Life in lockdown has not been easy — ask any Melburnian who has just endured the past six weeks. But it is also true that with restricted travel and less cars on road, COVID-19 lockdowns the world over have momentarily cleared the air. People and the planet are breathing easier, for now, but will it prompt Australians to do better?
We need to. Cars are responsible for roughly half of Australia’s transport emissions according to the Climate Council, with Australian cars emitting roughly the same per year as Queensland’s entire coal and gas fired electricity supply. All while climate experts are telling us we are burning too many fossil fuels and health experts are telling us that vehicle exhaust fumes are making us sick. It is time we listened.
Reducing our reliance on cars
Thousands of Australians have already made the switch to car-free living to save money and the planet, using public transport where it is available, walking or cycling, or opting into car share schemes. Research shows 200,000 Australians are already using formal car sharing schemes, although most of these services are only available in metropolitan areas.
While individual actions can and do make a difference, especially when taken collectively, we need to bring about significant change at a systems level.
This World Car-Free Day on Tuesday 22 September is a chance to imagine how we can get to a future where all Australians enjoy clean, fresh air and travel from A to B without relying on fossil fuels to get there. Key to this vision is creating sustainable, livable cities for all by investing in renewable energy, becoming more efficient in our use of electricity and providing affordable, reliable public transport.
Philanthropy can drive solutions
Philanthropy has an enormous opportunity to achieve a transformative vision of Australia’s cities. We support an active group of funders who are using their philanthropy to create cleaner, greener cities and back innovative transport solutions.
Philanthropy is well equipped to tackle these challenges in multiple ways. It can support research to improve the sustainability of key systems, including transport. This has been an approach taken by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund, for example, which has funded a range of research initiatives investigating ways in which Melbourne can transition into a healthy and sustainable city. With strategic urban planning a high priority, philanthropy can then fund the advocacy needed to apply the research findings and create systems change.
In terms of reducing vehicle emissions, philanthropy can back those calling for governments to support the rapid phase-in of electric vehicles by increasing infrastructure investment and transition planning. Advocacy is also needed to shift government policy on vehicle emissions standards. Regrettably, Australia is stuck in the slow lane on transport pollution, as one of a handful of OECD countries without greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles.
Funders can also support community organisations with expertise in working with city councils to drive emissions reductions and climate change adaptation, as well as those working with communities to adopt healthier, sustainable lifestyles.
Finally, foundations can consider investing their corpus in ventures that promote sustainability and generating a return. And ultimately creating the sustainable cities we so urgently need.
Beneath the cleaner pandemic skies, we have seen what less air pollution looks like, what fresh air smells like. Let’s work together to keep it that way.
Join the climate change funder group
Philanthropy has a crucial role to play in turning Australia from a laggard to a leader on climate action. Whether you are new to philanthropy or the AEGN, or you have been active for years, the climate change funders group is a platform for you to network, share approaches and hear from experts in the field about both the problems and solutions to the most significant environmental and social problem of our time.
The group meets monthly on the second Tuesday of the month. Send us an email to email@example.com and we will make sure you are a part of this vital group.
Not sure if it is right for you? Get in touch and we can discuss your needs and circumstances.