Stepping and speaking up together

The Sustainable Hour no. 477 | Podcast notes

Today we focus on the Melbourne Town Hall emergency meeting #SteppingUpTogether which was held on 9 September 2023 – an important meeting organised by grassroots climate groups. Its ambitious and non-apologetic aim was to start the process of getting the climate movement to come together as never before. We feature five of the activists who spoke that day:

Gilbert Rochecouste founded Village Well 32 years ago – a placemaking Naarm/Melbourne-based organisation with a world-wide reach. Gilbert speaks very emotionally about the regenerative world that is emerging to replace the extractive world that has led to the climate crisis that we are experiencing right now. His emphasis is on getting all the various organisations and groups in this space to mobilise and work together and create a new inspirational story.

Dr Liz Boulton is a former army officer. She outlines the place that her inspirational PhD thesis Plan E has in helping us firstly survive and then thrive as we organise to face up to the climate crisis. Her idea is effectively to turn the “old story” of how our military operates as well as what is national security on its head. 

Dr Karen Klang takes us through the serious and many faceted health implications of the climate crisis which will continue to play out even after we start to get real on climate. She talks about her involvement with the campaign to stop fracking in the Beetaloo.

Dr Louise Woodward is a Darwin-based paediatrician. She takes us through what was for her a transformative experience, as she firstly initiated an open letter to politicians outlining her concerns about the impacts on people’s health if the planned fracking and processing of gas in the Northern Territory’s citizens went ahead. This then resulted in her leading a delegation of her colleagues to Canberra to speak to politicians about these concerns.

Robert Bakes, founder of Vote Earth Now, takes us through his “traffic light assessment” of election candidates based on their responses on important climate policies leading up to any election. These responses then guide the production of “how to vote” guides in all electorates.

Last week, we featured the speeches by associate professor Mark Diesendorf and 14-year-old school striker Charlotte Gallace.

A big thank you to Robert McClean who recorded the speeches. Robert has covered the town hall meeting and interviewed several of the speakers in his podcast Climate Conversations. Among them Charlotte Gallace, Mark Diesendorf, Gilbert Rochecouste, Liz Boulton and Robert Bakes, as well as Robert Patterson who initiated the event and Tony Gleeson who was one of the event moderators.

. . .

We open today’s Hour with a short quote from United Nations leader Antonio Guterres who once again implores us all to get real on climate or face the dire consequences.

An incredulous mother’s tweet about how she could explain our current situation to her daughter is the stimulus for Mik Aidt‘s rant today. He moves on to introduce the “Stepping Up Together” concept – the theme of the important grassroots’ emergency meeting on 9 September.

Tadhg Hickey – an Irish comedian with some serious advice for us amidst some good ‘ol Irish humour’ – takes us out today. “What we need is a revolution,” he says.

. . .

Colin Mockett OAM‘s Global Outlook this week is almost all taken from an article written by Saul Griffith, the Australian scientist who advised United States President Biden on his multi-billion dollar Inflation Reduction Act – the oddly-named American response to climate change. Griffith wrote that 2023 had already seen Canada and Europe literally on fire, heat records set globally with the ocean considerably warmer and flooding everywhere.

‘It is now or never on climate and getting the policy right is critical’ he wrote. ‘Australia is about to embark on a response to the Biden administration’s signature climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). I will first unpack the underlying theory of change in the IRA and then I will discuss what Australia can do better.
To start, let’s consider the climate context.

We know that we are in a climate emergency, but if we continue to slowly shift to electric vehicles, renewable electricity, and electrified homes at the current ‘free market’ rates, we will likely wind up with 2.8°C or more degrees of warming. In wartimes, governments can execute emergency powers that enable them to operate outside free market rules. The obvious example was the public–private partnership developed in the United States during World War II to produce the war materials required for victory.

Today, fossil fuel companies and right-leaning politicians may recoil at the idea of such a step and would like to keep everything on the slow roll. I’m in the emergency camp, as are the vast majority of the world’s scientists.

Based on the early enthusiasm for electrification reflected in the most recent budget, we have reason to be confident the Biden administration grasps the urgency of the challenge and scale of response required.

