By Adam Bandt
This summer has made it eerily clear what the climate emergency looks like in Australia.
As I dropped my kids off at childcare, the air quality was ‘hazardous’ and Melbourne was filled with faces covered in smoke masks.
As 2020 rolled in, those of us who weren’t in the line of the fires were all glued to TV screens and our phones, devastated by the terrifying orange skies of East Gippsland and Southern NSW.
As I visited communities where the fires had raged, I was horrified by the scale of destruction, with forests blackened, homes destroyed and wildlife decimated.
The extreme weather we’ve witnessed this summer is what the climate emergency looks like. The loss of human and animal life and land, and the devastation to communities, is heartbreaking.
An obsession with coal
The arrogance and ineptitude of our Prime Minister and his government has been infuriating. Australia’s emissions are higher than ever and our use of dodgy tricks to measure our pollution and our obsession with coal is making us a pariah on the world stage.
Coal is the biggest cause of global heating and Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal. Unless we lead a global effort to quit coal and cut pollution, apocalyptic scenes like those seen this summer will not only continue but get worse in the years to come.
This devastating summer has happened at 1 degree of global warming. Scott Morrison’s targets and the world’s current pledges have us on track for more than 3 degrees.
The Prime Minister might want to spin us marketing lies about his supposed action on the climate crisis, but without a plan to phase out coal you simply don’t have a plan to tackle the climate emergency.
Cleaning up the mess
Unlike Labor and Liberal, the Greens have a plan to take the necessary action we need to solve the climate emergency: we’re the only party that is prepared to quit coal.
When we return to Parliament in February we will be upping the ante on our campaign to have Parliament declare a climate emergency and to start taking urgent action to transition away from polluting coal, oil and gas. We’ll be throwing absolutely everything we have at the government, in Parliament and in the community, to make sure they hear the message loud and clear that Australians want real climate action.
We know we can get this declaration over the line, by targeting backbench Liberals who have stated they want to take action on the climate crisis and showing them the power of our movement.
There is a lot of work ahead of us. The climate deniers might have had a slap across the wrist but they still have their seat in Parliament. The coal, oil and gas lobbies with their massive donations still have a firm grip on the Labor and Liberal parties. And there is of course crucial work to be done in the medium term to support the families and communities who have been directly impacted by this terrifying season of extreme weather.
Key to getting this government to act will be building a people-powered movement. Throughout history, change has come when everyday people stand up and make their voices heard. The conservatives will do everything in their power to avoid climate action, so it is up to us – the people – to make Scott Morrison act or go.
The power of hope
This summer has been terrifying, but despite it all, our Greens team remains hopeful.
Never before have we seen our movement to tackle the climate emergency as big or as powerful. Never before have we seen such a cross-spectrum of voices from every corner of politics calling for climate action.
Which is why I’m hopeful that this is our time to deliver a Green New Deal for Australia.
We have the opportunity right now to not only avoid the worst outcomes of the climate crisis, but also to build a society where we care for each other and leave no one behind as we stop the seas from rising and our country from burning.
Taking the urgent action we need to transform our society is not just important – it’s an opportunity for equality and justice. This is our chance to shift Australia to a clean, renewable economy while building a more caring and equal society. We need a publicly-led, whole-of-society response to this crisis. To tackle the climate emergency, Australia needs a Green New Deal.
Adam Bandt is the Greens’ spokesperson on climate change.
Hero image: Emma Heyde.