A Better Future for Australia’s Climate
In November this year, global climate leaders will converge on Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, with the aim to “accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.” Pressure continues to build, from world leaders and from voices closer to home, that Australia’s federal government take more concrete steps towards emissions reduction in light of this upcoming global conference.
One of these voices is Better Futures Australia, a network of organisations from the public and private sectors working together to promote climate action at a national level.
On 17 to 19 August, the Better Futures Forum brought together leaders from First Nations communities, local governments, churches, energy providers, business groups, and more – in the name of climate action. During this virtual gathering, attendees heard from keynote speakers such as former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon, Co-Chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation Cathryn Eatock, and President of the National Council of Churches Bishop Philip Huggins.
Organiser Lisa Cliff told Insights, “Last week’s Forum sent a strong signal to Prime Minister Scott Morrison that leaders from across the economy and society are taking big strides to reduce their emissions, that they are eager to work with the federal government to create a climate resilient future with sustainable jobs, and that they expect strong federal leadership that will see Australia reach our Paris Agreement goal.”
The online conference outlined Better Futures Australia’s vision of “a healthy, prosperous zero emissions Australia,” provided attendees with a range of “short-term actions and opportunities” to take back to their communities, and paved the way for unified action and advocacy in the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow.
Jon O’Brien, from the Uniting Advocacy team, told Insights, “One of the main benefits of [Better Futures Australia] is that it seeks to bring together a wider cross-section of the Australian community and society, who, while they may have different views and approaches on some issues, have a common desire to see much stronger action on climate change and want to see our federal government really lead in this area.”
Coinciding with the first day of this Forum was the release of an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, orchestrated by Better Futures Australia, calling for policy leadership on climate change. The Moderator signed this open letter on the NSW and ACT Synod’s behalf, as did the CEO of Uniting Tracey Burton and Mark Zirnsak, Senior Social Justice Advocate of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.
This open letter demands “a clear pathway to transition to a zero emissions future” for Australia at a federal level, in line with many of our state and territory governments’ policies, the Paris Agreement, and the policies of international allies such as the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom.
According to Jon O’Brien, the decision that Uniting Church bodies would be signatories to this letter came about due to the “strong overlap between the goals and aims of [Better Futures Australia] with our own Synod Climate Action Strategy.” This strategy was agreed upon by the NSW and ACT Synod meeting in 2019, with the aim to “reduce carbon emissions across all councils and agencies of the church, “advocate to all levels of government to take decisive actions to reduce emissions,” and “support young people in their call for action on climate change.”
Conference organiser Lisa Cliff noted the valuable presence of faith organisations at the Better Futures Forum, including the leadership of Bishop Philip Huggins from the National Council of Churches, and of Dr Daud Batchelor, Co-Founder of Islamic Thought, Legacy and Renewal Group.
“Our Uniting Church is involved [in climate action], as we have been since our inception in 1977,” Moderator Rev. Simon Hansford told Insights. “We take our place alongside other faith traditions, because central to our discipleship is the call to care for God’s good earth. From the beauty and wonder of the Genesis overture to the magnificent completion of everything in Revelation, we are reminded of the value God places on creation and our place within it.”
“The Forum [is creating] new business and community relationships, [fostering] creative thinking, and [accelerating] action across our society, [helping] us to participate in this change which is necessary – now.”
Though the Better Futures Forum has concluded, this movement has only just begun. Individuals and organisations are called upon to get involved by signing a declaration of commitment to climate action and advocacy in partnership with the seven million other Australians represented by Better Futures Australia.
Gabrielle Cadenhead is a mission worker for Christian Students Uniting at the University of Sydney