For those of us concerned about the environment, it’s been a pretty rough time of late.
America’s secession from the Paris Accord, and Australia’s insistence on pursuing a gas
led recovery out of the pandemic, for example, are just two decisions where common sense and economics appear to have been sidelined.
And yet, there has been progress nonetheless. You just had to dig a little deeper to find it.
Only months after the US declared no interest in net zero, cities all over the country announced ‘we’re still in’. New York, Chicago, Atlanta and 34 others set emission reduction targets of 80%, and 62 more committed to meet, or exceed the 2050 target.
There was a ground-up movement to just get on with it.
Most of Europe has been doing pretty well, with Germany leading the way and (in fact) last quarter the entire country was powered by renewables for the first time ever.
And while many point to China, saying they’re not pulling their weight, well, for the first
time ever, China has not put increasing GDP at the centre of its economic policy. Ravaged by floods that displaced 14 million people and devastated by COVID-19, their focus is jobs and a green infrastructure at the centre of its long-term recovery process.
Even in Australia, despite the lack of Federal encouragement homeowners are just getting on with it, quietly sticking solar panels on their roofs and becoming not only energy independent, but net positive to the grid.
In December 2019, the Australian Energy Market Operator forecast households and businesses would generate a quarter of the nation’s energy needs by 2040. And that’s even before the rapid solar adoption in the last 12 months.
So once again from the ground up, people are getting on with it. And yet, in the last couple of weeks, there’s been a slight change in the air. A shift in global outlook, perhaps.
The quiet, unseen moments of 2020
While so much has happened in 2020, and many have questioned how ‘history’ will view what happened this year, perhaps the most significant turning point (in our humble opinion) was the influence activists had, on persuading Joe Biden to lift his game in regard to the climate.
His starting position was to invest $1.7 trillion over 10 years, but in July 2020 he announced $2 trillion over four years – encouraging renewables all over the US. This change was the result of open discussions with climate activists, and for all of us toiling away in the same space, it gives us enormous hope.
The most significant part of Biden’s stance, however, centres on the influence he’ll
have on the rest of the world. Climate is to be a central part of foreign policy, and his
plan specifically aims to:
- Lock in enforceable commitments on global shipping and aviation emissions
- Lead global moratoria on fossil fuel subsidies & offshore drilling in the Arctic
- Ramp up multilateral partnerships on clean energy R&D.
Australia beginning to shift?
And even closer to home, it seems common sense is returning to the discussion.
Only a week ago NSW Energy Minister, Matt Kean, managed to pass a bill supporting
$32 billion of investment into the State’s renewable energy infrastructure. As the most ambitious plan in the country, it will deliver 9000 direct jobs and some of the cheapest, most reliable electricity in the world by 2030.
Now, would this have passed without Biden’s win? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know for sure. But it’s movement, it’s commitment, and it feels like, perhaps… we’re not in this fight on our own anymore. At long last.
Of course there are going to be ups and downs as we try to reduce emissions over the decades ahead. But for now, we’re going to enjoy the moment. Relish the win. And relax for a wee while, before getting stuck into the fight once again.
As Mr Kean said himself just the other day. “…if the vested interests want to stand in the way, then I say to them, ‘get out of the way, let us get on with delivering cheaper, reliable energy.”
Couldn’t have said it better ourselves Mr Kean, thanks.
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