elected before giving their preferences to non-like-minded parties. Those people who vote for micro parties but don't support this style of preference swapping can and do simply vote below the line and have full control of their own preferences.
However, it's not just micro party preferences that can end up on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Major political parties such as the Greens and Labor also make preference deals that go against their stated political ideology in an effort to win an extra seat or two or keep perceived threats out.
These deals have produced results such as the election of Family First Victorian Senator Steven Fielding in 2004 who got a primary vote of 1.76% compared to the Greens David Risstrom's 7.76%. After the major parties took the first 5 Senate seats Family First and Greens got preferences from smaller parties as they got knocked out. Before the final distribution, Family First had 309,117 votes and the Greens 305,083 votes. The resulted was decided by over 230,000 preferences transferring from Labor to Family First. If Labor had given their preferences to the Greens ahead of Family First on their group ticket, the Greens would have won instead. This was a really bad decision by Labor as it resulted in all sorts of outcomes that were against Labor policy and prevented an excellent Green candidate from getting elected.
The Greens have also made some strange preference decisions choosing to “put coal miner Clive Palmer’s party (PUP) and Bob Katter’s party ahead of Nick’s [Xenophon] running mate Stirling Griff” in 2013 (http://www.nickxenophon.com.au/media/releases/show/parties-preference-deals-show-strange-bedfellows/).
Another misconception is that people got elected on tiny votes, for example Virginia Trioli on ABC24 speaking to Glenn Lazarus today (7.38am 23/2/16). However the fact is every Senator elected is there because they got a full quota of either 1st preference votes and / or preferences from other parties. Some Labor and Liberal senators also get elected by a very small number of primary votes AND the preferences from other parties. Do we hear calls to stop this happening? No, only in relation to the micro parties.
Will the voting reforms stop major parties doing these dodgy deals? Yes and No. With abolishment of “group voting tickets” where parties submit a list of preferences that is used by the AEC to determine the preference flow for every voter who voted “1” above the line for that party it has now become very difficult for parties to control the Senate preferences of their voters unless they can adequately staff the vast majority of voting booths across Australia and afford to print out 100,000's of how to vote cards. Not surprisingly the only parties who can do this are the major parties, Lib/Nats, Labor and the Greens and perhaps ultra rich individuals such as Clive Palmer.
Micro parties will have no chance of doing this and even if they could, the likelihood of for example a Family First voter wanting their preferences to go to the Sex Party prior to the Liberals or Nationals would be very low and the voter would most likely not follow their party card if they read and understood it. Likewise it will probably mean Labor won't be able to get away with preferencing Family First ahead of the Greens as this would annoy many of their voters and probably get the Greens an extra 1% on first preferences as voters leave Labor in disgust.
Has it made our system more democratic. Yes and no. Firstly a yes and most importantly we are now encouraged to control our own preferences flow by numbering at least six boxes. We are likely to see a jump in the number of people controlling their preference now you can do this without voting below the line. However most people don't understand the voting systems and the vast majority will simply vote accord to the cards they are given.
A second 'yes' is we can stop the flow of our preferences at any time. I personally find systems that force you to vote for all candidates on a ballot very undemocratic, it's sort of like voting for a one-party system where you can vote but there is no point. Here we have effectively two parties Lib/Nats and Labor in our lower house unless you live in a seat with a strong independent or strong Green. I personally don't want to vote for either Nat/Libs or Labor as they are both corrupt and accelerating global warming by approving coal and gas developments around Australia and refuse to take the issue seriously.
If being able to stop preference flows is good for the Senate why can't we stop our preference flows in the lower house? We use to be able to stop our preference flows in lower house by simply repeating a number on the ballot such as numbering the ballot 1,2,3, 4, 4. In this example only the first three preferences would be counted. This type of voting got the nickname a “Langer Vote” after a person who spent a lot of effort promoting it.
As more people became disillusioned with major parties and more and more people stopped voting for them, the major parties faced the real problem, which was that some seats had a chance of the leading candidate getting less than 50% of the preferences once it was down to the final two candidates, as well as a growing message that the major parties were not worth a vote. Of course the major parties combined in 1998 to make this system of voting invalid so your vote didn't count. It is interesting to note how the major parties are happy to allow two types of preference voting in the different houses if it helps them retain power, an example of how corrupt our system is.
So why has it made our system less democratic? Well minor and micro parties combined do get quite a large vote but they are under-represented in parliament in terms of the number of seats they hold compared to the proportion of their vote. The old Senate voting system was one way that the minor parties did get people elected and hence in away made our parliament more representative of people's actual votes for the parties they wanted. To me it's much more concerning that we have an unrepresentative lower house, than a Senate with some micro parties swapping votes to make sure they get a seat, but we don't hear people talking about this issue.
Could we solve this undemocratic problem in the lower house? Yes. We simply double the size of the Federal electorates allowing 75 seats that are no longer linked to a specific location to be distributed to parties who are under represented in parliament once the results for the 75 area based seats are calculated. The threshold for a seat in this system is only 0.66% of the national vote. Some countries such as New Zealand use this type of system.
It would also mean that both side of politics would most likely have to form coalitions to form Government, and not just the Liberals and Nationals, so in future we might see Labor / Green coalitions and other combinations if this system was adopted.
This table shows the number of lower house seats the different parties should have got in the 2013 Federal parliament if we had a democratic system based on proportional representation. It shows major parties would be much less represented while many more minor and micro parties would have more representation.
TABLE 1. 2013 Federal Election results: Actual vs Proportional (rounded)
by Adrian Whitehead, National Campaign Manager.
