August 5, 2020

Reporting on… National Bushfire and Climate Summit

What do Australia’s fire, emergency, climate and defence experts think? We heard from a panel of experts at the launch of the National Bushfire and Climate Summit, by the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action and The Climate Council.

Ursula Hogben summarises the key points:

Why have the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action come together?

“I have grandchildren and I’m very focused as they are going to inherit a world that will be significantly unliveable.” explained Greg Mullins, former NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner

Is it just Australia? An international perspective

Ken Pimlott, Former Head of CalFire, joined to discuss the situation in California. “Firefighters in California are seeing climate change first hand. They’re all saying the same thing – clearly there are changes to our weather patterns. The lengthening fire seasons, often year round, challenge our ability to share fire-fighting resources across the world.”

What does Australia need to do? – from the experts

  • “Governments have been listening to scientists on COVID 19. We need to do that with climate science as well.” Professor Lesley Hughes, Macquarie University
  • “We need to reach out to our Indigenous brothers and sisters. They’re part of the solution to dealing with bushfires and climate change.” – Greg Mullins
  • “We must urgently reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. If some real action isn’t taken right now then it’s going to be beyond everyone’s capacity to respond.” – Naomi Brown, former CEO of Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council.
  • “New renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels, a green economic stimulus will create far more jobs, and get Australia’s economy back on track.” – Professor Lesley Hughes
  • “We don’t need any new gas. The Australian Energy Market Operator agrees. It says we can have 75% renewable energy now. We need to invest in renewable energy backed by storage. There is no sense to discussing gas, except due to vested interests in gas.” – Amanda McKenzie, Climate Council CEO

What are business and governments doing?

  • Big business is showing significant concern about climate change, including divesting from thermal coal, investing in renewable energy and reducing their carbon footprint. The RE 100 group are influential companies over the world that are committed to 100% renewable power. Australia’s Paris target is “woefully inadequate… The target is not enough and we are falling to meet that target.” – Lesley Hughes
  • The Australian States are, in some ways, making up for Federal failures. Most States have net zero emissions targets by 2050, and have renewable energy targets for the next 5 and ten years to achieve the goals. Local Governments are also declaring climate emergencies and targets and making changes.
  • Defence Departments around the world are aware of issues and risks. “Climate change is creating multiple flash points where conflict could occur in the future” says former Head of Defence Preparedness, Cheryl Durrant. Ms Durrant described preparations by the UK, New Zealand and other countries, however said that her experience working in government, as “The past 10 years have been a barren field for action on climate change.”

What next?

Amanda McKenzie discussed that we need energy to run our economy. New renewables are cheaper than new fossil fuels, we need a green economic stimulus to create more jobs. The renovation grant could be going to a green stimulus to rebuild our economy based on renewable energy. This would provide jobs in energy generation, electric transport, heavy industry and other sustainable areas. Beyond Zero Emissions and the World Wildlife Fund have released reports showing the new jobs that can be created if the economic stimulus is directed to renewable energy and sustainable industry.

Professor Lesley Hughes emphasised that one outcome from the pandemic is showing that Governments can listen to medical and health scientists, we need to do the same with climate scientists. We need to listen and take early action.

“We need to stop talking about climate change as just an environmental problem. Yes it is an enormous environmental problem, it is also a security problem, economic problem, health problem, it is affecting everything about our lives.”

Our Governments need to take a far more holistic approach. We understand the science, we know what is causing climate change, we don’t need any new technology, we have everything we need now, to take action.

This post is part of the ‘Reporting On..’ series, where ZESN volunteers share research and report back on forums they have attended. To get the latest reports and updates delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to our blog here.

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