Social sector demands climate action on the eve of the election
10 May 2019 at 4:40 pm
A coalition of community groups is demanding all political parties commit to strong action on climate change, arguing that people living in poverty are hit hardest by the climate crisis.
The joint Social Sector Climate Statement calls on the next federal parliament to support a number of policies, including funds to develop an Australian climate change social vulnerability map, support for improving energy efficiency, and an emissions reduction target of at least 45 per cent by 2030.
The coalition said climate change was not only a threat to the environment, but also threatened people’s livelihoods, making it a social justice and intergenerational equity issue.
“Climate change hits people living on low incomes or experiencing disadvantage first and hardest. They have the fewest protections from climate change impacts and live in the most affected places,” the statement said.
“Failing to halt climate change will cause greater poverty and inequality in the future. People who experience poverty and disadvantage are also worse off if the transition to a clean economy is poorly managed and inequitable.
“This is because they always pay disproportionately more of their incomes on essential services and have less choice and control to reduce costs.”
Organisations to have signed the pledge include the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Anglicare Australia, Volunteering Australia and Brotherhood of St Laurence.
While the coalition noted there were likely to be some costs through the transition to a clean economy, it said delaying action now only meant more expensive and disruptive change in the future.
Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie, a signatory to the statement, said the federal election campaign had failed to focus on the important issues around climate change.
“This election there’s a lot of talk about costs but hardly any discussion of just how much the climate crisis is costing people, especially people on low incomes,” Goldie said.
“People on low incomes or experiencing disadvantage do not have the means to adapt, cope and recover from the worsening impacts from the climate crisis.
“The climate crisis and a slow, poorly managed transition to zero net emissions is a major threat to achieving our shared vision to end poverty, inequality and exclusion; and to create a fairer and more sustainable future.”
As well as reducing emissions, the statement calls for an end to subsidies for fossil fuel production and use.
It also says a low-cost and equitable plan to transition to a clean economy must be implemented, which includes a polluter pays principle and direct government investment.
To support low income people during the transition, the coalition said Newstart payments must be raised, with the Energy Supplement incorporated into the base payment.
Jennifer Kirkaldy, from signatory organisation The Salvation Army, said the Australians most vulnerable to the effects of climate change were those already suffering hardship and disadvantage.
“Immediate and sustained action, across the economy, is needed to safeguard our communities from the worst effects of climate change,” Kirkaldy said.
“We ask all our parliamentary leaders to take action and prioritise protecting Australia’s most marginalised from the effects of climate change.”
Samantha Page from Early Childhood Australia added: “Children are asking adults to act, they know their future is at risk, it is time for political leaders to look beyond the short-term election cycle and make decisions in the interests of future generations.”
The statement comes following this month’s release of an Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) scorecard, which rated political parties on their environmental policies.
Out of a possible score of 100, the Coalition scored the lowest at four points, Labor did better at 56 and the Greens scored a nearly perfect 99.
The ACF has also recently brokered an agreement between seven independent MPs and candidates pledging to take action on a number of climate change issues, including opposing the development of the Adani coal mine.