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It’s a climate emergency: forget the election; no time to waste

2019 Election

ANALYSIS election 2019: There’s a new style guide doing the rounds in media: a preference for the term global heating instead of global warming and climate emergency instead of climate change.

According to The Guardian, “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

The governments of the UK and Ireland have also accepted and declared a climate emergency. Deep in our hearts we know they are right.

Words are hugely important because they define what we think and mean. They are the most powerful weapon – or tool – of all. The Fifth Estate will adopt a similar language and acceptance that we are now in extremely dangerous territory.

In the face of that how do we make sense of Saturday’s night’s emphatic rejection of the so-called “climate election”?

First is to hold onto some rational thought. According to the experts the final tally is likely to show that more than half the Australian people voted for a party that placed climate action a top priority, alongside a progressive social and economic agenda. Just like the polls said.

The problem was that the polls failed on seat by seat electorates. ABC’s Antony Green on Saturday night said the reason is that not many people these days have landlines, so the location of respondents is harder to identify.

Another theory doing the rounds is that people want to be seen as good social/environmental citizens but when they went into the voting booths their inner selfishness was unleashed and they voted for their hip pocket.

Queensland, which voted overwhelmingly for the Coalition, was slammed. Maps of the “Brisbane Line” appeared. This showed the border marking the part of Australia that would be ceded to the Japanese should they invade in the second world war. Harsh.

Just a few weeks ago Mick Daley filed his long piece for us of what happened on Bob Brown’s convoy to “Stop Adani”. Mick talked to people along the way, impartially reported their feelings and how fiercely locals galvanised across sectors and entire communities to defend their perceived jobs and economic future.

The facts might differ, but perception becomes reality during elections. Or when fear grips.

On Monday we received this heart wrenching note from the Queensland Environmental Defender’s Office.

You are not alone. We share your heartfelt concern about the impacts of climate change and your frustration at political inaction.

Just remember that no one is above the law. Through the legal system we can hold the government and mining companies to account, uphold and enforce our environmental laws, and achieve justice for communities concerned about biodiversity and the impacts of climate change.

It’s a fundamental part of our democracy, and a powerful safeguard for times when governments fail us and corporations do the wrong thing.

In the weeks, months, and years to come, EDO Qld will not stop helping communities access their rights to combat dangerous climate change.

We care passionately about action to protect the planet and to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Our challenge is to channel our shared anxiety into strong effective action and avoid leaving the $133 billion costs of inaction to fall on the next generation.

As the climate emergency leads to more extreme weather events threatening our agriculture, more bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef threatening our tourism and sea level rise threatening our coastal homes, we must redouble our efforts to prevent the worst of climate change and increase our resilience to its devastating effects.

Are you with us?

It’s full steam ahead today, Monday May 20, here at the EDO Qld.

But the fact is that it’s no use blaming Queensland.

As someone said Queenslanders outside of Brisbane are mostly rural/regional people, and they voted exactly the same way as other rural/regional people voted.

The problem is in the messaging, or the lack of it. Climate activists want to stop coal mining, but where was the powerful call to action that the green economy can provide jobs AND growth? Or that news that the coal mines on the drawing board will be almost completely automated?

Where are the demonstration projects such as Sanjeev Gupta’s array of sustainability enterprises at Whyalla in South Australia, that has got the locals excited and kicked off growth again in a town that was decimated by the closure of the steelworks?

And what about the hip pocket voters?

Talk about confused messaging and confused party lines.

In Warringah on Saturday the tradies on Military Road were all pumping fists for “Tony and Scott”. Call it the HiLux and petrol vote, after Morrison frightened the ute drivers by saying Labor wanted to replace petrol utes with cars. Never mind that Toyota distanced itself almost instantly and said all its utes would soon be electric.

In Sydney’s inner west a mums group exchanged ideas online and one said she voted Libs because she was “the big end of town” and Labor would have hurt her business. She’s a florist. Another agreed. She too was the “top end of town”. She owns an investment property.

