A democratic approach to climate change by Tony Walker

Excerpts from an article in Just Community No. 8

Even with its inherent problems, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) has something worthwhile to tell us about the current crisis in the legitimacy of representative democracy and the remedies available to address it.

Almost immediately the ideological and structural shortcomings of Morrison’s approach started to become evident, with his appointees to the NCCC being heavily weighted towards the fossil fuel industry, and particularly the gas industry. It was hardly a surprise then when the commission’s first recommendations were for “a gas-fuelled recovery” and massive subsidies and public investment that would guarantee profits to the industry, along with the removal of environmental protections and the abolition of state-government bans on unconventional gas development…

If the Prime Minister had sought advice from a wide range of expert opinion there would have been more options for action across the economy and society, less contention and more common vision, which means less conflict and more constructive outcomes.

Morrison’s strategy to lead Australia forward is deeply flawed, because what the country needs right now is the opposite of the NCCC’s recommendations. Our economy needs to be remade, not just repaired. Instead, the government ignored the opportunity to listen to diverse views and looks likely to back a single strategy – investment in gas – at a time when a majority of Australians think otherwise.

Doesn’t it seem far more beneficial to address the challenges of the pandemic-induced recession and severe climate change by pursuing recovery strategies that capitalise on the emerging opportunities offered by renewable energy technology? This is what a Just Transition, also sometimes referred to as a Green New Deal, offers us. And it’s not just about transitioning away from a carbon economy, but also addressing other critical matters facing us all. We can reduce the energy and carbon intensity of our economy and society, stop environmental degradation and deal with resource limitations, whilst creating new jobs, achieving biodiversity in the environment and delivering socially just and equitable outcomes.

But if vested interests and vision-impaired politicians are able to get their own way at the national level despite what citizens might want, does that mean there aren’t any opportunities for people to engage with these issues in different ways and work towards better outcomes for all rather than just a few?

The Just Community website is here.

The Author is from Fish Creek