For those of us keeping an eye on the news, the break was tinged with sadness and fear about the future of our planet. It’s a new year, but the climate crisis is as real as ever.
Happy new decade.
We hope you managed to have a relaxing and enjoyable holiday period with your family and friends. And if you didn’t? Well, at least you’re back at work.
For those of us keeping an eye on the news though, the break was tinged with sadness and fear about the future of our planet. It’s a new year, but the climate crisis is as real as ever.
We are sure that everybody with an interest in renewables will have been watching stories about the deadly wildfires sweeping Australian states New South Wales and Victoria. These fires are causing devastation and show little sign of ending. Thousands have been displaced, over 1,200 homes destroyed so far, and nearly 500million animals have been killed.
This has forced the leader of New South Wales to declare a week-long state of emergency in response to the wildfires. It will also put the energy policies and climate stance of the Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in the spotlight and highlight the need for more action to tackle the climate crisis, including investment in renewable energy projects.
Now it’s true to say that renewable energy investment in Australia has picked up in the last few years following the dark days of Tony Abbott’s premiership from 2013 to 2015. We saw nine wind farms totalling 867MW commissioned in 2018 and, this time last year, wind farms totalling 5.7GW were being built.
But it’s also true to say that Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who came to power last May, has been prioritising coal growth over renewables.
Here is why that matters for us all.
Wildfires aren’t just an Australian risk. As our planet warms and the climate changes, this will only increase the threat of wildfires, which extends to every continent except Antarctica. Millions of people are at risk, from Spain and the UK to the US, Canada and far beyond.
This again underlines the importance of continuing to take politicians to task about the environment. We can see why some people argue that, for example, criticising President Trump’s views on wind is pointless as he won’t change his mind and it gives the views undue prominence. But we think it is important to galvanise wind’s support and make the case for renewables.
There is another criticism that we may face at such times. That is the argument that those in renewables are ‘playing politics’ with a disaster, and are trying to use people’s suffering to further the case for investing in renewables.
We disagree. We are human and, of course, stories of death and devastation in Australia will tug at our emotions even if we aren’t directly personally affected.
But as we enter the 2020s, we should use such stories to give us the resolve we need to tackle the climate crisis. While the world’s eyes are focused on Australia, it is also a chance to talk about renewables. If not now, when?
We see the same argument with gun crime in the US. Immediately after a school shooting, we are told it isn’t the best time to discuss gun control. But the problem with leaving it until later to discuss the issue is that, by that point, the media has moved on. This claim about ‘playing politics’ with a disaster is all too often used to curtail debate. To us, the best way to honour and remember victims is to focus on changes needed to stop more people being harmed.
This is the situation in Australia.
Morrison has said that the Liberals are tackling climate change and supporting renewables. But he is also a leading supporter of coal power.
He said his government is seeking to cut emissions while also protecting the economy. But his government’s targets could be far more ambitious.
And his party’s attitude to renewables appears to be well summed-up by his deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, who dismissed those making the link between the Australia bushfires and the climate crisis in October as the work of “inner-city raving lunatics”. We agree there have always been bushfires in Australia, but the season in which we’re seeing them is longer than it used to be and they’re becoming more devastating.
Disasters like this will give leaders like Morrison fewer places to hide. We enter the 2020s with optimism, but the devastation in Australia is a sobering reminder of why all of us in this sector are looking to tackle the climate crisis – and why is it imperative that we win.
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