Climate emergency actions are needed not just promises

by P&I Guest Writers

Labor didn’t so much win the election gaining only 32% of the primary vote – they just didn’t lose it quite as badly as the Coalition, scraping into government because they were not as reprehensible on climate and integrity.
I wonder if it has really sunk in with Albo’s Labor that Climate Change WAS THE KEY issue for voters (29% according to ABC Compass poll). Independents really were the “Climate” election winners, so taking away 3/4 of their Canberra staff to nobble their effectiveness looks about as tin-eared as ScoMo on a bad day! Albo wouldn’t have been so cavalier if Independents were holding the balance of power I bet!
So what should we expect of Albo’s Labor?
If they were serious about ending the Climate wars and in their promises to the Quad and to Pacific Nations to take Climate change seriously in their first fortnight in power and at every other international event since then, we should be able to expect some significant action to match the promises.
Here’s my own check-list of expectations/demands naively proposed:

Commit to no longer taking any fossil fuel sponsorship to avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest. Labor took over $470,000 in AEC declared sponsorship in 2020/21 as quoted by Renew economy. Legislate overhaul of all party sponsorships to prevent any vested interest group “buying” political influence. This has held Australia back on climate action for decades and has to stop!
Legislate “Duty of Care” for our youth and future generations as the highest duty of ANY Minister at all levels of Government. Better yet hold a referendum on “Duty of Care”, rights to protest, freedom of speech, protection of whistle-blowers and the media, native title rights over minerals and water etc. in a “Bill of Rights” for our constitution.
Withdraw ALL fossil fuel extraction approvals that are not consistent with a “Duty of Care” – spoiler alert that’s all of them according to IPCC, UN and even from the the extremely conservative IEA “from today” (18 May 2021)”, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects”!
Commit to rapid transition out of fossil fuel exports and into renewable energy exports, with Renewable Energy Enterprise Zones established in all communities that need to transition out of the fossil fuel supply chain. Fossil fuel exports quadruple Australia’s contribution to global GHG emissions – this HAS to stop as soon as possible, but is so-far being swept under the carpet by Labor!
Stop the $11.6Bn of direct and indirect subsidies to the fossil fuel industries that are foreign owned, employ very few people, gouge our domestic energy prices and pay little to no taxes. They are taking us citizens/voters for mugs, but our sponsored political parties are doing their bidding!
Set MUCH more stringent net zero and renewable energy targets – the science says we HAVE to be close to net zero by 2030, not 2040 or 2050. No political party has a target that the real science requires to actually give our own children a survivable future. (Even the Greens only say 75% emissions reductions by 2030). Our survival as a species really is this perilous and we are not LOOKing UP!
Impose the Carbon Fee and Dividend price on carbon, initially at $50/tonne, but then raise it every year. The money raised must immediately be paid back as a dividend to every citizen to allow them to pay for the price rises that propagate through the economy – prices rising most for the emissions intensive products and services and least for the least emissions intensive like renewable energy. This will greatly incentivise and accelerate our transition to renewables in all sectors whilst remaining fiscally neutral. Since government keeps none of the money, it’s not a tax! Also, this will free Australia’s exports from the EU carbon border adjustment tariff and allow Australia to protect its own industries with its own carbon border adjustment tariff.
Legislate and incentivise “electrify everything” as per Saul Griffiths – start with banning petrol and diesel vehicle imports from 2030 and then invest BIG in electric charging infrastructure and bi-directional charging for all homes. Mandate no new gas for homes and only electric cooking and hot water appliances for new homes and transition industry to all-electric manufacturing. For the most viable economic future, Australia needs to export renewable energy refined, value-added commodities and final products, not just (immorally subsidised) dig it up and sell it minerals (by foreign owned entities). We can be MUCH smarter than this!
Close down the Otis Group of Coal loving Labor MP’s (letting this continue is tin-eared to the election result) and shuffle out Coal and Gas loving MP’s from Ministerial positions, especially Madelein King (Keith Pitt in a frock) who continues to spruik coal without a hint of interest in transition to renewables but also Chris Bowen who has always spruiked gas and now refuses to talk about stopping coal and gas for export – the 4 times multiplier that makes us as carbon polluting as Russia.
Legislate Net Zero for the National Construction Code so that all new buildings must be net zero from day 1 – such buildings are even more affordable because the energy cost savings far exceed (3-5 times) any additional mortgage payments for the net zero measures.
Legislate mandatory energy and emissions disclosure and renovation to net zero for the stock of existing buildings at every change of ownership or lease renewal – it’s economic for owners anyway so there’s no excuse – JUST DO IT!
Legislate and incentivise regeneration and protection of carbon sinks – reafforestation, carbon draw-down, drought resilient farming, mangrove and peat bog restoration and outlaw all carbon trading and offsets – the whole principle is deeply flawed.
Remove all government funding from technically and economically flawed climate mitigation technologies that are promoted by the fossil fuel industries to mislead and deceive – these include Carbon Capture and Storage, Direct Air Capture, Hydrogen (Brown, Blue and even Green won’t really be green until our grid has transformed almost fully to decarbonised energy), “Clean Coal”, “Gas-Led Recovery”…etc.
Urge ACCC to really use its powers to aggressively prosecute false and misleading claims – the hype around exporting brown hydrogen pretending to be green hydrogen to Japan was especially egregious. Worse still Coalition Ministers gleefully spruiked the deception. Labor must not follow suit, so lets also do away with politicians immunity from having to tell the truth – lets get that wrapped into the Integrity Commission legislation. We should surely expect a higher standard of truthfulness from our MP’s than from citizens and corporations?
Really enforce planning conditions as CONDITIONS. When Adani/Bravus infringed their operating conditions for Abbott point and their QLD mine, when Chevron refused to capture 80% of their carbon emissions and numerous other condition infringements at most fossil fuel extraction plants then if condition means CONDITION, then their licence to operate should have been summarily terminated – not just a trivial fine or slap on the wrist. Why do climate protesters face bigger fines for legitimate protest to protect our futures than massive corporations that are committing global vandalism to destroy our futures?
Put serious money into researching high risk geoengineering (ocean seeding with basalt seems lowest risk, most economic and scalable to me). Our kids and grandkids are going to need some forms od genoengineering to survive and research is needed to assess the potential and practicality, mitigate the worst risks and high costs of most geoengineering ideas.

I have VERY low expectations, but desperately want to be proven wrong!
Nigel Howard C Chem FRSC is a former Director of the UK Centre for Sustainable Construction and a former Vice President of the US Green Building Council, now retired to full time Climate Activism on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.