It’s barely three months in, but early indications suggest 2019 could be on track to become the year of clearing out the clutter.
Australians are looking to spark joy everywhere – at home, at work and online – as the craze for tidying up continues. We’ve been influenced by the Japanese Queen of Clean, Marie Kondo – a woman who might even be able to teach the federal government a thing or two about cleaning up its act on climate change.
Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution levels have risen for four years in a row and our climate policy is in a state of disarray with the federal government abolishing or ruling out a suite of policies (carbon pricing scheme, emissions intensity scheme, clean energy target, and the national energy guarantee…).
If Marie Kondo, author and Netflix superstar, can turn mess into method, perhaps we could apply some of her “KonMari” approach to our current climate policy mess. Surely it’s worth a shot – we certainly need to do something drastic to get Australia’s house in order.
According to Kondo’s method, the first “rule” is commitment
This is something the federal government is lacking when it comes to tackling climate change. In 2015, the independent Climate Change Authority recommended Australia reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 45-65 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, the bare minimum in terms of the science and Australia’s fair share.
And in response? The federal government set a woefully inadequate target of 26-28 per cent, one which latest projections show we are not on track to achieve.
The next step requires a vision for the future
The benefits of transitioning away from fossil fuels to a cleaner, lower emissions economy are innumerable. Renewable energy technologies offer low cost, reliable energy without the pollution and social impacts of mining and burning coal and gas.
Imagine our cities moving more efficiently with clean, rapid and renewable powered transport systems, reducing the noise of traffic, removing exhaust fumes from our streets and creating more space in the city for walking and cycling.
Rule three: Finish discarding first
A critical task ahead is letting go of coal. As Kondo says, “when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”
The majority of Australia’s coal power stations are well past their used by date, and we need to plan for their rapid replacement. Solar, wind and storage technologies are the cleanest and cheapest option for new power. Yet the federal government clings to this last-century fossil fuel, and even refuses to rule out investing in new coal power stations.
Tidying by category is critical
Australia’s emission reduction target is economy wide. While renewable energy is reducing emissions for the electricity sector, Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution is rising in other areas like transport, stationary energy, and fugitive emissions.
There are solutions available and every sector requires a tailored approach, and the right policy drivers to reduce emissions. For example, transitioning the transport sector requires greater investment in public and active transport systems, rapid uptake of renewable powered electric buses and cars, and a shift in mindset for land use planning.
Follow the right order
The electricity sector can and should do more to cut emissions than other sectors. Electricity is the nation’s biggest polluter generating a third of Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution. The good news is, with solutions like energy efficiency, renewable energy and storage, the power sector can reduce pollution and prices while maintaining reliability.
Finally, the most important principle Kondo applies is to ask: “Does it spark joy?”
Polling data consistently shows the majority of Australians support strong action on climate change. The federal government’s continued failure to produce credible climate policy, its refusal to rule out investing in new coal, the tossing about of coal in parliament… this behaviour certainly sparks something, but it sure isn’t joy.
Kondo says there are three approaches we can take toward our possessions: face them now, face them sometime, or avoid them until the day we die. For climate change, the case for decisive action starting now couldn’t be stronger. Australians are already feeling the effects of more frequent and severe extreme weather events – heatwaves, fire weather and damaging storms.
Australians have just sweltered through the hottest summer on record, the Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed.
Stuck inside to escape the heat, many households around the country are taking the opportunity to clean out their cupboards. Over in Canberra, perhaps it’s time the federal government took the opportunity to start cleaning up its act on climate change.
Petra Stock is senior energy and climate solutions analyst at the Climate Council
Petra Stock is a Master of Journalism student who has worked in climate change, renewable energy and transport. She also works part-time in climate change for the Australian Conservation Foundation.