To be blunt, it’s been a shit couple of years. I graduated high school in 2016 with the message to be bold and embrace the world. But the world I’ve been met with has been one scarred by a global financial crisis, a worsening climate crisis and a sudden pandemic crisis. As a climate advocate, it seems I sign off each day touched with grief: for the people, places, animals and plants that are being impacted by climate change. But occasionally, the sun peaks through the clouds and my hope is reinvigorated. Last week was one such week.
On the 18 August, Nature published new research that shows that the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty to phase-out ozone depleting substances signed in 1987, has averted between 0.5-1°C global warming since the 1980s and will continue to reduce harmful greenhouse gases into the future. Then, on the 22 August, for the first time, solar power provided more electricity than coal to Australia’s national electricity market.
The new research in Nature highlights that the international political will of the 1980s has continuing benefits. For legal advocates like myself, this research is strong evidence that novel law reform can bring about systemic changes. It shows that calls for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty or for ecocide to be recognised as an international crime are worthy causes, that may one day be scientifically proven as the basis for rapid emissions reductions. Equally, solar eclipsing coal power is a victory for renewables engineers and developers. These new statistics showcase solar is a more responsive and efficient source of electricity, outcompeting coal.
But at the core of these wins is the same kernel – a ray of sunlight, a flicker of warmth that sits inside all of us. This warmth is our connection to each other, to our communities, to those that came before us and to those that come after. This warmth is our hope for a better world.
The Montreal Protocol was not born in the halls of international organisations. Rather, the Montreal Protocol began with community organisations running international campaigns, like GreenPeace and the World Wildlife Fund, and domestic advocates in Australia, including the Cancer Council. The battle for renewable energy is an ongoing one, driven by communities across Australia who are demanding clean, cheap energy to power their homes and keep their loved ones warm.
These two wins shows us the hopes that connect us and that drive us to act are powerful. Community hope is at the heart of climate action and it is how I go on.
When I founded GreenLaw in 2019, I felt overwhelmed by the climate crisis. But over the last two years, surrounded by community, I have been able to draw on the collective strength of my team members and other advocates. Together we have instigated meaningful change, from fighting for other environmental NGOs to have access to justice to challenging Antarctic Treaty Parties to adopt ambitious climate action for the Southern Ocean.
Many of us are in lockdown right now – isolated, disconnected, seemingly trapped in grey clouds. I find myself getting lost in news stories about the climate change-induced horrors ravaging the world outside my window.
But I try to keep the flicker of warmth alive in my chest, because I know that it connects me to my community, it connects me to the advocates that came before me, and it enables me to fight for the wins that community leaders after me can build on. Just like the campaign leaders for the Montreal Protocol laid the groundwork for my generation to fight for the Paris Agreement to be upheld.
Whether you are active in the climate justice space or not, I encourage you to feel that sunlight in your chest – let it sit golden next to your heart and pulse with the collective hopes of those around you. Let the wins of the last week feed that sunlight in your chest. The hope in our hearts are bright rays, piercing the clouds and shining on a collective vision of a climate just future.