Australia’s Socialist Alliance urges a 10-point plan to cut atmospheric CO2

Sydney climate emergency rally, October 3, 2008. Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

Climate action now!

September 25, 2008 -- The Australian federal government’s climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, has released his recommendations for medium-term cuts to Australian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

He calls for reductions by 2020 of just 5% if there is no comprehensive international agreement on emissions reductions, or reductions of 10% if there is an agreement. At the Bali climate summit in December 2007 many developed countries expressed support for goals of 25-40% reductions.

This “first stage” target aims to stabilise carbon in the atmosphere at 550 parts per million (ppm). However, a team headed by James Hansen, arguably the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, recently concluded that a 550 ppm atmospheric carbon concentration would likely result in an average global temperature increase of about 6°C.

That temperature change would mean countless species would become extinct, while remaining populations would be rendered unstable. Billions of human beings are likely to perish in such circumstances, with broad areas of fertile lowland swamped by rising seas and widespread desertification. The result for humanity would most likely mean the end of advanced civilisation.

To prevent such a catastrophe, there must be determined action to cut atmospheric carbon dioxide from its present level of 390 ppm to no more than 350 ppm. To restore the Arctic sea ice to its area in the middle of last century, the target would have to be as low as 325 ppm.

The climate scientists say we have only 10 years to make the economic, infrastructure and industrial changes required to achieve these massive cuts to our emissions. The federal Labor Party government’s proposed emissions trading system, which relies on private market forces, cannot achieve the changes necessary within 10 years. This scheme and the Garnaut proposals fail to urgently and comprehensively respond to the challenge of rapid climate change.

It’s time for the people to unite and fight for real policy change. The only force capable of changing government policy is the climate change movement itself, by organising, protesting and spreading awareness of the gravity of the global warming crisis. Socialist Alliance will help strengthen the movement that can make that happen. We offer the following 10-point plan as the minimum needed to meet the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.

The Socialist Alliance 10-point Climate Action Plan

Bringing greenhouse gas emissions under control will require deep changes and immense effort at every level -- international, national and local. It requires the equivalent of a wartime effort to transform the economy and industry.

  1. Implement immediate emission reduction targets with the aim being to reduce net emissions to zero as soon as practicable, with a goal of achieving 95% of power from renewable sources by 2020, and 90% cut in overall emissions by 2030. Introduce annual reduction targets. [NOTE: The Socialist Alliance is now considering whether these targets are adequate, based on the latest climate science, and will review its position in December.]

  2. Initiate further international treaty negotiations aimed at getting all countries to agree to a global target of 90 % emissions reductions on 1990 levels by 2030.

  3. Start the transition to a zero-waste economy. Engage workers in industry, with technical experts, to redesign their products and jobs sustainably.

  4. Require the fitting of all feasible energy efficiency measures to existing house sand subsidise owner-occupiers for the costs.

  5. Bring all power industries under public ownership and democratic control. Begin phasing out coal mining and power immediately. Provide guaranteed jobs and retraining on full pay for coalmining and power-station communities, with new sustainable industries being built in their areas and paid redundancies offered.

  6. Bring the whole car industry under public control. Re-tool this industry to manufacture wind turbines, public transport vehicles, solar hot water and solar photo-voltaic cells. Subsidise the conversion of private cars to electric power.

  7. Accelerate the construction of wind farms in suitable areas. Boost research into all renewable energy sources. Build pilot solar-thermal and geothermal plants now. Create localised power grids.

  8. End the logging old-growth forests. Begin an urgent program of re-forestation, and protection of biodiversity to provide increased carbon sinks.

  9. End industrial farming based on fertilisers, pesticides and fuel sourced from petroleum. Restrict farming areas to ensure that riverine, forest and other indigenous ecosystems return to healthy states. Encourage new farming practices including organic and urban farming.

  10. Make all urban and regional public transport free and upgrade services to enable all urban residents to use it for all their regular commuting. Nationalise and upgrade interstate train and ferry services, to provide real alternatives to air travel. Rail freight must be prioritised. Ensure transport services are integrated.