UTSpeaks: Progress or procrastination? (Part 2 - James Goodman)
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UTSpeaks: Progress or procrastination? (Part 2 - James Goodman)

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Can Australia lead the way with an effective climate action program?...

Can Australia lead the way with an effective climate action program?

Why is local and global action on climate change taking so long? Why are politicians, the media, scientists and industry chasing each other’s tails on the urgent issue of reducing carbon dioxide pollution? Almost two years on from the anticlimactic Copenhagen climate change summit, CO2 emissions are still rising. Why aren’t Australians willing to invest in protecting the future survival of their descendents?

This interactive forum takes stock of the current CO2 emissions and carbon tax debate and considers how a positive climate action program could work with the big polluters as well as foster community groups and households to be powerful change agents.


Dr Ian McGregor
Ian McGregor is a Lecturer in the UTS School of Management and researcher in the global politics of climate change, with a particular focus on the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009 and Cancun Climate Summit in 2010. He is also part of the Steering Committee of Climate Action Network Australia and works closely with Climate Action Network International on a variety of global climate change policy issues.

Associate Professor James Goodman
James Goodman conducts collaborative research into social movements that pursue global justice and climate justice. He is a political sociologist concerned with ecological change and how societies respond to it. His current work puts special emphasis on the role of grassroots mobilisation in addressing the climate crisis.

Dr Chris Riedy
Chris Riedy is a Research Director at the Institute for Sustainable Futures and President of the Climate Action Network Australia. He has particular expertise in energy policy, climate change response and socio-cultural change. He works as a facilitator and change agent to help deliver personal, organisational, systemic and cultural responses to sustainability challenges.

UTSPEAKS: is a free public lecture series presented by UTS experts discussing a range of important issues confronting contemporary Australia.

Use the hashtag #utspeaks to tweet about the lecture on Twitter.

