After some rest in January, relieved that an agreement had finally been reached in Paris, the ARRCC Management Committee has met to sketch out next steps. The Paris outcome was achieved in large part because of the considerable pressure from so many people around the world. Now, the Agreement will be important for holding our political leaders accountable.
L to R: Susy, Thea, John, Jonathan, Lucy, Gill, Murray (apologies Kathy, Julie)
The fact is, they continue to be under the sway of current economic paradigms and influences, including the fossil fuel industry. This is all the more relevant in an election year.
The Committee sketched out the kind of space we want to occupy in 2016. We decided that ARRCC should hold a distinctively moral and spiritual perspective which prioritises compassion towards marginalised people. Other values are important too, such as respect for all of life and for the earth itself, but compassion is our guiding priority. Here’s what this priority would look like in relation to global warming:
- transformations of the scale and urgency befitting the nature of the climate change problem, including more rapid shifts away from fossil fuels and towards low-carbon economies than usually imagined,
- robust funding so developing countries can adapt to the impacts of global warming, and cope with loss and damage,
- active, authentic respect and support for the traditional owners of this country, whose spirituality connects the deeply with caring for mother nature and people,
- fairness towards local communities where new kinds of employment is needed as we transition away from fossil fuel-intensive industries,
- the human rights of people who are being displaced by climate impacts such as sea level rise.
ARRCC’s plan for 2016
So what does this mean on a day-to-day basis?
- After Australia signing the Paris Agreement, we have a clear and public set of promises, goals and processes by which to hold our Federal Government accountable and pursue stronger action that is needed to deal effectively with the climate change problem. In the lead-up to the election, ARRCC will be making public the extent to which the policies of various parties, members of parliament and candidates measure up to the Paris yard-stick.
- We will be facilitating a more public stand by prominent religious leaders on policy issues relating to global warming.
- As we campaign in collaboration with other organisations, ARRCC will be especially oriented to the social justice dimensions of the work, eg, keeping us all mindful of the rights of traditional owners of country and of communities in transition.
- We want to strengthen ARRCC as an organisation. In particular, we want to offer opportunities for supporters in various parts of Australia to meet each other, encourage each other and develop their skills in animating their own communities.
- ARRCC plans to outreach to Interfaith networks and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities.
- We want to publicise the five Climate Action Kits, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu.
- Through talks, articles, radio interviews, cooking workshops and so on, ARRCC will continue to encourage people to reduce their meat consumption.
- We plan to continue to encourage individuals to switch to a fossil free Super Funds and faith-based organisations to switch to fossil free Banks and Funds (or at least question them about risks associated with climate change and stranded fossil fuel ‘assets’). We would like to make public the fossil fuel divestment decisions of particular faith-based organisations to divest from fossil fuels.
The larger context post-Paris
The Paris Agreement gives room for hope. In the words of Kumi Naidoo, until recently the executive director of Greenpeace International, “The human race has joined in a common cause. The Paris agreement is only one step on a long road and there are parts of it that frustrate, that disappoint me, but it is progress. The deal alone won’t dig us out of the hole that we’re in, but it makes the sides less steep.”
There's a big gap between what has been agreed internationally and what is needed. And there are big gaps between national promises and existing policies to meet those promises, and Australia is among the worst examples of this. The 2016 Environmental Performance Index released by Yale University ranks Australia 150th in terms of climate and energy generation. Among wealthy countries, we are only ahead of Saudi Arabia.
While the underlying causes of this slowness to act are systemic, the influence of coal, oil and gas companies is probably the most insidious. Research is gradually unmasking the lucrative money trail from fossil fuel companies to politicians, denialist scientists, lobbying organisations and denialist think tanks. Methodist activist and co-founder of 350.org Bill McKibben goes so far as to caricature politicians as the “well-paid employees” of these companies in this excellent article: “Night of the living dead, climate change style”.
The Carbon Levy Project urges a levy on fossil fuel companies to pay for loss and damage caused by climate change
The Australia Institute last year published the outcome of research which showed that, in the decade to 2014, the fossil fuel industry in Australia spent $484 million on major lobbying bodies such as the Minerals Council of Australia and Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA). With that kind of money behind them, their influence extends beyond politicians to the media and the whole community.
In this grim context, members and friends of ARRCC would do well to assume a sense of Mission. Being a Missionary is a Christian concept, I know, but it's a useful one when it comes to our Australian context. In relation to the need to urgently transition our society towards low-carbon lifestyles, our work is to actively distance ourselves and our communities from all carbon-intensive options. In relation to our distinctive focus on fairness, justice and compassion towards those who are marginalised, our work is to draw attention to these values as central to guiding all work associated with climate change. This is essentially our Mission for the coming year. We invite all of you who are willing, to take on your role as Missionaries.
Thea Ormerod & Gill King