Please protect the CEFC from climate wars

Angus Taylor in Parliament. Photo credit: AAP/Lukas Coch, in RenewEconomy 28 August, 2020

18-year-old Oscar Delaney shared his letter to the Senate Inquiry into amending the legislation around the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, to enable it to support Carbon Capture and Storage and gas-based technologies. This would be a shift from its intended purpose which was to back genuinely renewable energy.

Oscar speaks from the heart here, and eloquently.

Hello Senators!

I acknowledge the Jagera and Turrbal people’s on whose lands I live, work, play and write.  If their custodianship of the land had never been stolen without moral or legal recourse, we would not face the environmental crises we do today.

I also acknowledge the beauty and importance of the democratic process and the privilege it is for me, a relative nobody, to have my voice heard and respected in the hallowed halls of power.  Few people in the world enjoy such opportunity to impact decisions of national significance, so for that I am proud to be an Australian.

However, I am sad to report my satisfaction with Australian democracy and politics does not extend to this Bill.  We are all short on time, so I will avoid circumlocution: this Bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – by talking grandly about grid reliability, nation-building infrastructure and the common good it obfuscates from its real result, which is to further entrench the climate crisis.  I believe you are already aware of this hidden effect of the Bill, so I need not explain it in detail.  Briefly, though, by diverting taxpayer funding away from truly ‘clean’ technologies like solar PV, wind, CST, batteries, pumped storage and transport electrification towards chimeric ‘solutions’ like gas and carbon capture, we delay our national transition to the inevitable zero-carbon future and maintain our international reputation as climate laggards.

If you are unconvinced that the Bill will impede a speedy transition to decarbonisation, kindly invite some energy economics experts to testify and clear the matter up for you (Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, for instance).  Given you are likely already aware of the environmental cost to the Bill, it strikes me as an act of partisan political pandering to pro-fossil-fuel voter bases to even consider polluting the CEFC in this manner.  I would like to think the Climate Wars are coming to an end and even the recalcitrant Liberal and National parties would recognise the gravity of the climate crisis and act accordingly by doing everything possible to promote a rapid and just transition to a carbon-free economy.  However sadly it seems the prospect of another few election cycles promulgating climate myths and decrying job-hating greenies is too attractive, and will prevent setting about the practical tasks of government when it comes to leading the transition to renewables.

By all means, invest in bolstering grid reliability – nobody likes power cuts.  But focusing on grid reliability to the detriment of the far graver danger of climate change is recklessly irresponsible, and, I hope, electorally costly.  As an 18-year-old, I look forward to my first federal election where I can exert my democratic power and help create a government attuned to the scientific reality off the climate crisis and the political necessity of urgent action.

You will note, perhaps with reproof, that I have not addressed the minutia of the Bill.  This is because I well recognise that as a naïve teen unschooled in the law, I am poorly positioned to craft the details of legislation.  I am rather well placed though to speak out to ensure my future is not further ruined by the corporate donors and fossil fuel interests wielding power through certain parties.

Let me close by reminding you of the bigger picture that we sometimes lose sight of.  Today, these decisions, this is what will determine the habitability of our planet and the liveability of my future.  We are in danger of crossing earth system tipping points and triggering positive feedback cycle cascades that will cause runaway climate change.  That will mean massive sea-level rise and hundreds of millions displaced (chance for another toxic stop the boats campaign? I hear you think).  It will mean Australian farmers unable to grow in increasingly harsh and volatile weather patterns, with food security suffering and the likelihood of heightened trade and geopolitical tensions.  It means more frequent and severe bushfires and cyclones.  The Great Barrier Reef gone. Disease carrying mosquitoes spreading further south through Australia. Plants and animals going extinct at unprecedented rates.

This is the future we face.  I humbly beseech you to prioritise our collective future over political expediency or corporate gain.  Our lives depend upon it.

In hope and determination,

Oscar Delaney