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UTSpeaks: Progress or procrastination? (Part 3 - Chris Riedy and open forum)
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UTSpeaks: Progress or procrastination? (Part 3 - Chris Riedy and open forum)


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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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  • Five years ago, I gave my first UTSpeaks lecture on Pollution, Politics and Power. Back then, public understanding of climate change was low and I spent a lot of the lecture explaining what climate change is. Climate change wasn’t on the political agenda in the way it is now. I called for more public debate on climate change and political engagement with the issue. Well, be careful what you wish for!Since then, climate change has become one of the major political issues of the day and a constant topic of public debate. But, public concern about climate change has dropped from its peak around 2006 and 2007 and split along political lines. Climate change response has become an ideological and political battleground that has claimed several prominent politicians. While a majority still believe in climate change and the need to respond, fear about the impact of a carbon price is rife.In this context, when politicians are running with the issue and ‘climate fatigue’ has set in, what role does the community have in responding to climate change? Many people feel excluded from the debate, tired of hearing the same old arguments from politicians and wishing it would all go away.I’m going to argue that it is critical to re-engage communities in climate change response and I’ll set out a couple of ideas for doing so in the short time I have.
  • Why should communities play a part in responding to climate change? Why not leave it to government?I’ll give two principle-based reasons and two pragmatic reasons.Whether is is tropical cyclones like Yasi, bushfires like those that hit Victoria and Canberra, prolonged drought, heat waves or sea level rise, all of us will increasingly experience the impacts of climate change. As a basic democratic principle, impacted communities should have an opportunity to influence outcomes.
  • Likewise, we will all experience the impact of responses to climate change, such as rising energy prices and cost of living increases.Again, a basic democratic principle is that impacted communities should be able to influence the outcomes.
  • More pragmatically, lasting action on climate change requires widespread community support to keep the pressure on politicians and businesses. While the Gillard Government is likely to get its clean energy future legislation through parliament in the next month or so, what will happen when there is a change of government? The constant chopping and changing of climate change policies makes it very risky for investors.In the UK, there is bipartisan support for climate action and the conservative government recently set a target to reduce emissions by 50% by 2025, the most ambitious target in the world. Communities need to be engaged if they are to force Australian politicians down a similar path.
  • Finally, the community has direct and indirect influence over a large proportion of Australia’s emissions. Households are directly responsible for about 18% of Australia’s emissions because of the electricity, gas, petrol and other fuels they use. But they are indirectly responsible for more than 3 times that amount because of indirect emissions from food, goods and services and construction and renovations. Diet and purchasing decisions can have a big impact on Australia’s emissions.
  • So, how can communities become more engaged? How can we encourage and motivate actions to respond to climate change?This is a simplified summary of the extensive literature on behaviour change. Essentially, it boils down to three types of influence on what we do. The systemThe groupThe selfIn the time I’ve got left, I’ll give just one example of how we could be doing better in each of these three areas. First, lets look at the system, and specifically the financial landscape.
  • Sometimes, we can’t afford to do things that make sense. There are many ways that we can improve energy efficiency, and in the long run, they often pay for themselves. But it can be difficult to afford the upfront cost when we are faced with other pressures.And sometimes there are split incentives, for example, in rental properties the landlord pays the cost of installing energy efficient equipment but the tenants get the benefit. Take zero carbon homes as an example. If you build a zero carbon home, you will never have to pay an energy bill again. But, your home may cost 15% more to build. The extra cost will pay for itself in about 11 years but can you afford the extra cost right now when you could use that money to afford a home in a more desirable suburb? And will you still be living there in 11 years? We can use innovative financial mechanisms to overcome these barriers. A pay-as-you-save loan covers the upfront cost of the zero carbon features and you pay it back over time from the money you would have saved on your energy bills. If you move, the loan stays with the home.
  • You won’t find much mention of these kind of innovative financing mechanisms in the Clean Energy Future package.
  • She proposed a Citizen’s Assembly on climate change that was scorned by the media and political opponents and subsequently dumped. She then went on to announce a carbon price with no real consultation and no details, creating space for conservative interests to prosecute a fear campaign that has divided the community. That’s about as far from building a community consensus as you can get.
  • The International Association for Public Participation defines a spectrum of public participation, with increasing levels of public engagement. At the moment, the Gillard Government is informing the community about its plans and providing some constrained opportunities for consultation but it is certainly not involving citizens in developing climate policy, collaborating with them or empowering them to make their own decisions. If communities are to re-engage with climate action, we need to move further down this spectrum.
