Climate Emergency - not business as usual

Comments 1
by  |

Not business as usual global climate strike

by Mike Roberts, senior research associate at Solar Analytics

Since January, in my role as a Research Associate, I’ve been working two days a week at Solar Analytics’ Redfern office. Like any small start-up company, it’s a busy and vibrant atmosphere with always too much work to be done, but the people-focused, family-friendly ethos and shared purpose make it an enjoyable place to work.

The global transition to a zero-carbon economy has well and truly begun, and Australia has a central role. Over 2 million Australian households have installed rooftop solar, much of it based on technology developed by Australian researchers. Australian engineers are some of the first to start addressing the challenges of adapting the electricity network to a renewable future. The team at Solar Analytics is playing its part in helping customers get the best value they can from their solar systems and in helping network operators understand how to add more solar to the grid. Every day, the amount of solar energy produced increases, and Australia’s reliance on fossil fuels declines. That’s pretty good for business as usual.

But this Friday, many of the Solar Analytics team – including the management - will be leaving their desks to join school kids,  students, activists, unionists and citizens across the world in the Global Strike for Climate. Because, as committed as these renewable engineers, software developers, scientists, technicians and designers are to transforming the energy system, we know we can’t solve the climate crisis on our own.

We know that climate change is real, man-made and having an impact now. 2019 has already seen unprecedented weather events across the world – from raging fires in the Arctic circle to increasingly ferocious hurricanes. In Australia, with much of NSW still in the grip of a major drought event that started in 2017 and with more frequent and intense hot weather intensifying bushfires and cyclones across Queensland, it’s no wonder that a record 81% of Australians are concerned about droughts and flooding, or that emergency services are unprepared for worsening conditions. So much for business as usual.

Recent photographs from the Climate Council document the devastating impact of higher temperatures on Australian wildlife, including mass deaths of budgerigars, black cockatoos and flying foxes, severe coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, extinction of Bramble Cay melomys and deaths of an estimated one million fish in the Murray Darling Basin. These striking images graphically illustrate why the language has changed and why councils across Australia are declaring a climate emergency.

But when I think about climate change, the image I see is of my two teenage children.

Climate change is about children because, as global temperatures continue to rise, it is the adults they become who will have to address the worsening impact of extreme weather, rising sea levels, food and water scarcities and mass displacement of people; no wonder that many Aussie kids are suffering from climate anxiety.

But climate change is about children because they are also a big part of the solution. Just a year ago, 15 year-old Greta Thurnberg ended her three-week solitary climate protest in front of the Swedish parliament by pledging to strike every Friday until Sweden adopted policies in line with the Paris commitments to keep average global temperature increases below 2°C. She was joined by school kids across the world, concerned about the failure of governments to act on climate change, and #FridaysForFuture became a global protest movement.

In March this year, my kids joined 150,000 Australian school students who took a day off school to #ClimateStrike in 64 Australian towns and cities. Despite the rhetoric of some politicians, these weren’t children looking for an excuse for an extra day off school, but passionate and committed kids demanding meaningful climate action. These future Australian citizens showed the determination and leadership that is desperately lacking in so many of our political leaders. My kids will there again on Friday. The eldest has been wrestling with his conscience about missing an English exam (fortunately now rescheduled), while the youngest will be sporting his half-cut for the rainforest. But, inspiring as they are, our children can’t do this on their own and we shouldn’t expect them to.

The Australian #ClimateStrike movement is led by a loose coalition of school students, the SS4C (the School Strike for Climate), with simple, urgent and achievable demands:

1.      No new coal, oil and gas projects, including the Adani mine.

2.      100% renewable energy generation & exports by 2030

3.      Fund a just transition & job creation for all fossil-fuel workers & communities. 

Solar Analytics is a Certified ‘B’ Corporation, part of a movement of companies built on a belief that Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government alone and that business can be a force for good. But, as ‘B’ Lab’s CEO Andrew Davies said this week, the climate emergency is not business as usual. “It's that clear the private sector cannot fix climate change alone, but that the responsibility shouldn’t fall to Australian students either.”

That’s why Solar Analytics has joined a group of businesses in Australia and across the world in pledging to support worker participation in the global climate strike on September 20th. While I’ve been writing this blog post, the Not Business as Usual alliance has grown from 878 to 1736 companies who know that climate action needs everybody and that the number one reason people won't strike for the climate is because of work.

For details of your local #ClimateStrike, click here.

Taking place just three days before the UN Climate Action Summit, Friday’s global day of action promises to be huge. But it needs everybody. The bigger the turnout, the stronger the message that we need urgent and meaningful climate action from governments and corporations across the world.

It’s not business as usual for the world's children to skip school to get adults to pay attention to the climate crisis. But inaction is no longer a neutral option. As Tim Flannery argues, “polluters and denialists… are threatening my children's well-being as much as anyone who might seek to harm a child.” If those of us working every day towards a sustainable future society were too busy with our business as usual, then who would stand with these kids?

Friday’s global strike won’t solve the climate crisis on its own, but it’s one more step for a growing movement. We have only a few short years to turn the world around, and it will take everything we have to succeed. A final world from Greta:

Our house is on fire — let’s act like it… to make our voices heard and to make sure the people in power cannot continue to ignore this. If not you, then who else? If not now, then when?”

Please join us on Friday.

Mike Roberts
UNSW / Solar Analytics / Australian PV Institute