Australia Needs a Green New Deal
November 5, 2019 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Australia is a climate wrecker on a global scale. With a government long beholden to mining interests, calls for climate justice fall on deaf ears. But plans for a Green New Deal are not just necessary — they’re achievable. Dino Varasso for Jacobin.

We've spent the past few months asking young Australians what the climate crisis is doing to their lives. This is what they want you to hear. Sam Langford for Junkee.
There are so many ways the impacts are already being felt. For Hugh and many other farming families, it's the drought. For Imogen, a sixteen-year-old student from Cygnet, Tasmania, the threat remains the bushfires that had just ravaged her community last time we spoke. Bushfire season has arrived early this year, and it terrifies her. "I know that I'm in a really rather privileged position, because I don't live right next to the water, and we're not somewhere that's going to get burnt down immediately, and we've got enough money that we can get ourselves out of a tricky situation," she told me. "But I know that a lot of other people around me are going to have the face the consequences."

Other young Australians are feeling the impacts in different ways. For Doha, a 17-year-old leading the School Strike 4 Climate in Adelaide, the future consequences of climate change are beginning to weigh heavy. "I think the most concerning thing is the displacement of communities," she told me in August. "Just the rise of climate refugees. Seeing an influx of people when we're not prepared for it, I think that's just not going to be good for anyone. And it really scares me, to think about that." The climate crisis has already begun to affect how she thinks about her career, and whether she wants to have children.
Eighty percent of the young people we surveyed think that tackling climate change is very urgent. A further 16 percent told us it was simply urgent. As for what that urgency does to a young person, 77 percent told us that they’re either stressed a lot, or a fair amount, about the climate crisis.

We need a Blak New Deal to fight the climate crisis, Philip Winzer for Overland
Climate change presents a unique opportunity to remake society to be more just, more caring and less exploitative and greed-driven. It is in Indigenous knowledge systems that we will find the blueprint for building that society, and it is in the Indigenous struggle that we find the blueprint for dismantling the failing system imposed on us. What then might a Blak ‘New Deal’ look like?

Firstly, it means Aboriginal land in Aboriginal hands. Aboriginal people don’t have a real right to say no to developers anywhere on this continent. A uniform national land rights system that incorporates mass handbacks of land and an absolute veto, whether at the point of exploration or production, will stop the fossil fuel industry in its tracks. It will also let us turn this continent into a carbon sink and restore biodiversity that 230 years of colonisation has decimated.

This is what climate change looks like in Australia – in pictures. by the Guardian. (cw: animal death)
As predictions about the climate crisis increasingly become observations, Australians are witnessing first hand the impacts of more frequent and severe weather events. These images supplied by the Climate Council show the devastating effects on the continent’s ecosystems and unique wildlife. Australia’s ecosystems are already under grave stress from land-clearing, over-harvesting and invasive feral animals and plants; climate change is adding to the litany of woes and proving to be the last straw for some systems and species.

The Third Way Is Still Alive vs The Third Way Isn’t Dead Yet - Jacobin on the Labor party as a vehicle for change.
Australia Needs A Green New Deal, Not More Centrism, Jeremy Poxon, Tash Heenan and Jon Piccini for Junkee
Not passive victims: Indigenous Australians respond to climate change Melissa Nursey-Bray on Foreground.
posted by Acid Communist (9 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Great post, AC.

Unfortunately, Australia has a climate change denialist government, and an opposition that is not much better. The only action on this issue they are proposing is outlawing protest and banning boycotts.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:04 PM on November 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

All that incident tropical sunlight not being transformed into useful forms of energy, sigh.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 2:10 PM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's happening on the roofs. It's just not happening with giant installations in the middle of the outback.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 2:15 PM on November 5, 2019

Market forces will get Australia to the renewable future even with the current climate denialist government in power, even with Scott Morrison at the helm, who famously brought a chunk of coal into parliament and told members "not to be afraid" of it because it would ensure the future of Australia or something.

From The Conversation, a political fact checker.

Australia is the runaway global leader in building new renewable energy

In Australia, renewable energy is growing at a per capita rate ten times faster than the world average. Between 2018 and 2020, Australia will install more than 16 gigawatts of wind and solar, an average rate of 220 watts per person per year.

This is nearly three times faster than the next fastest country, Germany. Australia is demonstrating to the world how rapidly an industrialised country with a fossil-fuel-dominated electricity system can transition towards low-carbon, renewable power generation.


Also, as mentioned in the previous comment, Australia is already (practically) the world leader in household solar rooftop PV, with 16.5% of all households running PV solar.

