10 November 2020
4 min read

79% of Australians care about climate change, but as a nation we are falling behind on our climate action. But now we have a chance with the Climate Change Bill.

More Australians want action on climate change than ever before. They’re taking to the streets. Divesting their money from fossil fuels. Encouraging businesses to take a stand on climate change. And calling on our government leaders to make commitments to reduce emissions.

At Australian Ethical we want our leaders to listen to the people they lead and make science-based commitments to take decisive action on climate change.  

(Source: The Guardian Feb 2020)

That’s why we’re joining individuals and businesses to demand our government commit to net zero emissions by 2050.

Independent MP Zali Steggall has submitted the Climate Change Bill to parliament, asking for just that, a commitment. And thousands of Aussies are supporting this bill. We’ve been campaigning for it as well and our ethics team has written to the businesses we invest in, urging them to support the bill.

The bill will ensure that Australia has:

·       A net zero emissions target by 2050 through emissions reduction plans and emissions budgets

·       Risk assessments and adaptation plans in key sectors, so that different parts of our continent and economy know the risks of climate change and can prepare for them

·       Technology readiness assessments, so that we know the existing and emerging ways we can reduce emissions with the least risk and cost

·       Independent advisory commission (IAC) that can advise the Government, transparently and independently, on our national needs and plans.

Inaction on climate change is not just bad for humankind, it’s bad for business.

According to a recent Deloitte report, the economic impact of inaction will cost Australians $3.4 trillion by 2070 and 880,000 jobs, mostly in tourism and mining in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

brown sand between brown wooden backyard during daytime

Australia’s climate opportunity

But there are enormous opportunities for Australia to be a world leader on renewables.

The same Deloitte report has found that we could add $680bn (in present-value terms) to the Australian economy and 250,000 new jobs if we decarbonise the Australian economy.

Yet, our government has committed to a gas-led recovery as we emerge from the COVID19 pandemic. Together with 72 other Australian businesses we’ve called for a renewable-led recovery. It could boost 100,000 jobs and future-proof our economy. It would bring manufacturing back to Australia, grow existing industries, unlock new industries, and boost global exports.

We’re being left behind 

The consensus on the climate science is at an all-time high. Urgent action is recommended by scientists and being committed to by nations, cities and companies.

Australia is quickly becoming an international pariah when it comes to our climate inaction.

The Climate Change Performance Index evaluates 57 countries which are responsible for more than 90% of global emissions. In 2020, Australia has ranked last on climate policy.

 Just recently UK PM Boris Johnson told Morrison that “we need bold action to address climate change”. Japan and South Korea have committed to decarbonisation by 2050 and China by 2060. Many expect incoming US President Joe Biden will put pressure on the Morrison Government to take more climate action.

All Australian states and territories have committed to net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner - the federal government has not.

Many still pit jobs against climate action. Coal against renewables. But as the research has shown, without a transition, there will be far less jobs in the future. Tackling climate change can create job opportunities and Australia has the potential to become a global leader in renewables.  

Climate change is about our collective future and should usurp party politics.

The Deloitte report suggests we could adopt a net zero emissions policy at a fraction of the cost of dealing with the pandemic, not to mention the economic growth over the next half century.      

In addition to sustainable job growth, lower cost energy and greater certainty for investing in new technologies, it could also lead to greater trade certainty. More than half of Australia’s two-way trading partners have set targets to reach net zero by 2050.

A move to net zero emissions isn’t just a human and environment necessity, it’s an economic necessity.

What we can do

Together as citizens, we have the power to influence business and government policy.

So we can sign petitions and use our voices. But we can also engage with businesses. Because where we spend our money matters.

As citizens, ask the companies you engage with regularly if they support the bill and have a net zero emissions target. Email your banks or your electricity company. Explain to them why this is important to you. These actions make a difference.

Where consumers choose to spend their money is a signal for companies to change.

Many businesses are taking climate action where government has failed, committing to net zero emissions targets, investing in renewable energy and finding innovative solutions to climate change.

That’s why we’ve been engaging with businesses in Australia for decades to encourage them to review and improve their climate policies. You can see our latest climate advocacy work here.

No one person or business or government policy can get us to net zero emissions. We all have to do it together.

Update: The Climate Change Bill has been tabled and is open to submissions from the public till 5pm 27 November 2020.