Former PM Tony Abbott said in his concession speech that the tables had flipped. Working [class] electorates were voting Libs and wealthy suburbs were now voting ALP. He got that one right.

But what if the hip pocket vote is actually a distraction?

What if it was a climate election after all and people can see the climate emergency and are scared? Maybe they feel it’s too late to arrest global heating now. People in fear do not generally choose bold new actions. They go for the things that will make them feel comfortable and unchanged, even if only a bit, for as long as possible.

Maybe that’s what the Coalition got that exactly right.

So where does that leave us?

In the absence of such massive failure on climate and energy policy by our federal politicians, a stance re-endorsed almost immediately by Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, how do the rest of us get out of bed in the morning to fight the good fight?

The thing about humanity is that it’s highly inventive.

Sadly, most voters don’t get to the see the good news we do. They don’t get to see the immense passion pouring out of people, from the grass roots to the very “top end of town”, because, selectively at least, the top end of town too is worried about the rising waters and rising temperatures.

They’re not receiving messages about alternative jobs, alternative economies and technologies that are hoping to curb rising emissions.

Yes, there’s the danger of hubris and head-in-the sand optimism but there’s also a case for action and hope.

At our event last week, Happy Healthy Offices, we once again felt that magic spirit when this industry comes together face to face.

It is amazing.

Come Monday morning and writing a little note to all the attendees at HHO19 it was suddenly obvious that business could be our next brilliant leaders.

Here at the event were big companies, not always but sometimes, acting boldly, wisely and bravely, and with the resources and clout to do so much more.

Sure they don’t get everything right and excellence anyway is hard won and rare. Even Leonardo Da Vinci had a stack of poor underperforming work in his portfolio. But what the shockingly bad painting did when he acknowledged it was spur him on to hard work and greatness.

This is a time to celebrate our leaders and encourage them. They are not our federal politicians. We will do far better with our state and local pollies. And with businesses.

There they were forging previously unimagined paths. Just a few years ago who would have predicted that Mirvac would have a huge urban farm on the roof of its buildings at Eveleigh? Many would have laughed. When Mirvac launched its “This Changes Everything” campaign with its massively ambitious climate and sustainability goals, (a campaign, we must say, dreamed up by our MC on the day Ben Peacock from Republic of Everyone) yep, there was a tad of scepticism.

Today most other big property companies have declared they are on the path to net zero carbon, and trying to outdo themselves and Mirvac.

Take a bow chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz. Nice to see Paul Edwards who led the program come back to take the stage at HHO last week to explain his current gig based around the power of experience and networking – the human side of sustainability.

And there was Lendlease that, for all the fallibilities that can beset any big burly organisation, continues to sometimes achieve brilliant leadership. The way Barangaroo works continues to unfold stunningly and the company’s Liam Timms thrilled the audience with his take.

Charter Hall and ISPT – same. Companies trying to outperform wherever they can.

So in writing out note of thanks it was suddenly more clear than ever before that taking the place of government now must be big business.

At the global institutional and financial end big business is fast coming to grips with the seriousness of the climate emergency. Anyone with a brain will agree (but may not admit it). And Australian Industry Group’s Innes Willox wasted no time in telling the re-elected government the whole world is moving to renewables and we need to get with the program.

Business needs to join with small government, state government and the many consultants, advisers and not for profits to set the agenda we want.

The feds are the true washouts of this climate election.

Let’s take charge.

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Comments

11 Responses to “It’s a climate emergency: forget the election; no time to waste”

  • Matthew says:

    The OECD in 1996 produced a report for Habitat II called ‘The Ecological City’ that predicted that cities and city regions would prove to be the most effective scale for taking climate action, because governments were too bound up with other concerns and too easily swayed by big money. And so it has proven, with notable exceptions (eg the British phase-out of coal power). Cities are where the most effective actions are being taken now, where sustainable transport is succeeding, where issues are being tackled. This is important because most of the world lives in cities and cities have the biggest environmental impacts – while having the lowest per capita environmental impacts. So my fellow Australians, let’s take heart in the successful actions being taken at city level, and hope that Australia’s forthcoming international climate pariah status eventually sorts out the Feds…

  • M Davey says:

    Yes, I agree – the answer will be complex and we can only make predictions and carefully assess potential risks without knowing exactly what the future holds. I think spotlighting personal resilience and what individuals are doing to cope is great, however I think community and collective resilience is even more important to highlight that none of us can do it alone. We need to focus on positive solutions that groups of passionate people are coming up with, and hopefully frame those solutions in a way that makes them too good to refuse for the broader global community and governments.

