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Climate truth should guide recovery spending

  • 18 September 2020
The Prime Minister and Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor have been once again promising a ‘gas-led recovery’, supposedly to provide affordable energy and drive jobs growth. As faith leaders, we feel compelled to speak out in favour of a far more ethical and constructive path forward. 

The pandemic has afforded us a preview of how a crisis plays out when the science is not properly heeded. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists have long been sounding the alarm that the health and safety of large parts of the population are at serious risk, both here and around the world. We are already seeing the damage to health and to the environment that they predicted. 

As people of faith, our compassion is especially for younger generations and those on the frontlines of climate impacts. Australians are still raw from their experiences of the catastrophic summer bushfires and years of heartbreaking drought, but people around the world are also increasingly suffering from sea level rise, heatwaves, cyclones, forest fires, floods and drought. Scientists confirm that climate change has amplified the intensity of all of these, and impacts will only worsen. Dangerous tipping points will be reached if humanity fails to radically reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

In spite of the hype, gas is just another fossil fuel. When fugitive emissions are properly accounted for, gas is at least as polluting as coal. The refrigerating of liquified natural gas for export adds again to its emissions. We have seen how gas extraction destroys agricultural and forested areas and threatens to pollute groundwater. Globally, gas is a declining industry. Using public money to support it would be financially and morally irresponsible.

There is also the opportunity cost of diverting funds away from renewable generation and energy storage (including batteries, hydro and other technologies), which are more job creating, less polluting, and would lead to better health outcomes and a more resilient economy.

With climate-conserving technologies now ready for deployment and very competitively priced and supported by a great majority of citizens, now is the time to set a course to make Australia a renewable energy powerhouse.

'Younger generations are making sacrifices today largely to protect the health of older people, and it is they who will be called upon to pay off the debts we incur in the fight against this pandemic.'

Everyday Australians have shown repeatedly how they support strong action on climate change, but we know that