I'm quietly confident that the future is coming whether or not the politicians want it to - they'll dig their heels in and pour subsidies into coal but it's like fighting the force of gravity. For example, the Hazelwood power station, previously the least efficient / most polluting coal power plant in the OECD, was closed over a decade ahead of schedule.
posted by xdvesper at 3:13 PM on November 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

Market forces and subsidies are currently bankrolling a ton of new large scale solar projects in Queensland and large wind projects in Victoria/NSW/SA.

The new expansion of the Snowy hydro scheme will add 2 GW of pumped storage to the national electricity market, and it looks inevitable that some mechanism will fund grid stability and fix the curtailment issues that have slowed renewable investment a bit from the boom years of 2016-2018.

It's very plausible that the Australian electricity market could be majority renewable within a couple decades. The future of local renewable energy is pretty good.

I don't know how you fix the shipping coal overseas problem though. The Jacobin article suggests nationalising the local extraction industries to fund social projects which would make it even more impossible to touch politically.
posted by zymil at 7:06 PM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really think that placing any faith in market initiatives is both incredibly dangerous and places us in direct contradiction to our obligations as the agents of colony to take decisive action in regards to land rights, as in Winzer's piece. A politics that does not center decolonisation will always fail to to deliver just outcomes in Australia.

The Third Way articles are where there's more theory-of-change stuff. I do tend to come down against entryism, as the Labor party has been a largely counter-revolutionary force and side with Still Isn't Dead, but I don't know that the Victorian Socialists are the solution either.

The ALP is an extreme case example of the degeneration of social-democratic and labor parties in the neoliberal age. Yet, similar pressures exist on all workers’ parties. The relative autonomy of the state and state managers necessitates that labor and social-democratic parties either build effective and combative counter-hegemony or become themselves hegemonized. The ALP, as an institution of bourgeois democracy, will forever tend the garden of capitalism, trimming neoliberal hedges in mildly egalitarian fashion while fastidiously avoiding branches and roots. The ALP will thus oscillate between pleasing its donors and struggling to find leaders with the minimum style required to temporarily persuade voters to ignore the gaping absence of substance.

Still, it's hard not to feel like this a relatively fair characterisation. And that's not a party that can take effective and principled action. I know many of the Corbynites who may be, as that article says "helicoptered into their jobs after an apprenticeship in the dissolute gravy-train that is the National Union of Students.", and they're not confident that they're going to be able to shift the party, and fear repeating the same patterns of co-option that saw Albanese go from having politics when he was in their position to being such a wretched excuse for a leader as he is now. Which I think they're right to fear, because it's a terrible system.

I do wonder if they're mistaken about the possibility of getting Labor to adopt the One Member, One Vote policy for leadership elections. I don't imagine it would be an easy campaign, but it would turn their following point - Labor's dreadfully low membership numbers into a whole different affair, a world of potential.
posted by Acid Communist at 11:36 PM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Australia knows how to do only two things: dig holes, and sell property back and forth (with all the wealth from both those things going overseas). The hole-digging is becoming increasingly unpopular (people don't like it, and nobody really wants the shit we dig up). Thankfully, as xdvesper points out above, renewables is going gangbusters, despite the federal and pretty much every state/territory government screaming bloody murder about it.

Despite hybrid cars still being unaffordable, with no government incentives whatsoever, I am seeing more of them (and full electric) on our roads than ever (which makes sense, because they are more widely available than ever). There is more solar on our rooftops than ever. There are more water tanks in back yards than ever. XR turnouts in our capitals and other cities in the pasts few months are the biggest protests I think I have ever seen, and certainly the biggest ones I have ever been a part of (I've not glued myself to anything yet - I don't have the courage).

It's happening, very very slowly, but it's happening. We're doing what we can with the boomers we've got. The current drought is getting the populace more work than droughts in the past. I mean yeah, the GBR is still fucked and graziers are still bulldozing all our trees (illegally, but the states are doing fuck-all about it), and I read recently that the uptake of diesel 4WDs and SUVs in the past few years has pretty much cancelled out national emission reductions, but...I don't have hope, exactly, but I don't have not-hope.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:03 PM on November 6, 2019

Market forces will get Australia to the renewable future even with the current climate denialist government in power

Maybe. State governments are also critical.

But a half-decent federal government could get us there so much more quickly and smoothly, particularly around transmission difficulties. A supportive federal government would also massively increase the chances of us exporting energy at a large scale via cables and/or hydrogen and/or metal production.
posted by nnethercote at 9:30 PM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ugh. *woke, not work.
posted by turbid dahlia at 10:21 PM on November 6, 2019

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