  • Jack Haber says:

    Perhaps we are asking too much of our federal pollies. Maybe action should be directed at a more local level. New York City has taken this approach. The following summary from an article in The Conversation:

    New York City has approved an ambitious plan to combat climate change by forcing thousands of large buildings to slash their greenhouse gas emissions.

    The legislation passed yesterday by the city council puts caps on carbon emissions for buildings over 25,000 sq ft – requiring a 40% overall cut in their emissions by 2030.

    The mandates, touted as a local version of the Green New Deal embraced by many progressive Democrats, will apply to 50,000 buildings – from buildings with a few dozen apartments to Trump Tower, the president’s Fifth Avenue skyscraper which advocates have targeted as a major polluter.

    • Tina Perinotto says:

      Great to flag Jack, thanks. We’ve been contacted by quite a few people feeling very down. We need to double down on as much good news as possible.

  • M Davey says:

    It is true that we are in a climate emergency – and the urgency that this language inspires is necessary, but we need to be thoughtful about the risks associated with this language as well – see https://www.aycc.org.au/climatejustice_not_climateemergency. The Fifth Estate has acknowledged that people may be scared about the future of our climate and that “People in fear do not generally choose bold new actions.” – there is a possibility that the emergency framing will worsen that phenomenon. We also need to seriously consider what a panicked ’emergency state’ could mean for disadvantaged and underprivileged people – those that will arguably feel the affects of climate change harder and faster than anyone else.

    • Tina Perinotto says:

      A dilemma that we will need increasingly to deal with. Good point. No answers just yet? Other thoughts? this is the place where we need to bring the discussions to a head. Probably the best way forward will be complex and nuanced like everything else. An interesting young woman I met yesterday as part of a mentoring program with C40 wants to focus on personal resilience, self resilience – what people who are fighting for the climate do to maintain their own balance and hope.

  • Mark Stallmann says:

    Add your self to the list. Your newsletters are the best thing in my inbox. You are a hub of news and ideas and are critical to the support of people and companies taking good actions. More power to your words.

  • Ian Cleland says:

    The was an election of self interest, greed and denying climate disruption.

    We, collectively, no matter who we voted for will pay for our inaction on climate change

    Note: One the 10 July 1940 when the battle of Britain started it was a beautiful summers day. Britain’s where comfortably numb. We are in the same space from this day forward

  • David Chandler says:

    FifthEstate, this is an expected summary of your take on Saturday’s election result. The reality of the next period of government is jobs and the economy. That will define the listened to narrative like it of not. The good news is that there are now burgeoning new climate centric industries and jobs. In the US Trump has not hosed down this momentum. Infact the rate of new climate centric enterprises and jobs is reflecting the aspirations and dare I say, the economic drivers of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
    This momentum is rising in the UK, India, Indonesia and China as the populations live the pollution of their countries being the last of the dirty manufacturing bases of the 20th Century. Europe has been has been a stand out leader for years – German innovation has led the way. Germany is well on the way to zero carbon concrete and other low carbon material technologies. I do not share your view that Australian developers as as committed as you report. They focus on the ‘green-operational’ side.

    • Tina Perinotto says:

      Fantastic observation and absolutely part of our post-election editorial strategy: to focus full pelt on these. Thanks David! Go the Green Revolution!

  • Peter Cohen says:

    You make me feel better.Damn the ignorant conservative pollies. We must take action ourselves for our children’s sake.

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