Blair Palese, 350.org Australia CEO writes about how Bob Massie’s tour downunder is kicking off a lively conversation about how Australia can move into the post fossil fuels age – while still supporting jobs and prosperity, and being awesome for the climate.
“Life After Fossil Fuels: Opportunities in the Emerging Low Carbon World” with visiting US expert, Bob Massie.
Several years ago the concept of a transition to a low carbon economy was considered science fiction – a pipe dream like those flying cars on The Jetsons – yet now, as the reality of irreversible climate change draws ever closer, the question that global leaders must ask is no longer when this transition will happen, but how. Will this structural shift away from traditional fossil fuels result in economic contraction, job losses and the extinction of regional communities dependent on coal, oil or gas or can we find a way to make the necessary change whilst preserving our economic and social wellbeing?
The idea is not impossible and in fact, around the world, from Germany and the US to India and China, we are seeing countries tackling this problem head on and putting in place measures and plans to ensure that the action we need is taken as painlessly as possible. In 2011 the German government launched a comprehensive national plan called Energiewende, meaning Energy Transition. They put a small tax on energy bills to subsidise the transition to renewable power. Late last year China and the US signed an agreement to drastically cut the proportion of their energy derived from fossil fuels – a move which has sent coal and gas producing countries such as Australia into a flurry of panic. And now in the US we’re seeing the likely death of a huge oil pipeline that is no longer financially nor ethically relevant.
This type of visionary action and discussion is sadly lacking amongst our leadership circles in many countries and sadly, Australia, a country in the midst of building a mega coal mining complex in Queensland’s Galilee Basin with exports through the iconic Great Barrier Reef that would, if it were a country, become the 7th largest carbon emitter in the world.
Thankfully, organisations such as the New Economy Coalition and others, have been seeking answers to these big picture questions of how to save our planet whilst balancing the books. This problem of a ‘Just Transition’ to a low-carbon economy that secures a strong and stable economic future and supports jobs, communities and the environment is exactly the topic that US expert Bob Massie, the outgoing President of the New Economy Coalition, former President of CERES and prominent global anti-apartheid campaigner will address during his two week speaking tour of Australia.
As Bob says in his talk, “Climate change poses huge problems but it also present huge opportunities. At this very moment we are the middle of a global struggle, as country after country battles to break free from the thinking and the politics and the damage caused by fossil fuel in order to move into a new era.”
Many countries now we stand at a crossroads between ignoring the obvious – that climate change is already happening and that we need to address it urgently — and continuing with business as usual or take the next great leap forward toward climate action. As Bob has noted in his talk, we will all not only need to demand leadership on how we will tackle this issue as a key priority but to be part of the change that needs to happen.
No issue could be more important to ensure we face up to the need to leave our fossil fuel reserves in the ground and find new, long-term and low-carbon energy sources and jobs as we minimise the transition on the workers and communities that will be most impacted. In Bob’s words, “Most great change goes from impossible to feasible to real to inevitable. If we choose the path to take the necessary change head on, it will become our common destiny.”
Bob Massie speaking tour: Life After Fossil Fuels – Around Australia from late Feb to early March 2015.