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Climate Change Abstract The current generation are the subjects of current decision-making on climate change as they will be alive to experience its consequences. The time when young people are themselves the decision-makers is not too far in the future; and it will be the time of climate reckoning. As members of this generation, we do not look forward to a future of crisis management. Nor do we wish to explain why - with full knowledge of likely impending catastrophe - responsibility was shirked, in spite of technological and intellectual capability. Rather, we seek to collaborate in ensuring a stable climate that ensures the sustainability of ecosystems, human health, weather patterns, food production and water supply. We implore the current decision-makers to exercise true leadership by effecting the necessary greenhouse mitigation measures that follow the bounds of best-available scientific evidence.

A climate-safe vision We seek, quite simply, a world without the global increases in temperature predicted to result from society s excessive emission of greenhouse gases. Our optimistic vision involves, at barest outline: - A culture of action-orientation towards urgent and complex problems like climate change; - an appreciation for the value of all species and ecosystems, in parallel with most profound respect for human rights; - the maintenance of greenhouse gas emissions at levels below the sequestration capacity of natural systems; - an application of climate policy that is equitable across all individuals and groups in society; - a reconciliation of economic, environmental and social agenda to achieve a holistic embodiment of sustainability; - a de-carbonised economy in which growth and emissions are no longer linked; - socio-economic systems and institutions that drive innovation, tackle uncertainty and are adaptive to change; - a fostering of ideas and talent - our most renewable resources - with view to making human civilisation climate-neutral; - an approach to design, planning and construction that emulates the connectivity and interdependence of ecosystems; - communities in which health, inclusiveness, mobility and enjoyment involve the same solution as carbon-neutrality; - express attention in all mitigation and adaptation efforts towards the nations, regions, groups and individuals with least capacity to deal with climate change; and - a consideration for climate impact in every decision. This paper outlines five key areas of climate change that present essential opportunities to be addressed by all policy and decision makers.


Governance and leadership Our vision involves a more transparent, integrated governance system that views the world through a climate change lens, with leaders that recognise the risks, are committed to a low-carbon future and have the courage to make the hard decisions now. The risks that climate change poses to our society, economy and wellbeing extend beyond an electoral cycle. The transition to carbon neutrality requires bipartisan, long-term commitment to lasting change. We need a government system with a long forward vision to reform industry and agriculture, and to involve the community in the transition to a low emissions future. Climate change requires governance on behalf of the future. Political processes must be re-evaluated in order to expedite climate mitigation action and achieve immediate outcomes. This entails a restructuring of government institutions such as they foster urgency in their consideration of and response to climate change issues. Just as state agencies and communities recruit firefighting forces to respond to wildfire danger, having already undertaken extensive mitigatory action, we also must structure a capacity to respond to the danger presented by climate change. Adaptability and flexibility must be built into our governance systems and institutions so that we, as a society, do not continue to be hampered by inertia in the face of mounting risk. To provide the best opportunities in this respect, we have identified the following; Long term planning in the form of a 100+ year framework; Strong support for research and development in low carbon technologies and infrastructure; Market incentives for investment in low-emissions technology and infrastructure; Urban planning that supports a low carbon future, incorporating extensive public transport system upgrades; car-free housing developments and interconnectivity between community services; and Risk mapping to identify high risk areas, and development of adaptation strategies for all levels of risk; Adoption of a multi-disciplinary indicator for sustainable human development that supersedes GDP as a measure of national prosperity.

Community Engagement Our vision involves an engaged community that participates actively in government and industry efforts to combat climate change, allowing each response to contribute to greater social cohesion and community empowerment.


Trust and hope within the community must not be understated in any successful response to climate change. Trust is created through government demonstrating an understanding of community aspirations and explaining its decisions clearly. Preparedness for this uncertain future rests on how well the community accepts the scale and urgency of the tasks at hand. Good governance means making difficult decisions that may not be immediately popular but are at least understood by the communities that have to wear the consequences. Communities that believe decisions are made in the common interest are less likely to pressure governments to desert the task and are better placed to spur on innovation and meaningful change. The complexities of our communities are at once the biggest hurdle and the source of the most fruitful outcomes for community engagement. This means more sophisticated concerted approaches are needed to address harder to reach groups, as not all communities can be reached in the usual ways. Cynicism, apathy and anguish about our political processes will devastate our common efforts. The challenge in engaging communities is in creating the political space for imagination and ingenuity to bring forth relevant, demonstrable and scalable solutions. The government must take seriously its role in creating opportunities for people to discuss, express and question what the future will look like. The lessons that these efforts afford us will need to be captured in a new social contract.