It looks like Australia’s policy response to the US president’s climate agenda will be in two phases. The first is a narrow trade-based response that will explore subsidies to manufacturing and will likely be announced this year. The second is a not-yet-defined climate and economic response that will be largely shaped by the Australian government’s climate planning process looking at each sector – industry, transport, electricity, et cetera.

The U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act was conceived very differently. The domestic economic response – stimulus for households and businesses to electrify their appliances and vehicles, and further stimulus to make zero-carbon electricity to power it all – were the guiding pillars of the IRA. The process was holistic, looking at all sectors of the economy together. Electrification is the principal tool in decarbonisation, and so all sectors were considered at the same time.

I helped to write the IRA, having co-founded a group called Rewiring America (RA) with another energy entrepreneur, Alex Laskey. RA started life as an advocacy group for bold climate action, but rolled up its sleeves when Biden came to power to find ways to meet the 50 per cent by 2030 emissions-reduction targets that Biden’s climate team promised. There were two focal points: demand-side electrification (zero-emission vehicles, homes, businesses), and supply-side clean energy (zero-emission electricity). The question was how to achieve the easiest, cheapest and fastest solutions. That logic prevailed on the supply and the demand sides. Simply put, this would clean up all the machines, and supply them with clean electricity.

The gas industry tried to derail this project, by arguing for similar incentives for gas generators and even gas water heaters. The electrifying climate nerds for the large part prevailed over the gas industry’s weak and self-interested arguments.

At the end of the day, the IRA probably should have been called the “Electrify (almost) Everything Tax Act”. It comprised tax incentives for producing clean electricity, and generous ones for purchasing clean electric machines, including cars, heat pumps, solar panels and induction stoves. These two investments, roughly equal in size, make up about 80 per cent of the energy-focused investments of the IRA. As for the rest: About 10 per cent went to direct incentives to manufacture machines that produce or use clean electricity: electric cars, heat pumps, batteries, solar cells. But the IRA wasn’t all tax incentives; it included US$8.8 billion of directly applied rebates, mostly focused on low- and middle-income household electrification.

Spending in all categories is ahead of schedule, and the estimate of outlay is close to US$1.2 trillion. By any measure, this is a lot of money, and will go a long way to meeting the original goals of those working on the bill – permanent market transformation of the world’s biggest energy economy.

Dr Jesse Jenkins of Princeton has estimated the bill will achieve 43-48 per cent emissions reductions. I’m less optimistic, but I’m hoping he is right, or even underestimating.

That’s the U.S. – now for Australia. Earlier this year, Australia’s treasurer Jim Chalmers outlined his vision of government investment and programs cleverly designed to crowd in private investment that would help deliver social goods, including a transition to clean energy. There is reason to believe that Australia has studied the American model and can now design their own similar, but more effective response. Will they do it though is the big question? It will definitely mean a huge change in direction for them. A government who keeps approving fossil fuel projects. Watch this space! 

. . .

The big thing here is that it doesn’t have to be like this. Neither our current Labor government nor the LNP government before them clearly don’t believe that we are in the emergency situation that the science is screaming out to them more and more loudly that we are. Otherwise they wouldn’t continue to approve toxic fossil fuel carbon bombs. Turning this around is the work that has to be done by all of us. 

All the indications so far are that we are going to experience another horror filled summer of extreme weather conditions. During these tragedies, Australians who are fit and healthy right now will die. Many others will have their properties and livelihoods completely destroyed.

This is already locked in, because of decades of inaction by the people we elected to look after our interests and who have a “duty of care” for us. They have failed us miserably in this. 

We can’t change any of that now, but we’ll be back next week with people who will be doing all they can to convince us that it doesn’t have to be like this in the future. Until then, be the difference as you find your role in the climate revolution if you haven’t done so already. And if you aren’t involved already, #HowBadDoesItHavetoGet before you step up?

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We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we
are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millennia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”
The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore the climate emergency are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How disrespectful and unfair is that?

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→ Oxford Martin – 13 September 2022:
Decarbonising the energy system by 2050 could save trillions
“Transitioning to a decarbonised energy system by around 2050 is expected to save the world at least $12 trillion compared to continuing our current levels of fossil fuel use.”

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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.



List of running petitions where we encourage you to add your name

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