COP26. Net zero. Countries pledge for stronger climate actions. It gives a glimpse of hope. According to the Climate Action Tracker, if every country takes immediate action to implement the net-zero plan, 1.8°C warming by 2100 could be possible.
But the reality? Based on what every country has put on the table for 2030, we're looking at a disastrous 2.4°C warming instead.
What makes me doubt more about my optimism, the Morrison Government.
On the Climate Change Performance Index, Australia is currently ranked at the bottom 7 out of 61 countries in the world – plus, zero score on climate policy.
But they proudly claim to lead the world to net zero:
And that’s a wrap on my time in Glasgow at #COP26 . It was fantastic to meet with and hear from world and industry leaders. I was proud to present Australia’s impressive track record and innovation leading the way to net zero. #auspol pic.twitter.com/3nkyN0bhUb— Angus Taylor MP (@AngusTaylorMP) November 7, 2021
At this point I struggle to understand what is a realistic expectation for Australia. How can we stay optimistic? What more can we as individuals do to help?
So I asked Sydney's changemakers for their thoughts on the current situation.
Councillor Jess Miller – our city’s fierce leader for livable cities and sustainability
“Realistically, we can’t expect much from the Morrison Government when it comes to climate change. I often think of these big COP meetings as in many ways a kind of performance, where there are lots of ‘very important people’ flying in and out, saying a lot – but very little of real consequence happens.
“Instead, I find hope in the local, the tangible and the real. I am hopeful when I see businesses and communities and everyday people overcoming inertia and at times, their sense of despair and grief to throw their creativity and energy at solutions.
“As individuals, the greatest thing we can do to help is to find contentment and gratitude with less. The race toward comfort, ease, distraction and more and more stuff, is really easy to help soothe the big, sad feelings and our sense of anxiety. But it’s the opposite of helping. Sometimes, I really do feel that ‘doing nothing’ - and being ok with discomfort is perhaps the best thing we can all do."
Piers Grove – Chair, EnergyLab Australia; Publisher, Betoota Advocate
“Australia’s role in moving the world to net zero is critical to the entire planet. We are not a big player as we are often characterised - thanks to our fossil industry and exports to the world, our impact is outsized to our population and economy. How we act matters immensely.
“While our government is drawn between the interests of legacy industries like coal and the economic opportunity of clean energy, it leaves a window for our businesses and citizens to embrace the change individually and model our behaviour for the world.
“We are a country with possibly the most to lose and the most to gain through this transition. We need to face up to the consequences for some of our existing communities in migrating away from fossil fuel sources and map a just and compassionate path out the other side.
“But we must do so without compromising the urgency of the change. There are tough conversations as a country that must happen and we need to be willing to have them. While the destination is a better, more prosperous nation, the journey will not be equal or necessarily smooth.
“The real hope for me is seeing a better outcome once we arrive at the net zero destination. It will be a healthier, cleaner and more equal world that we enter. As individuals we need to balance compassion with personal responsibility and action to get there as quickly as possible. It is an exciting time… if we choose that path.”
Arielle Gamble – Director and Co-founder, Groundswell Giving
“To keep global warming from spiraling out of control, Australia needs to reduce our emissions 75% by 2030, and achieve net zero by 2035. This may sound ambitious, but the solutions to the climate crisis already exist in every sector, from energy to transport to agriculture. All we need now is the political will and laws to implement them.
"What makes me hopeful is the millions of people across our country stepping up and taking action. From farmers to First Nations leaders to inner city dwellers, this big, growing, diverse movement reflects the unifying nature of the challenge we face, and the fact that together, we are powerful.
"Funding climate advocacy is a simple, powerful way for individuals to make a collective impact. By chipping in to fund the people and organisations with the strategies and solutions, we can each play a critical role in supercharging the climate movement and building the power we need to secure a safe future for people and the planet."
Fund climate projects through Groundswell Giving website.
Liane Rossler – artist, designer, curator, Founder of Superlocalstudio
“We should be very hopeful about addressing climate change. We have all the answers to create a better future. We need a little less conversation, a little more action.
“We witnessed how quickly the entire world galvanised due to the recent pandemic, so we know fast and enormous change is possible, and it can be enacted much faster than we could ever have imagined.
“The wave of solutions and positive actions in all areas is increasing, and almost every day optimistic and productive examples are coming to light. The negative actions are very loud, which I think is a good thing as it is flushing out and bringing to light all the things that need changing. The good actions are quietly building strongly across all avenues.
“The majority of people are aware of what needs to be done, and if people support good people doing good things, and vote with their dollars and their actions, change for the better can happen.
“In Australia, we must focus on electing a compassionate and innovative government and leaders who aspire to create a beautiful and healthy future for the planet and everything on it.”
Lastly, I finished reading everyone's inspiring words with Andy Marks's powerful statement – it reminds me how far we've come, and never give up on what we've been fighting for.
Andy Marks – climate change and sustainability leader
, social entrepreneur and artist
"I could be wrong, but I am sure we can all feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the climate change challenge.
"The lack of political will. The fossil fuels industry stranglehold. The block and distract tactics of certain mainstream media. Bearing witness to and experiencing the devastating impacts of global heating and the dreadful prospects of this worsening. They can combine to make us feel dispirited and despondent, sometimes desperate to disengage.
"However when the fab folk at ReCo asked me about climate change, my thoughts immediately turned to a recurring theme in my life. Expressed in a quote (far better than I could express it), that theme is - ‘action is the antidote to despair’. Originally coined by singer, songwriter, musician and activist Joan Baez, I believe it is a mantra for our age.
"These simple words keep on reminding me of something important. Something that must not be lost or engulfed to the advantage of the forces I have listed above.
"That something is simply – you and I, every one of us, can and does make a difference.
"Because individually we have power, collectively that power is magnified exponentially.
"Because we can all take actions that make an impact, every single day.
"How we use our words and our voices. When we connect with our communities and social networks. What we buy and don’t buy. Where and how we travel. How we power our homes. Who we bank with and the super fund we choose. What we eat and don’t eat. How we vote and when we gather with others to hold leaders to account.
"Each action is a demonstration of what we believe in, voicing what we aspire to, connecting us with those who share our values and our hopes. These actions, our actions, whether big or small, are the antidote to despair."
This article is produced by Danling Xiao, Co-founder, ReCo. ReCo is Sydney's local refill delivery service to help you reduce wastes.
We invite you to explore how we work and join us to build a circular economy in Sydney. Learn more from our homepage: reco.net.au