Equity Our vision involves an integrated social, economic and environmental policy which supports all communities to reduce their carbon footprint, maintain their quality of life and adapt to the new conditions caused by climate change. Climate change will have significant physical and financial impacts on all Australians. Not everyone has the same ability to withstand or adapt to these impacts. Australia prides itself on the “fair go� and ensuring fairness in our response to climate change means helping households overcome barriers to reducing their energy spending and their carbon footprint. A key area of concern is the uptake of energy efficiency in homes. Low income groups spend a much higher proportion of their income on essential heating and cooling. Low income groups are also more likely to rent their home and tend to live in houses that are less well insulated. When energy prices rise with the introduction under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, this group will have to either spend more on energy, and be put under further financial stress, or forego essential heating and cooling, which will impact on health and wellbeing. A combination of public, private and community initiatives are required to tackle this problem. Government needs to create incentives for the market to act in relation to low income Australians, for example by mandating that a certain percentage of certificates need to be generated in areas of social need, as was done in the UK. At the


same time, local communities need to be empowered to deliver local programs tailored to their residents. Councils and community groups have the incentive to act in this area as it develops builds healthier, stronger communities. Furthermore, as one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and one of the largest per capita contributors to climate change, Australia bears a responsibility to those in developing countries who are least equipped to deal with climate change. Government must strive for equity across borders, providing assistance for mitigation and adaptation abroad as well as at home.

Investment, research and development Our vision involves continual innovation of best-possible climate technologies and practices and their implementation across all sectors. Climate change mitigation offers as many opportunities as costs, not least of which is the reconciliation of economic and environmental agenda. The great challenge of decarbonising society's core industries - built upon fossil fuels - can be achieved by shifting the energy source and augmenting efficiency measures. Albeit a significant task, this transition offers economic openings through the production of new technologies, new infrastructure, new services and new jobs. Meanwhile, the consequences of climate change promise a gargantuan expense for society (and hence its governments) while threatening the productivity and viability of many sectors. Neither the environment nor the economy appreciates inefficiency and risk; rationality demands rapid and substantial investment in existing and future developments for a climate-safe future. The Federal government must catalyse corporate commitment to climate change by providing strong incentives. The options have long been proposed and discussed; we require implementation of subsidies, rebates, taxes, trading schemes, grants, prizes or other inducement to the development and uptake of low-carbon products and practice. Carbon minimisation should not be an option, but standard practice across the board in buildings, transport, agriculture, urban planning, energy generation, primary resources and services. Thus, consumers do not have to grapple the extraordinary number of considerations required to exercise informed environmental choice, for private investment drives innovation in pursuit of profit. Australia has the capacity to become the world leader in goods and services for climate change mitigation and adaptation. In particular, our capacity for renewable energy generation is especially high relative to most countries, whilst our reliance on coal-based electricity is responsible for our exceptionally poor emissions profile. As young workers, we are particularly concerned about the creation of ‘green’ jobs – and the renewable sector is just one area in which this growth could occur. Furthermore, we see Australia as a green market leader, attracting foreign investment, rather than the archetype of carbon risk our coal-dependency has made of us.


Standards and Norms Our vision involves the enforcement of environmental best-practice standards in all areas of design, process and product across all sectors to achieve minimal net consumption and maximum efficiency. The danger of climate change requires necessitates rapid and substantial changes to current practices that cannot be achieved with a laissez-faire approach. The establishment of firm standards for emissions-intensity is essential to motivate the reform of both industrial operations and individual choice. Such an approach allows the market to find and implement the most efficient and cost-effective solutions. The ultimate objective is to incorporate ‘cradle to cradle’ philosophy into all areas of production in order to achieve maximum resource efficiency. If climate change is to be addressed, ecologically sustainable performance must become the norm, not simply a desirable addition. This entails the continual improvement of compliance standards such that, rather than presenting tick-the-box minimum requirements for functionality, they drive innovation for a better alternative. Furthermore, it requires an extension of the ‘reducing negative impact’ outlook to one of ‘increasing positive contribution’. Maximum environmental performance may equate to, for example, a building producing more energy than it consumes through the incorporation of on-site renewable energy generation. The climate emergency cannot wait for government to overcome its hesitance to regulate; anything but a carbon-neutral norm is a dangerous option.

Our call We entreat our governments to initiate a response that equates to the urgency, gravity, breadth and complexity of the climate change crisis. The social, intellectual and economic capacity already exists to meet the challenge; we seek leadership to help us mobilise it.

Sustainability Youth Forum Position Paper - Climate Change  

As presented to the Hon. Peter Garrett at the EIANZ Gala Dinner and Merit Awards on Friday 31st October 2008 in Melbourne