The Australian government currently has no policy plan to reach net-zero emissions.
This fact alone puts the country, one of the world’s highest carbon emitters per person and the nation with the most single-use plastic waste on a per capita basis, well behind similar economies when it comes to climate action.
On June 3, in the lead up to World Environment Day, Global Citizen hosted a virtual event to discuss the many links between climate change and poverty, the risks of allowing climate change to worsen without action and the importance of Australian leadership to secure the safety and livelihoods of millions living in the Pacific.
Australian action-takers and activists from across the country tuned in to hear from incredible guest speakers.
TODAY'S THE DAY! T-MINUS 20 minutes until we officially kick off our #WorldEnvironmentDay 2021 virtual event ft. @ANDYRIDLEY, @sammostyn, @TerenceJey, @danieldhotman and Toni Hay. 🌾🍃🌾🍃🌾🍃— Global Citizen Australia (@GlblCtznAU) June 3, 2021
Join us here: https://t.co/4wGs7fY6zEpic.twitter.com/SNbKkIlsGT
Terence Jeyaretnam, climate change expert and Australian board member at Global Citizen, moderated the event and kicked off the discussion by explaining that “we’ve got a decade left to shift the dial on climate change.”
He then asked all speakers to share their connection to environmental action.
Toni Hay — a Gamilaraay woman, author and environmental sustainability scientist — said she’s passionate about ensuring Indigenous people are at the forefront of decision-making when it comes to forming new climate policies.
She also explained that societies adaptation to climate change must be prioritised.
“Climate change is a two-sided coin, you’ve got mitigation, and the other side is adaptation,” she said. “People aren't moving to adapt quickly enough. We must focus our strengths there. Everybody should be considering this right now.”
Chair of Climate Council Sam Mostyn, meanwhile, told attendees about the United Nations’ Global Goals, a set of 17 goals decided and agreed to by Australia, as well as 193 other countries, in 2015.
The goals aim to end extreme poverty and hunger and create a sustainable future for all by 2030.
“We have to continue as a community to ask our government and those with positions of influence to commit to the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said. “Australia is not stepping up to use the goals to drive policy. We are not using a system we helped draft.”
.@ANDYRIDLEY — the CEO of @citizensGBR and founder of @earthhour — talks ocean conservation at our #WorldEnvironmentDay Virtual Event. Andy, we are so in awe of all you, and your entire team, do to protect the world's largest coral reef system. 🐳🐳🐳 pic.twitter.com/MV05IEi3xl— Global Citizen Australia (@GlblCtznAU) June 3, 2021
The conversation then turned to address the need for global cooperation to tackle climate change.
Andy Ridley, the CEO of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef and founder ofEarth Hour, explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that cooperation on a global scale to tackle an existential threat is possible. He explained that “we’re the first generation in history that has the power to connect behind a common purpose.”
"The last year and a half have shown the capacity for humanity to change dramatically within a very short period of time when it has to,” he said. “A year and a half ago, we didn't have the evidence to show that the world could do that. That is a compelling thing to note.”
Daniel D’Hotman, the climate and energy lead at Australian think-tank BluePrint Institute, echoed Ridley’s comments.
"People have great reverence for doctors. We’ve listened to them during COVID-19, and, as such, we’ve done a reasonably good job of saving lives and the economy in Australia,” he said. “When it comes to climate change, we don't listen to experts.”