Join community sector call for fair, fast and inclusive action on climate change this decade
30 September 2021 at 7:00 am
ACOSS and others across the sector have prepared a Community Sector Climate Change Declaration, to give voice to the community sector’s concerns and urge the federal government to take action, writes Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO.
Rapidly worsening climate change is hurting our communities and has been for some time.
This is something the community sector knows too well, having been on the frontline of helping communities respond to the impacts of more intense and frequent bushfires, drought, floods, storms, and heatwaves.
The community sector knows that climate change is a serious issue and we need to move and move fast. That’s why ACOSS and others across the sector have prepared a Community Sector Climate Change Declaration, to give voice to the community sector’s concerns and urge the federal government to take fast, fair and inclusive action on climate change this decade. Join us and sign on to add your voice here.
Our sector has seen firsthand the increasing devastation of climate change impacts on communities, to their mental and physical health, homes, jobs, general quality of life and sadly loss of life.
We know that people experiencing financial or social disadvantage are impacted by climate change first, worse, and longest because they have access to fewer resources to cope, adapt and recover. It is already exposing them to greater levels of harm and disadvantage and is posing a particular threat to First Nations communities and to the future of our young people. Without fast, fair and inclusive action on climate change this decade we could see poverty and inequality increase in Australia.
At a webinar hosted by ACOSS in June this year, we heard CEO of National Australian Community Controlled Health Organisations (NACCHO) Pat Turner tell the audience that: “First Nations people across the world are already feeling the very real impacts of the climate crisis. In the recent bushfires in NSW, we saw many Aboriginal people displaced, as well as the loss of cultural sites and artefacts. Torres Strait Islanders are battling community impacts, changes to ocean acidity, loss of food sources, and loss of cultural economies.” She conveyed her frustration that First Nations people are “too often excluded from conversations with government and larger organisations about climate, land management and protection and social policy”, and this needed to change.
Susie Maloney from Jesuit Social Services talked about their research into how extreme heat as a consequence of global warming was hitting hardest in communities living in public housing in Melbourne’s outer South-East and West. She relayed how community members described the feeling of being trapped in public housing, with air conditioning often being unaffordable and public housing being built from poor materials.
Gavin Dufty, from St Vincent De Paul Society in Victoria, described how Vinnies often ends up paying the power bills of older people and people with disabilities, who cannot afford the energy needed to keep their environment safe during extreme temperatures. Institutional practices that left these communities with less resources, facilities and services to support their needs have put them on the frontline of climate change impacts.
Our observations on the ground of the social costs of extreme weather impacts have been backed up by modelling by Deloitte which finds the social costs of more severe weather events are equal to the more traditionally defined economic costs (in the trillions of dollars) and are sometimes even higher.
Many in the community sector are concerned that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and worse is yet to come. Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the most authoritative international body on climate science, released its latest review of the science. It was stark and sobering in its message that we are running out of time to avoid climate catastrophe and even more extreme and dangerous weather events.
The IPCC report found that on average the planet has warmed 1.1 degrees, but this has been greater in Australia, which has warmed 1.4 degrees since 1910. The report was unequivocal in finding that with every additional increment of global warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger.
Earlier this year we also heard from experts in science, economics and climate modelling tell us that for Australia to contribute its fair share (based on wealth and contribution to the problem) to keep warming at 1.5 degrees (the goal of the Paris Climate Change agreement), we must reduce climate pollution by 75 per cent by 2030, and reach net zero by 2035. This is a far cry from Australia’s current target of 24-26 per cent by 2030, which has seen Australia ranked amongst the worst in the world for climate action in a ranking of all UN members.
The current debate about whether the federal government should commit to a target of net zero emissions by 2050 is so divorced from the reality of what is needed to protect the people and communities bearing the brunt of climate impacts that it’s become farcical.
Taking fast, fair and inclusive action to address climate change will not only protect the people and places we love but has the ability to improve the lives of people facing disadvantage, from the cities to the outback.
With the right policies it creates opportunities for more affordable, healthier and reliable energy, housing and transport suited to a changing environment and access to jobs in the new energy economy.
Supporting First Nations communities to access and manage large scale renewable energy projects and carbon offset projects on Country facilitates sustainable jobs, and more empowered and connected communities. Investing in energy efficiency and solar for low-income homes dramatically reduces energy bills and improves health while cutting emissions.
As world leaders prepare to gather in Glasgow in one month’s time to announce more ambitious climate targets, the Community Sector Climate Change Declaration is urging the federal government to commit to stronger targets and fair and inclusive policies to cut climate pollution this decade, because 2050 is too late. It’s not too late to add your voice.
We are also urging community sector organisations and their staff members to join us for a social day of action on 7 October, to share why action on climate change matters to the communities we support and call for #FairFastClimateAction.