A new parliament, a new chance to act on climate change

Today, the Uniting Church in Australia, together with 19 other major civil society organisations released a statement calling on the next Government of Australia to take serious, urgent and credible action to put a price on carbon.

I spoke at a press conference this morning. This was my statement.

The Uniting Church in Australia has long argued that to ensure the future of our planet, we need to take fast and serious action to reduce pollution.

We have witnessed first-hand, the devastation that climate change is already having on our neighbours in the Pacific and throughout the low-lying regions of South-east Asia. Our partner churches and the peoples of the Pacific are calling on Australia, as a wealthy neighbour and as the major polluter in the region, to take responsibility and act to reduce the effects of climate change.

While we all need to do everything we can as individuals, families and groups in community to reduce our own carbon footprint, this action alone is not enough.  The key to making a difference lies with the development of credible government policies designed to shift us to a cleaner, more energy efficient, more sustainable economy.

A price on carbon is not all we need to do, but it is one of the most critical tools.

First and foremost, the Uniting Church believes a price on carbon is necessary because within the context of a market economy, a price will act as a signal of the value we put on the environment for its own sake. The environment is not merely a resource for us to plunder. It is a sacred gift from God and if we don’t treat it as such, we risk the planet and our very own future.

Without a carbon price, there is no signal to industry to clean-up its act and no impetus for shifting to a low-carbon economy. Without a price on carbon our renewable energy industry will fail to grow and thrive, and energy efficiency measures will fail to deliver the big outcomes necessary. Without a price on carbon, we will find ourselves stuck in the dark ages of a carbon-based economy while the rest of the world has moved on.

It is time for us to take control of the market and make it work for us for a change. If we do it properly, the we can use the market as a tool to help us to ensure a healthy and stable planet for our children and our grandchildren.

A price on carbon will generate the funds necessary to drive us away from our reliance on fossil fuels and support the growth of clean and renewable energies.

We also believe that a credible plan would incorporate measures that support low income and other vulnerable households in Australia to ensure affordable access to the energy people need and to cope with other cost of living pressures related to the transition to cleaner energies.  It would incorporate additional development aid to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change and ensure their future prosperity in a low-carbon world.

This is not a matter of party politics. It has been extremely disappointing to see the issues of climate change, one of the greatest moral, social, environmental and economic challenges of our time reduced to such small-target, lowest common denominator politics.

It is also extremely disappointing to see our political leaders retreat to a position of waiting to see what others will do.

Climate change is a moral issue for all of us and as such our response should be driven by what we know is the right thing to do. The right thing to do is to act to protect the planet.

Addressing the challenge of climate change is the greatest challenge our politicians have faced.

We have come together today to call them to rise to the challenge.

It is time for Australian governments at all levels to commit to working with business, industry, environment, community and faith groups for the sake of our planet and all its people. Our future depends on it.