Bank Australia was thrilled to sponsor a critical conversation about addressing the social and economic impact of climate change on the region at Climates’ Towards Climate Justice event last Thursday night.
The evening was hosted by Bank Australia’s Victoria McKenzie-McHarg with panellists including Australia’s former Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs, Barrister and Academic Professor Mick Dodson, Voices of the Valley President Wendy Farmer and Tonga’s first winter Olympian Pita Taufatofua. They sent a clear message; we share the same atmosphere, so we share the responsibility.
A number of thought-provoking themes emerged about the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities, what climate justice means what is needed to move forward with action for a safe climate.
We need to refocus the argument for climate action
It needs to be about injustice and about rights. It’s about vulnerable communities that are paying for the lack of action. And more broadly, it’s about basic human rights such as a right to clean air, a right to survival and a right to the protection of culture and identity for indigenous communities.
We need to remind our leaders that action for a safe climate is about the national interest
Current decision making is compromising the national (and regional) interest. In the words of Professor Mick Dodson, the national interest means “…a safe climate future where we rely on renewable energy not coal".
We need to bring communities along for the journey
There is a need to educate people about the consequences of climate change and build understanding about the impact each individual can have in the context of their community. Voices of the Valley President Wendy Farmer shared her light bulb moment when she realised she had never questioned that the Hazelwood coal mine was making people sick and polluting the environment; they had always been told it was good thing.
We need a collective effort
Addressing the current misinformation and inertia requires a united effort by all sectors and communities. Professor Gillian Triggs asserted that a coalition across the public service, corporate, community and health sectors is critical to a strategic approach to countering justifications for inaction.
We need to bring the personal stories to the fore
The price some communities are paying as a result of climate change is undeniable. The stories of these communities need to be at the forefront in a debate where the scientific argument for action is being disputed.
Member of 350 Pacific, Zane Sikulu, finished with a culmination of these themes. He called for action for a safe climate by sharing the injustice that his family and his community continue to face as a result of climate change. He shared how he had watched as his community was destructed by yet another ferocious cyclone, a ferocity that has only grown during the past three years. While he commended the strength and resilience of his community, he used this example to distil the need for action to one thing: preserving dignity.