February 18, 2015

The question is no longer “when” but “how”

“Life After Coal: Australia’s Opportunity in the Emerging Low Carbon World” with visiting US expert, economist Bob Massie. 

Any day now President Obama is likely to reject the proposed XL Keystone shale oil pipeline. This will be the first time in history that a government has rejected a major energy project based on its climate related impacts and is the clearest signal yet that we must begin discussing the practical implications of a world beyond fossil fuels.

Several years ago the concept of a transition to a low carbon economy was considered science fiction – a pipe dream like those flying cars on The Jetsons – yet now, as the reality of irreversible climate change draws ever closer, the question which global leaders must ask is no longer when this transition will happen, but how. Will this structural shift away from traditional fossil fuels result in economic contraction, job losses and the extinction of regional communities or can we find a way to make the necessary change whilst preserving our economic and social wellbeing?

The idea is not impossible and in fact, around the world, from Germany and the US to India and China, we are seeing countries tackling this problem head on and putting in place measures and plans to ensure that the action we need is taken as painlessly as possible. In 2011 the German government launched a comprehensive national plan called Energiewende, meaning Energy Transition. They put a small tax on energy bills to subsidise the transition to renewable power. Late last year China and the US signed an agreement to drastically cut the proportion of their energy derived from fossil fuels – a move which has sent Australian coal and gas producers into a flurry of panic. And now in the US we’re seeing the death of a huge oil pipeline, which is no longer financially nor ethically relevant.

This type of visionary action and discussion is sadly lacking amongst our leadership circles here in Australia, a country in the midst of building a mega coal mining complex in the Galilee Basin which would, if it were a country, become the 7th largest carbon emitter in the world.

Thankfully, whilst Australia’s PM has been contemplating a return to knights and dames, organisations such as the New Economy Coalition, have been seeking answers to these big picture questions of how to save our planet whilst balancing the chequebooks. This problem of a ‘Just Transition’ to a low-carbon economy which secures a strong and stable economic future that supports jobs, communities and the environment is exactly the topic which Bob Massie, the outgoing President of the New Economy Coalition, former President of CERES and prominent global anti-apartheid campaigner will address over the next two weeks in his speaking tour of Australia.

This week, it’s Australia’s turn to take the next great leap in climate action.  After attending Bob Massie’s talk, there is a good chance we can all make that critical leap and start demanding leadership on how we will tackle this issue as a key priority given Australia’s current dependence – and almost open-ended access to – coal and gas. No issue could be more important to ensure we face up to the need to leave our fossil fuel reserves in the ground and find new, long-term and low-carbon energy sources and jobs as we minimise the transition on the workers and communities that will be most impacted.

Life After Coal – Australia 20 Feb – 3 March 2015

Sydney, Newcastle, La Trobe Valley, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Mackay, Perth

To book in a city or town near you: www.justtransitions.com.au or contact charlie@350.org.au