On 4 April 2022, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an expert body established by the UN, published Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change.
The core message? Our time to limit catastrophic climate change and global warming to 1.5°C is rapidly running out.
The main barriers? In developed countries, which emit the majority of greenhouse gases, innovation has ‘lagged’ because of ‘weak enabling conditions’. A polite way of stating that fossil fuel state capture and other vested interests have crushed political will.
It is 2022; just eight years (or roughly three more federal elections) away from 2030. Our global emissions should be, must be halving. They are still rising. This is not the product of technological failure or an inability to innovate – this is the failure of this generation of leaders. The same generation of federal politicians currently campaigning on another scare campaign about a federal carbon tax, and in-fighting about whether the net zero by 2050 target is binding (it’s not and more importantly it’s too little, too late).
Climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying. It is the 2019-2020 Summer bushfires, seared into our lungs. It is the 2021-2022 East Coast floods, drowning our homes and communities. It is up to 50% of all species losing most of their habitat by 2100, risking the extinction of sea turtle, wombat and cockatoo species within your lifetime.
Scott Morrison once mockingly held up coal in Parliament, crowing ‘this is coal…don’t be afraid’. No one fears coal in its natural state, buried underneath peatland swamps, Indigenous sacred sites or national parks, existing as part of our ecosystems.
No, what we fear (indeed what 61% of people considered a major risk to security in 2021) is climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels, like coal and fracked gas. A burning process that not only causes climate change, but also 785 premature Australian deaths every year from respiratory diseases. Fossil fuels are burning our lungs, our planet and our futures.
I am not alone in these fears. Over 80% of Women’s Agenda readers list climate change as one of their top three policy issues for this election. Climate change is the top listed issue in the ABC’s Voter Compass for 2022. Australians are tired of concocted political division to win votes and (perhaps more importantly) fossil fuel company donations.
What I don’t fear, however, is climate action.
In fact, as a young person looking towards the future, I yearn for an Australia that is climate ambitious. I yearn for cheaper, cleaner, community-owned energy. Renewables out-compete fossil fuels, and already SA and Victoria (with grids that have a higher share of renewables) enjoy electricity prices that are on average $48/MWh cheaper than coal-dominated grids in NSW and Queensland. I yearn for rejuvenated ecosystems, with flourishing native species that we can all enjoy. I yearn for the Australian summers of yesteryear, when December brought long days at the beach, not smoke-filled lungs or dangerous torrents of water.
And I am not alone in this yearning. From coal miners to school kids, people across Australia are fighting for a more sustainable and just future. It is no surprise that in 2022, the dawn of the decade that is the ‘last best chance’ of averting catastrophic climate change, the federal election is swept up in teal and green waves from Independents and other minor parties, like The Greens, offering a vision of hope.
We have so much to gain from climate action, from leaders setting an ambitious vision for Australia to reach zero emissions, restore our environment and repair our reputation as a responsible country working towards global prosperity.
By the time my generation are in power – are the people pitching to be the next Prime Minister – the promise and opportunity of this decade will be history. It is up to this generation of federal politicians to act.
Because my generation have enrolled in record-breaking numbers to vote. We have learnt the power of marching for justice, charting a vision for reform, and of pushing our leaders towards progress. If they will not stand up and act, we will vote them out.