This has been a strange couple of weeks in politics. We have heard Abbot speaking honestly on his opinion of wind farms, describing them as "visually awful” and wishing the Howard Government had never supported the renewable energy target. Now Tony Abbott wants to destroy native forests and is proposing reinstating biomass from native forests as a source of renewable energy as part of the renewable energy target RET.
Logging native forests certainly is not renewable. It takes 1500-2000 years for an old growth forest to recover post a logging event and 100's of tonnes of carbon are released per hectare logged.
So much carbon is released (roughly 400 tones per ha in a wet forest down to 100-150 tones per ha in drier woodlands) that some scientists have estimated the emission from burning native forests will be higher than burning coal.
Why burn native forests?
Native forest destruction is driven economically by pulp logs used for making wood chips which are in turn used to make toilet paper and paper such as Reflex. These pulp logs are branded “waste” by the logging industry. The second economic driver is logs used to make timber. The third is the massive subsidies provided by state forestry organisations that enable these industries to continue.
Back in the 90's when I was campaigning to save the Otway Forests with Otway Ranges Environmental Network, OREN discovered that as much as 60% of the logging coupes were economically not viable without the pulp logs being removed and sold.
Around the world many countries started planting blue glue plantations 20 plus years ago to supply the need for wood chips. Plantations are more economical to plant, manage, harvest and produce a more consistent cleaner product which is cheaper to process, hence the market for native forest wood chips has collapsed.
To save their industry from total collapse the only other market that the native forest destroyers and their political supporters have found for lower quality wood chips is to burn them.
What about Labor?
Labor has always been a native forest destroyer backing the destruction at both State and Federal levels.
Their opposition to allowing native forests to be burnt as part of the Renewable Energy Target is weak.
A quote from the Tristan Edis's article “New RET set to pass - 'helping our enemies destroy a great nation” in the Climate Spectator from June 17th (see link below) shows Labor's current position on burning native forests.
“When Labor’s shadow minister for climate change, Mark Butler, was asked a few days ago whether Labor would block the passage of the government’s bill if they were unsuccessful in making amendments to exclude native forest wood-waste, he explained:
We are focused on the main game here and the main game is to restore investor confidence to the renewable energy sector… So we’re not going to get distracted by this red herring that the Government introduced at the last minute about native wood waste”
Why would Labor support the introduction of a non renewal energy into the RET? Labor has already supported a massive 20% reduction in the amount of large scaler renewable energy being produced at 2020. A criminal act given every addition of Greenhouse gases to our atmosphere pushes us closer to destruction from global warming.
Given this already weak position it is unlikely we should expect them to stop the revised RET to save native forests given their support for native forest destruction in the past.
The bottom line is there are a number of marginal seats in play that can be won or lost by the votes of people aligned to the timber industry. So at any given time time a number of sitting members from the ALP owe their seats to support from the timber industry, the forestry Union, and big businesses associated with native forest destruction.
In away Labor is on a “win win”, they get to support a continuation of the Renewable Energy Target which helps their mates in the wind industry and gives them some Green cred while also being able to support the destruction of native forests while shifting most of the blame onto the Liberals.
Can it be stopped?
The Senate is scheduled to debate whether to include native forest biomass as a renewable energy some time this week. We will need Senate cross bench support to stop the legislation going through so I have listed the cross benches you might want to contact below and a visual meme you can post to your social media sites.
Nick Xenophon (02) 6277 3552 email@example.com
Glenn Lazarus (02) 6277 3204 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dio Wang (02) 6277 3843 email@example.com
Ricky Muir (02) 6277 3040 firstname.lastname@example.org
John Madigan (02) 6277 3471 email@example.com
Bob Day (02) 6277 3373 firstname.lastname@example.org
David Leyonhelm (02) 6277 3054 email@example.com
However given Labor's support and the lack of cross bench support it looks like the legislation will go through.
If this legislation goes through we will need to wait for a change of government from Liberal to Labor. If Labor gets in power it could revisit the RET legislation and remove native forests from the RET as has been done before or it could be simply re-instate a carbon tax and include the emissions of native forestry.
A simple $10 per tone tax on the carbon emissions from native forestry for destroy the economic viability of the industry over night.
We can also boycott any company that chooses to retail or purchase RECs from native forest burning.
Why have we never won the forests?
There are a few of key reasons:
1. The politics on native forests have be won by the forces supporting native forest destruction. Large sums of money from corporate and union sources have gone to the major parties, and timber unions will move their supporter's votes around to ensure support of native forest destruction by both major parties.
The environment movement has failed to create an effective political leverage to provide incentive to for any significant change by either major parties, largely as a result of almost always backing Labor ahead of Liberal.
New Greens-Labor marginals will make things more difficult for Labor but require the environment moment to focus its campaigns in these marginal seats and the Greens to be willing to take a hard line on forest issues if they have the opportunity to support Labor in a minority government.
2. The environment movements has never really ask for native forest logging to be finished. Instead for decades there has been a confused messages around needed to stop industrial scale clear felling while calling for sustainable logging or the protection of specific areas, with a minority of voices calling for the end of native forest logging.
The timber industry has simply counter with “We do grow the trees sustainably” and shown hectares of young regrowing trees in glossy add and this has been enough for most of the public.
3. We haven't been able to split the industry. Plantation owners and farm foresters would benefit strongly for marketing their products aggressively against native forest timbers assocaited with destructive forestry, however many of the big players have a foot in both camps, many of the people involved in the industry have been educated together, worked together and can not even understand the issues surrounding native forest logging. The occasional group breaking away has been induced to return.
Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015 - Explanatory Memorandum
Abbott on wind
Article by Tristan Edis on the new RET - New RET set to pass - 'helping our enemies destroy a great nation – June 17 2015