Setting a nature-positive course for humanity

The Sustainable Hour no. 486 | Podcast notes

As global temperatures and carbon emissions hit new records, together with our guest in The Sustainable Hour on 6 December 2023, Dr Cullan Joyce from University of Melbourne, we listen to the speech about nature-positivity and balance, which King Charles delivered at COP28, for a talk about transformation, regenerative activism and what it means to be human.

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Dr Cullan Joyce is a lecturer and Insight Fellow at Contemplative Studies Centre and Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

Cullan’s studies and work looks into how we can build a society that is less extractive and more connected and in balance with the natural world.

In 2020, Cullan wrote a research paper which sketches certain features of new testament Christianity and compares some of these to the Extinction Rebellion movement. The paper is titled ‘Responses to Apocalypse: Early Christianity and Extinction Rebellion’.

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We begin the hour with a statement by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in his opening speech at the global climate summit COP28: “The science is clear: The 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce. Not abate. Phase out.”

We play an advertisement for the UAE – the United Arab Emirates – which was presented at the COP opening, followed by an excerpt of King Charlesspeech at the opening ceremony.

We play a video presentation of the new Centre for Circularity.

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Colin Mockett OAM‘s Global Outlook for the week begins of course in Dubai where almost 90,000 delegates are attending, or expected to attend COP28. If past COPs are anything to go by, the largest numbers of people there will be fossil fuel industry lobby groups. Such is their influence that the chair of this year’s conference is the head of one of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, Sultan al-Jaber, who’s day job is chief executive of the United Arab Emirates state-owned oil company.

He started the big show with a big surprise announcement that an agreement had been forged to create a new fund to help poor nations cope with costly climate disasters. The announcement was warmly received because wrangling over loss and damage has long been a divisive issue at the annual talks, it took up most of COP27 in Egypt, because the rich nations who caused the majority of CO2 emissions pushed back against a fund to assist poorer nations – who have done the least to cause climate change.

In practice, establishing the fund on the first day of the conference allowed countries two weeks to announce their contributions. The UAE kicked off the fund with $US100 million, which sounds a lot until you realise that it’s around seven hours of oil production for the Emirates. At the end of Day one, the fund had grown considerably, with $370 million pledged by the European Union, $20 million from the US and $14 million from Japan.

Australia supported the decision for the loss and damage fund at COP27 but is yet to say what it will contribute.

Although the shift to clean energy is gathering pace, the United Nations says the world is still only taking baby steps, when leaps and strides are urgently needed. That’s because this year has been the hottest on record, and greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing the heating, continue to grow.

Now to the United Nations’ Secretary-General António Guterres, who made a brief Antarctic visit before going to Dubai for the COP, where he was typically blunt. Referring to the shrinking ice coverage due to rapid global warming, he said: “We are witnessing an acceleration that is absolutely devastating. The Antarctic is waking up, and the world must wake up.”

He said that Sultan al-Jaber had a ‘bigger responsibility’ to drive the fossil fuel industry at COP28 to ramp up clean energy investments. “He needs to be able to explain to all those that are responsible in the fossil fuel industry, and especially to the oil and gas industry that is making obscene profits all over the world, that this is the moment to use those profits instead of doubling down on fossil fuels,” Guterres said. “We need to triple our present targets to keep below 1.5 degrees warming.”

Earlier this month, it was reported that more than 60 countries – led by the US, the EU and the UAE – had agreed to push for that target to be included in any final declaration made by COP. The goal is ambitious, but according to a report by the independent public interest think tank Climate Energy Finance, the scaling up of the sector is already under way.

In 2020 China set a target of deploying 1,200 gigawatts of wind and solar by 2030. The total capacity of Australia’s grid is 71 gigawatts. It is now set to reach that target in 2024, six years early. Its annual deployment has doubled this year after leaping by 50 per cent last year. It is installing the equivalent of Australia’s east coast grid in renewables alone every three months, which essentially more than triples its previous targets. It’s showing that the new targets can be achieved.

India has not signalled its position in the international tripling goal, but its domestic target of installing 450 gigawatts by 2030 is in line with the international target.

In the United States, the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, which so far has pumped half a trillion dollars of tax breaks and other incentives into green industries, has turbocharged the sector. By one estimate, it could spark $4.5 trillion in climate investment over the coming decade, and that would triple its previous target.

And then there’s Australia. Before his departure to COP28, Australian Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen announced an increase in spending on grid-scale renewable energy under a program to be known as the Capacity Investment Scheme. The scheme would funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to underwriting renewable energy projects to raise the share of clean electricity generation from about 35 per cent of the grid to 82 per cent by the end of the decade. But still, this doesn’t leave Australia – or the world – on track to limit emissions to 1.5 degrees. Clearly more needs to be done.