  • I may be in the minority, but I still think a Citizens Assembly on climate change is a good idea. It may have been poorly communicated and poorly timed, but the fundamental idea of involving citizens in the policy-making process is a good one that has worked in many places around the world. I was involved in the World Wide Views on Global Warming…These processes do not always deliver consensus, but they do usually allow participants (and observers) to become more accepting of alternative views. If we are to move towards bipartisan support for climate action then processes like this that help to find common ground and develop mutual understanding are crucial.
  • Transcript

    • 1. 28 September 2011
      UTSpeaks: Progress or procrastination?Chris Riedy - 28 September, 2011
    • 2. Chris Riedy, UTSpeaks, 28 September 2011
      (Re)engaging communities in climate change response
      28 September 2011
    • 3. Why should communities be engaged?
      • We will all feel the impacts of climate change
      • 4. Principle – impacted communities should be empowered to influence the outcomes
      28 September 2011
    • 5. Why should communities be engaged?
      • We will all feel the responses
      • 6. Principle – impacted communities should be empowered to influence the outcomes
      28 September 2011
    • 7. Why should communities be engaged?
      • Carbon politics – need bipartisan support but politicians will not move until sufficient votes are on the line
      • 8. Carbon markets – businesses respond to market pull
      Photo: AYCC
      28 September 2011
    • 9. Climate Change Think TankWhat can you do?
      21 September 2011
      Source: ACF Consumption Atlas
    • 10. 28 September 2011
      Three influences on what we do
      The self
      The system
      • Local context
      • 15. Technology and infrastructure
      • 16. The financial landscape
      • 17. Rules and institutions
      The group
      • Friends, family, peers, communities
      • 18. Media
      • 19. Social norms
      • 20. Art and culture
      • 21. Collective decision-making
    • Sometimes we can’t afford to do things that make sense
      Zero carbon home
      Never pay an energy bill again
      Extra cost will pay for itself in 11 years
      But, adds 15% to upfront cost
      Pay-as-you-save loan
      Loan to pay for zero carbon features
      Repayments from energy savings
      If you move, the loan stays with the home
      28 September 2011
    • 22. Clean Energy Future package
      Carbon price will provide some financial incentive
      Micro-finance (no interest loans) for low-income households to buy energy efficient appliances
      Nothing of note for other households
      Need to overcome legacy of botched household insulation, Green Loans and feed-in tariff schemes
      Great ideas, poorly executed
      High consumer demand
      28 September 2011
    • 23. 28 September 2011
      Three influences on what we do
      The self
      The system
      • Local context
      • 28. Technology
      • 29. Financial incentives and penalties
      • 30. Rules and institutions
      The group
      • Friends, family, peers, communities
      • 31. Media
      • 32. Social norms
      • 33. Art and culture
      • 34. Collective decision-making
    • A community consensus?
      “if we are to have a price on carbon and do all the things necessary for our economy and our society to adjust we need a deep and lasting community consensus about that. We don’t have it now.”
      Julia Gillard, 24th June 2010
      28 September 2011
      Photos: Mugfaker (top), ErlandHowden (bottom)
    • 35. Can we move up the spectrum of participation?
      • Current approach informs and (barely) consults
      • 36. What would collaborative or empowered decision-making look like?
      28 September 2011
    • 37. A citizens’ assembly on climate change?
      • Gillard Government botched its first attempt at this idea – could it be resurrected?
      • 38. World Wide Views on Global Warming, 26 September 2009
      28 September 2011
    • 39. 28 September 2011
      Three influences on what we do
      The self
      The system
      • Local context
      • 44. Technology
      • 45. Financial incentives and penalties
      • 46. Rules and institutions
      The group
      • Friends, family, peers, communities
      • 47. Media
      • 48. Social norms
      • 49. Art and culture
      • 50. Collective decision-making
    • Where is the inspiring vision?
      Futerra, Sell the Sizzle (2009)
      “Threats of climate hell haven’t seemed to hold us back from running headlong towards it”
      “We must build a visual and compelling vision of climate heaven”
      28 September 2011
      We should be framing climate change as an opportunity
      Better cities
      Healthier lifestyles
      Green jobs
      Renewable energy superpower
      A resource of the imagination (Hulme)
    • 51. Vision in the Clean Energy Future package
      Shifts in the framing
      From climate change to carbon pollution to clean energy future
      Similar shift towards positive visions in the US
      But a slogan is not a vision and the Clean Energy Future Package does little to inspire
      28 September 2011
    • 52. Communities can’t do it alone
      • A polycentric approach to learn by experimenting
      • 53. Action across all scales, by all sectors
      • 54. But, communities can provide the spark
      28 September 2011