What happened? What now?
All of us who regarded this as ‘The Climate Election’ have been overcome with shock. Many of us have been at the coal face, either handing out leaflets, letterboxing, door knocking, or phone banking. We wanted to make sure the public got the message; having wasted decades of inaction on climate change, we are now in a race against time. The talk is no longer simply of climate change. With much of the country suffering from a multi-year drought, water shortages, a longer bushfire season with fires in forests that have never burnt before, and a dying Great Barrier Reef, we now face a climate emergency.
Public sentiment seemed to be moving our way. Polls have increasingly showed the public want more government action on climate change. State Governments were adopting policies supportive of renewable energy. Many corporations were responding to demands to cut their carbon emissions. The environment movement has successfully thwarted fund-raising for the Adani mine. School kids were coming out on strike demanding action from the federal government. And the federal government spliced together a patchwork of ideas that some thought would satisfy public demand for climate action. Now all that was needed was to elect a federal government that would take the climate threat more seriously.
Yet, it hasn’t happened.
There will be post-mortems and I leave that analysis to others. Here I want to focus on what now, on the way forward. The stakes are too great. We are not alone. We must not allow ourselves to despair. Even in this seemingly grim aftermath, there are opportunities for us as a non-partisan climate action voice.
Locally, whilst our federal member has been re-elected, he has had his (safe) margin trimmed from 12.68% to about 7.75%, as of today. Through our actions, Tim Wilson has become very conscious that the climate crisis is a matter of concern to an increasing number of his constituents. He has become a voice in his party for greater ambition in emissions reduction. He began articulating that position publicly, after our climate forum last August when he faced withering criticism from his constituents in the audience.
When we visit Tim next month to congratulate him on his re-election, we will have with us the Presidents of three other Bayside based community groups. They will join in our demand that he be more proactive in pushing the newly formed government towards stronger climate action and biodiversity protection. He now knows that such demands have wide community support, which he cannot dismiss.
A new Liberal led government will not be able to ignore similar demands coming from so many of its heartland (previously safe) seats such as Kooyong, Higgins, Indi, Flinders, Mayo, Warringah, Wentworth AND Goldstein. In 3 (or 4) of these seats, the Libs have lost to independents campaigning on climate action. In the others, their majority has been significantly reduced due to lack of serious climate action. Such diminished support in these seats will surely open the way to greater ambition on climate policy. As Liberal Senator, Arthur Sinodinos said the other night, community pressure can help advance government climate policy.
Aside from us lobbying the federal government, we have other, grass roots, practical campaigns to pursue. One is the planned phase-out of Victoria’s polluting brown-coal burning power stations. This is a campaign that will be led by Environment Victoria, following their successful campaign to close Hazelwood power station. Environment Victoria is also leading a campaign to disallow AGL’s proposed gas import-terminal in Westernport Bay.
We can also become more proactive in supporting campaigns to pressure corporations and super funds to divest from fossil fuels and/or cut their own emissions. Together with a growing network of environment and climate action groups, we will forge ahead and win more public support for implementing the changes we need.
And finally, we can help promote a more optimistic picture of what a fossil fuel free world can look like and how a transition to that new world can benefit Australia. We will start doing that through our scheduled June Public Forum – details in the current newsletter. You can follow that up by viewing the new film ‘2040’ by renowned Australian Director Damon Gameau. A description of the film being released by Palace Cinemas from 23 May, is also in the newsletter. With your support, we can grow, increase our influence and bring about the change we need from the bottom up.