In his opening remarks to COP28 delegates, the UN’s Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Simon Stiell, called for unprecedented ambition in a year when so many weather records are being broken. The urgency to commit to a new energy system was greater than ever, Stiell said, because the world could no longer afford to maintain the status quo. “If we do not signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it, we welcome our own terminal decline,” he said. “And we will pay the price with people’s lives.”

And finally, a word on taxes. For the 2021-2022 financial year, the Australian arm of ExxonMobil had a total income of $15.5 billion and Japanese-owned Ichthys had an income of more than $7 billion from selling our gas. Neither paid any company tax. Santos claimed just $74 million in profit on $4.7 billion in revenue. It also paid zero tax. Australia Pacific LNG, Shell, Yancoal, Glencore (a Swiss-based mining company) and Chevron together made around $35 billion total income and $7.5 billion in taxable income from our coal and gas. They all paid zero tax.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has found that Australia subsidises fossil fuels by $65 billion a year. Almost $10 billion in explicit subsidies, and another $55.6 billion in implicit subsidies, in dealing with fossil fuel pollution-caused premature deaths and poor health, as well as environmental damage and global warming. It looks like the rest of us, including other miners, pay for the nurses to help the people hurt by the fossil fuel industry.

That seems like food for thought to end this week’s Global Outlook.

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We round of the hour with an excerpt of Jacob Collier’s song: ‘Little Blue’

“In 2050, our grandchildren won’t be asking what we said. They will be living with the consequences of what we did or didn’t do. So if we act together to safeguard our precious planet, the welfare of all our people will surely follow. And we need to remember too, that the indigenous world view teaches us, teaches us that we are all connected. Not only as human beings, but with all living things and all that sustains life. As part of this grand and sacred system, harmony with nature must be maintained. The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth.

~ King Charles, speaking at COP28 in Dubai

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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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“COP28 started in Dubai last week, and as usual, there are many media pieces about how important COP28 is and what will get done there. COP28 isn’t very important and not much will get done there.

Yes, on the first day of the meeting last week, there was an agreement on the loss and damage fund, which looks like it will finally fund the loss and damage fund that has been promised for a long time, but has never been funded. About $300 million has been pledged to the fund to help developing countries deal with climate change. That isn’t nothing, but in the grand scheme of things – it’s not much.

The COP series is seen as the yearly “Super Bowl” of climate change meetings. Lots of important people fly into some place in the world, talk for about a week, and then there is drama around what will come out of the meeting. The media reports on what comes out of the meeting and then we are on to the next thing.

Then it’s, “See you again in a year and we’ll talk about climate change again.”

The amount of private jets flying into Dubai for the meetings will make COP28 the event with the largest carbon footprint in the history of humanity.

The only thing COP gets done is getting climate concern in the news cycle so that heads of government can be seen to be doing something when nothing of much substance ever gets done. The COP format is an expensive and cynical waste of time.

All energy should be focused on bending the ppm curve. COP has not and cannot do that.

End COP. (…)

Bold action comes from a small group of people or even one person. Bold action never has and never will come from 70,000 people at an event. Gathering with 70,000 people provides cover for doing very little. It provides cover for business as usual, with incremental changes that do nothing to bend the curve but will read well in a press release.

Go find people who want to take action and start gathering around a table with them. When people who have been desperate for action for the past 28 years see action being taken, they will come to that table with you and maybe get something done.

→ Degrowth is the Answer – 5 December 2023:
COP28 – What Are We Doing Here? Not a Lot.
“The COP format has outlived its usefulness. Time to move on.”

Balance for Earth


“I pray with all my heart that COP28 will be another critical turning point towards genuine transformational action at a time when already, as scientists have been warning for so long, we are seeing alarming tipping points being reached. I’ve spent a large proportion of my life trying to warn of the existential threats facing us over global warming, over climate change and biodiversity loss.

But I was not alone. For instance, Sheikh Mohammed’s dear father, Sheikh Zayed, was advocating for clean energy at a time Even before the United Arab Emirates, as such, came into being.

All these decades later, and despite all the attention, there is 30 percent more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than there was back then. And almost 40 percent more methane.

Some important progress has been made, but it worries me greatly that we remain so dreadfully far off track as the global stocktake report demonstrates so graphically.

The dangers are no longer distant risks. I have seen across the Commonwealth and beyond, countless communities which are unable to withstand repeated shocks, whose lives and livelihoods are laid waste by climate change.

