8 July 2014 — More than 20 civil society groups are urging the new Senate to act on climate change by retaining carbon pricing and existing renewable energy support.
The groups include trade unions and youth, health, emergency services and religious groups, who say the existing clean energy laws create jobs in the renewables sector and provide billions in investment to industry.
Unions are supporting carbon pricing as the best way to secure jobs.
“Making polluters pay, rather than ordinary Australian families, is the fairest way to protect Australians from climate change,” Andrew Dettmer, national president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union said. “Investing in clean energy production creates jobs, it’s as simple as that.”
The firefighters union has also thrown in its support, after being on the receiving end of extreme weather events, the intensity and frequency of which has been linked to climate change.
“There are no climate change sceptics at the end of a firehose,” national secretary of the United Firefighters Union of Australia Peter Marshall said. “Firefighters know that climate change is real and happening now. They see it in the changing patterns, frequency and intensity of recent blazes in several states.”
On the community front, the Australian Council of Social Service is supporting the move because low-income earners are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather, bushfires, floods and food price increases.
“People living on low-incomes will be the first and worst hit by the effects of climate change,” ACOSS chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said. “It is irresponsible to repeal the clean energy laws when they remain the only credible and independently assessed mechanism for Australia to adopt.”
“Rewarding investment in clean energy and energy efficiency assistance programs makes sense, creating significant employment opportunities and leading to substantial savings in energy costs over time.”
The Public Health Association of Australia said climate change was not just an environmental issue.
“Without dramatic action the potential for adverse impacts on health are enormous,” chief executive Michael Moore said. “There is already evidence of an increase in vector-borne disease, depression as farm land becomes less viable as well as injury and death associated with adverse weather events.”
Religious groups are too joining the charge, seeing a response to climate change as a moral duty.
“We see it as a moral and theological imperative to recognise the rights of all people, especially the rights of future generations and those in poverty, who will bear the heavy cost of our dependence on carbon-based energy if we lack the will to limit climate change,” said Dr Beth Heyde, member of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, and chair of the Public Affairs Commission of the Anglican General Synod.
“The Synod met just last week and unanimously expressed grave concern to the government that a market mechanism such as an emission trading scheme is not part of its strategy to address climate change – and urged the government to do much more to decrease Australia’s heavy fossil fuel dependence.”
Lucy Manne, national co-director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, added the youth angle, saying that younger people and future generations would bear the brunt of current government decisions on climate change.
“As young people, we have the most at stake and we need our leaders to listen and act urgently. Our message to new Senators is this: think about your children and grandchildren, the future generations who will bear the cost of your decisions on climate,” Ms Manne said.
Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation said that carbon pricing was working.
“Since its inception, pollution from electricity generation has fallen more than ten per cent, total pollution has fallen more than at any time in more than two decades, clean energy is booming and all without hurting families.
“Why would any government scrap a policy that works as well and as efficiently as this one?”