Australians must vote for more effective climate policies in this Saturday’s federal election, advises former United Nations climate secretary Christiana Figueres, warning that the current government’s lacklustre commitments are leading the country to catastrophe.
“Australians going to the polls must ask themselves: do I vote for an end to the climate wars that have labelled my country a laggard over the last decade? Do I heed nature’s warnings, and sign up for a cleaner, greener future with more sustainable jobs and thriving new industries?” writes Figueres, who now co-hosts the podcast Outrage & Optimism, in an op-ed for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Australians overwhelmingly support environmental responsibility, says Figueres. But in a country that is acutely vulnerable to climate-wrought natural disasters and well-placed to capitalize on renewable development, the Scott Morrison government continues to stall on climate action while diverting billions of dollars to the fossil fuel industry.
“Australia is sleep-walking towards devastating bushfires, floods, and coral bleaching events that will become more frequent and dangerous than those over the last two years,” writes Figueres.
“Your country needs a genuine and all-encompassing climate action plan that covers every sector and every community. It can be bold and exciting. It can be innovative and entrepreneurial. And it can embody a heartfelt and economically smart commitment to a safer climate future for the next generation.”
The country’s insistence on doubling down on coal has pushed it to the margins of international climate diplomacy along with the likes of Russia and Saudi Arabia. Australia was also one of a handful of powerful countries that refused to adopt more ambitious climate targets at last year’s COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow, instead sticking with its “lacklustre commitment” first engineered back in 2014.
“This is a position viewed internationally as not only out of touch but irresponsible, inexplicably tied up in a decade of self-serving political bickering that ignores Australia’s opportunity in the transition to a safer climate future,” Figueres writes.
By repeatedly framing climate action based on its cost to implement, the Morrison government has delayed emissions reductions and “merely kicked the can down the road and made the necessary transition to clean energy more expensive.” Figueres points out that policies guided by foresight and prevention are more effective, and cheaper, than the cost of disaster recovery. “We still have time, but precious little of it.”
The transition “isn’t going to be easy,” she writes. “But with the right stewardship, Australia can build towards its next economic boom with pride and confidence, knowing that it is protecting the well-being of its citizens and doing the right thing by the planet.”
She adds: “Let that be your guiding thought as you vote for the better future you want to see for your children.”