Surely, real action is required to stem the growing toll of its most vulnerable victims. Repeated cyclones batter vulnerable island nations like Vanuatu and Dominica. India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have been experiencing unprecedented floods, and East Africa is suffering a decades long drought. This past summer, in common with Spain, Greece, the United States, and many other countries. Canada experienced its most severe wildfire season on record, with 18 and a half million hectares of land burned, causing terrible loss of life and property, and of course, releasing enormous amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute to dangerous feedback loops to which climate scientists have been alerting us for decades.

As I’ve tried to say on many occasions, unless we rapidly repair and restore nature’s unique economy based on harmony and balance, which is our ultimate sustainer, Our own economy and survivability will be imperiled. Records are now being broken so often that we are perhaps becoming immune to what they are really telling us.

When we see the news that this last Northern Hemisphere summer, for instance, was the warmest global average temperature on record, we need to pause to process what this actually means. We are taking the natural world outside balanced norms and limits and into dangerous uncharted territory. We are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition all at once at a pace that far outstrips nature’s ability to cope.

As we work towards a zero carbon future, we must work equally towards being nature positive. With what we are witnessing, our choice now is a starker and darker one. How dangerous are we actually prepared to make our world? Dealing with this is a job for us all. Change will come by working together and making it easier to embrace decisions that will sustain our world.

Rather than carry on as though there are no limits, or as though our actions have no consequences. As you gather, ladies and gentlemen, for these critical negotiations, the hope of the world rests on the decisions you must take. I can only encourage you to consider some practical questions which might inform the task ahead of you.

Firstly, how can our multilateral organizations, which were established at a different time for different challenges, be strengthened for the crisis we face? How can we bring together our public, private, philanthropic, and NGO sectors ever more effectively? So that they all play their part in delivering climate action, each complementing the unique strengths of the others.

Public finance alone will never be sufficient. But with the private sector firmly at the table and a better, fairer international financial system combined with the innovative use of risk reduction tools like first loss risk guarantees, we could mobilise the trillions of dollars we need in the order of four and a half to five trillion a year to drive the transformation we need.

Secondly, how can we ensure that finance flows to those developments most essential to a sustainable future and away from practices that make our world more dangerous? Across every industry in every part of the world. I have, for instance, been heartened by some of the steps taken by parts of the insurance sector, which plays such a vital role in incentivising more sustainable approaches and providing an invaluable source of investment to reduce the risks we face.

Thirdly, how can we accelerate innovation and the deployment of renewable energy? of clean technology and other green alternatives to move decisively towards investment in this vital transition across all industries. For instance, how can we increase investments in regenerative agriculture, which can be a nature positive carbon sink?

What incentives are necessary? And how can those which have a perverse impact be eliminated with all due speed? Fourthly, how can we bring together different solutions and initiatives to ensure coherent, long term approaches across sectors, countries, and industries? For virtually every artificial source of greenhouse gas emissions, there are alternatives or mitigations which can be put in place.

That is why it is encouraging to see industry transition plans being developed both nationally and globally, which will help each sector of our global economy onto practical pathways to a zero carbon, nature positive future. And, ladies and gentlemen, fifthly, how can we forge an ambitious new vision 100 years?

How can we draw on the extraordinary ingenuity of our societies? The ideas, knowledge, and energy of our young people, our artists, our engineers, our communicators, and importantly, our indigenous peoples. To imagine a sustainable future for people everywhere. A future that is in harmony with nature, not set against her.

Ladies and gentlemen, in your hands, is an unmissable opportunity to keep our common hope alive. I can only urge you to meet it with ambition, imagination, and a true sense of the emergency we face, and together with a commitment to the practical action upon which our shared future depends. After all, ladies and gentlemen, in 2050, our grandchildren won’t be asking what we said. They will be living with the consequences of what we did or didn’t do.

So if we act together to safeguard our precious planet, the welfare of all our people will surely follow. And we need to remember too, that the indigenous world view teaches us that we are all connected. Not only as human beings, but with all living things and all that sustains life.

As part of this grand and sacred system, harmony with nature must be maintained. The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth.”

“I am going to read an extract of the address that Pope Francis was to deliver here, which will then be published in full. ”The destruction of the environment is an offense against God, a sin that is not only personal but also structural. One that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst, and threatens to unleash a conflict between generations.

Climate change signals the need for a political change. Let us emerge from the narrowness of self interest and nationalism. These are approaches belonging to the past. Let us join in embracing an alternative vision. This will help to bring about an ecological conversion. For there are no lasting changes without cultural changes.

Earth4All – 23 November 2023:
“Earth4All and the world of the Pope”: documentary premiere

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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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