Sometimes young people get labelled as a bunch of complainers, always moaning about something and having a negative attitude. Well, the organisers of the School Strike 4 Climate events over the last two years don’t seem to fit with that uncomplimentary stereotype.
Despite having serious reasons for complaint – that our current (adult caused) emissions trajectory has us heading for 3 degrees of global warming, with devastating impacts on the liveability of the planet for themselves and their children – they are remarkably constructive, reasonable and committed to positive change. Those qualities can be seen reflected in the main goals of the School Strike 4 Climate events on Friday, May 21. The goals are considered, take account of the needs of groups most affected, and are based on good evidence. We have looked at the students first two asks in previous Insights articles. These were: to resource Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander solutions that guarantee land rights and care for country and; to fund jobs that both help the most affected communities recover and reduce global warming.
The students third goal is to “Fund projects that transition our economy to 100% renewable energy by 2030, through expanded public ownership”. While their timetable might be ahead of some, the gist of their call has been reflected in commitments by countries around the world. Nations making up two-thirds of the global economy have stated their intention to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Cutting emissions by getting out of fossil fuels is one part of the equation, but the flip side – investing in renewables and the jobs they can create, is also critical. And countries are acting here as well. The new Biden administration in the United States has tabled an American Jobs Plan that commits 5.65% of America’s GDP to clean recovery stimulus measures. Other countries are following suit with commitments of 1-2% of GDP over the next decade.1 The Secretary General of the UN, Anthony Guterres has said that “revitalising our economies is our chance to re-engineer our future.” 2
I am sure our students would agree, but do others? Yes, they do. One example is eminent Australian Economist Ross Garnaut. In two recent books, Superpower, and Reset: Restoring Australia after the Pandemic Recession, he identifies the massive advantages and opportunities we in Australia have to transition to a better future in terms of both climate and economic prosperity.3 Here are a few examples:
- We are blessed with immense resources in renewable energy (especially solar) which could make us the world’s lowest-cost producer of electricity
- These renewable resources could be used to electrify existing industry and create new manufacturing opportunities- such as green steel production (steel made by renewable energy) and green hydrogen
- We have abundant supplies of minerals and metals critical for battery manufacture, which could open opportunities in the electric vehicle industry and others
- There is opportunity for our farmers to earn carbon credits from carbon held in soil and plants and thus diversify and add income streams to their businesses.
He also urged our leaders to improve our energy grid so it can take more renewables and accelerate investment in storage (batteries and pumped hydro) for seamless supply.
How is Australia going in terms of seizing these opportunities? It’s a mixed picture. The States and Territories are doing well. Almost all have committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Many are making big investments in renewables, like solar, pumped hydro, and batteries. But our Federal government is doing less well. There is some investment in ‘clean’ hydrogen production, green steel and funding of energy efficient business equipment. However, our total investment in clean energy stimulus pledges amounts to a miserly 0.14% of GDP, falling well short of what other nations are doing.1
The Federal budget this week saw some positive measures – supporting a big battery and microgrids in the Northern Territory and a renewable energy microgrid in Queensland. But it also saw substantial new spending on gas, including fast tracking pipelines, opening new gas fields, gas production and storage facilities and a new terminal for LNG.1 This, even though gas: is a polluting fossil fuel that increases our emissions; produces few jobs compared to other industries; cannot compete with renewable energy in terms of cost and; competing views among experts as to whether additional supply is really needed.4
It’s no surprise then our young people are appealing to us to support their call to #FundOurFutureNotGas
Along with our young people, an increasing consensus across business and industry, science and medical experts as well as the general community, are urging our Federal politicians to actually lead on this. They want to see leadership in terms of investment in renewables and in terms of the clear policy that business (and all of us) need. They want whoever forms the next federal government, to champion our transition to a safer and prosperous future. A change in thinking is required. Our nation is currently lagging badly and runs the risk of missing out on the opportunities our skills and natural advantages provide.
How you can stand with our young people on May 21
Our young people have again asked that older Australians support them in their call for a clean energy post-COVID recovery. You can help!
- Join a May 21 event in person if there is one near you and invite others to do so. For those in Sydney, there will be a pre-rally worship service at Pitt Street Uniting Church at 10am. This service is being led by young adults and school students, including Aboriginal and Pasifika young people and others.
- Sign the School Strike 4 Climate pledge – as an individual, or better still as a congregation or community group. Signed pledges will be used to show opposition to public funding for gas and support for building a better future.
- Put a message of support on your church noticeboard or make/display a supportive banner. For creative ideas, see https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/uniting4climate/ and https://www.flickr.com/photos/ss4c/.
- Take a selfie of you or your group with your sign/banner and the message “Fund Our Future Not Gas” and share it on social media. Use the hashtags #FundOurFutureNotGas and #Uniting4Climate. Please also share your photos with the Uniting Advocacy team, by sending us an email.
- Very importantly, let your local member of parliament know that you are taking action and why you care. For Facebook, you can tag your local member (if they have a public page) by typing @ and the name of their page in your post. Or ring or write about why you support young people’s call for urgent climate action.
Yours in shared mission,
Youth Climate Actions Task Group (a task group of the Synod Climate Action Strategy)
1 Sydney Morning Herald. Opinion. Blowing in the win.: Have we missed our chance to become a renewables superpower. SMH. May 13, 2021. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/blowing-in-the-wind-have-we-missed-our-chance-to-become-a-renewables-superpower-20210512-p57rcc.html
2 Sydney Morning Herald. Opinion. Red alert for the planet: Un chief’s call to phase out coal by 2030. April 22, 2021. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/red-alert-for-the-planet-un-chief-s-call-to-phase-out-coal-by-2030-20210421-p57l0g.html
3 Sydney Morning Herald. Peter Hartcher. The world is cooling to Morrison’s Australia. April 24, 2021. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/the-world-is-cooling-to-morrison-s-australia-20210423-p57lxr.html
4 See the ABC Four Corners program ‘Fired Up’ for an in-depth investigative report on the government’s plans, those who argue in favour and those with serious reservations about them.