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  • 1. UTSpeaks: Progress or procrastination?James Goodman - 28 September, 2011
  • 2. Three questions
       1. What is the most effective way to respond to climate change?
       2. Is the Clean Energy Future package a step in the right direction?
       3. What can individuals do to strengthen the response to climate change?
  • 3. Question 1: Most effective response
    The challenge: two calendars in collision
    (i) Climate science: history of the species, natural history, geological agency, geological time, deep history, the anthropocene (1784), rationality of science
    (ii) Climate politics: history of humanity, human history, justice, freedom, historical agency, what it means to be human, human time, recorded history, irrationality of consumer capitalism
    Response must bridge climate science and global justice. DipeshChakrabarty, ‘The Climate of History: Four Theses’, Critical Inquiry 35 Winter 2009.
  • 4. Climate science
    To have a good chance of avoiding ‘tipping points’, climate science suggests +1.5deg world could enable a ‘safe climate’.
    Achieving 350ppm, 85% global reduction in emissions 2050, requires (at least) a 100% reduction for developed countries, such as Australia.
    Climate science thus poses the challenge of achieving full de-carbonisation, by at least 2050.
  • 5. Climate justice
    Climate policy must secure decarbonisation in a way that is socially just.
    Unjust climate policy does not recognise the need to decarbonise. It displaces costs to those least responsible and least able to pay (it is regressive). It entrenches market power, especially of big polluters. It is authoritarian, deeply unpopular and fuels populist denialism.
    Just climate policy recognisesinter-generational and ecological justice and thus requires zero emissions. It targets those most responsible for emissions, and those most capable of paying the costs of transition. It creates participatory, localised frameworks to de-carbonise. It reduces emissions at source (not at the end of the pipe). It helps people adapt to current impacts.
  • 6. Some elements
    Ecological (planetary)
    Prospective (inter-generational)
    Restorative (historical + current)
    Distributive (capacity)
    Protective (impacts)
    Procedural (decision-making)
  • 7. Question 2: Clean Energy Future
    How does the Package measure up to climate science and climate justice requirements?
    Clean Energy Future Targets:
    The CEF does not offer de-carbonisation. It legislates for a 5% reduction on emissions (on the 2000 level) by 2020, offering an additional aspirational target of minus 80% by 2050.
  • 8. CEF mechanism
    Re-pricing: a price on pollution to incentivise emissions reductions; polluters pay to pollute and shift costs to consumers.
    Windfalls: free permits to polluters (can sell-on), plus $6bln annually (transfer from consumers).
    Renewables: $1bln a year in loans.
    Offsets: displacing present emissions with offsets into the future (carbon farming now, international offsets from 2015).
  • 9. CEF outcomes
    Repricing ineffectual: if anything will incentivise gas, locking-in a new non-renewable energy source (with other polluting side-effects).
    Regressive: redistributes income from poor to rich through re-pricing and subsidies; compensation delimited.
    Ineffective: is expected to achieve half of the 5% emissions reduction target through international offsets (breachingUN rules).
  • 10. CEF: worse than nothing?
    Tax/ETS gives climate policy a bad name, makes denialist claims attractive, makes future steps harder, not easier.
    Re-pricing cancels-out all other measures, eg for renewables, at all levels of government, that are not strictly ‘complementary’.
    Support for renewables is grossly inadequate, yet legitimises the package.
    Offsets are by definition corrupted, enriching traders and polluters at the cost of emissions reduction.
    Choice between the status quo and an inadequate and unjust climate policy.
  • 11. ‘Beyond’ Carbon Pricing
    Carbon Price experiment is failing and orthodoxy is shifting.
    Denmark’s 15% emissions cut 1990-2005 achieved not by re-pricing through a carbon tax but by spending on renewables. The EU ETS is now overshadowed by direct regulation such as industry policy for efficiency, and mandated renewables: http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/brief/eu/index_en.htm
    UN 2010 Synthesis Report on Annex 1 emission reductions shows EU policy has not achieved much more than the US in the 2000’s. Both had stabilised emissions prior to the 2008 recession.
  • 12. Question 3: Individual/collective responses
    Household responses: individuated private responses, diffuse attitudinal power
    NGO responses: public advocacy, expert-based informational power, agenda-taking, legitimating
    Movement responses: power though public collective mobilisation, transformative agenda-making,
  • 13. Climate justice: an emergent movement?
    • On the cusp of paradigm shift: from climate change ‘tipping point’ to climate action tipping point?
    • 14. Prospects for emissions reduction determined in the field of social relations: latent subjectivity,‘apocalypse blindness, powerlessness and complicity, deferral of social power to elites
    • 15. Climate movement required to provoke protest cycle: research in NSW 2007-2009, a brief window, suggestive of possibilities?
    • 16. Undertaken withRebecca Pearce and Stuart Rosewarne, see: Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal, Vol.2, No.3, 2010; and Journal of Australian Political Economy, 66, Special ‘Climate Challenge’ Issue. Forthcoming book.
  • Movement bridging bridging science and justice?
    Need for mobilizing values, a moral protest and a transformative vision, to articulate and enact a social bloc (‘Climate Justice Now’, from 2007)
    Need for infrastructures to build the creative force of movements, a process of collective reflection (eg Climate Action Groups, from 2006; Climate Summits, from 2009)
    Need to enact the social and ecological imagination through collective action (eg Climate Camps from 2008, Newcastle)
    Need to translate science and justice claims into responsibilities and programs, for communities and governments (?)
  • 17. Agendas beyond CEF?
    1. A shift to regenerative growth, measured by capacity to reduce emissions and to enhance ecologies.
    2. Payment of climate debts to UN-run funds
    3. Decentralisationand localisation of energy supply to delink from the coal cycle.
    4. A phase-out of emissions for companies under the CEF, linked to fines and compulsory acquisition as required.
    5. Mandated decommissioning of coal power and public funding of renewables; a phase- out of export coal and funds to support ‘just transitions’ for coal-dependent areas.
    6. Progressive direct taxes on income, profit and capital gains to fund the transition; defined as a specific climate levy, expressing a society-wide commitment.
    7. Expanded sink capacity, for reafforestation and changed land use, along with a new conception of land ownership.
    See: ‘Climate policy: from carbon tax to direct action?’ with Stuart Rosewarne, Chain Reaction, 110, Nov 2010.
  • 18. Comments very welcome:
    With thanks to the Climate Action Research Group, at the Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre UTS, and to Friends of the Earth Sydney for co-inspiration.