The AEGN is currently updating its climate and energy funding framework. One of the first activities was to consult with environmental NGOs who are working in this area. Giving Green manager Esther Abram chaired a roundtable with 16 of them back in May, and I was lucky enough to be a fly on the wall at the conversation.
As each participant listed their organisation’s achievements, and those of the movement as a whole, I think everyone there was surprised to realise how far things had come in the 4 years since the last framework was developed. Undoubtedly the challenge of arresting dangerous climate change has got bigger and more urgent, but the effectiveness of the NGO sector has also been growing.
Here is a summary of the main things that emerged:
Inevitability: For the first time there is a general sense that change in the energy sector is inevitable.
Growth: The movement has grown well beyond its inner-urban roots, to become a national and regionally based movement. Local people are feeling empowered to take action across the country, campaigning against damaging things like coal seam gas extraction and for positive things, like community renewable energy.
Sector support: Support for climate action is growing amongst other sectors. Notably, the newly formed Farmers For Climate Action has emerged as a force, and the National Farmers Federation has formally recognised the impact of climate change on agriculture.
There have been some very positive relationships between unions and the climate movement, notably in Port Augusta and the Latrobe Valley.
Communications: Communications efforts have shifted the dial on particular issues, such as creating a connection in people’s minds between bushfires, extreme weather and climate change.
Rooftop solar: With the incredible uptake of rooftop solar, renewable energy has become the lived experience of many Australians. Renewable energy is perceived as a social good and community energy is a positive way for the energy system to be democratised.
Winning campaigns: A large number of campaigns have been successful, albeit temporarily: the campaign to protect the Great Australian Bite from oil exploration, moratoriums on coal seam gas, the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station, reinstatement of Queensland’s clearing controls. The Stop Adani Campaign isn’t over but it has kept the coal in the ground to date and stopped important financial support flowing their way.
States stepping up: States have filled the leadership vacuum left by the Commonwealth, with most States now having emission reduction targets in place.
Finance: Finance based campaigns have been effective in both ‘moving the money’ and focusing the finance sector regulator on climate risk.
Litigation: Legal actions challenging coal mining developments in NSW and Queensland have cast light on the spurious claims of proponents, and delayed or stopped a number of new mines.
Movement impact: As demonstrated by the list above, the movement has become more sophisticated and impactful, applying different models to good effect. There is a lot of collaboration amongst the movement, as different ways of working together have emerged.