Weak climate targets drag Australia down: Women speak out

The Australian Government's science-denying approach to carbon pollution reduction targets will emotionally gut women who are looking for stronger climate action and a compelling clean energy path for future generations.

We know women want more in the fight against global warming because market research and opinion polling continually tell us so. Most recently this week, via the Climate Institute's annual survey on the Australian public's attitudes to climate change, which once again highlighted how women on average are more likely to support climate action and clean energy than men.

Our members tell us the same thing. 1 Million Women is the voice for a community of women and girls - now over 300,000-strong – who are taking action in their own lives to fight climate change.

Our community is acting, and we expect that our governments will do their job – which is to confidently lead us into the renewable energy future, not cling gutlessly to a failing fossil fuel past.

The 19-member Federal Cabinet – composed of just 2 women alongside 17 men – has proposed a low-ball emissions reduction target for Australia to take to the vital forthcoming 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Paris this December. Paris is where the world is meant to agree a bold climate action plan for the post-2020 era.

The target that the Australian Government revealed today, however, is a depressingly weak 26% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030, with a possible upper limit of 28% depending on economic considerations. This is at the lower end of developed nation responses, grouped with laggards like Canada and Japan, and equates to about a 19% reduction on the former baseline year of 2000 – a target that the Climate Change Authority, 1 Million Women and many others believe Australia should be meeting by 2020, not 2030!

We as women know that climate change is a human society issue, as much as an economic or even environmental one, and that failure to act now and because of political ideology is inflicting a terrible injustice on future generations. So 1 Million Women stands for climate justice, and as its leaders we are personally outraged and embarrassed about our Government's position.

The current Coalition Government proclaims polluting coal to be 'good for humanity', derides clean energy alternatives and undermines the Renewable Energy Target, has repealed carbon pricing and rules out any future Emissions Trading Scheme, pays polluters rather than penalises them, sabotages climate science, and then expects us to believe it will meet even the manifestly inadequate targets it is offering.

But the problem doesn't end there. Pressure also will now fall on the Opposition Labor Party to show its commitment to stronger targets that will give Australia and the world a platform to keep dangerous global warming below 2 degrees C and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Labor's new policy for a 50% Renewable Energy Target by 2030 is a good start, but it's still nowhere near enough for climate safety.

Australia will now face international ridicule about how a wealthy, privileged nation that tops the per capita greenhouse gas pollution stakes pleads poor on climate action while women, children and men in the poverty-stricken developing world suffer. It also will be subjected to deep, diplomatically hostile scrutiny about how it will cut emissions over the next 15 years and beyond without the strong policies required.

There is still a way out of this.. When Australia goes to COP21 in Paris our delegation will be led by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

There is still time for our Prime Minister and Minister for Women, the Hon. Tony Abbott MP, to have an epiphany on climate change and to assert leadership by upping the ante for Australia's targets. To give Julie Bishop a respectable if not world-leading target to put on the negotiating table alongside her counterparts from the US, Europe, China and others that already are aiming higher than Australia taking into account their individual socio-economic circumstances.

To stand with our neighbours in the Pacific where small island nations are at risk of disappearing altogether as sea levels rise. To save the Great Barrier Reef from heat waves and ocean acidification, and to save Australian farm and bush lands from drought, flood and fire. All of this, Mr Abbott, even if only to try saving your Government's political skin as demand for climate action escalates and a national election approaches in 2016.

The world has to come away from Paris with a commitment path to zero carbon by 2050 in order to avert climate change catastrophe. Australia and other nations have already agreed that global warming must be held to a maximum of 2 degrees C. Going any higher invites disaster, and even that level holds dangers. It's time for political courage not cowardice, action not inaction, climate justice not injustice, and for real targets not excuses.

By Natalie Isaacs and Tara Hunt, Co-CEOs, 1 Million Women

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