SOURCE:SOURCEOn Saturday at 8.30pm, millions of Australians will join over a billion people in 154 countries to make a stand for our climate by turning off their lights for an hour.
It’s a small gesture. Given the scale of the crisis facing our climate, one hour of awareness certainly isn’t enough. But Earth Hour does prove that the citizens of the world can unite around the climate change cause – even if just for an hour.
This global movement has never been more needed, as we expect the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to make very clear when they release their much-anticipated report into climate impacts on Monday.
Earth Hour was founded in Australia, and support has remained strong. Volunteers will hold over a thousand Earth Hour events on Saturday, including at the Prime Minister’s favourite beach in Manly, to highlight the urgent threat our Great Barrier Reef faces from rising temperatures.
If we don’t act now, the impacts of climate change on our reef will be irreversible by 2030. Already, our actions have changed the acidity of the oceans, undermining the basis of the marine food chain. Already, rising temperatures lead to more coral bleaching. Already, rising sea levels are affecting turtle nesting beaches. These impacts are tangible and heartbreaking. They’re happening on our watch.
The reef is running out of time, but those of us alive today can be the ones to help save it. And just because a situation is urgent does not mean it is too late.
We don’t have to accept the path we’re on, because the solutions to climate change already exist. We can choose a different future.
In Australia, this means keeping a price and a limit on carbon pollution and building more renewable energy. Data from the Clean Energy Regulator shows that emissions from Australia’s largest polluting companies fell 7 per cent on average in the first year of our carbon price. Emissions also fell in the electricity sector by 7.4 per cent. Despite this, the government plans to replace the scheme with a $3.2 billion “emissions reduction fund” where big polluters can opt to clean up their act in exchange for money. But the biggest polluting companies don’t have to participate, and it’s still unclear whether they will be required to reduce their emissions.
Furthermore, modelling shows it’s extremely unlikely that the amount of funding put aside by the federal government to cover the costs of paying polluters will be enough to reach Australia’s emission reduction target of 5 per cent by 2020. If we can’t even reach a 5 per cent target, how are we going to reach the higher targets that scientists say are needed to protect the reef?
For these reasons, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – the government financing body tasked with speeding up the transition to renewables, has been very cautious about “direct action”. Earlier this year, they warned ”direct action” would only have a chance of working if it was combined with other policies around renewable energy – policies that the Prime Minister has already signalled might be wound back.
Earth Hour was founded in Australia on the principle that no one can do everything but everyone can do something. It would be ironic if the country that started the biggest global movement on climate change in history was the first country to wind back effective climate change policies.
That’s why you should turn off your lights on Saturday night. Earth Hour helps keep climate change action on the agenda. It’s a great reason to have a conversation about climate change – and through those conversations, build momentum and pressure to solve it.
The fact that millions of Australians get involved in Earth Hour – market research last year showed 7 million took part – shows people haven’t given up on solving climate change.
As author Tim Winton said at a recent environmental rally, “In a world where the forests are falling and species disappearing, we are blessed with places that can still be saved.”
Let’s be proud to say we didn’t sit back, but helped move a nation and a world to change course.
Anna Rose is national manager of Earth Hour Australia and author of Madlands: A Journey to Change the Mind of a Climate Sceptic (MUP, 2012).